Twelfth Sermon — A Review
The Lord opened His discourse, called the Sermon on the Mount, in speaking the Blessings, or Beatitudes. No words so wonderful were ever uttered by human tongue,—so profound, so far-reaching, so universal. They were words spoken—as were all the words of the Lord—to the whole human race in both worlds; and they treat of those who are capable of being regenerated and saved, who can be formed into a church on earth, who, while yet on earth, can be introduced as to their spirits into heaven. These are meant by "the blessed," for blessing is salvation.
At the close of the preceding chapter (IV), we are told concerning the healing of a large number of sick people who were brought to the Lord, and it is said that, after the healing, "there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and beyond Jordan." The multitudes who followed Him, and the sick who were healed by Him, represent the simple good of all nations gathered together in the other world, in the lower earth, but who were delivered by the Lord from infernal bondage when He came into the world, who were formed by Him into a new heaven, taking the place of the former imaginary heavens. The means of their deliverance was the Divine Truth, or doctrine from the Lord out of heaven, which is treated of in the opening words of the fifth chapter. In the Blessings which follow, the various states of those to be delivered are set forth, and the progress of their deliverance is described in a series,—who and what they are that can be delivered, and the states through which they pass in their deliverance.
Now the process of the formation of the new heaven is also the process of the formation of a new church on earth, and the latter follows the former as the effect its cause. The work of the one is wholly parallel to the work of the other, and where the formation of the one is treated of, the formation of the other is plainly and manifestly involved. So it is in the Sermon on the Mount, in the Blessings. The simple good in the other world are to be formed into a new heaven, and the simple good on earth into a new church. Let us examine the process, the mode and the manner of the establishing of a new church, as described in the Blessings.
It is said that the Lord, on seeing the multitudes, or these multitudes, went up into a mountain. When it is said that the Lord sees, His advent and presence is signified. In this case, it signifies to be present with those who can be regenerated and formed into a church—present by doctrine from His Word and deliverance by it.
The Lord went up, ascended into a mountain. A "mountain" is heaven, in this case the Divine Love which makes heaven. The subject involved here is the unition of the Human with the Divine by glorification, and then conjunction with the human race.
When He was set down, His disciples came unto Him. Sitting was the usual posture of instruction, and the Lord now teaches His disciples; for it is immediately added, "And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying." These first words show clearly that the subject here, and in what follows, is the revelation of true doctrine from the Lord out of heaven, and the reception of it by those who are to form a new church on the earth. "He opened His mouth, and taught them."
The disciples came to the Lord, and sat down to be instructed by Him. They were willing to be taught, willing to receive the true doctrine of the Word from His mouth, willing to be led by Him, and not by themselves. And the Lord teaches them, and not now the multitude; for they were to be prepared to go forth as evangelists to the multitudes in all nations. The establishment of a true priesthood is involved here. A priesthood must be prepared, must be taught of the Lord, must be in genuine illustration by doctrine from Him, before a church can be established. Hence the disciples come to the Lord, and the Lord teaches them concerning the church which is to be established through them,—to be established by the reception of doctrine from the Lord.
In describing the state of those who are to be formed into a new church by the reception of true doctrine from heaven, the leading word used by the Lord is blessed. The word occurs nine times in the series, and the idea involved in it runs through to the end. The word means happy, and, in the internal sense, it teaches concerning the happiness of eternal life to those who are in truths of doctrine from the Word, and in a life according to them,—who eagerly and ardently receive the truth of revelation from the Lord out of heaven, and love to live according to it. These are the "poor in spirit," these are "they that mourn," these are "the meek," these are "they that do hunger and thirst after justice," these are "the merciful," these are "the pure in heart." All these are "blessed;" but the first state is the state of the "poor in spirit."
Those who are poor in the flesh, poor in this world's goods, are not meant, but the poor in spirit, who are such as acknowledge that they know nothing from themselves, but that they know only of the Lord, and from Him. This state is the first of the church, its very beginning; and for this reason, those who are in it are mentioned first in the series. The church does not begin, nor does regeneration begin, until this acknowledgment is made in the human understanding, —the acknowledgment that all truth is from God, and nothing at all from man. Hence, not only is the word poor used in the very outset, to indicate this acknowledgment of spiritual poverty, but spirit is used also,—the poor in spirit.
The word spirit signifies breath, respiration,—the chief function of the lungs,—and corresponds to the understanding, as the heart corresponds to the will. It is significant that spirit or breath is mentioned in the opening sentence of the Blessings, and not heart. In the sixth blessing, the heart is mentioned, but not before. Spirit is mentioned first, because the subject is the institution of the church by doctrine, and the reception of it in heart and life. But as the understanding must receive doctrine before the heart or will, it is said in the first blessing, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" In the New Church, indeed, the understanding is to be first instructed. In the New Church, the understanding is not to be kept under obedience to faith—a blind faith. In the New Church, the understanding is to be opened, imbued and formed by doctrine from the Word. In the New Church, the motto is, Nunc Licet, —now it is lawful for the understanding to enter into the mysteries of faith,—which are the mysteries of the Word; and hence, as the establishment of the church by doctrine from the Word—from the Lord as the Word—is the subject of the series, and as the understanding must be opened first in order of time in the process of the church's establishment, spirit is the prominent word used in the opening of the Blessings.
The church is in spiritual power by the understanding of truth, just as the body is in physical power by the respiration of the lungs. By spiritual power is meant power against the falsities of evil rising up from hell,—die power of combat, the power of resistance; for as soon as the understanding is opened by true doctrine, the combat of spiritual temptation begins; for the opposite spirit immediately presents itself,— the spirit of pride or conceit of human intelligence. This spirit cannot receive, but actively opposes. It is only the poor in spirit, the humble in spirit, who receive instruction from the Lord. The spiritually poor are those who are without the knowledge of truth and good, who know their ignorance, and acknowledge it in heart to God. They know and acknowledge that they are without spiritual riches, but they desire instruction. The church begins with these, and with no others; and even after instruction, the true poverty of spirit continues in their continued humility, in their continued acknowledgment that they know nothing from themselves, but only from God.
The Lord "opened His mouth and taught,"—He reveals Himself as the Divine Doctrine, and the poor in spirit receive His teaching. These are they that pass through all the stages which follow, as described in the Blessings. They are blessed, because, as to the spirit, they are now in heaven; for this is what is signified by being blessed or happy—and no others are happy. They have, as it were, their head in heaven, but their body in the world; hence they are still subject to persecution or temptation. But "theirs is the kingdom of heaven;" that is, they will be in the Lord's church on earth, where truth of doctrine from the Lord reigns, or where He reigns by truth of doctrine from His Word. Only the poor in spirit can enter into this kingdom of the Lord; and this is the kingdom that is meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse.
The second blessing follows,—" Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." The state treated of in this second blessing is the result of that treated of in the first. It is the second step in the series, the second step in the development and progression of the church. The poor in spirit are so because of previous repentance of life. They have come to the Lord to be healed, and He heals them by the spiritual medicine of His Word, by the redeeming power of His truth, and they are introduced as to their spirits into heaven. But they must fight to maintain that which they have gained; for the life of heaven must not only be in the spiritual man; it must also be brought down into the natural. The kingdom of heaven must be established on the earth. Being in heaven as to the spiritual man, and being in the midst of the angels, they are blessed, they are happy, that is, they are in the delight of the affection of truth; but they are still in the midst of evil spirits in the natural, still in affliction and tribulation there; for the descent of spiritual life from heaven to earth is opposed by the hostile forces which are gathered around. The delight which is inspired by the angels is the delight of the affection of truth for its own sake, which delight introduces. This delight, and nothing else, is what is meant by blessedness and being blessed.
The kingdom of heaven is theirs, but they are also to "inherit the earth." But the descent into the natural cannot be effected except by temptations, and hence mourning is the leading idea before us now— grief, distress, because the truth is not received in the church. Being now in heaven in the spirit, being as it were "in the spirit on the Lord's day," being in a spiritual state, a state of the spiritual understanding of truth, a state of the spiritual affection of truth, they see truth in the light of heaven, see it clearly, vividly; but suddenly they discover that the pure spiritual truth of the Word will not be received in the world, that it is rejected, even with scorn and contempt; for the pride of human intelligence reigns, which will not have the truth, which hates and despises it.
This is the first actual experience after seeing the spiritual truth of the Word, and being delighted with it because it is true,—the experience of seeing it rejected by the world. Hence mourning, by which is signified grief on account of the non-reception of truth by others, grief when the quality of the pride of human intelligence which opposes is perceived. But, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." In all temptation there is something of discouragement, despair; but after despair, hope is inspired, and with it consolation. For "they shall be comforted."
We read that, by being comforted, as mentioned in the Word, is signified the influx of the Lord into the affection of truth when there is grief on account of truth rejected in the church. The affection of truth, being temporarily obscured and darkened, is kindled anew into life, on account of a perception given that, although the truth is rejected, the church is still to be restored and built up with others, that there will be those prepared who will receive the truth, and the church will be established with them.
The third blessing is on the meek. "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth." Here we see that the hope inspired, the comfort and consolation given, is beginning to be realized. The church begins to descend into the natural, and it descends with those who are called the meek; for it is said that "the meek shall inherit the earth." Who are these who are called meek, and what is their state?
The word translated meek signifies, in the Greek, gentle, kind, benevolent, or humane. We see, therefore, that the interior idea in the word is good will, love, charity. Hence, spiritually considered, to be meek is to be in charity to the neighbor. We have seen that the poor in spirit are they who are in the spiritual affection of truth, into which they have come by virtue of repentance of life, and because of which they are able to see and acknowledge the Divine Doctrine when it is revealed. Now the spiritual affection of truth is essentially charity; but this charity is in the spiritual man, not as yet in the natural. The Divine Doctrine, however, is now in the understanding of the natural man; charity, or good will to the neighbor, is not yet there, but descends through temptation, combat, resistance. The beginning of this descent into the natural is signified by mourning, in the second blessing. They that mourn are said to be blessed, because heaven, by means of combat in the natural, begins to come down to earth, fulfilling that part of the Lord's Prayer which says, "Thy will be done, as in heaven so upon the earth." Spiritual good, or charity, now descending into the natural, and having a lodgment there, taking up a permanent abode there, is what is meant by meekness in the third blessing. "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth."
Heaven is in the spiritual degree, or on the spiritual plane; and the church is in the natural degree, or on the natural plane. Thus heaven is in the spiritual world, and the church is in the natural world. Heaven descending into the natural forms there what is called the church. This is true in general, and also in the individual man. The descent of heaven into the natural of the individual man, and establishing itself there, as the church there, is called regeneration, or the new birth. The Blessings describe the process of this descent; and the spiritual truth of doctrine is revealed by the Lord to the understanding, in order that men may cooperate with the Lord to bring about the descent of heaven and the establishment of the church. The descent of heaven is the descent of spiritual good, which takes place when man fights in resistance to evil and falsity, or when he passes through temptations. By temptation, or mourning, spiritual good is established in the natural, and by virtue of this good, or this charity, man is said to be meek, that is, humble and submissive to the Lord, but resistant to all evil and falsity. Because of this, a new state arises in the natural, which was not there before, a state of appetite, or desire for the spiritual things of the Word. This brings us to the fourth blessing, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall be filled."
By justice in general is meant what is right and true in thought and in deed. The doing of what is right and true is especially meant by justice; but in order that there may be right doing, there must be right thinking; for right thinking is the means to right doing; and in order that there may be right thinking, the understanding must be instructed in the truths of the Word; and hence, that there may be right doing, the truths which are seen and understood must be obeyed. "Thirst," therefore, is the desire or appetite for truths, and "hunger" is the appetite for good, which is acquired by doing the truth which is understood. They who "hunger and thirst" are said to be "blessed." To be blessed is to be, as to the spirit or spiritual mind, in heaven; but to be doubly blessed, is to have what is in man's heaven descend into his world; so that heaven is not only in him, but the church is in him; for the heaven in his spiritual man, or in his spiritual world, has descended and formed a church in his natural man, or natural world; and the result is, that he "hungers and thirsts after justice." And he is "filled," that is, he receives all that he is capable of receiving, all that he desires. The Lord filleth him; for, as we are told, "He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with good."
The fifth blessing now follows,—" Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy." The law as given in this blessing follows the preceding, because justice may be insisted on to such an extent that there is no mercy. This is a truth that is well known, but the practice of it is not as widespread as the knowledge of it. Instead of the exercise of mercy, there is the exercise of cruelty and revenge, and often under the name of justice. This is not the "justice" after which a man is to "hunger and thirst," but the justice which has in it the spirit of charity and mercy. The one justice is of heaven, the other of hell. The justice which has in it the spirit of mercy, and at the same time the spirit of truth, must be exercised by man as of himself while he still lives on earth; and when he does it, he is called "blessed;" for what is called blessedness by the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount is spiritual life; and spiritual life, eternal life, descends from heaven where justice is exercised in a spirit of love, charity and mercy; where the lust of cruelty and revenge is shunned as a deadly sin, where the Golden Rule is made the principle of action and life.
As we have said, spiritual life, which is spiritual good, which is spiritual love, charity, mercy, is now in the natural of man, from which he not only "hungers and thirsts after justice," and the spiritual truth of justice, but which now is to go forth into deeds of mercy and charity, which are deeds of use.
Mercy is only another name for charity or love, except that it is love directing itself towards those who are in need, want, misery; and the spiritual good that is now in man must go forth toward those who are in such need or misery; and it must go forth, or it cannot subsist or continue to exist; it cannot continue to be replenished from the infinite store of mercy, which is in the Lord, and which is ever exercised toward the whole human race. Every man is in need of the mercy of the Lord, and in order to receive it, he must give it. As ye give, so shall ye receive. "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy."
Love must give. Every love gives, and grows by giving. The love that does not give will cease to be love, is not love. Thus is illustrated the law revealed in the Writings, that influx accommodates itself to efflux, or flowing in to flowing forth. The Lord enters man with love in just the degree that man gives forth love in deeds of use to the neighbor. This giving forth of love by use is life; it is eternal blessedness, the blessedness which the angels have forever.
Let us remember, however, that the mercy which is especially in view in the words of the Lord is mercy, pity, for those who are in spiritual need, want, misery, not so much for those in natural distress. These indeed call for the exercise of mercy, but they are relatively unimportant, being conditions that are temporary, which soon pass away. But spiritual misery, the misery of eternal life, is permanent, will remain forever if not relieved.
When the Lord came into the world, as it is now in His Second Coming, there was the almost universal exercise of revenge instead of mercy, and there was hardly any mercy for the souls of men left. The disciples whom the Lord was addressing were to exercise this mercy. They were to work for the salvation of human souls. This was to be their use of charity and mercy. And this is ever to be the mission of the church,—to exercise its mercy towards the spiritual miseries of men. And the church will grow as it does this. The church, as it exercises this mercy, will itself receive mercy,—all the blessings of spiritual love and life; and it is of the church especially that the Lord was speaking, when He said, "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy."
In the sixth blessing, we learn of the "pure in heart," and it is said that "they shall see God;" and it follows, by opposition, that those who are not pure in heart shall not see God. The Pharisee was not pure in heart. He was clean and pure in his outward conduct, but his heart was full of wickedness and corruption of every kind. But the faithful, the honest, the sincere, the just, the upright, who acknowledge the Lord when He reveals Himself in His Word and in doctrine from His Word, who receive this doctrine and apply it to life,—these are said to "see God," and it is not possible for others to see Him. To be "pure in heart," therefore, is to be regenerated as to the internal man; and it is a doctrine of the Church that the internal man is regenerated first, and the external by the internal. By the internal man, or the internal mind, is meant a new will and a new understanding in the internal man; for it is the will and the understanding together that make the mind. The new will is meant by "the heart" and the "pure in heart", and the new understanding is meant by "seeing God." It should be noted here that by the internal man or mind is not meant the internal spiritual, but the internal of the natural. For the subject of the Blessings in their series is the descent of good into the natural, and it descends first into the internal of the natural, and then it comes forth into the external, and regenerates the external. In this stage of the series, man is regenerated, and the church is established in the internal of the natural; and those who are in this state are called the "pure in heart who see God."
The seventh blessing is on the "peacemakers," who are called the "children of God." There is natural peace, and there is spiritual peace. But the blessing of those who make spiritual peace is the subject of these words. Spiritual peace, like natural, arises when there is a cessation of strife, conflict, and war. For there is spiritual war even as there is natural war. Spiritual peace, or .the peace of heaven and the church, the peace of the regenerating man of the church, arises when there is the overcoming and removal of the natural lusts of evil and the dispersion of the falsities of the natural man. The special application of the doctrine of this text is to the peace that comes as the result of the conflict between the internal man and the external, in which the external man, being still in evils and falses, resists the internal, but is finally overcome, spiritual peace being the outcome and effect. The "peacemakers" are the truths of the Word. The regenerating man fights by means of them against the hosts of evil. He is also called a "peacemaker," for he conquers a peace from the Lord by the truth of His Word, and is thereby classed among the "children, or sons, of God."
But those who are in the falsities of evil assail to the very last; and the subject of their assault and the resistance of the regenerating man comes now to be especially treated of in the eighth blessing, which is concerning those who are "persecuted for the sake of justice." The subject is the spiritual persecution and the spiritual temptation of the church. The men of the church, or regenerating men, are assailed and suffer the distress of temptation because they are in the spiritual affection of truth. This spiritual affection, when ultimated in works or uses, is called justice; hence it is said that they are "persecuted for the sake of justice." There is nothing infernal spirits so hate as this justice; and hence there are none they so hate as those who love this justice and do it from the love of it. They are persecuted because they love justice and its truth; but still they are blessed even in the persecution, and by means of it, because in it they resist the assault and obtain thereby the kingdom of heaven.
The subject is continued in the next blessing, which is the ninth in the series. "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake." In the eighth blessing, the subject is concerning the persecution or temptation of the church in general; but now we are told that this temptation is threefold, represented by revile, persecute, and speaking falsely. Also in, the eighth blessing it is said that the persecution is "for the sake of justice," but now that it is "for my sake," Jesus Christ the Lord. The general subject of both verses is the active assault by evil spirits, and at the same time the active defence by those who are of the church in both worlds. The assault is upon the Divine Truth from the Lord, and because of it and its presence in the church, and so upon those who love it and from love defend it. There are involved also, in this ninth blessing, three degrees of the temptation of the church, thus three classes of evil spirits who make the assault; also three degrees of the church itself, and three degrees of the Divine Truth of the Word. But the blessing of eternal life, or the heavenly reward, is upon those who fight and conquer in temptation; therefore the concluding words follow: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." Amen.
Lessons: Genesis 48. Revelation 7: 9-17.