Lectures on Genesis And Exodus
Boston : Massachusetts New-Church Union 169 Tremont Street 1890
The Story of the Creation.
THE Christian world has been greatly exercised over the authorship and the contents of the Book of Genesis, especially the early chapters, and the discussions of the subject have greatly modified the views generally held regarding the whole Word, and the nature of revelation and inspiration.
And yet these discussions leave the subject in a most unsatisfactory condition. Critical students of the letter point out that many words, and especially the Divine name, as used in the first chapter, differ from the corresponding words and name in the second—also that the second seems to tell again the story of the creation that had just been told; and the inference is that we have here the records of two different authors. The same kind of critical analysis pushed very far, shows various peculiarities of language used separately or in combination throughout the book, and takes pleasure in assigning them to many different authors or editors; with the general result that the idea of there being one author, and especially one Divine author, is in great part dissipated.
Students of natural science also compare critically the successive steps of creation as here described, supposing it to be the creation of the natural world which alone is meant, with the record of the same creation as written upon the rocks, or observed in the sky ; and they say that there are differences: that the earth was not formed and developed, and abundant in fruitfulness of every kind, before there was a sun or a moon ; that there were living animals in the water and in the air, which the written page assigns to the fifth day, before the development of the herbage and the fruit-trees of the third day was completed. And they infer that this is not the record of one who knew, and least of all the inspired record of Him Who made all these things, and Who if He gave it at all would have given an account that should be the standard of science for all time.
The simple-hearted of Christendom are little disturbed by these views. They know little of them, and such rumors as reach them are coupled with epithets of infidel and atheist, and they ascribe the whole thing to the falseness of the devil, contenting themselves with their own steadfast if unenlightened belief that every word is the truth of God.
More intelligent Christian people, however, are really troubled. They feel in their hearts that there is a truth in the story if they could only get at it, and a holiness, as of the presence of God and of heaven in it, which is inconsistent with misinformation and any merely worldly origin. They dimly see also, that even as a story of natural creation not wholly reconciled with the science of the day, there is an amount even of natural truth in it a degree of harmony with the record of the rocks which cannot be accounted for by the unaided attainments of science in the indefinitely ancient days from which the book has come down to us. They are perplexed ; and, if they could only trust it, one would think that they would accept with the profoundest gratitude an explanation which admits and accounts for all these discrepancies with scholarship, and yet holds the book to be in every word inspired by God, and full of beautiful instruction concerning God and the heavenly life, which both illumines and is confirmed by all their spiritual experience.
Such we believe to be the explanation which the New Church has to offer; and though we hold that it is revealed from the Lord in heaven, we ask that its authority may be tested simply by the light that is in it, and by its power to satisfy both the reason and the heart of those who feel the sacred influence of the story itself.
In approaching the first chapters of Genesis, to see, if we may, their real import, we are struck with the unreasonableness of applying to a writing which perhaps is the oldest now in existence, dating from probably thousands of years before the dawn of science, and from many centuries before that of secular history, the tests that are applicable only to scientific statements of the present day.
We are away back in the days of mythology and fable, or rather in those days of the immeasurable past, from which mythology and fable issued. Is it possible that those dreamy men, with their thoughts more of heaven than of earth, are studying the rocks, and discovering the order of creation or evolution of plants and animals ? Do they dream of the days when the earth was new, and through the dense atmosphere of carbon and steaming vapor the first rays of the sun struggled, ages before the disk of the sun himself was visible ? Surely these are not their lines of thinking; and if a revelation from heaven should teach them of these things, what could they think but that it was nothing to them, and most unworthy of its origin, a thing to be neither treasured nor preserved!
We do not apply the same test to any other ancient record. We read that in the time of the origin of Rome, its twin founders, Romulus and Remus, were cast out by the banks of the Tiber, and suckled by a wolf. No one thinks of it as history ; but one may see in it more or less clearly a picturesque description of the hardships and struggles of rival tribes or principles, nurtured by necessity, and drinking in with their mother's milk that insatiable rapacity which in after years led Rome to absorb the world.
We read that in the founding of Athens, Athene and Poseidon, called by the Romans Minerva and Neptune, strove for the honor of naming the city, and presented gifts Athene the olive-tree, and Poseidon the horse that the people might choose between them. This may be a perfectly true story, but surely it is not literal history. And no great insight is required to see in the story a representative of the rivalry from the beginning between the philosophic schools or principles characterized on the one side by the study of good morals flowing from love to God and man, represented by the oil-bearing olive, and on the other by the intellectual power which is imaged in the horse as a still loftier intellectual power was represented by Pegasus, the winged horse which principles in the later days of the glory of Athens were set forth respectively by Socrates and Xenophon on the side of morals, and Plato and Aristotle on that of intellect; and we honor the ancient men who determined that at least in the foundation of the city, the precedence should be given to Athene and her olive.
Probably from a far earlier day the ancient record before us has come down, and it is a record that treats professedly of the earliest relations of God with men. Applying to it the same principles of interpretation which we have applied to the other records, we shall see in it not an account of the creation of the natural world, but a description of the development step by step of a heavenly spirit in man under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. It begins with the breaking in of that spiritual light which shows that a life from the Spirit of the Lord is possible. It advances through successive steps of learning the truth of heavenly life and living according to it, and bringing forth first the fruits of spiritual knowledge, and then more living affections of love for the Lord and for good life from Him. And it closes with man in the image of God, discerning clearly and judging wisely the whole domain of affection and thought and knowledge, ruling his mind as one might rule a kingdom.
A difficulty in the way of even looking for such an interpretation, is the apparent resemblance of the story as told to the real story of natural creation. The cause of this is interesting, and will be considered before we leave the subject. A more important difficulty is that in our day of devotion to material good, we have so little spiritual development that if the orderly course of that development be ever so clearly and truly pictured before us we are by no means sure to recognize it. And still another difficulty is that we have little or no accurate observation and knowledge of the correspondence between natural things and spiritual between the inner world and the outer world so little indeed that it may be doubted if the meaning of the representative story would ever have been recovered unless it had been revealed.
The question may perhaps arise, as in regard to the supposed revelation of science, Is it possible that a revelation of such profound truth of spiritual experience clothed in language so difficult of interpretation to us, would have been of any value to a primitive people whom we are accustomed to think of as but one remove from the animals, simple and ignorant in the last degree ? In other words, is it possible that such knowledge, which has hardly dawned upon the mind of the present century, should have flourished and been familiar before what we know as civilization began ? The answer is that from what we know of the centres of human thought in the most ancient times this is just the kind of knowledge that did then flourish. The most ancient remains of the literature of Greece and Rome are full of it. The wonderful Book of the Dead, in which the Egyptians described in just such representative language their idea of the spiritual world and the judgment of the dead, and which is believed to be in its essential parts at least five thousand years old, refers back to what it then called "the wisdom of the ancients," as the revered source of its knowledge. We are told that the further we go back in the sacred literatures of India and Persia and China, the more intelligent and spiritual they become. And I believe it is true that the traditions embodied in all literatures that are themselves old enough to retain such traditions, point back to a "Golden Age," when God walked with men, and men were wise in the wisdom of heaven.
The world glories in the boast that from the beginning there has been a steady advance or development of the Race in knowledge, intelligence, skill in mechanics and art, and that to-day the humblest of us may look from a pinnacle of wisdom backward and downward upon the degraded ages behind us, and see them slowly climbing, but in vain attempting to reach our exalted position. In some respects perhaps the boast is true. But is it certainly true in regard to innocence, and spiritual intelligence, and openness heavenward ? Has there been a steady growth in all that is noble and beautiful in art from the days of the Parthenon and the statues of Pheidias, attaining a glorious culmination in our public statues and buildings ? Has there been a steady gain in gentleness and courtesy and kindliness and reverence—in all that makes life sweet and noble and delightful—from the days of Confucius and Buddha and Socrates, and the brotherly love of the early Christians, culminating at last in the order and charity and loveliness of our manufacturing cities?
The boast is the boast of an age that cares chiefly for material greatness and wealth, and stores of natural knowledge,—with the knowledge of God and heaven, and of the life of heaven on earth, left out. It is the boast of the youth who prides himself upon his strength in rough games, or in sharp argument, and looks back upon all that is innocent and dependent and trustful and loving in childhood as beneath contempt.
To the whole Age the Lord says, "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." He points us away back to the days that we despise, for our models of that which is nearest to heaven and most like heaven. Not that the young man is to lose his manly strength and development in regaining the gentleness and innocence of his childhood, nor that the Age is to lose its gains of scientific knowledge and mechanical power and facility of combination, in recovering its docility and charity and nearness to God and heaven. It must go on to the golden city, not back to the garden in Eden ; but to the city in which is the throne of God and the Lamb, and in whose streets grow forever, the manifold forms of the same Tree of Life that stood in the midst of the Garden of Eden.
Returning then, as we are bidden, to gather from the childhood of the Race the lessons of heavenly wisdom which were given to it, we find contained in the representative language which was then familiar a description of the steps by which a full heavenly character was to be attained, and by which also it is to be attained by us. That not much progress in this development or heavenly creation is common—even with those who recognize the duty of living according to the Divine laws is true. " They who are being regenerated," Swedenborg tells us, "do not all reach this state" the Sabbath of the seventh day "but some, and the greater part at this day, only the first, some only the second, some the third, the fourth, or the fifth, rarely the sixth, and scarcely any one the seventh."
Yet if we have made a beginning, and so much of the light of heaven has entered our minds as to show that there is such a thing as the heavenly life distinct from the natural life, that light will show us the reality of possible states not yet attained ; and to see the possibility before us may give new inspiration to the endeavor to attain them.
Before the light can enter which begins the regenerative work, there must be some development of the rational mind to receive it. And this implies that there has been a childhood with some innocent joys and some instruction—the more of these the better and some development of the natural character, with its capacities for good and for evil. And over these the Spirit of God has been moving, to increase the good and to check the evil, and to arrange all things in the best order for the future formation of the heavenly spirit.
Before the mind clearly perceives the beauty and desirableness of the heavenly life, as distinct from the natural life, it is as regards spiritual development a void and emptiness, with thick darkness enfolding it, although the Spirit of God never ceases to brood over it. But when there does dawn the light of a clear perception of the beauty of a spiritual life as compared with a worldly life of a life of patient usefulness as compared with a life of self-indulgence; of the Lord's life as compared with the natural life of any other man then there is the beginning of what is heavenly in the mind; there is something which is good to man, and even in the eyes of God is good. Thenceforth there is a distinction between the states in which the goodness of the heavenly life is seen, and those in which worldly desires are so strong that heaven is unattractive. The former are day, and the latter night. To develop the distinction between them is the work of the first day.
In the natural mind, in preparation for the heavenly formation, there are stored knowledge and affections, memories of states good and bad in great variety. And now that there has come a sense of distinction between a heavenly life and a worldly life, that distinction is extended to all the mental possessions. Some there are that belong to heaven and the life of heaven, and some that are of the world and its life. There are memories of innocent times when mother and father were loved, and perhaps when upon their knees the lessons of the Bible and its teachings of good life were learned. There are happy memories of obedience and faithfulness in doing right, of friendly yielding to brothers and sisters and other children the means of pleasure, of sympathy with them in sorrow. In the light of our new spiritual day, these things and all that relate to God and heaven and the life of heaven seem good, and the knowledge of them is gathered into the heaven of our minds; while all merely natural knowledge, of the world and of worldly matters, lies upon the plane of the world. And thus are the waters above the expanse divided from the waters below.
This second step is quickly taken as is also the third, represented by the gathering together of the waters under the heaven into one place, that the dry land may appear.
The dry land is the ground from which the productions of the earth may spring. And that ground appears not among the waters of the heaven, but among the waters of the earth. For, the further progress in regeneration is to be made not in the realms of spiritual knowledge, but in practical life; and that life must be in the world, though it may be watered and encouraged by the truth of good life from heaven.
The first productions of the earth are called tender grass, or herbage. And the first productions of a mind desiring to live a spiritual life, are not works of mature and manly wisdom but clear ideas about the theory of good life, and the humbler virtues of kindness, gentleness, considerateness, and others, which emulate the virtues of the fully developed life, as the grasses and flowers of the field emulate the grains and the fruit-trees.
But this knowledge about good life is quickly followed by efforts to do the works of good life both those of daily duty, humble and unattractive and dry, yet full of genuine satisfaction, like the grains; and those of far-reaching usefulness, which is loved and studied and steadily pursued for a life-time, increasing continually in power of productiveness and these are the fruit-trees.
So much of the work of regeneration is done by the learning of the truth and by efforts to live faithfully according to it. It is recognized as truth from God and as teaching the life of heaven. It teaches us also of God Himself, and of our duties toward Him ; and in all that has been done there has been a heavenly light from the Lord, and perhaps a hope that some time the Lord Himself might be a living Presence in our hearts. But the Lord has not become a personal Presence to us even as in the corresponding steps in the story of the creation, the sun has not been seen. There has been a constant light from Him, and an intellectual acknowledgment that not only the truth, but our will and power to live it, are of the Lord alone; and yet so far the Lord has not become the sensible life of our hearts, from which we live. We have done our work as of ourselves, with study and labor with pleasure, it is true, and much satisfaction; yet it has been work of the head rather than of the heart, and indeed with much resistance from the natural desires of the heart. And until we have done so much as of ourselves, it is not possible that the Lord should come more fully to us. For when the Lord does come, He comes as an ardent love for men, and for doing every good to them ; and it is not possible for such love to come to us until we have learned the truth that teaches of goodness and usefulness, and compelled ourselves to live it. Then the Divine love for bringing forth good fruits can come into its own forms of truth in our lives, and only make them more delightful to us.
When therefore the work of the third day is complete, and the mind has faithfully brought forth its tender grass, and herb yielding seed, and trees yielding fruit, then the Lord Himself can come to conscious inner sense. He comes with a fulness of love which fills the heart with joy as the light has filled the rational mind. Thenceforth that love itself is the source of the light. In states when It is felt it is day ; and when It is not felt, but remembered and surely believed in, it is night illumined indeed by the light reflected from the state that is past. These are the sun and the moon. And the stars which naturally are points of light too remote to show a disk are the knowledge of the many possibilities of heavenly states. These " rule over the day and over the night, and divide the light from the darkness ;" for all the changes of spiritual state have their quality from the presence or absence of these. When the Lord's love warms the heart, and all things are seen in the warm light of that love, then there is a heavenly day; but when there is only the clear remembrance of that love, and of what it taught, and a knowledge of the possibilities of heavenly life too remote to be seen as realities, but apprehended as possibilities—then it is relatively night.
All the work that is done previous to this state of regeneration, is done with so much effort of self-compulsion, and so much as of ourselves, that it is not possible that there should not be in it a great deal of reflection upon self, of sense of merit, and anticipation of return to self. And the great change does not come, the Lord's love does not: fill the heart, until this constant reference to self is plainly seen and repented of and abhorred. Then only, as the claiming of good for ourselves ceases, the heart opens to the Lord with sincere acknowledgment that all good is His alone; and His love for good enters, and for the first time is felt to be as it really is, the only power by which evil is put away and good is done—the power which is life itself.
When the Presence of the Lord is thus felt, a new class of joys springs from it. There will still be much faithful study of the truth, and doing of duty according to the truth, as of ourselves, and with effort. But there will also be new joys in seeing many things in the light of the Lord's love, and doing many good works from the willing impulse of that love; and these are represented by the living creatures of the fifth and sixth days.
First will come the developments of the joys in seeing, or, what is the same, of affections for truth ; affections for truth of the natural world, represented by the living things of every kind which the waters bring forth; and affections for seeing and observing all things in the light of heaven, represented by the birds that fly above the earth against the expanse of the heavens.
And closely following the joys of thinking the truth from the Divine love, come the still more fully living joys of showing the goodness of that love in forms of kindness and gentleness and courtesy, in patient bearing of one another's burdens, and doing of works of good-will and these are the affectionate and useful beasts of the heavenly spirit.
With the possession of these affections flowing from the love of the Lord in the soul, is given the consciousness that although the heavenly affections are from the Lord, they are not obtruded upon us without our consent, but are subject to our own will that they come at our call, and vanish at our wish; that in obedience to our desire they pursue their labors and enjoy their delights, or withdraw themselves from our consciousness. To man is given dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.
A state of full and continuous enjoyment of these affections from the Lord is not attained at once. The habit of reflecting upon the merit of one's doings, with some reference in them all to the returns to self, is not overcome at once. It is put aside for the time in some state of more than usual humility, and then resumes its old place again, and must be again attacked and subdued. And only after long continued efforts will the Lord's love be established in the chief place in the affections, and man become an image and likeness of God.
These steps of creation of the heavenly man in the image and likeness of God are unfamiliar to us great is the pity that it should be so ! But we are taught in the New Church that to the people of the Golden days, before the accumulation of the load of evil which weighs us to the dust, it was the familiar experience of the race. Generation after generation brought all their individual members as they advanced from childhood to old age, through to the full possession of their truly human powers of knowing God, and living from the love of God. It is mainly because the spiritual states are so little known and so obscure to us, that they seem so remote from the natural pictures presented in the story. If the spiritual experiences were real and vivid, they would appear reflected as from a beautiful mirror in the natural scenes. Every detail would send back to us some easily recognized particular. In body, and in the other to the truly human soul the one series serving as a basis for the other, and perfectly representing it.
We must not, however, apply to either series standards of interpretation which are inapplicable. No one will venture to say that he can see in either series the Divine view either of the creation of the world or of the regeneration of man. What we may hope to see in them is the teaching which the Lord gives to men of their own regeneration as the steps will appear to them, and the corresponding series of steps of the natural creation.
It is not true spiritually that man advances in regeneration before God exists ; but it is very true that he makes much progress before the Lord becomes to him a sensible Presence. And, correspondingly, it is doubtless true, as others have observed, that in the creation of the earth, when the masses of water that are now in our seas, and of carbon that are in the coal-beds, and the gases that now exist in combination with many minerals when these were all in the atmosphere of the warm earth no sun could have been seen from the earth, nor indeed any rays of light. These first appeared when the waters were so far condensed upon the surface of the earth as to make its dense covering penetrable by light. And then presently, as the condensation went on, there came a space of clear air, above which rested a sea of clouds, and below which lay the waters beneath the expanse; and then, as the mountains rose and the valleys sank, the waters were gathered into one place, and the dry land appeared, and began to bring forth tender herbage, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-trees yielding fruit.
In all this the spiritual creation follows the same order, as it is apprehended by man. In the first natural state there is dense obscurity as regards all things of spiritual life. The youth has heard of God and heaven, and possibly many things about the life of heaven and of good life upon earth. All that he has learned is to him unformed knowledge, in regard to things which are as yet unreal to him, and the knowledge is scarcely distinguished in his mind from other worldly knowledge. First the light steals in, that shows that heaven is real, and heavenly states are possible in men. The knowledge of heavenly things and of innocent states agreeing with them, instantly becomes more precious; and while the knowledge of the world sinks to the level of the earth, this nobler knowledge rises toward heaven. The desire to live the life of heaven then becomes nobler in his eyes than mere knowledge, and begins to bring forth first its hopes and ideals of heaven, then its works of faithful duty, and at last the fruits of wisdom as the earth rises above the waters, and brings forth herbage, grains, and fruit-trees.
It is not true that all this productiveness of principles and the fruits of principle, goes on without any development of good affections that enjoy the good works. On the contrary these exist as soon as there are living truths in the mind for them to enjoy. But the growth of intelligence and the works of intelligence prevail, and are the characteristic of the state; and therefore in the representative description it is said that the earth brought forth all these productions of the vegetable kingdom—which in this period did immensely prevail and nothing is said of the animals, which were relatively far inferior in development. This is in accordance with our common forms of speech ; as when we say that woman is affectionate and man is intellectual, we do not mean that woman has no intellect and man no affection, but that affection is the characteristic of the one, and intelligence of the other.
With the coming into view of the sun the moon and the stars, no doubt the animal life attained a rapid development, as the sensitive love for the Lord and for all that He teaches us and gives us to do, prevails when He Himself becomes a sensible Presence in our hearts. And the development of animal life was crowned by man, who should have dominion over all other productions of the earth as the free and rational heavenly man, receiving and loving the life of the Lord, rules over all the affections and the wisdom, the feelings and the thoughts, that he looks upon and recognizes in himself.
It is not impossible that the open-minded men for whom this account was first given, saw in it indirectly, as a secondary meaning, such an account of the natural creation. They knew nothing of science as we understand it, and they cared nothing for it. Their hearts were given to the things of heaven. Still they loved to describe spiritual states and possessions by representatives by parables, by fables, by various forms of representative art; and they were likely to form a mental conception of the literal story, as a representative image, in which they might see the spiritual story which especially delighted them.
But to them, as to the coming generations that will belong to the City of God, the chief value of the history lay in its containing heavenly -wisdom, and inmostly the wisdom of God concerning the formation of a heavenly spirit in man, that the Divine ideal of humanity might be revealed and preserved, and that Heaven and the Church might cooperate in bringing it to pass.
The Garden of Eden
So sang the Greek poet, lamenting the degenerate days in which his lot had fallen. And not less peaceful were the traditions of the Latins :
"The Golden Age was first founded, which, without any avenger, of its own accord, without laws, practised both faith and rectitude. Punishment and the fear of it did not exist, and threatening decrees were not read upon the brazen tables fixed up to view, nor yet did the suppliant multitude dread the countenance of its judge; but all were in safety without any avenger. The pine tree, cut from its native mountains, had not yet descended to the flowing waves, that it might visit a foreign region, and mortals were acquainted with no shores beyond their own. Not as yet did deep ditches surround the towns; no trumpets of straightened or clarions of crooked brass, no helmets, no swords, then existed. Without occasion for soldiers, the minds of men, free from care, enjoyed an easy tranquillity.
"The earth itself, too, in freedom, untouched by the harrow, and wounded by no ploughshares, of its own accord produced everything ; and men, contented with the food created under no compulsion, gathered the fruit of the arbute-tree, and the strawberries of the mountains, and cornels, and blackberries adhering to the prickly bramble-bushes, and acorns which had fallen from the wide-spreading tree of Jove. Then it was an eternal spring, and the gentle zephyrs, with their soothing breezes, cherished the flowers produced without any seed. Soon, too, the earth unploughed yielded crops of grain, and the land, without being renewed, was whitened with the heavy ears of corn. Then rivers of milk, then rivers of nectar, were flowing, and the yellow honey was distilled from the green holmoak." (Ovid, Fable III.)
Thus Ovid echoes Hesiod, and both gather up the traditions of a Golden Age in which men lived innocently, near to heaven beloved and cared for by heavenly beings.
The same state is more fully described in our Bible in the story of primeval life in the Garden of Eden. There also grew every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food; and there was heard the voice of Jehovah God talking with men and instructing them. We do not understand that the very first men were created wise in heavenly things, nor even that they became wise; but rather that they began but one remove from the animals, and with very little of spiritual life. Of necessity the spiritual development was slow, and very many generations passed before this heavenly state was attained.
We have seen in the record of the six days of creation, spiritually understood, an account of the successive steps of development of a heavenly spirit in man from the first dawning in his mind of the light which reveals the possibility of a heavenly state, as distinguished from a worldly, to the fully regenerated man, knowing God and living daily from Him, in His image and likeness. This gradual process is necessary in the spiritual growth of an individual, and still more in the growth of a community, a race, or a church. The earliest men must then have begun in ignorance, hardly removed from the animals, and advanced slowly upward.
But as we are so near to the beginning of things, a word may perhaps be desired as to the process by which men became men at all. Were they created men by a word ? or did they begin with the simplest animal form, from which gradually was developed the human form ?
We read that " God formed man from the dust of the ground " ; and although this has another meaning also, I think it expresses the literal truth that the animal organism of man began with the simplest forms. I do not think of him as developed from another animal, any more than I think of other animals as being undeveloped men advancing into human form ; but I think of a developing human animal advancing along its own line, until, the animal part of man being complete, it was possible to add to it those human parts of the brain and of the mind by virtue of which man looks down upon the animal qualities in himself, and rules over them.
Up to this point, it is an animal with animal affections, appetites, instincts. I doubt not that it is a good and noble animal, living upon the fruits and grains of the earth, in life-long and single-hearted attachment between mates as is the case with many other noble species of animals ; but as yet its hands are upon the ground, or upon the trees; its attention is fixed upon the outer world only; it seeks only animal comforts and pleasures. There is a sun of heaven all the time shedding the light of heavenly wisdom, and the warmth of heavenly love; but there are as yet no organs in man to perceive them, and to compare them with the light and heat of the world. He thinks from his animal feelings, and expresses them, but he does not think about them and describe them he is not yet a " speaking man."
With the development of the truly human faculties that look down upon the animal in him, comes the dawning in his mind of spiritual light, the objects of which are spiritual things states of mind, ideals of heaven, revelations of the God of heaven. The man begins to look up, to rise upon his feet, to be instructed in spiritual things, to compare them with natural, to describe their differences. He speaks, he reasons he is truly a man.
Only now begins that process of spiritual creation represented by the six days' work of God, the first of which gave the light, which in the eyes of God was good. The minds of men, just awakening as men, were innocent and good, though not wise ; they were not perverted—there was no wilful shutting out of the light of heaven. Gradually, very gradually, they opened upward, and we are taught that as their inner perception of the light was developed, an inner sight of the spirit in the spiritual world was given, too. Generation after generation enjoyed the light, and slowly gathered knowledge of heavenly life which was stored in their inner minds as the waters above the expanse of heaven, and knowledge of worldly life which was collected in their natural minds as the waters beneath the expanse.
And then began the living from spiritual motives the life of heaven upon the earth represented by the appearing of the dry land above the waters a life which consisted first in the cherishing of ideals and hopes, like the flowering plants, and then in the performance of heavenly uses and the development of comprehensive wisdom and the fruitfulness of it the grains and the fruit-trees of the spirit.
The fourth state of this development of heavenly life was to this early church of God, as it is in individual regeneration, a clear recognition of Him to Whom they owed their powers of good, and from Whose love and thought they loved and thought heavenly things. And then from the sense of personal relation to Him came full and varied living affections in all human relations like the peopling of the earth with the living animals. Not until it had attained this full development of wisdom and affections from God was the church truly an image and likeness of God, and the age truly a Golden Age.
Of the church in this state, Swedenborg tells us:
Our story of their home in the Garden of Eden is a description of their spiritual state as they would have described it, and it has come down to us from days not far removed from their own.
Here we must pause a moment to take notice of the relation between the first chapter of Genesis which contains the account of the six days of creation, and the second chapter which appears to describe briefly again the same creation, adding thereto the account of the Garden of Eden and of the life in it. In the second chapter, after the mention of the day of rest which followed the days of creation, the name Jehovah God first appears, and all that is done is ascribed to Jehovah God ; whereas in the first chapter we find only the name God. On account of this difference and of the apparent repetition of the account of the creation, it is commonly believed by Bible students that we have here the separate accounts of two authors put together; and the discussion of them generally leaves the uncomfortable impression that there is a lack of unity in the Holy Word, and that it was put together by some chance.
But the New Church has another view to present. We are taught, as has been shown already, that the story of the first chapter represents the regenerating state of the race the state in which by instruction from heaven it was gradually elevated from the level of the brutes to association with angels and communion with God. The seventh day here, as everywhere, represents the state of heavenly rest after the labors and conflicts of regeneration not a state of idleness, but a state of peaceful, heavenly life, with abundant love and wisdom and usefulness ; and it is the new development of wisdom and usefulness under the inspiration of this fulness of love a development quite distinct from the toilsome acquisitions of the regenerating state that is described in the second chapter. Its peaceful perceptions of what is good and true are represented by the rain and the mist that watered the ground ; its new fulness of good natural life, by the man formed by Jehovah God from the dust of the ground, into whose nostrils He breathed the breath of life.
That a new name for the Lord here first appears is because a new relation with Him is now first established, and He is known in a new way. The plural name Elohim, rendered " God " in our version, everywhere represents the varied teachings of truth from God, and God Himself as the Source of varied regenerating truth; and the name is used everywhere in speaking of states in which the truth from good has the leading part. But the name Jehovah is from the verb " to be," and means the self-existent Being, from Whom all other beings are. It is not a name to be applied to the Divine Teacher; but to Him from Whom men live, Whose love is their love, and Whose life is their life. It is not applicable to the Divine during man's states of instruction and obedience to the truth, but it does describe Him as He is known in the sabbath peacefulness of love, when conflicts cease, and the mind is at rest. We are taught that it is a name which from very ancient times was used in this sense, though afterwards forgotten for a lime, and that this is its meaning wherever it appears in the Scriptures.
It is not, therefore, a question of supreme importance whether the account was written by one hand or by two or several. Any one wise man of the old time, having full knowledge of the meaning of the names and of the representatives of nature, could have furnished the materials.
The subject of the inspiration of the Scriptures will be treated more fully hereafter ; but it may here be observed that the language and the natural ideas in which revelation is conveyed must always have been derived from the men to whom it came; otherwise it would not have come to their apprehension at all. Thus these ancient records of primeval men are in the language of mythology; the revelation in Jewish days was clothed in the language of their own history and customs; and that of the Gospels in the forms of the language and experiences of the writers.
Returning to the story before us, we find there the wise and innocent state of the childlike church of God pictured as a garden which Jehovah God planted in Eden, in which Jehovah God caused to grow "every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." The trees of the garden, we are almost told in so many words, represent the varied knowledge and wisdom of life—those that were pleasant to the sight the rational wisdom as this very knowledge of correspondences and representatives—and those good for food the wisdom of usefulness of every kind. Preeminent among these—if indeed it does not picture to us the soul of them all is the Tree of Life, which is the tree of the Divine life, whose merciful providence for men is the soul of all the usefulness that they can do for one another.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil also was there as a possibility, not as an actual existence until men did evil for God did not make evil nor tendencies to evil; but to men who were made to love God in freedom as His friends, it was always possible to turn away from Him, and love only self.
There also was the four-parted river going out of the garden, which like the river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb in the streets of the golden city, represents the continual teaching of truth from God which makes the lives of His children clean and fresh, and vigorous in fruitfulness.
It is plain from what has been said that in this view by Adam, or man, is not meant an individual person, but that whole state of the race knowing and loving God, and living consciously from Him. Indeed by this knowledge and love of God and conscious life from God, man is truly man as distinguished from a mere human animal. It follows that by Eve is not meant an individual woman made from the rib of a man, but a lovely transformation of some element in mankind represented by the rib; and it is not difficult to see in the rib which is like a projecting arm about the heart a representative of that love of one's self, or of one's own life, as distinguished from love for the Lord and for the Lord's life, which is necessary to the full sense that man is separate from God a free, reciprocating being.
The love of self may be a degrading thing, leading away from God to what is opposite to God ; but here the rib was built into a woman who was a help "meet for" or fitting to the man ; which means that in those innocent people the love of being one's self, and living as of one's self, fitted and responded to the love of being the Lord's and living from the Lord, so that they became one; and that one was the love of living wholly from the Lord, altogether as of one's self; thus it was as yet wholly innocent.
Much the same is true, also, of the uniting of man and woman in a true marriage. For the wife surrounds the man's heart, and loves and protects it; while the man, if he is a true husband, gives up his conceit and his love of himself, and loves only his wife ; and thus what would have been a degrading love of self in him alone becomes an ennobling thing in his wife, and in his love for her.
While man slept it is said that the transformation was effected by Jehovah God ; which is true in marriage in the sense that the wife in quiet ways, which the man does not see, takes to herself his life; and thus by the same unseen ways, if the man is true to her, the Lord transforms his love of himself into love for her. In the development of the early Church of God it means similarly that, all unseen and unknown to them, the Lord made their natural desire to be themselves and be independent of Him, a beautiful love of living as of themselves from Him making innocent and lovely what otherwise must have been evil and degrading. A beautiful thing the desire to live as of one's self may be when it follows the Lord, and has no wish but to live as of one's self from Him ; but it is quite another thing when it follows the serpent.
More subtle the serpent was than any other beast of the field which Jehovah God had made. The creeping, gliding, noiseless thing, insinuating itself unnoticed, and as imperceptibly vanishing when afraid of being observed shocking every one who suddenly does observe it pictures to us the affections that lie close to the body of earth, that stealthily seek for pleasures of sense, and, unless we awake with a shock and shake them off, may presently benumb and destroy all true manliness and spiritual life. " The trail of the serpent " means to every one the low uncleanness of sensuous beguiling.
" And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said ye shall not eat of all the trees of the garden ? And the woman said unto the serpent, Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die ; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
Hardly do the words now need an interpreter, so plainly do we see the love of being one's self and living as of one's self listening to the beguilings of sense, only too ready to be convinced that it is not death but a more independent life to know good and evil from one's own experience, and to judge for one's self between them.
It is not a temptation and a yielding peculiar to the olden time. It belongs to every modern descendant of the ancients. Alas, that in them the yielding so early began ! But there is no one so innocent that he has not followed the example of the woman, who when she saw that the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, took of the fruit thereof and did eat; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he did eat. And in the first yielding, and until conscience is destroyed, every one knows that the consequence is that the eyes are opened to spiritual nakedness and shame, which he fain would cover with at least a formal knowledge of orderly life.
In the curse pronounced upon the serpent, occurs the prediction : " I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed : it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." I believe that in all subsequent time this has been taken as a prediction of the birth from the woman of a Saviour Who should bring into the world the Divine power to subdue the body, and to lift the soul of man again to God and heaven. We are taught in the New Church that it was so understood from the beginning of the decline of men under the beguiling of the senses—that it was then perceived that if men were left alone the decline would go on till the race would perish by the fierceness and abundance of evil, but that because God loved men, He must needs come to them, and deliver from evil all who were willing to be delivered. We are taught that this was revealed to them while there was still enough innocent love among them to perceive from the nature of love that this must necessarily be so; and from that early time they began to look in their own families for Him Who was to lead them back to the happy days from which they had departed. Partly from this came the pride in having many children, and down to Jewish days the reproach of being childless; and because they knew that He Who would save them must suffer even to the death of His own body to bring the perfect victory, in less intelligent days there came the practice of sacrificing their sons in times of severe trial, in supposed propitiation of the angry God.
There was no sudden drop to this low level of spiritual intelligence ; but as men slowly turned outward to their senses for guidance, their inner perception of the Divine love and the wisdom of it was gradually closed up they could not eat both from the tree of life and from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and in pursuing the cultivation of the wisdom of the world, they left their garden of the wisdom of heaven. And then,
To understand what is meant by the cherubim, let us turn for one moment to the ark of the testimony in the inmost part of the Jewish Tabernacle. It was an ark of shittim wood overlaid with gold, in which were placed the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Upon the ark was placed a cover of pure gold, called the mercy-seat, of the golden substance of which rose two golden cherubs. Now the Ten Commandments are the Divine law of life in its lowest forms. They are the forms through which the Divine power is exercised in subduing evil, and bringing men into the order of heaven. The Divine control of evil and the Divine blessing in good are in them ; and when the Commandments are truly taken home to one's heart, and the inmost ruling place is given to them, the sense of the Divine mercy and forgiveness descends upon them ; and then from the very substance of that mercy in the heart, ascend the living forms of love to the Lord and love to man. In these loves is the sense of the Presence of the Lord in the heart, and through them He guides and leaches man in all the wisdom of His Providence, as the Lord communed with Moses from between the cherubim.
The cherubim which guard the way to the tree of life are the same love for the Lord and love for man. They are as a flaming sword to those who love the beguilings of the serpent. But to those who faithfully keep the Commandments in their spirit as well as their letter, they are the pure loves of heaven which the mercy of the Lord brings again into their hearts, and which open again to them the garden of delight, where God walks with them, and communes with them teaches them the wisdom of heaven, and nourishes their souls day by day with the fruits of the life of His own life.
From Eden to Noah
We have seen that by man, or Adam, is not meant the first created human being, but the first church upon the earth, in its fully developed heavenly state open to heaven, knowing God, full of love from God, and from the love itself perceiving wisdom from God. Also that by Eve is meant the love of living as of one's self in that church, which is the counterpart of the love of living from God ; and that in the days of their united perfection they were the love of living as of one's self, and with all one's powers, from God. And so neither are individual persons meant by their immediate descendants, but branches or developments of the church.
We have seen that by the trees of the Garden of Eden are meant the varied intelligence and wisdom of life of the church; and so now by Cain, who was a tiller of the ground, is meant a branch of the church in which the knowledge or wisdom of the church was cultivated exclusively, and regarded as the whole ; and by Abel, who was a keeper of sheep, is meant the cultivation of kindly love and charity in the church which the pride of knowledge despised. The worship of the Lord from charity and love was acceptable to Him, and brought conjunction with Him; but the worship from mere knowledge or wisdom brought no conjunction with Him, and no sense of blessing from Him ; and where there is no conjunction with the Lord and no blessing from Him, there evil is multiplied and love is destroyed. That this was the case as the church of the Golden Age declined, we are told in the story of the death of Abel at the hands of Cain his brother; and nevertheless, we are told, Cain himself was protected by God that he should not be destroyed, because the truth thus preserved may be the means of leading men back to good in after times.
The love of that innocent church was the love of God's love which was to them a sensible inspiration of life; and the wisdom of the church was the perception of the quality and methods of that love, as seen in all the works of its creating, understood from the love or purpose that was in them. And when men ceased to love the love of God in them and to look to Him alone for life, they still took pride in their knowledge of the spiritual quality and meaning of all natural things; and such knowledge, with the lessons of Divine order that went with it, was a storehouse of the truth of heaven to after ages. This it is that Cain represents.
In the family of Cain, the genealogy of the decline is traced to Lamech who said to his wives : "I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt: if Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold" which may be regarded as describing the extinction of the church in that line. But then to the man and his wife was born a son whose name was Sheth, of whom it was said: "God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew." By which is meant, we are taught, that there still remained in a branch of the church those who, though with diminished sense of life from God, loved a good life according to the Divine order ; and in them the wisdom preserved to them bore the fruits of mutual love and good works.
In the long line of descendants from Sheth, we find Enoch, of whom we read: "And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him"; which means, as we are taught in the New Church, that, as the communication with heaven, and the perception of the wisdom of heaven declined, there were those who collected and formulated the knowledge of the age concerning representative and significant objects and usages, and preserved it by tradition, or upon tablets of wood and stone, for future ages, and especially for that future church which has its name from Noah. The line of descent finally closes in Noah, by whom is meant the small remnant with whom an entirely new and altogether different state of the church would begin.
So narrow is our view of humanity, so satisfied are we with ourselves as the types of humanity, or at least of all that is best and most intelligent in humanity, that our minds open reluctantly to admit the idea of very different and in some respects nobler men than we. But have we never seen or heard of sweet, innocent children from dirty, quarrelsome, drunken parents, and wondered how a form of humanity so utterly different could have such an origin ? And if by a sad possibility the innocent child should grow up into a likeness of its parents, would it not be an equal wonder that so perverse a creature could have grown from one so innocent ? It is hardly more of a wonder that the turbulent, struggling, greedy, and yet on the whole well-meaning and intelligent race of the present day should have sprung from an innocent race, open to God and heaven, full of the sense of love from God, and wise with angels' wisdom. The characteristic of the earliest church on earth, we are taught, was a fulness of innocent love from God utterly unlike any thing known since among men; and from the agreement or disagreement of all things with that love came their wisdom of heavenly life. Their very breathing was different from that of our day—depending upon their thinking, and so making one with their thought from heaven. As men declined from their innocence all this was changed, and at length it came to pass, we read:
" When men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose. . . . There were giants in the earth in those days. . . . And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually ; and it repented Jehovah that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart."
By the sons of God are meant nearly the same as by the primitive man, namely, the knowledge and sense of life from God; and as by Eve was meant the love of living as of one's self in the good sense as of one's self from God, and in the perverse as of one's self following the allurements of sense so here the daughters of men signify the developments of this perverse wilfulness in the pursuit of evil pleasure; and when the sense of life from God joined itself with unrestrained loves for evil pleasure, there was born from them the persuasion that God was in them and they were God; that there was no other God than they, and no other law of good than their will; and the intensity of this perverse persuasion corresponded with the intensity of their life from God; and therefore it is said that there were giants in the earth in those days giants of evil.
And then came the end. Immersed entirely in this persuasion, their thinking and their breathing with heaven ceased ; they destroyed their own life, which was one with heaven, in a flood of wilful perversity of their own making. We understand that there was no other flood than that, and that except with a small remnant the primeval church did thus come to its end.
That small remnant was of a nature differently developed. The primeval church in its innocence had been wide open to love from God, and from that love they had perception of all things that agreed or disagreed with it, and thus came readily into wisdom of life like that of the heavens; but the men of the next age, called the Silver Age, had no such fulness of love from God, and consequently no such perception of wisdom. The intellect with them had the leading part, and was developed slowly by instruction in spiritual truth, by means of which they were led into a good life, blessed by some degree of happy love. The study of spiritual truth was their delight, and especially the study of the representatives of spiritual things in natural. Therefore to them the traditions from the Golden Age came as a revelation from heaven of just such things as they loved to know, and were to them as a Word from God, and became the nucleus of a fuller Word afterward.
But not all at once was such a state of spiritual intelligence developed. The flood which destroyed the primitive church caused temptation and struggle to the remnant that were saved. The intense persuasion of the giants who believed themselves God could not but threaten the safety of the few who were beginning to think more coolly, and to become intelligent in spiritual truth ; and as afterward a state of spiritual worship of God was represented by the tabernacle, and then by the temple, and a state of life with God by a golden city, so here the state of protection of these ancient men by God, and the separate state which He provided for them, was represented by the ark by which Noah and his family and all the beasts of the earth were preserved from the flood. "Mansions" there were in it, representing the separateness of the thinking of the new age from the love or will a separateness which was essential to salvation. A window there was about it of a cubit from the top, for there was spiritual illumination from heaven. There was a door in the side, representing the life of obedience by which they entered in. It was built in "lower, second, and third stories," for there are three degrees of the intellectual mind in which abide respectively the knowledge that is learned, the rational understanding, and the spiritual intelligence. The gathering in of all the beasts of the earth, clean and unclean, represents the preservation of all human affections, good and evil, that make the life of man full and varied, under the new conditions. And that all living things died upon the earth as the waters prevailed, represents the removal from the earth of those who were in the deadly persuasions of the former state ; and then the gradual subsiding of the waters until the ark rested upon the mountains, represents the gradual freeing and enlightening of the minds of those who were to constitute the church of spiritual intelligence upon the earth. The obscurity of their first thought is described as a raven which " went forth to and fro until the waters were dried up from off the earth." There was as yet no resting-place for the dove, which, like the dove that rested upon the Lord after His baptism, represented the thoughts of heavenly love and charity that fill the mind emerging from the waters of temptation and of purification. In another seven days the dove returned with an olive-leaf plucked off in her mouth a representative of the remains of the wisdom of love from former days which was now beginning to be enjoyed ; and after yet another seven days, the clove went forth and returned no more, because a free state of spiritual thought and life was established.
I am quite aware how fanciful these interpretations of the dove and the raven and the olive leaf will appear to many, and especially the significance ascribed to the details of the ark; and yet such symbolism prevails everywhere in the Bible. The Lord said " destroy this temple, and in three days I will build it again," but He spake of the temple of His body, of which the temple at Jerusalem was a symbol. The Church acknowledging the Lord, and living from His presence, was called the Tabernacle of God with men. And can it be supposed that the dimensions and the structure of the temple were so minutely prescribed without any regard to the representation in detail as well as in general ? In a future lecture I hope to illustrate the particulars of this representation of the tabernacle and of the ceremonial worship performed in it; and will only add now that the same principle of interpretation applies universally throughout the Scriptures, and everywhere reveals descriptions of Divine and heavenly things which seem to us of the utmost spiritual value—constituting in fact the living soul of the Scriptures.
The study of such representations, and of the lessons of heavenly life which God the Creator has spread before us in all Nature in the glorious sun which in its all-pervading beneficent rule is a symbol of Himself, in moon and stars, in shadowing clouds and fertilizing showers, in all the living affectionate animals of the earth, and in the growth of the varied plants even in the rocks which gave to the Lord His emblem for the foundation of His church—the study of these and of the lessons of life which they teach, was, as we arc taught, the very life of the ancient people whom we know as Noah and his sons. Emblems of all Divine and heavenly virtues and powers they made for themselves, finding abundant means in the kingdoms of nature; and these emblems they placed in their temples and their homes not to be worshipped, but to remind them of heavenly things. They composed fabulous histories, also, sometimes personifying the heavenly bodies by no means limiting their thought to natural movements and phenomena, but seeing in these a real correspondence of spiritual relations, which they thus described.
The whole ancient world as we look back upon it through its remains of art and literature, is full of such symbolic representations. It is very true that 'the remains nearest to our own time present a picture of the grossest idolatry and ignorance of spiritual things; but the further back we go the more spiritual intelligence we find. In Greece, in Egypt, in Assyria, in India, and in China, we find everywhere the superior wisdom and spiritual character of their remote ancestors revered by the degraded posterity. And in the study of their remains, some intelligent students find as they go back the idolatry and the polytheism disappearing, and one God worshipped, Who is the Creator of the universe and Whose various attributes and manifestations are variously personified.
The character of the religious life of the Church of Noah is pictured to us in the rainbow which was taken as the emblem of it. Of course it is not true that then first the rays of the sun were reflected from the drops in rainbow colors. Something more than this is meant. It is called a token of a covenant between God and men ; and a covenant means a mutual relation in which something is done on both sides by virtue of which there is conjunction. Such a covenant was established afterward by means of the Ten Commandments which were called the Covenant, and the ark that contained them the Ark of the Covenant, and which taught what men must do in order that they might receive life and blessing from God.
Something similar must be meant by the covenant with Noah ; and the rainbow to be a fit token of it must truly represent it. The rainbow, as we know, is caused by the reflection and bending of the rays of light from the sun by the drops from a cloud. The rays that are bent least come to us as red; and other colors follow in order through yellow to green and blue, deepening to violet. And these colors affect our feelings variously: the red with a warm glow; the yellow, which is the color of gold and grains and fruits, with stimulating encouragement; the blue as what is clear and cool; the violet with modest trustfulness.
If the rainbow is really a representative of a spiritual relation to the Lord, all these details have their significance; and in this view the rain of heaven is the Lord's teaching of good life, by which the natural life is kept clean and fruitful. The sunshine upon it is the illumination from the Lord with those who love spiritual light and warmth ; and the beautiful colors are the varied states of spiritual affection and illumination from the Lord with those who thus receive Him. The cloud in which the rainbow is said to be set is the obscurity of natural ideas and appearances as contrasted with spiritual. When, therefore, we think of a people who loved natural things only for the sake of the spiritual lessons they yielded, and loved these for the sake of the good life they taught, and know that the Lord blessed them with spiritual light in every variety of good affection, we see an image of this enlightening presence of the Lord in their natural truth, in the bow that is set in the cloud. And we see further that though the natural rainbow is no sign that there will come no more a natural flood, such a spiritual bow is a sign that to those who thus live the truth and are illumined by the Lord, a flood of evil thinking will no more take them away.
The bow was especially the token of the covenant between the Lord and this wisdom-loving church of the ancient time ; but it is a token of the similar covenant between the Lord and all who love similar wisdom for the sake of spiritual life. It may have a fulfilment even with us, while we, from love for heavenly wisdom and charity, see the clouds of this ancient story illumined by spiritual light, revealing from the Lord beautiful possibilities of love and wisdom in a life from Him.
It has already been said that the first instruction of this church was from the traditions of the revelation to the earliest church. These traditions or collections were afterward increased under the Divine inspiration, and perfected into a Divine Word. From that Word, Swedenborg tells us, was taken this very story of which we are treating, as well as the earlier chapters of Genesis, and also the prophetic quotations from the Book of the Wars of Jehovah, and the Book of Jasher, and the Book of "those that speak in Proverbs." These books treated at length of the rise and decline of the ancient churches, and also of the saving work, the conflicts, the redemption of the Lord Who was to come into the world. Him they worshipped and looked for constantly living as if their lives must be always ready for Him. But the representatives which were clear and beautiful to them were not such as could be understood or loved by the more worldly men that followed. Therefore similar truth was afterward embodied in the form of the stories of our Word, which can at least be understood and read in the letter, and thus preserve a Divine revelation among men until they shall once more love to know of God and heaven, and love the life of heaven.
To Noah were born three eons; for it was inevitable that there should be varieties in the development of the church; not all would become intelligent and wise in the deeper things of spiritual wisdom. Some became so, and some were content with being taught how to live good lives, and with holy forms of worship ; and others again, like Cain in the earlier days, cared only for the knowledge of holy things, and not for the life of varied love to the Lord and the neighbor. These last are meant by Ham ; the spiritually intelligent and loving by Shem; and the more simple good and obedient by Japheth.
The incident with which the story closes illustrates the character of these, and especially the spirit of charity which was the very means of life and of conjunction with the Lord in the church.
" These are the three sons of Noah," we read, "and of them was the whole earth overspread. And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard; and he drank of the wine, and was drunken ; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness."
The cultivation of the ground means here as In fore the cultivation of various kinds of knowledge and intelligence which naturally began to prevail in the church. That Noah planted a vineyard means that they cultivated the wisdom of spiritual life which makes the church. From this the church is often called the Lord's vineyard; and because all true wisdom of spiritual life is from the Lord Himself, therefore He called Himself the true Vine. The wine of the Holy Supper also means such wisdom of good life, which because it constitutes the thoughts of His heart He calls His blood.
Nut that Noah drank of the wine, and was drunken, means that in that church were those that sought such wisdom not from the Lord but from themselves, and were intoxicated with pride in the fruits of their own sagacity and intelligence. It is inevitable that when men do so, they should fall into many errors of thought and evils of life.
Every boastful man does so to-day, and then displays unclothed his natural perversity; and so it was in the days of Noah. And then they who cared only for the knowledge of spiritual things, and not for a life of love and charity, were quick to see the errors and evils, and loved to expose them and to dwell upon them. May we not justly draw the converse lesson to-day, that every one who loves to see and to impute evil, if he calls himself a disciple of the Lord, is so only by virtue of a knowledge of Christian teachings, and not at all by his Christian life ? But fortunately such did not prevail in the church at its best it was the character of Ham, but not of Shem and Japheth.
These by their modest act represent the charity which was the life of the church of old, and is the life of every church which loves not to impute evil, but to remove it, and to veil and excuse it as far as this can justly be done which would help every one appear at his best, and lends the raiment of its own best thoughts to assist him to appear so and to become so, rejoicing when he is worthy of its own cordial love and honor.
Abraham and His Sons.
We have seen in Noah a representative of the second Church or Dispensation among men a church that loved spiritual wisdom, and cultivated a knowledge of the representatives and correspondences of spiritual things in natural objects. In the sons of Noah we have seen a representation of the three classes of men of such a church ; namely, those that are intelligent and wise loving a spiritual life according to the lessons of interior spiritual truth—who are called Shem ; those who loved not the spiritual life of charity, but prided themselves in spiritual knowledge only, called Ham ; and those of more simple worship and good life, according to the traditions and instructions they had received, who are meant by Japheth.
That by these three the whole earth was overspread, does not necessarily mean to us that there were no other human beings upon the habitable earth ; but that these three constituted the church of the time; and there may have been others related to them as the heathen or gentiles to the Church of God in all historic time. It is no doubt true, however, that the Semitic races in Palestine and Syria, Arabia and Mesopotamia, were originally of the kind signified by Shem—spiritually intelligent and good ; and that among their descendants, even after their intelligence and spirituality were gone, there was more material to continue the forms of spiritual worship than among others. It is true, also, that the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the early settlers in the Euphrates valley, and perhaps some other of the tribes of Eastern Africa and Western Asia, were depositories of the formulas of wisdom of their day, such as might be expected among the tribes of Ham; and again, I know no reason to doubt that the simpler, ruder tribes of Europe and Northern Asia belong to the families of Japheth.
The descendants of these three, as described in the tenth and especially the eleventh chapters of Genesis, no doubt are tribes that embodied the varied developments of their religious thought and representative worship the later tribes at least bearing the names of their respective ancestral heads.
It is among the descendants of Ham that the name of Babel first Appears, and afterward we have the story of the building of the tower of Babel. We read that " the whole earth was of one language and of one speech. And it came to pass as they journeyed from the East " that is, from the East of the central Holy Land"—that they found a plain in the land of Shinar ; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Come, let us make brick, and burn them to a burning. And they had brick for stone, and bitumen had they for mortar. And they said, Come, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven ; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."
Whatever may be true in regard to the huge pyramids of brick in what we know as ancient Babylon, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is a history of men in their relation to God that we are reading—a history not of cities and towers, but primarily of states of spiritual life and worship. That the whole earth was of one language and of one speech, means that the church worshipped one God as the Father of all; and that all men were brethren. For when love to one another as children of the one Father is the essential thing in all parts of the church, however they may develop various branches of doctrine or forms of worship they see the good in one another, and understand one another; they have one language of love, and one speech to describe the particulars of worship and life from love.
Such was this church at the first; but that they journeyed from the East, and found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt there, describes their departure from the essential principles of charity, and their lower state of life. That there they made brick, and of bricks and bitumen built a city, and a tower whose top should reach unto heaven, to make for themselves a name, means that the fictions of men became to them the essentials of religion, and that by them, cemented with the zeal of self-love, they desired to climb to fictitious heights of holiness, and command the veneration and worship of men.
And the consequence was that they understood one another no longer, but, each insisting upon his own peculiar forms of thought as the essentials of religion, they misunderstood and misrepresented one another, both purposely and of necessity. Thus was the unity of the church broken up. Men separated one from another, and each little clan wandered away from its brothers.
This dispersion of the tribes may be regarded as the end of that church of Noah and his immediate descendants which from its intelligent light is known as the Silver Age. But the account of this dispersion is followed immediately by the genealogy of another branch of the family of Eber, namely that descended through Peleg. We read that "unto Eber were born two sons, the name of one was Peleg—for in his days was the earth divided and his brother's name was Joktan." (x. 25.)
The descent through Joktan has been traced to the dispersion at Babel, and now the narrative returns and takes up the descent through Peleg, in which afterward we find the family of Abram, and which appears to have constituted the Hebrew Church, and also to have been known as the Copper Age. The men of this Copper Age, Swedenborg tells us, had from the earliest church their precepts of mutual love and charity, and lived obediently a life of friendliness, of faithfulness in marriage, of hospitality and benevolence. They worshipped the one God, with various names and attributes, using sacrificial forms of worship, which in their best days they knew to be representative of spiritual qualities. In the declining days of the church, where we find the family of Abraham, the worship became idolatrous losing its devotion to one God, and all idea of spirituality. And we find in the life described a loss of singleness in the marriage relation—the single-hearted marriage love being superseded by the love of children.
With such men or, to speak more broadly, in such a state of mankind—a truly spiritual church, knowing the Lord, and conjoined with Him in a life of spiritual love and spiritual truth, was impossible. The most that was attainable was the representation of spiritual states in appropriate natural states and conditions. When we come to the history of Abram, therefore, we do not find, as before, an allegory representing the spiritual love and faith of the men then existing, but we find the actual story of the outward lives of men, so ordered and so narrated as to represent spiritual states entirely unlike their own that were so low and external. We come to the history of actual events, but to events so ordered by the Divine Providence as to represent the spiritual progress of individuals and of the race.
It is in this representative or spiritual meaning that the holiness of the narrative resides. We have in the literal story an account of a shepherd leader, himself an idol-worshipper, who is led by the command of the Lord through various wanderings in lands foreign to him. There is no marked spiritual gain in his character, to make him an example to us, or to justify our regarding the narrative as sacred. It has its holiness from its representing the spiritual progress of men, under the Divine leading, out of natural states into spiritual, through various stages of instruction and temptation.
To the New Church this representation is not obscure but is revealed as a perfectly clear spiritual story, contained in and represented by all the particulars of the natural story. There are many applications of the story; but in general it describes the steps by which man, conscious of having come into a degraded state, begins to ascend again to a heavenly state. Abram was called by the Lord to go to the land of Canaan, which is to us a representative of a heavenly state of life ; but he was not to possess it at once. He was to sojourn in it wandering from place to place, and pasturing his flocks and when his family had grown to a nation, and had suffered great afflictions, then at length they should possess the land. In all this we see represented the spiritual state of men who even in boyhood became aware of the naughtiness of their heart, and, drawn by the goodness of the Lord, love to learn of Him and of heaven, and of the life of heaven upon earth. In the contemplation of these things they have the enjoyment of their life, and nourish thereby innocent affections for all that is good. But they by no means come into possession of all the good states of life that they learn about; nor can they till they have attained the full development of their manly life, and have passed through many trials and labors.
The most full, and indeed the only perfect application of the story is to the life of the Lord Himself when He was in the world. We have seen that from the earliest days of the decline of man from the innocence of Eden under the beguiling of the serpent, it was perceived that there would be no recovery of the heavenly life but by the help of the Divine Itself Who should be born into the world ; and that it was promised at once that He would come of the seed of the woman. Therefore in the Lord Who was born we must look for the steps of the return to the Divine life, and for the perfect fulfilment of the representative story which describes that return.
Doubtless in His infancy there was within Him a fulness of Divine love and life which in a way was analogous to the fulness of life in the early churches; and in His boyhood He came to a recognition of the evil nature into which He was born a nature inheriting the accumulated perversity of all the successive churches, from Adam and Noah and Eber to the latest posterity of the Jews.
To Him there came the summons from within from the saving Love from which He had come into the world—to leave the pursuits and pleasures and affections of that evil inheritance, and to learn of the Divine the possibilities of heaven and of the life of heaven upon earth. The Love itself in His soul opened His eyes to see from the representatives of the Word the order for which the heavens and the earth were created. He read there also how men had turned from that order, and changed the gifts of life and love and truth and reason, which were intended for their eternal blessing, into the burnings of evil, hatreds, and falsities, and curses. He read also of the promise that to the helpless, falling world the Lord God Himself would come as a Saviour; and in the very story before us He read of the summons that had come to Him, to leave the state of His nativity, and to go on by Himself, and learn of the possibilities of happy life to endless thousands in heaven and on earth through the help that He should bring them. From the immense love in His heart He knew that He was to fulfil these things. To Him came the full meaning of the promise: " I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing ; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." He felt the contrariness between the self-love and perverseness of His outer man, and the free, happy, unselfish love of His inner man. He saw that this spring of life existed in Himself alone, and that but for Him human life was a desert waste; and it came to Him as a hope and a glad promise that He might live from that love with its wisdom, its usefulness, and its happiness, in all the paths of human life, and be a blessing to every human soul. The promise was not that He should bring a blessing, but that He Himself embodying the only good love in His own human heart and mind and life, was to be the blessing, and that in receiving Him all the families of the earth should be blessed.
It was with the nope of bringing this great good to men that He suffered His affections and His thoughts to be led out from the natural state into which He was born, and to be instructed by means of the Word, and of life as He saw it always illumined and interpreted by the love within Him—in all that relates to good life from the Divine in heaven and on earth. The intensity of His desire for such instruction is represented by there being a famine in the land; in consequence of which " Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grievous in the land."
In the old times Egypt was the chief repository of the representatives and correspondences in which spiritual wisdom was contained, as well as of all the science of the ancients. Their hieroglyphic writing, their emblems, their statues, their pictures, especially the oldest of them, are full of such representations ; and because this was characteristic of the country, Egypt itself represents instruction in natural things, and especially in such things as are representative. Therefore, applying the story to the Lord's life, that Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there, because the famine was grievous in the land, represents the Lord's coming into a state to be instructed, especially in the representatives of the Scriptures, because of His eager desire to know heavenly things.
An incident occurred in Abram's going down into Egypt which seems so wholly of the earth, and of heartless calculation, that one would think it could not represent any step in spiritual life, much less in the Lord's life; and yet when we look at it thoughtfully it may appear otherwise, and the lesson taught to us as its spiritual sense may be seen to be true, and to be really represented in the literal story. We read that " it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon ; therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife ; and they will kill me, but will save thee alive. Say, I pray, thou art my sister ; that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee."
In every man there is a marriage between his love for some object or end, and his affection for the truth which is the means of bringing the end to pass. And from the union of the two is the usefulness which is the fruit of the marriage. Now, in the story before us, Abram represents the Lord's desire for the salvation of men ; and therefore his wife represents the affection for knowing the truth in regard to the means of salvation which unites itself with the love in the work of salvation. But when one is engaged in the study of interesting truth, the end of usefulness may be temporarily lost sight of in the pleasure of learning; and then if it should be insisted that the learning is of no account itself, but only for the sake of the useful purpose, that purpose itself might be rejected and denied for the pleasure in learning for its own sake. Therefore in every child, and in older people under various circumstances, the pleasure in learning is permitted to separate itself for the time from the love of use, and to stand as an independent affection, free to unite itself with knowledge only.
This is so in all men, and it was so in the Lord in His boyhood; and, as representing this universal experience, it was permitted that Sarai, who represents such affection for truth, should separate herself from her husband, who stood for the true purpose of all truth, and in the independent position of a sister, should seem free to be taken to Pharaoh's house. But in the Lord, as in every earnest mind, when this was in danger of going too far, and the affection for truth seemed to lose its real purpose of use, there came a loss of pleasure and a sense of deadness and unhappiness in the learning, which was represented by the house of Pharaoh being plagued with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife; and then reflection restored the affection for truth to its proper relation to the love of His Divine purpose, and all the acquisitions of truth were applied to this purpose.
Interesting chapters follow in the Bible relating to the separation of Lot from Abram ; the wars of Kedorlaomer and his allies with the five cities of the Plain, and the pursuit by Abram; and the prophetic vision given to Abram. The same principles of interpretation applied to them bring out the spiritual experiences of every one's regenerate life, as well as in their full sense the order of the Lord's life. And when the experiences of regeneration become familiar, these will be recognized in the sacred history as readily as the portraiture of the foibles of men in simple fables is recognized now. Indeed the art of telling fables has come down from these old representative days, in which all their wisdom was thus embodied in stories and histories. The Divine Spirit only made use of the genius of the time to embody for us, and for the days to come, the wisdom of perfect human life. For this purpose it provided that such representative events should occur, and the knowledge of them be preserved by tradition ; and in later times it caused the traditions to be moulded by various writers under the influence of the same Spirit into the Divine history.
The period of Bible formation was a long and peculiar period differing from the ages which preceded and from those which are yet to come in not having any perception of interior spiritual things, and also in having an influx of holiness from heaven into the outward forms that represented heavenly things, even though the living men had no knowledge at all of such representation. Much will be said of this hereafter; at present I wish only to say that the sanctity with which these incidents in Abram's life have so long been invested which made them so sacredly important even to himself and his immediate descendants as to cause them to be carefully preserved, and told over and over—was from the perception of their significance by the heavenly hosts, and the love that they had for the spiritual truth revealed. They saw in the events provided a representative of human regeneration, and especially of the redeeming life of the Lord Who was to come. Him they worshipped; for Him they looked; and every particular in regard to Him they treasured as sacred, and made sacred to men.
Our story continues with an account of the birth of sons to Abram of Ishmael from Hagar the Egyptian, and Isaac from Sarah.
We have seen in Abram, thus far, a representative of the Divine love in the Lord for bringing heaven to men ; and in Sarai a representative of affection for the truth helpful to this purpose. As regards men they represent respectively the boyhood's love for the possibilities of a nobler life than that which is natural, and affection for all that can be learned about it.
The first development from this zeal for better things is the youthful desire to understand the relations of things, and to put them in order according to their true relations, or in other words to reason about them. The quality of this first youthful reason is described by the son born to Abram of Hagar. By Hagar the Egyptian woman is meant much the same as by Sarai separated from Abram in Egypt, and that is the natural affection for learning. By means of this affection the desire of the Lord to do the will of the Divine Love produced a love of comparing, understanding, and reasoning. And the desire of every boy to become a good man, and to do the work of a good man, begets from his affection for knowing a similar desire to understand. This first rationality is represented by Ishmael, and of this it is said : " He shall be a wild-ass man, his hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him." For there are then in the boy no other standards of comparison than the things he has been taught as a child. He holds these literally and tenaciously—denouncing sharply and uncompromisingly whatever does not agree with them. This narrow, hard, combative, youthful reason, every one is familiar with ; and not by this, or anything partaking of the quality of this, could the Lord's redeeming work, or can the regenerating work in man, be done; and therefore not with Ishmael could the covenant of God be established, but with the son of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
In Egypt, separated from her husband, and taken to Pharaoh's house, Sarai represents affection for natural instruction ; but united with her husband, who represents the Divine love of saving men in the Lord, she has a nobler meaning, namely, the affection for knowing the nature of that love, with the perception of its desires and tendencies. In man the correlative is the affection for knowing the good that he has received from the Lord, or the noblest spiritual good with which his heart has been touched, and which he desires to make his life. It is an affection that springs into existence as soon as there is a sensible reception of the Lord's merciful goodness that saves from evil, and brings something of love from heaven. It is an affection that perceives and knows the quality of this goodness from the Lord. And from this affection, under the influence of the love of receiving that goodness and bringing it into all the life, is born the faculty of comparing the quality of that goodness with every other good, of seeing all things in the light of it, and arranging all things in their true relation to it in other words, there is born a spiritual reason.
This spiritual reason is as unlike as possible to the Ishmaelitish reason. It exists as a consequence of the presence of the Divine goodness, and from a love of conforming all things to the nature of that goodness. It is gentle and peaceable, disposed to kindly interpretations and charitable judgment. It understands quickly the order of heavenly life, for it has the very essence of that life always in view. It knows the reality of God and heaven, for it feels the presence of God which is heaven. There is no spiritual truth which it may not see, for there is none which is not derived from the goodness of God, and which does not partake of its nature. With this reason modest, gentle, and charitable, willing to be led and to be chastened the covenant of God can be established ; for by this reason the Lord Himself taught of the Divine Love, and judged in the light of it all things in His own maternal nature and in the world around Him ; and by this He taught of the life of heaven, and ordered His own life and the life of the church according to it. And by the same reason does man know the Lord, and do his part in conforming his life and nature to the Lord's teachings.
With the promise of the birth of Isaac there was given a change of name to Abram and to Sarai:
The letter "h," which is added to both names, is the sign of breathing and of life, and is the essential of the name Jehovah. And whatever other effect upon the meaning of the names the addition may have produced, it indicates that the Lord Whom they represent now began to have the life and power of the Divine in His human work. And we have seen that the spiritual reason represented by Isaac was the means of doing the Divine human work.
There follows in the story the sweet tale of the appearance of the three men to Abraham as he sat in his tent door, and the feast that he prepared for them, succeeded by their looking toward Sodom, and the tender intercession of Abraham for the inhabitants of the city.
By the three men is meant the fulness of the Trine now first beginning to exist in the Human of the Lord, namely, the Divine Love from which He came forth, the Divine Human now forming, and the Holy Spirit from it. The feast prepared means much the same as the Holy Supper, namely, the reception of affections from the Divine in the Lord's Human nature, or from the Lord in man. The exploration of Sodom represents the Lord's sorrowful inspection of the evil and adulterous generation in which He found Himself—a generation that knew not the things that belong unto peace, and could hardly escape the damnation of hell. And the intercession of Abraham represents the tender yearning of the Lord over them, that if possible they might be saved. He had come not to condemn the world, but to save it; and the first exercise of the budding spiritual reason was to look for every variety of humanity that could receive the blessing He had for men.
And the answer came to Him that there were some represented by the fifty righteous who might become wise in heavenly things and receive much of heavenly love, and some who would lack a little of this fulness. That there were some represented by the forty who would be able to endure much temptation, and still hold fast to what is good and true, and some who would be able to bear less. That there were some who would be faithful to what is right, provided they were not severely tempted, and some who could be taken from the earth before their childhood's innocence had passed away, and could be trained for good life in heaven. To all these He could bring something of the love which was life to Him ; and for their sakes He entered upon His redeeming work, and pursued it unto the end.
Joseph in Egypt.
WE read in the story of Abraham, as interpreted to the New Church, an account of the Lord's leaving the states of the natural life into which He was born, and advancing into a knowledge of Divine and heavenly things, that He might become a blessing to mankind. And in the birth of Isaac we see a representative of the development in Him of the spiritual reason by which he discerned the quality of all human states in their relation to the Divine, and knew every thing in them which could receive life from the Divine and be saved.
The subsequent story of Jacob, and of his getting wives and sons and great acquisitions in his mother's land, contains a spiritual history of the development and ordering of the natural life in obedience to the teachings of revelation.
For Jacob returned to the land from which Abraham had departed, and there begat his sons, and gathered his flocks. That land means now as before the natural state into which one comes before regeneration. The sojourn of Abraham and Isaac in the land of Canaan represents the coming to a knowledge and an intelligent understanding of the possibilities of Divine and heavenly states. This knowledge and understanding are given in boyhood and youth, according to the interest in knowing and understanding. But the actual labor by which those possibilities are realized, must be done in the state of natural life into which one is born ; and done there by the faithful learning and living of the literal truth which teaches the practical order of Divine and heavenly life. Only there and by keeping the commandments is the mind prepared for the full descent of every kind of good love that enters into the life of heaven. The varieties of the life of heaven among men are represented by the twelve tribes of Israel, as afterward the varieties of teaching of good life that enter into the church of the Lord were represented by the twelve apostles ; and as regards the Lord Who brought the good love that makes heaven to the very doors of all mankind, the development of the family of Jacob represents the development in Him of a knowledge of every variety of good life, and of the love for living it.
It would be possible to apply the continuation of the story to the progress of the Lord's human life, or to the states of individual regeneration ; but this lesson we will consider in its relation to the church, to which it is equally applicable. For the Bible is the book of humanity: in its supreme and fullest sense it contains the human life of Him Who was the Word made flesh, in a more limited sense it contains the life of mankind, and in the most limited the life of a regenerating man.
The family of Jacob, in this application of the story, represents the Christian Church established by the Lord, and its several members are the varieties of Christian life, or of Christian doctrine in life. The last to be developed of these by the direct teaching of the Lord was the doctrine preserved in its perfection only by the beloved disciple, that the Lord and the Heavenly Father are one, and that in Him they saw the Heavenly Father Himself. Other doctrines were more readily acquired. He taught them of the life that leads to heaven, and trained them in it; of heaven and hell; of the resurrection; of the Scriptures ; of charity and faith ; of baptism and of the Holy Supper; and many other things important to their regenerate life. And yet, even at the last, Philip could say to Him : " Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." And then the Lord replied : " Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip ? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?"
In His crucifixion and death their vague hopes of Him were almost crushed, and it required the glories of the resurrection and ascension, and the sensible power of the Holy Spirit, to convince those that loved Him that in Him they had indeed had the Heavenly Father with them in human presence.
The recognition of the Divinity of the Lord was not with the early church a matter of theory, but of experience. They had been taught by Him of the life He loved, which was new to them, and in living it they had received new and delightful life from Him. He was to them the Source of all that was heavenly and delightful in their lives. He Himself was love and life to all the early church, and therefore they could not do otherwise than look to Him as their Lord and their God. They did not attempt any rational explanation of their belief, and the Christian Church never has had a rational explanation of it. They simply knew the fact from their own experience of it, and believed it with their whole heart.
This doctrine was the central and best beloved doctrine of the church at the first, and it was by virtue of it that the church became a spiritual church, touched with a heavenly life received sensibly from God; and therefore we read in this representative story which describes the development of the church, that as soon as Joseph was born Jacob returned with his sons and all that he had into the land of Canaan, for by that land was represented a spiritual state of the church.
It was not till after the return to the land that Benjamin the brother of Joseph was born. He was called Benjamin by his father, and the name means "the son of the right hand"; and the son of Israel's right hand is spiritually the power by which the Christian truth is finally * established. But after Joseph had long been governor over the land of Egypt, he was still called a lad; and this is because the quality in the church which he represents was very late in attaining an effective development. What this quality is will presently be indicated.
The beautiful coat that Israel made for Joseph, stands for the representatives and teachings with which this acknowledgment of the Divine in the Lord's Human nature was clothed by the church. It was the teaching of the church that their Lord was present every where in the Holy Supper, offering His own flesh and blood for the nourishment of the souls of men which implies that in His Human presence, He was Divine and Omnipresent. It was the teaching that He was the Shepherd of the church everywhere giving enlightenment, protection from evil, and the blessing of good love which likewise involves His Divinity and Omnipresence; and so likewise docs the teaching that He is the resurrection and the life imply Divine power in heaven and on earth.
But this essential doctrine from which the church had all its spiritual life did not long hold its central place in the teachings of the church. It was as has been said a doctrine of experience not rationally understood. It also was the doctrine of the church in its infancy and feebleness, when it needed the support of the sensible presence of the Lord. But the church grew apace, and its honors and leading positions were sought for, and, as in the old days of Babel, the strife for leadership begat confusion of tongues. Not content with the Christian charity with which the presence of the Lord vivified the church, men demanded doctrinal tests, and accused one another of heresies, and forced heretical speculations where simpler hearts would have been content with the life of charity. As the love of rule in the church grew, it was the inevitable tendency to lead the minds of men away from their sole and living dependence upon the Lord, to the discussion of comparatively non-essential points by which the rulers of the church could become important.
All this is represented in a simple way in the story of Jacob's sons. They were shepherds. At first they fed their father's flocks in that great central plain of Shechem, in the heart of the land where Abram first abode, and whither afterward Joshua first led the people to rehearse to them there the blessings and the curses of the law.
We shall not be wrong to see in this the teaching in the primitive church, of its great essential principles of life from the Lord in obedience to His commandments. Joseph was sent to seek his brethren there, which represents the testing of the quality of the church by its acknowledgment of the Lord. But they had gone down, down from that central mountain plain, to a little bay in the low plain of Esdraelon, and there they fed their flocks. How better could the change in the teaching of the church be depicted the change from the teaching of the great central principles of Christian charity from the living presence of the Lord, to the discussion of points of doctrine about Him ?
There Joseph found his brethren, and before he came to them they conspired together against him. And when he came, they stripped him of his beautiful coat, and dipped it in blood, and sent it to his father; but him they cast into a pit, and presently sold him to the Ishmaelites to be carried down into Egypt. What is the corresponding history in the Christian Church ?
During the apostolic period, and for a very short time after, the one grand reality in the church was the presence of the risen Lord, and a fulness of love and charity among the scattered few who believed in Him, and kept His words. But the church multiplied, and men strove for dominion in it; and scarcely three centuries after the Lord's ascension, we see the rulers of the church assembled in councils vehemently discussing points of doctrine, the real intent of which is to turn the hearts of men away from the Lord. If He is really the light and the love and the strength of the church, their part must be that of humble worshippers and servants, and their dominion is gone.
Some there are to their honor be it said who would love to keep this humble place, rich with blessing from heaven ; but not so the leaders who prevail. Some of these would kill Him outright denying to His human any more power than that of another man. But all the faith there is in the church resists this proposal, and, like Reuben, would if possible save to the church the acknowledgment of Him as Lord and God. They say, When you destroy this doctrine of the church and make Him Whom you follow like another man, you will take the vitality out of the church and leave it no excuse for existence. They yield much, however for the early councils of the church were fierce battle-fields, where blows and furious invectives were exchanged, as well as more solid arguments and earnest appeals they yield much, and accept as the best they can get the hiding of their living Lord in an obscure doctrinal pit. They permit it to be decreed that their Lord is one of three Divine Persons, of different characters and attributes; and that in Him is embodied a Divine Son from eternity in a human like that of another man! a deep pit surely for Him Who had risen in glorified human body, in Whom was the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and Whose living presence had alone been the life of the church. Surely it was true, as Swedenborg declares from angels' mouths, that when the Nicene decree was promulgated, the Lord's prediction was fulfilled that the Sun of the Church should be darkened, the moon should not give her light, and the stars should fall from heaven.
Such became the position of the acknowledgment of the Lord with the rulers of the church at this very early period. But not all of the church were rulers, and bent upon establishing their rule; nor were all skilled or concerned in their dark reasonings. There were simple-minded people very many, indeed the bulk of the church, who believed in simplicity the story of the glorified Lord, and loved the charities of the life of the church. For the sake of reverence and profit from them, it was permitted them to keep the acknowledgment of the Lord in their simplicity, even though it was removed from its central position in the church as it was permitted the Ishmaelites for a price to rescue Joseph from the pit, and take him with them into Egypt.
The beautiful garments of the acknowledgment of the Lord still remained. The Holy Supper in which the bread and the wine stood for the Flesh and Blood of the Lord was still observed; but the bread and the wine were no longer the vehicles of His love and truth for the nourishment of men's souls, but made the communicants partakers in the sacrifice of His body by which an artificial redemption was purchased. The teaching of Christian benevolences and good deeds also remained, yet not as in themselves the activities of love and truth from the Lord which are heaven to men, but as means of earning the rewards of some different heaven. The beautiful garments remained, but they were defiled with the blood of the innocent thought which once prevailed in the church ; and they who loved the spiritual life of the church from the acknowledgment of the Lord alone, lamented that that acknowledgment was destroyed in the church, and believed that the church would go down to the grave mourning for it.
The land of Egypt in the old time was the depository of the wisdom of the ancients after it had ceased to be a thing of spiritual perception and intelligence, and had become of the memory only, and this is its signification in the Scriptures. There is even in the physical configuration of the land a likeness of this, which makes such a representation peculiarly appropriate.
Through barren wastes of nearly rainless desert, winds slowly northward the river Nile, bearing in its fertilizing floods both the waters and the soil which make habitable the green ribbon and wider delta which compose the land of Egypt. The land itself drinks not directly of the rain of heaven, but far away upon the mountains and elevated plains of the south, the rain descends which gathers into the waters of the Nile, and fertilizes the desert strip for two thousand miles. This imaged to the ancients the state of the church when heaven had long been closed to it when the days of Eden and even of Noah and his three sons were long past, and men communed not with angels, nor had clear perception of truth from heaven—but, through traditions and records of the far past, heavenly wisdom and counsels of obedience came down to them giving them the knowledge and the stimulus to live outwardly a good and fruitful life.
It images also the present state of our own Christian Church, far, very far, from that innocent life open to heaven and to the Infinite love of God which was the source of all Christian truth and love so far that the very existence of that life in the remote past is doubted. It is a state that drinketh not immediately of the truth of life from God and heaven; but through the records of eighteen centuries it receives all that it has of knowledge of right and wrong, of good and evil, of God, and of heaven and hell, and of the life that will be blessed by God and will lead to heaven.
That the church is now in such a spiritual Egypt, I think that no one who sees its state truly and understands the figure can doubt; when and how it came hither, leaving the fair pastures of the mountains of God, the story before us relates.
As long as the risen Lord alone was worshipped in the church, and His presence was felt as the light and warmth and life of the church, it abode in the heavenly land, and pastured its flocks in peace. When its leaders turned against that acknowledgment of the Lord inventing a doctrine of three Divine persons of Whom He was only one, and as to His human nature hardly that it was remembered that His sole and full Divinity had been acknowledged in the early church, and He had been the life of the church—but this was no longer so; it was a memory of the past. Joseph was already sent down into Egypt.
Naturally they who had sold him thither did not immediately follow. They preserved the forms and appearances of a spiritual church after the life had left the centre and betaken itself to the circumferences, and they tried for long centuries the experiences of a church whose heart was turned away from its God. A simple acknowledgment of Him remained with simple people. The memory of Him and of His teachings remained ; and even as a memory there was a blessing in it that brought salvation wherever its teachings were heeded.
Not to overload our sketch with details every one of which at proper time would have its interest the chief events of the life of Joseph in Egypt were the seven years of plenty, during which Joseph was lord over all the land, followed by the years of famine in which the stores he had gathered kept the land alive, and the coming down of his brethren to him, the particulars of which will be more fully treated presently.
The memory of the acknowledgment of the Lord and of the good life that He lived and taught brought an abundance of useful fruit wherever it was received. It came into a heathen world a world full of the grossest evils, of violence and licentiousness. Everywhere it checked the evil, and brought a new and wholesome life. Slaves were kindly treated or were freed. Women and children were ennobled as compared with their position before. Public and private charities sprang up of kinds and in an abundance before unheard of. Giving to the poor, and giving lovingly and reverently, and caring for the sick with like love and patience, even in loathsome disease, came into existence as a new thing not really new, but new for those days. This abundance of charity continued away down into the Middle Ages close on to the Reformation. The charities and benevolent and religious impulses were by no means always wise. Indeed they were often very unwise, and in the later days they were associated with much self-indulgence and corruption, for which the good deeds were supposed to compensate; and all the while the central rule of the church grew more into the likeness of Babylon haughty in its pride of dominion, evil and corrupt. All this is true; and yet through many centuries there had been a development of natural goodness and beneficence under the influence of the Christian teaching, which is justly represented by the multiplication of corn in Egypt under the rule of Joseph.
No doubt the corruptions of the later centuries needed a sharp remedy even as sharp as centuries of famine; but one almost starts in surprise to see the famine ushered in by the enunciation of the dogma that good works have no part in man's salvation; but that man is saved by the faith that Christ has suffered and died for him. If the intention had been to cut off all the fruitfulness of Christian life, which consists in doing good from the Lord, the doctrine could not have been better framed.
The adoption of the dogma of faith alone, however, though a characteristic feature, was only a feature of a much more general movement. For some centuries before, a movement which was called the revival of learning had been in progress. It was essentially a movement to substitute intellectual culture for what was left of the Christian religion. The culture which it sought was derived especially from the study of the ancient literatures of Greece and Rome that of Palestine was not excluded—and later on most useful work was done in the study of the Sacred Scriptures, in translating them into many tongues, and giving them a wide distribution. Yet even in this the motive was not to bring back a full and living Christian life in the spirit of the Lord and Master, but to furnish the weapons to antagonize Rome, and to substitute for what was left of Christian living abuses and all the study of severe, unfruitful doctrines.
I need not tell of the hard, unloving, joyless centuries that followed centuries valuable for the acquisition of a certain intellectual freedom, and for the distribution of the Scriptures—but barren, utterly barren, of teachings of happy, innocent, loving life. Here in New England I need only point you back to the joyless austerities of the Puritan Sabbath, as an example of the desolation of the church as to all that regards the heavenly life of love taught by her Lord and Master. Nor are we yet so far removed from the prevalence of these unlovely teachings, as to have forgotten their barrenness and their utter inability to minister with the bread of life to the souls of hungry men.
And yet, and yet! What means it that in our own day the one subject that all the world is studying is the life of the Lord Jesus ? What means it that new studies of His life are issued continually by the press, and are among the most widely read of serious books? What means it that all the churches are turning with what they themselves call a Christocentric movement, to Him Who has so long been ignored and almost unknown ? Are the brethren of Joseph indeed coming down into Egypt to buy of him corn for food for their households and their little ones ? If so, how does he receive them ? Do they recognize at once the doctrine that the Lord is their God, and come into the abundant reception of spiritual love and truth through that recognition ? Do they not rather speak of it through an interpreter, still discussing who He is, and not knowing how to come into full, living relations with Him, nor how to bring Him into all the things cf their thought and life! They receive food for their present needs, but before the truth is fully revealed to them they must bring their younger brother with them.
And what is the quality in the church represented by the younger brother of Joseph, in giving birth to whom his mother died ; who was a son of sorrow to her, but the son of the right hand to his father ; and who became the means of uniting Joseph with his brethren in the Egyptian days ?
We have seen that the acknowledgment of the Lord which Joseph represents was not an acknowledgment of the head, but of the heart; that the Lord's disciples had neither the power nor the desire to reason about Him, and understand Him intellectually, but were content with the experience of Christian love from Him, which was an all-satisfying life to them. But it was not to be always so. After the experience of the goodness of the Lord was received, the same affection for interior things which made it possible to receive and love this goodness, begat also the faculty of understanding the truth in relation to Him.
Rachel suffered hard things and died in giving birth to Benjamin, by whom this spiritual understanding is signified, because there is much of self in the natural desire to understand even spiritual things; and no true understanding of the Lord can be born until the desire for glory from such understanding, or for confirming one's own opinions or favoring one's selfish ends, suffers hard things and dies. When the selfishness of the natural desire perishes, then is born the power of understanding truth for the sake of truth because it is itself so good, and leads to so great good without either distorting it to favor self, or pride in the possession of it.
Some small measure of such understanding there has long been in the church ; but the general history of both the Roman Catholic and the Reformed Churches shows a very different attitude toward the truth. In general they have exhibited a zeal for the views that favored their own purposes, an intolerance and even bitterness toward everything else, and exceedingly little of modest love for truth for truth's own sake.
It does exist, and is increasing rapidly, yet even now it is but a lad ; and the timid heart of the church fears to have it go down among all the materialistic, agnostic science of our Egypt, lest the understanding of spiritual truth should utterly perish.
It does not know, and it is afraid to believe, that the most potent fact in all the history of men is the fact of the transforming, spiritualizing power of the presence of the Lord Divine and yet human. It does not know that the Bible which reveals Him is still in Christendom not only the most widely read and the most loved of all books, but more loved than all other literature, and with a stronger power over the lives of men. It does not know that Joseph is lord over all the land of Egypt.
Reluctantly it permits its immature understanding of spiritual truth to enter the rude world, fearing that it will now be all over with the faith of the church. But the result will be that while much that is unimportant will be left behind even as Joseph sent word to his father: " Regard not your stuff, for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours" yet all that has life in the church will be saved, and will be abundantly supported and multiplied.
In the land of Goshen, the richest of the land of Egypt, and the part nearest to the Holy Land, the brethren of Joseph pastured their flocks ; and among the richest of natural truths, most nearly related to spiritual life, and laying the broadest foundation for it, the flocks of the church of the Lord will feed and grow strong, until they are once more ready to return to the deepest experiences of the life of heaven with their Lord.
We have seen in the sons of Jacob a representative of the varied doctrine and life of the Christian Church ; in their pasturing their flocks at first in the central mountain plain of Shechem, the primitive teaching of the great central principles of love and charity from their Lord risen and present with them ; in their departure to the low plain of Dothan, the departure of the church to the comparatively unimportant issues of doctrinal discussion; and then in their selling Joseph into Egypt, the banishment of the acknowledgment of the Lord as the Life of the church from the primary position in the heart of the church, which is its due, to the domain of memory and knowledge. The multiplication of outward charities, through the Christian centuries down to the Middle Ages, we saw represented in the seven years of plenty in Egypt ; and the dearth of charity and loveliness in the church, since the Reformation decreed that this had no part in salvation, by the years of famine. The return of the church, barren and distressed, to the study of the life of the Lord, we saw imaged in the coming down of Joseph's brethren to Egypt to buy corn for their households and their little ones. And the love and power of understanding truth for the sake of truth, so late in developing, we have seen in Benjamin, Israel's youngest son, who is the means of reconciling Joseph with his brethren, and of enriching them all with the abundance of Egypt. The peaceful sojourn in the land of Goshen, during which the people and their flocks were multiplied, represents the increase of Christian knowledge and life through the study of the life and teachings of the Lord. And this is the outlook for the general Christian Church today.
But this is not all that is in view. Truly there is in the world a knowledge of the immense benefits that mankind has received from the life and teachings of the Lord; there is also a wide recognition of the elevating and spiritualizing influence of. the Bible which contains the history of His life and of all the dealings of God with men. And these will not grow less, but will increase abundantly under the influence of the increasing love for truth for truth's own sake, and the growing power to understand it.
But there also exists and is increasing a king in Egypt that knows not Joseph. Even within the Christian Church the spirit is strong that disbelieves in the Lord as a living presence, and is averse to the practical study of Him and His teachings. It is content with formulas of faith, and in heart is akin to those without the church who deny the existence of God, and anything Divine in the Lord, desiring for themselves no change of love or of life. To all such the increase of a living acknowledgment of the Lord, and of good life from Him, is a sore trial, and they will throw every obstacle in its way.
In the account before us it is said that the Egyptians made the lives of the Hebrews "bitter with hard bondage," and especially in the making of the sun-dried brick of the mud of the Nile, of which the Hebrews built cities, and for which the Egyptians refused them even the straw to hold them together, and compelled them to seek it for themselves.
Now, stones for the building of homes and temples represent solid and trusted truths. But the soft bricks are fictions that have no reality or endurance. Buildings of these as compared with buildings of stone are like fictions in regard to God and heaven and salvation, as compared with the enduring truth fictions framed from the mud of evil living by those who love their evil natural life, and have no wish to be saved from it. And the production of such fictions is urgently stimulated by the presence of those who believe in the Lord and in a good life from Him as salvation and heaven. There are such evil fictions which are held together by fickle straws of truth as that we are saved by faith, and that none is good but God which are misapplied, and may easily be explained away. There are also fictions simply from the love of evil, and taking evil for good, without even appearances of truth to sustain them—to meet which one must cast about to find on what they are founded. That such fictions will be greatly increased, to the distress of all who love the Lord and faithful life from Him, is meant by the hard bondage to which Israel was subjected by the Egyptians.
But it is not the Lord's intention that His church shall be destroyed. He permits it to suffer hardship so that it may turn to Him with greater earnestness, and be willing to undo the wrong it has done in leaving Him, and to endure the labors necessary to come back again to a truly spiritual life with Him. He foretold that in the last days the church would suffer great tribulation, such as had not been from the beginning of the world, and then they should see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Not yet in our story have we come to this full manifestation of Him, which is represented by the great revelation from amid the clouds of Sinai. In preparation for that it was that the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses " in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. And he looked, and behold the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed." And then the Lord revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, and promised to bring the people out of their hard bondage unto the land which had been promised to their fathers. He revealed also His name Jehovah, or the I Am.
The bush in which the flame appeared bears in the Hebrew the name of " the thorny," and was probably a small kind of acacia. We have seen many times in these lectures that the trees of knowledge and of wisdom of life in the mind answer to the various kinds of trees in the outer world. The noble and comprehensive kinds of wisdom answer to the nobler, finer trees, and the humbler intelligence to the plants of modest growth. A thorny tree of a good kind, which is valuable not for its fruit but for its beauty and as a protection, answers to a beautiful knowledge of the Divine protection. A thorny shrub or bush answers to a little knowledge of the Divine protection, in those who live faithfully the few literal precepts they know, but have little spiritual elevation or development of wisdom.
In the thorny shrub burning with fire, yet not consumed, it seems almost impossible not to see a picture of the protecting power of the Scriptures, alive with the Lord's love of saving, as manifested in these last days.
There is no noble knowledge of spiritual truth generally received in the Christian Church. There is only the literal story of the Scriptures, thorny with its warnings against evil. And yet to those who suffer from temptations, those thorny branches in their protecting power burn with the saving love of the Lord in our day, I believe, more sensibly than ever before.
It is as yet little, very little, that men know of God and heaven—nothing but what is contained in the literal story of the Scriptures; and yet those who are experiencing the love of the Lord for saving through the precepts of the Scriptures, see in these the presence of the love of God accommodated to sinful men, and bringing them the help they need. The bush is not destroyed by the recognition of the Divine Love in it; for there is the further recognition that it furnishes just the means necessary for the Divine Love to work for men and to manifest itself to them.
If they now will turn aside to see this great sight, and will listen to the voice that teaches them, they must first put off their natural worldly ideas, which are unworthy and of no life, and think from their living spiritual experiences, with the sense that they are in the presence of the Lord, and with the desire to learn of Him. And then the Lord will teach them that that saving Love which they are feeling in their hearts is the Infinite Love of God that it is Jehovah Himself, the Creator and the Redeemer, the only Life; that this Divine Love of saving men, Itself lived that perfect human life in the world, that It might be with men to save them ; that the Infinite God is an Infinitely loving Man, and that whoever sees truly the Divine Human life in which He manifested Himself sees the living Father; and finally, that because this is so, the church should come back to Him, concentrating its love, its thought, and its worship upon Him; and He will lead it back to the inmost states of innocent, heavenly life from which the race has long departed.
To Moses was entrusted the duty of leading the people out of Egypt ; and Moses now represents the new teaching from the Lord, from the practical revelation of Him as the very fire of human life the Divine Human Being. But Moses was afraid that the people would not believe him nor listen to him, and therefore the Lord gave him three signs which he was to show to them, that they might believe him. He was to cast his rod before them, and it would become a serpent; and he was to put his hand into his bosom, and it would be made leprous white as snow. And if they did not believe these two signs, he was to take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land, and it should become blood upon the dry land.
His shepherd's rod represents the power of teaching and now the power of the teaching of the new light from the Lord. The casting the rod before the people represents the effect of the light in the church in case they do not believe in the Divine Human Presence of the Lord, namely that it would show that without Him they are of the seed of the serpent, wholly led by sense and self.
The leprosy consisted in a whiteness and deadness of the skin. And it represented as regards the Christian Church, a sense of deadness in the externals of its life and worship. If there be in the church a sense that men are holding to the Gospel story and its teachings, to the sacraments and other ceremonies of worship, as matters of custom and form, and not of sensitive life to them, there is such a sense of leprosy as is here represented ; and it will only grow stronger as the light of the Lord's Human Presence grows brighter, and they refuse to acknowledge it and to be led and vivified by it. And if even the warning of this sign fails, the third sign will follow: that the living water, which should teach them the ways of goodness, will lose for them its application to life, and become rather the water of death. For if they so far reject the Lord, they will hate the life of self-denying usefulness that He teaches, and will love the reasonings that absolve men from the duty of keeping the commandments and doing good, and leave them free to pursue a self-indulgent life instead.
That when Moses put forth his hand and took the serpent it became again a rod in his hand, was a sign that the acknowledgment of the Divine Human Presence of the Lord has entire control over the sensual nature of men. And that he again put his hand into his bosom, and plucked it out, and it was turned again as his other flesh, was a sign that such acknowledgment of the Lord brings the sensitive life of His Presence into all the forms of religion.
The Hebrews believed Moses and bowed their heads and worshipped, as all who really love the life of heaven will do when they learn the truth about the Lord as the Divine Source of good human life.
The Egyptians refused to acknowledge the God of the Hebrews and to let the people go; and therefore there came upon them, in slow succession, the ten dreadful plagues of waters turned to blood, of frogs and lice and flies, of murrain and of boils, of hail and locusts and darkness, and the death of all their firstborn. A very similar series of plagues is related in the Apocalypse as following the pouring out of the vials of the wrath of God by the seven angels. And by both series is represented the destruction of all that is good and happy in one's own life, and the development of all that is miserable and unhappy, by the wilful rejection of the Lord and the good life that He offers.
In the judgment that comes to every one after the death of the body, these are the things that take place in those who through love for evil life hate the Lord and the life of heaven.
The turning the waters into blood means here as before that they pervert the pure truth that should make life fresh and clean, and desire only the justification of evil. The frogs in all the recesses of their homes represent the continual croaking against spiritual things, even in their secret thoughts, till they themselves are weary, yet cannot stop. The lice are the burning itching to do evil. The flies are the love of filth, and the continual imputing of filth to everybody. The murrain, of which their innocent animals died, is the destruction of kindly helpful affections. The boils involving more than the leprosy, even the painful destruction of the skin are the destroying of all the professions of religious life, with pain at every mention of it, and the breaking out of blasphemies and hatreds. The hail is the condemnation and destruction of all wisdom and fruitfulness. The locusts, devouring every green thing, are the giving up of all pleasant thoughts and intelligence in truth. The darkness is spiritual darkness, in which evil is taken for good, and good for evil; truth for falsity, and falsity for truth. And then because every pretence of faith is useless, they cast away their professions of it their own firstborn are dead.
All these things, Swedenborg tells us, occur to the life in men of this character after death, when they come into the light from heaven which teaches that the Heavenly Father is Man, and that Himself is present in Divine Human form in our risen Lord. In this world they work themselves out more slowly and obscurely. Yet, as the light of the coming day grows brighter, and the truth about the Lord is more clearly seen, and is more loved by those who serve Him, the hatred of it on the part of all who love evil of life no matter what their professions may be will be more and more plainly manifested.
At the very time that the firstborn were dying in the houses of the Egyptians, the Hebrews were celebrating the first Passover feast. Every family in Israel chose a lamb for the feast, sprinkled the blood upon the door-posts and the lintel of the house, and partook of the roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. For, to all who love good life from the Lord, the fuller knowledge of Him as our Heavenly Father brings new life and safety. The lamb is the representative of their innocent love from Him. The blood upon the door-posts and the lintel of the house is the living truth about Him in their lives and in their thoughts, which is their protection from evil. The unleavened bread with which they were to eat it, represents the strengthening of their hearts to do useful and unselfish work for the neighbor. And the bitter herbs are the knowledge of temptation and purification. With their loins girded, and their shoes on their feet, and their staff in their hand, they were to eat it; for those who receive of the Lord's love must be instantly ready to follow their Lord in any labor that He may put upon them.
It was afterward at the Feast of the Passover that the Lord instituted the Holy Supper, changing the Jewish feast into the Christian, with the same signification ; for the Lord's Supper is a representative and an occasion of the reception into the life of innocent love and truth from the Lord Himself the bread, which He says is His flesh, representing His love; and the wine, which He calls His blood, the truth of His heart. It is a festival of deliverance from evil, and of introduction into the good of heaven. We prepare for it by repentance, which means the thorough exposure and condemnation of the evil of the natural life, and by looking to the Lord as the only good. And we gain from it a sense of the presence of the Lord in life, which gives protection from evil and willing strength to do good.
In the strength of the Passover feast they began their journey. "And the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, to go by day and night. He took not away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
We are thinking of the church as turned again to the Lord, with desire for spiritual instruction, and for a return to interior conjunction with Him. She knows little of the end of her journey, and little about the way thither. The Lord is present with her in the Scriptures, and guides her by them. The way of good and right will always be plainly taught, though the Divine reasons for it be wrapped in the obscurity of a cloud. And even in the times of greatest darkness, the sense of the saving and protecting love of the Lord need never be lost.
The long journey in the wilderness plainly represents the labor of learning to live a spiritual life, to those who have heretofore known little but a natural life. The natural motives of selfish advantages and pleasures are denied them, and they cannot but sometimes have aching hearts as they look back. But in their need they are fed with food from heaven, which they have not known neither have their fathers known, which is represented by the manna.
I am not unaware of the common belief that the manna was simply the gum of shrubs supposed to have been abundant then in the desert; but, not to dwell unnecessarily upon it, there is no such gum that answers the description that can be ground and made into cakes, and boiled or baked. It is simpler to believe that " man did eat angels' food," as the Psalmist says, given by the same power that fed the five thousand with five loaves, and the four thousand with seven.
Of the manna we read that when the morning " dew was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness a small round thing, small as the hoar frost upon the ground. . . . And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat." We remember that the rain of heaven represents the truth of right and wrong from the Lord that keeps the mind clean and fresh and fruitful. The dew that is condensed in the quiet night, under a clear sky, is a perfect correspondent of the quiet thoughts that come in the evening and the morning, as one reflects upon the day that is past or the day to come, with reading from the Word and quiet prayer, and with the desire to see truly what is right from the Lord. " The truth of peace," Swedenborg calls it; and we all know how sweet and refreshing it may be.
But it is more than simply refreshing ; there comes with it a strengthening, and a renewed desire to live rightly and to do good. And this is the heavenly manna. It cannot be provided for one's self ; it must be accepted from the Lord. It gives strength for the work of the day it cannot be stored up ; and through all the long journey under the guidance of the pillar of cloud, it furnishes the daily supply of the bread of heaven.
Back to Horeb, the mount of God, where the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush, Moses led the people. And there from the midst of clouds and darkness, and a great burning unto the heart of heaven, the Ten Commandments were spoken to all the people. Afterward for forty days and again another forty days Moses tarried with God in the mountain, and was taught the form of the Tabernacle, and many laws of life and worship for the establishment of a new representative church. Some of the details of this instruction will be explained in the next lecture. It will suffice now to point out the meaning of a few of the most important events and circumstances.
And first it will be noticed that all the people heard the voice which spake the Ten Commandments ; but they feared the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and they removed and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, " Speak thou with us, and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die." The Ten Commandments represent, for they contain, the whole law of life for angels and men. That they were heard by all the people from amid the clouds and darkness, means that to all who look to the Lord the necessary truth of life will be plain in the letter of the Word, even though purely spiritual things be heavily veiled to them.
The withdrawal of the people because of the terrors of the mountain means that the revelation of pure truth from heaven is impossible to those who are immersed in the cares and the thoughts of the world, without first dispersing these, which would seem to them like taking away their life, and therefore it must be explained and accommodated to them. And that Moses alone went up to the top of the mountain, and received the words of the Lord, means that only to one prepared of the Lord and elevated by Him into heaven, could the truth of heaven be revealed.
We read again that when He had made an end of talking with him, the Lord gave to Moses two tables of stone containing the Ten Commandments; " and the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables." With these Moses turned and came down from the mount. But when he found, at the foot of the mount, that Aaron had made for the people a golden calf, and that they were worshipping and revelling about it, he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And afterward, by the Lord's command, he hewed out two other tables at the foot of the mount, and carried them up, and upon them were written the same words that were in the first tables that were broken.
As the Commandments themselves represent the truth of life for heaven and earth, the tables of stone upon which they were written stand for the literal story in which that truth is contained. And the incidents of the history before us teach that a new revelation of the truth of life for the revival of the church is not given in a new Word out of heaven, and would not be received by men if it were.
But when the old Word with which we are familiar the expressions and stories of which are taken from the natural world, and from the history of men is carried up into the mountain to God, or, in other words, is taken up into the inmosts of the spirit, and applied to the Divine Human life of the Lord, the truth of the Divine life is seen written of God within it. The very thoughts of the Lord are there, full of His love of saving. Above the clouds of the letter the Son of Man appears in power and great glory.
We in the New Church believe that such an opening of the spiritual sense of the Word to the Lord is given in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and that it contains that inner truth of life by which the spirit may be brought again into the order of heaven, and conjoined with the Lord. And it is not difficult to learn the truth that leads to the heavenly land; but it takes long to be trained to live it. Many enemies must first be met. Habits of evil indulged by the race even from ancient days must be conquered. The spies whom Moses sent to explore the land found it full of enemies, strong and fierce, among whom those that inspired the greatest dread were the descendants of the giants, the sons of Anak. We remember that the giants of the old time were those who in the fulness of their evil life believed themselves to be God, and that they had life of themselves; and we see with sadness that the sense that we live of ourselves has a firm hold upon us, and that it may be long before we feel in our hearts, as well as know in our thoughts, that One alone has life, and that we live from Him.
The Israelites turned away from the borders of the land, and wandered forty years in the wilderness. Even after they again set out on their journey, the way was long, and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. The people spake against God, and declared that their soul loathed the light bread that He gave them. And then there came among them poisonous serpents which bit the people, and many of them died. But at the command of the Lord, Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole; " and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass he lived." Though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, as the Lord said ; and even after prolonged discipline the flesh in its weariness and discouragement will long for its own indulgences.
The very beginning of the decline from the innocent wisdom of the Golden Age was by the counsels of the serpent ; and we ought not to be surprised to meet in the last stages of the return heavenward the fiercest resistance from the serpent race. But even here the Lord has provided the means of safety. The brazen serpent that Moses made, the Lord declared was a representative of Himself: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish but have eternal life."
By the lifting up of the Son of Man like the serpent of brass, He meant that in Him the power of the serpent to beguile was destroyed, and that the love of pleasure of sense had no place but to give warning of evil, and to admit what will minister to spiritual life. And men who are bitten and feel their spiritual life benumbed by the desires of sense, if they sincerely look to Him will live. In His human life He acquired power over the perversions of humanity, and in His own human nature undid them all, and made it absolutely innocent to the inmost—the innocent Lamb of God. And as we follow Him as He now reveals Himself, He will lead us back over the return path, undoing for us the perversities of the ages, until He brings us to the holy mountains where the Lord alone is God. And there by the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, we shall eat once more of the fruits of the Tree of Life ; but, warned by the experience of the race, we shall have no ears for the beguiling of the serpent, knowing that the fatal fruits of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil are the cause of all the ills from which mankind can suffer.
The Tabernacle and Sacrificial Worship.
IN the account of the giving of the law from Sinai, we read that the Ten Commandments were spoken in the ears of all the assembly of Israel. And the people came near unto Moses, and said :
"Behold, Jehovah our God hath showed us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice out of the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God doth talk with man and he liveth. Now, therefore, why should we die ? for this great fire will consume us. If hear the voice of Jehovah our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived ? Go thou near, and hear all that Jehovah our God shall say ; and speak thou unto us all that Jehovah our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it, and do it." (Deut. v.)
And then Moses drew near to the thick darkness, and many more particulars of the law were given unto him. Afterward there was shown to him the model of the Tabernacle that he was to make, and all its furniture, and he was instructed in regard to the details of the building and the consecration of it, the consecration of the priests, and the forms of worship.
The Ten Commandments contain and represent, as has already been said, the essential truths that every one must have to save him from an evil life. The description of the Tabernacle, and of the worship in it, contains and represents a knowledge of the spiritual nature of man as a temple of God, and also of the Lord's church in heaven and on earth, and of the manner in which the Lord Himself is conjoined with it. The form of the Tabernacle was not showed to the people, nor to any but Moses, who was taken up into the mountain, near to God, that it might be showed to him, and that he might show it to the people. And so neither can the knowledge of man's spiritual nature, and of heaven, and the Lord in heaven be revealed except to one who is taken up into heaven by the Lord, and instructed, that he may instruct others. It is not of the earth, and cannot be received and understood by one whose ideas are of the earth and bounded by the earth. It is necessary that one should be lifted out of these material ideas, and in heaven itself be introduced into heavenly ideas, in order that he may know the heavenly possibilities of man's nature and reveal them to men. And such the New Church believes to have been the office of Emanuel Swedenborg. His own declaration upon the subject, which the New Church holds to be the truth, is as follows :
"Since the Lord cannot manifest Himself in person, and nevertheless has foretold that He will come and found a New Church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that He will do this by means of a man who can not only receive the doctrines of this church with the understanding, but can also publish them by the press. That the Lord manifested Himself before me His servant, and sent me to this office, and that He afterward opened the eyes of my spirit, and so has admitted me into the spiritual world, and has granted me to see the heavens and the hells, also to converse with angels and spirits, and this now uninterruptedly for many years, I testify in truth ; likewise that from the first day of that call I have not received anything that pertains to the doctrine of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while I read the Word." (T. C. R. 779.)
If men had the love of the Lord Jesus in their hearts, and knew that He had sent them a message, would they not be eager to receive it ? And if they did not know, but heard that it was from Him Whose love they knew, would they not listen to see whether or not it agreed with His love ? And if they found that the message told of heaven and hell, and of the Lord's just and loving rule in them both ; of the spiritual nature of man, and of the Lord's conjunction with man in Christian life; and of the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures which explains the inner states of the Lord's life in the world, and His saving work in men would not this be just what they should expect in a message from the Lord out of heaven ?
But the minds of men are so full of the world and the outside work of the world that they are reluctant to dwell upon such things. They say that such knowledge is not essential to salvation ; and even if it be true they prefer to attend to what seems to them the necessary work of this life, and leave the knowledge of the other until they enter upon it. But if they do not love it now, why should they expect to love it then ? Their going to the other world will not change its nature or theirs. And again, we do not as regards other knowledge care only for that directly concerning our practical work. We think that the life is ennobled by noble thinking which lifts the minds of men above the mere work of their hands, and by broad sympathy which is concerned with the highest interests of mankind.
And surely the knowledge that includes the relation of man to heaven and the Lord, that embraces that part of the human race now living in the spiritual world, as well as the much smaller part now upon the earth which shows how these are combined into one, and constitute together the Lord's kingdom, and also how the Lord lives and rules in that kingdom surely such knowledge, if it be true, is capable of broadening and deepening the lives of men as no other knowledge can.
And still Martha is not rejected on account of her devotion to her practical service ; but she who sits at the Lord's feet and learns of Him, has also a part which is good and which shall not be taken away from her.
We have learned from the story of Israel in Egypt that a state of life remote from the Lord and heaven is not the normal condition of man, and is not to endure forever. And if we consider that the return to the heavenly land is a return to a full knowledge of the Lord and of conscious life from Him, we may perhaps be willing to confess that the knowledge that explains His relation to the souls of men is necessary to the end, and in itself of the highest interest.
In the light of this message from the Lord there is no part of the Word that does not contain instruction in regard to life with Him and from Him. And we shall find if we consider it attentively that the sacrificial worship established among the people of Israel is a representative of the truly Christian worship that keeps the hearts of men spiritually alive with the love and the truth of the Lord.
It is probable that the forms of this representative worship were not new, but were familiar to Israelites and Egyptians and other nations of the time. We read that " Noah builded an altar unto Jehovah, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings upon the altar." And very much earlier, "Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof."
We may see in these, merely representatives of the states of worship of the earliest churches ; but they show that the symbols were employed even then as means of description, even if not actually used in the celebration of worship. And in the more external literal generations that led down to Abraham such altars and sacrifices were themselves the sacred things of worship. Abraham we find ready even to sacrifice his son believing such a deed to be an acceptable act of worship. It may well be that there was no part of the Tabernacle or of its furniture, and no detail of the sacrificial rites, which was not known and in use before ; for there had been ages of such representative worship, and a great development of the forms of it. But such forms were now associated with idolatry, and with every kind of sensual indulgence. A new language of worship was not revealed, and could not have been accepted if revealed. But the old language was purged of its abuses, and its terms were so selected and arranged that they could represent a true spiritual church, and the living relations of such a church to the Lord Who was to come.
All of its forms and terms had been so understood by the wise ancients with whom they originated. If they had lived when the pattern of the Tabernacle was shown to Moses and the worship in it was instituted, they would have seen in it a representative of their own most holy states of conjunction with God, made far more full and holy by His glorified Human Presence. They would scarcely have attended at all to the outward forms, any more than we attend to the forms of letters as we read ; but they would have read from them the beautiful meaning relating to the holy life from God that they lived, and their minds would have been full of holy delight.
If they had lived we say! But if there is a life after the death of the body, surely they did live; and the good and spiritually intelligent had been gathered into heaven, where they loved the spiritual wisdom that relates to God and heaven and the spirits of men, not less, but more and more. And if the pattern of the sacred things was showed to Moses out of heaven, we may believe that they were not ignorant of the giving of the forms familiar to them, and not uninterested in the representative use which was to be made of them.
In the New Church we are taught that all this was really so that the patterns were shown to Moses in the mount by the spirit of the Lord operating through these very angels who so loved what they meant; and that in all the worship that was based upon them they were present as mediums of a holiness that otherwise it could not have had, through their holy love for the relations with the Lord which were represented. We are taught that the pillar of cloud and of fire which led and guarded the Israelites for forty years, and from which the Lord spake unto Moses, was not from the immediate presence of God, but from His presence with the company of these wise angels, whose duty it was to watch over the holy representatives which were at that time the only means of communication between heaven and fallen men. It was the presence of the Lord, truly, but His presence through them.
The holiness of that presence was to those who felt it a very real thing. When the Tabernacle was reared up, " a cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of meeting, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle."
Especially was the sacred influence felt about the ark in which were the Tables of the Covenant. When the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the water of the Jordan, the waters that came down from above stood upon a heap far away, and those that went down to the sea were cut off, and the presence of the Lord filled all the bed of the river. And when the ark was carried about the walls of Jericho, the walls fell down flat.
Many other wonderful things are related of the power of this holy influence, but among them all there is none more wonderful than the living miracle of which we are witness that after more than three thousand years the holiness of the Lord still fills the sacred record of these particulars, and touches with a sense of holiness the hearts of all who do not explain it away and thus close their minds to it.
If it were not from some such cause how is it possible that the details of the worship of an obscure shepherd tribe should have been so preserved to us through these many centuries ? And whence should there be any sense of holiness at all in the record of such forms of worship as if repeated to-day would seem low and degrading ?
In the New Church we are taught that it is because in the days when no spiritual thought was possible to men, the Lord provided that in such forms of worship as were possible Divine and heavenly things should be represented that in their deepest meaning they should represent the sanctifying and glorifying of the human nature which He should take to Himself, and in applications less exalted the regeneration of individual men and of mankind. We are taught that while the Lord's church remained with Israel the worship itself was instructive to angels wise in spiritual wisdom; and that since the kingdom was taken from Israel, and the Scripture record of these things was completed, as often as that record is reverently read among men, these holy meanings come ever new to the angels for their continual instruction ; that a holy delight from the Lord with the angels made the worship holy, has preserved the record of it to our day, fills it still and touches the hearts of those who read it reverently, and will make delightful to coming generations the truth of the Lord and of heaven which the record contains.
If we are able to think these things, and to conceive of such an origin for that sense of holiness which is still a very real thing, at least among children and the simple-hearted in Christendom, we may be able to think further that if the Lord desired and saw fit to open the spiritual meanings of these things to men who loved the Lord and spiritual wisdom, it might easily be done by bringing them into association with the wise angels, so that in the light of their heaven the spiritual meaning might be read from the sacred history. And this is just what we understand to have been done to Swedenborg. First by various experiences his heart was led to know the Lord, and the Lord filled to him even the letter of the Word with a sense of the Divine fire of His saving love. And then his eyes were opened to see the things of heaven, and his mind to read the Word in the light in which angels read it. He was not taught its meanings by them, but he with them was taught by the Lord alone; and through him the meanings are revealed for those hereafter who may love to have the holiness of the Word interpreted to them, and to return to clear light of spiritual thought, and to renewed life with the Lord.
The sacred Tabernacle, which was the temple of the desert journey and of the first occupation of the land of Canaan, had walls of shittim, or acacia, wood overlaid with gold ; an inner covering of fine linen and blue and purple and scarlet wrought with cherubim; and over this a tent of goat's hair, and coverings of skins. It was divided into two rooms by a vail of blue and purple and scarlet and fine linen, embroidered with cherubim, hung upon pillars of shittim wood overlaid with gold; and the hangings for the door were of the same. There was a court about it surrounded by hangings of fine linen, supported upon pillars of brass.
The door of the Tabernacle was open to the east. In the innermost room, within the vail, was placed the Ark of the Covenant, made of shittim wood overlaid with gold, containing the two tables of stone, upon which the Commandments were written. Upon the ark was the golden cover, called the mercy-seat, from the golden substance of which rose the two cherubim. In the room without the vail, separated by the vail from the ark, stood the altar of incense. Upon the south side was the golden candlestick, with its seven lamps, and upon the north the table of bread.
Both the table and the altar were of shittim wood overlaid with gold. In the court of the Tabernacle, in front of the door, stood the altar of burnt-offering, and between it and the door stood the laver of brass, with water for washing.
The most holy place no one entered except upon most solemn occasions; but from between the cherubim there came to Moses, or to the priest standing by the altar of incense, the voice from heaven which answered his questions, and taught what should be done. Without the vail, through every night, burned the seven lamps supplied with pure olive oil; and upon the table stood twelve loaves of bread in two piles, renewed each Sabbath day. The fire burned always upon the altar at the door, and from that fire coals were placed in a golden censer with fragrant incense, which was carried into the Tabernacle, and laid upon the altar of incense. Every morning and every evening upon the altar of burnt-offering a lamb was burnt, with fine flour and oil and wine. And to it also were brought, according to their respective rites, all burnt-offerings and bread-offerings, peace-offerings, and sin-offerings, offerings for defilement and for trespasses.
The Tabernacle, like the temple, was a representative of the Lord's humanity, and in a lower sense of the church of God in the heavens and 0n the earth ; but in a particular sense it represented the spiritual nature of an individual man. In this last sense we will follow some of the details that have been mentioned.
The inmost, most holy place where the Ark of the Covenant dwells, and the golden cherubim, and the voice of the Lordis in an individual his inmost consciousness, where if he were in the order of heaven the law of God would be written in his heart. There would be the springs of his life from the Lord, rising in the golden forms of love to the Lord and love to the neighbor; and from thence would be heard the voice of conscience, or better, of perception of agreement or disagreement with the love of the Lord in the heart, by which the spiritual life might be instructed and guided.
The region of the mind without the vail, distinct from this inmost chamber, is the domain of thought, reason, and determination. The golden lamps here, burning always with the warm light of pure oil of olives, are in an orderly mind the light of love in which the mind looks upon human life seeing its possibilities of good, putting a kindly interpretation upon its weaknesses and failures, but seeing clearly and separating every evil. The table of show-bread, or Presence-bread, as it is called meaning the bread of the Lord's Presence is the good-will and determination to do good which comes from a sense of the Lord's love in the heart. And the altar burning with sweet incense is the prayer and praise that ascend from the heart and mind to the Giver of heavenly life.
The court of this spiritual tabernacle is the domain of practical life. The altar of burnt-offering there is the desire for the love of the Lord in the life ; and the laver is purification from worldly thoughts and feelings.
The animals from which offerings were brought, represent the good affections of human hearts. "My sheep" and " my lambs," the Lord calls His followers, because of the good love in them that is like sheep, and the innocent trustfulness that is like lambs. Kids of the goats—more inquiring and independent represent innocent trust in the wisdom of the Lord, as the lambs are trust in His goodness. Bullocks represent the will and the power of natural helpfulness ; and so, in general, the love for what seems naturally good. And doves which are so like sheep in character, but fly in the air—are loves for innocent thinking. Doves were sometimes accepted instead of a lamb where the lamb could not be afforded ; for where innocent states of life are not yet attained, the love of innocent thought about it is still acceptable. These were all the animals used in the worship, and they represent the varieties of love to the Lord and the neighbor which constitute Christian life.
In addition to these, there were offerings of wheat and oil and wine, and of sweet incense. And by the wheat was meant the useful works of daily duty, the satisfaction in which constitutes the daily bread ; by the oil, the kindness of mutual love from the sense of the Lord's great goodness to us; and by the wine, the wisdom of good life from the True Vine, and such as we may think from Him. The sweet incense is grateful prayer and praise.
The offering of these represents the bringing of good things of Christian life to the Lord for purification, and the enkindling of them all with the Divine fire of His love.
The morning and evening offering of a lamb upon the altar represents the Christian duty to come to the Lord with innocent trustfulness at the beginning and the close of every day, and of every state of life. The fine flour and oil and wine offered with the lamb upon the altar, are the thought of usefulness, the friendly love, and the truth which are acknowledged to be from the Lord, and are brought for His blessing. The fire upon the altar is the love and life from Him; and the burning of the offering is the vivifying by the spiritual fire of His love of all that is offered to Him. "An odor of rest " it is called, because it is sweet to Him to give innocent love to men ; and from His enjoyment in it comes inmost peace to them.
At the time of the offering, the priest took of the coals of the altar in the censer, laid incense thereon, and went in to the altar of incense as from the heart touched with the fire of the Lord's love ascends the humble prayer, or song of praise.
The fire was never suffered to go out upon the altar, for that would have meant the departure of the Lord from the church. In all other nations that observed even corrupt forms of sacrificial worship, there was the same solicitude that the sacred fire should not be lost.
Upon the Sabbath day two lambs were to be offered in the morning, and two in the evening, with their bread-offerings, because by the Sabbath is meant increased fulness of conjunction with the Lord, and peace from Him, after labors and temptations are over.
And besides the daily offerings, there were voluntary offerings, representing blessing from the Lord in every state of innocent love for what is good or true. There were also offerings of fine flour and bread in various forms, representing the prayer for a blessing upon the useful work of the day of every kind. There were sacrifices of peace-offerings, as they were called, which were consecrated feasts, partaken of by the family and the friends of him who sacrificed. They represented feasts or social communions of charity and mutual love among those who love the Lord.
In them the fat was burned upon the altar and the blood sprinkled upon it, to represent the sense that the good love and the true thought are from the Lord. The breast and the right shoulder were given to the priest representing the acknowledgment that in our friendly communion the charity and the power of good are of the Lord's saving Presence with us ; and the remainder was eaten as a feast—a representative of enjoyment together in the Lord's love and truth.
And there were offerings representative of repentance before the Lord, for sins done through a wrong ideal of good, or through mistaken principles or applications of principle ; for defilement of feeling or thought from without; for neglect of duty to the Lord; and for trespass against the neighbor. They image, according to their several rites the giving up of evil feelings and erroneous thoughts of every kind; the listening to the voice of the Lord in the heart; the adoption of His teaching as the truth to be lived j the renewed sense of happy life from Him, and grateful thanks to Him for His mercy. The Lord knows that we shall sin and err, and He keeps the way always open for repentance. The laws before us are spiritually His own laws of repentance, forgiveness, and blessing.
And as men grow in love for Him and in desire for spiritual life from Him, and for the knowledge by which this life can be perfected, the inner meaning of these laws will become precious to them, and will be their constant guide in attaining and renewing heavenly states. But the only use of a knowledge of their representation is as a means of interpreting that living Presence of the Lord that is felt in shunning evil as sin in obedience to His commandments. If there be no such shunning of evil, and consequently no such sense of His Presence, these laws and their spiritual meanings are of no interest and no importance. But if the commandments of the Lord are loved, and the Lord is with us, these teachings may be the means of continual development of the life with Him.
In the humble acacia bush first appeared the flame of holy fire. And when from noble trees of the same kind were made the planks of the tabernacle, and the substantial forms of all its furniture, the holy fire burned upon its altar, consumed its burnt-offerings, and caused the sweet incense to ascend. And so to those whose hearts have felt the fire of the Lord's saving love in the protecting power of the simple precepts of His Word, when the knowledge of that power has grown to include the whole spiritual nature of man in all its relations to the Lord, the fire of the Lord's saving love will consecrate the affections and bless the labors of every day, will bring peace in repentance, and will cause grateful praise to ascend from the heart continually. In the Holy City there will be no temple with representative offerings and sacrifices ; " for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it " ; but there will be daily, hourly communion with Him according to the precepts of His Word. In the generations to come and indeed already at hand I believe that these experiences of spiritual life will be prized above all things else, and the representation of them in the story of Genesis will be loved as a description of the steps of the regeneration which God has provided for His children, and which lead through many delightful as well as laborious paths into His very Presence.
It remains to speak of the parallel that there really is between the creation of a heavenly spirit in man and the creation of the natural world. In truth there must be a perfect correspondence between the two, for the one Creator forms them both, and He has not one purpose in view in forming the world and another in forming the heavenly man, but the same purpose, which is a heaven in His own image and likeness. Neither has He one order of development in the one work, and a different order in the other, but the same order applied in the one case to the materials of the earth, and in the other to the human mind in the one case leading up to the perfect human.