Third Sermon: Matthew 5:5
"Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5: 5.)
The first word spoken by the Lord to His disciples in the memorable discourse on the mountain was Blessed; and the truth contained in that word, in its spiritual sense, is that the happiness of eternal life is given to those who are in doctrine from the Word, and in a life according to it. The word occurs nine times in as many verses, beginning with the third and ending with the eleventh; and it is the first word of each of these verses, thus distinguishing it as representative of the leading idea in the spiritual sense of the Beatitudes, namely, the happiness which comes by means of doctrine from the Word. In the twelfth verse, which closes the series, the word does not occur, but in its stead the idea is expanded in the sentence, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven." These words show clearly that heavenly reward, or the delight and happiness of eternal life, is the one end in view in the Blessings throughout, and that all other things in them are as administering means to that end.
The first of these administering means is doctrine from the Word. "He opened His mouth and taught them, saying." The second is the humility of the understanding in the reception of doctrine from the Word, signified by the "poor in spirit." A third is temptation, signified by "they that mourn." Other means or intrumentalities follow in the series to the end. They are Divine means in the natural of man, provided of the Lord for the conjunction of the external man with the internal in the process of regeneration, by which, when it takes place, heaven is opened and man is introduced and made happy forever.
A fourth administering means is now before us, that which is signified by "the meek," who, because of their meekness, are to "inherit the earth." The instrumentality for the opening of the internal man represented by them is submission to obedience, coming as the fruit of temptation. For man, having been subdued by affliction, by mourning and distress over the state of the church, is now humble and submissive to the ways of Providence. The humility of the understanding is now followed by humility of the will. Let us now take up for consideration this instrumentality provided by the Lord in the natural for the conjunction of the external man with the internal.
There are two classes of persons signified by "the meek" in the Word,—those who are meek in the natural sense, and those who are meek in the spiritual sense. In the text, as in all passages of the Word, it is important to view what is said by the Lord, not only in natural light, but also in spiritual light; or to see what is said, not only under a natural idea, but also under a spiritual idea. The law is, first that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual; or, first, that which is natural, in order that we may be led by it to see what is spiritual.
It is well known who the meek are in the natural sense, and what is meant by meekness; but it will be useful here to consider briefly the meaning of the word, not only in English, but in the languages of Revelation, in order to prepare our minds more fully to understand what spiritual meekness is. For the natural is the counterpart of the spiritual, and corresponds with it; and by it, as one of the instrumentalities, we may learn to know the spiritual thing which is its cause and origin. Too often, however, the natural, because it resembles the spiritual as the effect resembles its cause, is but a counterfeit presentation of it, and is supposed to be the real thing. And so it is, that natural meekness is thought to be the real essential meekness of heaven and a salvable quantity in human life, by those who are ignorant of the spiritual quality represented in the Word by meekness.
In Latin, the primary idea in the word translated "meek" is mild, gentle, placid, calm. In Greek, the meaning is the same, having also the force of benevolent, humane, involving good will, or the outward appearance of it; but in its root, it signifies to practice, perform, obey. The Hebrew word translated "meek" has the meaning of suffering, distress, affliction. The English word signifies mild of temper; not vain, or haughty, or resentful; patient, submissive, yielding, unassuming; also gentle, quiet and refined in manners; amiable. All these meanings are necessary in order to get the full force of this word, and see it in a broad and comprehensive view.
We have before us, then, the picture of a man of gentle disposition, fine manners, and one who is on that account well liked by his neighbors. A learned writer, in commenting on this word as used in the text before us, says that by "the meek" are meant "those who are of a quiet, gentle spirit, in opposition to the proud and supercilious scribes and Pharisees, and their disciples. We have a compound word in English which once fully expressed the meaning of the original, namely, gentleman; but it has now almost wholly lost its original signification." (Clarke.) The writer was speaking especially of the meaning of the word in the original Greek.
The popular idea of the Lord, and as represented in the pictures of Him, is based upon the letter of the Word, wherein He is spoken of as meek and humble in aspect, and where indeed He speaks of Himself as "meek and lowly in heart." He is also called the "Lamb of God," and there is no animal so meek in appearance as a lamb. But a striking paradox occurs in the Book of Revelation, where the evil are said to flee away, and call upon the rocks and the mountains to cover them, and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6: 16); for terror-inspiring wrath is not a characteristic of a lamb, but rather of a lion.
Meekness, as defined in what we have said, is called in the Writings natural good, which may be a cover for the evils of self-love that lie hidden within; or it may have within it a genuine spiritual internal, and be but the natural expression of a true meekness and good will that has its abode in the spirit of man from a heavenly origin. Meekness, or natural good, is partly hereditary and partly acquired, and has its origin in a desire to please or conciliate from fear of punishment or hope of reward; later in life especially, it is exercised for the purpose of deceiving and gaining selfish ends, with the object of dominion or appropriating to one's self what belongs to another.
In what is perhaps its best aspect, natural meekness, is the result of suffering, affliction, sorrow, arising from ill health or natural calamity, by which the natural temper is subdued; and, in some cases, causing the lusts of the natural man to be so broken or tamed that the way is opened and prepared for the introduction of a true state of spiritual meekness. In other cases, however, it is but an external subduing or submissiveness, which will be laid aside when there is full freedom; it is then but the imprisonment of the lusts of the natural man, which will break forth into open evil when external fear or other external hindrance is laid aside, as is the case with every one after death.
If we were to seek for a word to express the real quality of meekness, we should find it in the term submissive. The meek man is submissive to the things which press upon him from without, and he bends or yields to them. Sometimes the term is used contemptuously of those who yield, or appear to yield too much, or submit too easily to wrong doing or oppression, or persecution. This may be done from weakness, or it may be done from internal strength; in any case, the outward form is that of submission, and at the same time of obedience.
The submission of the meek man may be a mere submission to the world, at which he internally rebels; or it may be a submission to all things that come upon him or happen to him as of the Lord's Providence. He is thus cultivating a state of content with his lot, accepting all things as provided or permitted of the Lord, in which state the kingdom of heaven is present.
We are now led to a consideration of the real meekness that is treated of in the text,—the meekness of the spirit, not that of the body or of life in the world; the meekness that is within, but which does not appear, or may not appear, to outward eyes, or to eyes that see in the light of the world; but which appears in the light of heaven, and is seen by eyes which see in the light of heaven ; the meekness that is represented in natural meekness, but is as distinct from it as the life of heaven is distinct from the life of the world; the meekness in which the angels of heaven are, and in which men may be—in which men will be—when they live an angelic life while still on earth. This is the state spoken of by the Lord when He said, "Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth."
In order to understand fully what is meant in the text, it is necessary to go back and consider the verses which precede.
This is the third of the blessings. The first is, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The second is, "Blessed are they that mourn." And now the third is, "Blessed are the meek." Before the Blessings are spoken by the Lord, we are told that He "went up into a mountain, and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him, and He opened His mouth and taught them." The teaching follows, or the doctrine; for teaching is doctrine. The Sermon on the Mount, which the Lord spoke to His disciples, beginning with the Blessings, was doctrine from the Lord for the Christian Church; and in its internal sense it is Divine Doctrine revealed out of heaven by the Lord in His Second Coming for the New Christian Church, and treats of its reception by men in the world, by which reception the Church is formed.
Everything in the Word of God is expressed in a series,—one thing after another, and one thing connected with another, as the links of a chain. Such a series appears even in the letter, and such a series is complete in the internal sense. Now since the series in the internal sense of the Sermon on the Mount treats of the Divine Doctrine and the reception of it by men,—as indicated by the preliminary words, "He opened His mouth and taught them "—the first state of the reception of the Doctrine from the Lord is revealed in the first blessing, where it is said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." This signifies that they are blessed, or will receive eternal life, who acknowledge in the thought of their understanding that all truth is from the Lord and nothing from mere human intelligence; that the pride of human intelligence, the persuasion that man lives from himself, is not the origin of any truth whatsoever, but rather of all the falsity that afflicts the human race.
The second state of the reception of doctrine is indicated in the words, "Blessed are they that mourn."
This signifies that they will receive eternal life who are in grief when they perceive the state of the church, as being saturated with the pride of human intelligence, or with the persuasion that man lives from himself and not from God. There is salvation and eternal life in this state, because there would be no grief if there were no perception of truth, and there would be no perception if there were no affection of truth. Because others do not see, and will not see, what he so clearly sees, there is grief and distress. At the same time, there is also resistance, combat, temptation. The subject of temptations is fully treated later on in the Blessings, where persecution is mentioned; but a remarkable thing to be noted is that every subject in the entire series of the Blessings is involved in each. So it is here; while the combats of temptation are the leading subject in the latter part of the Blessings, they appear even in this early stage, and this because there is no progress in the life of the church without temptations, and they are present in its very beginning; and because of temptation, because of internal resistance to evil and falsity, heaven is present in the interiors of man, and the Lord Himself is present there.
To see evil is to resist it. Every one who sees the real nature and enormity of any evil at once strives against it as something destructive and horrible. He who grieves because of the presence of the falsity of evil in the church strives at the same time against it in his spirit; he is therefore in temptation combat, and the combat is from the affection of truth. Because he loves the truth, he struggles against that which is hostile to it, which assaults it and would destroy it. To love the truth is to love the Lord from whom the truth is, and it is at the same time to love the neighbor for whom the truth is. We now there fore discover in the series of the Blessings the presence of love and charity in the internal man; and indeed from this time onward it is, and is to be, the internal active in the life of the regenerating man.
This internal activity, this good, this love, this charity, this love of truth or will of good, the product of combat or resistance; this bending, this yielding to the Lord, this submission to the truth which is from the Lord; this state in the internal of man, this presence of the life of heaven, this presence of the Lord there, is what is signified by "the meek," who are said to be "blessed," and who shall "inherit the earth." Hence we read that man, by the combats of temptation, or by resistance, "becomes meek, humble, simple and contrite in heart" (A. C. 3318); and further that the spiritual man, being introduced into charity by temptations, "becomes actually like a dove as to meekness, and like an eagle as to the sight of his mind." (Coronis 30.)
The spiritual man may therefore bend to the life of the world, as the tree of the forest bends to the wind, but there is no yielding in his internal man. Internally he bends, yields, submits to the Lord alone, and to His truth alone. He submits internally to the Lord, and not to the world; he resists the entrance of the world, its life, its delight, its falsity of evil, into his interior thought. It makes no part of his understanding of truth, nor does it affect his will. He is inwardly amiable, lovable; for he has the Lord's love; he is loved by the angels, who are consociated with him in his spirit. He is meek even as is said of Moses, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." (Numbers 12: 3.) Moses here represents the Lord, who was meekness itself when He was in the world. Man is to be in the image of the Lord, and of such a man it is said, "The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." (Psalm 37:11.) They have not reached their full inheritance in the stage treated of in the text; for the natural signified by "the earth" is as yet occupied by the things which oppose; but life from the Lord is in the internal, the life of love and charity; therefore they are called "the meek" because of submission to the Lord, and the promise is given that they shall "inherit the earth." At first the church is called the kingdom of heaven, in which they are to be who are "poor in spirit" ; but now it is called "the earth," or the land, which the meek are to inherit after they have passed through temptations; even as the children of Israel, after their forty years of trial in the wilderness, inherited the Land of Canaan.
And now we would call attention to the two streams which make their appearance as we enter into the internal sense of the Blessings; the one stream leading to heaven, and the other to hell. These two streams cannot be together in the same mind, except where they come together in conflict and war. The one stream, flowing first from the Lord and reacting in man, returns again to the Lord in heaven. Reacting in man, it is in him the affection of truth, and the understanding of truth from that affection; this is what is signified by the "poor in spirit." The other stream, flowing in first from hell and reacting in man, returns again to hell, bearing man with it if he makes no resistance. Reacting in him, it becomes the affection of falsity, and the pride of intelligence from that affection; this is represented by the proud in spirit, who are rich in their own eyes, but miserably poor in the presence of the Lord, and this because they believe that they live from themselves and not from Him. Their life is infernal life, the life which is called "death." in the Word. They are disjoined, cut off, from the source of life.
In the second blessing, also, we find the two streams coming into opposition and collision. There are those of the church who mourn over the perverted state of the church, and there are those who do not; there are those who grieve over their own evils, and there are those who do not. These latter grieve indeed, but over natural calamities, the loss of the things of this world.
Again in the third blessing we see the two streams in opposition. There are those who in their hearts are yielding and submissive to the Lord and His Providence, but firm against the afflux and entrance of the life from the world; and there are those who are hard of heart, rigid, unyielding to the influx of the Lord and the life of heaven, but who yield, succumb without resistance, to the afflux of the life of the world. These are spoken of in the Writings; and especially of those who are in faith without charity, it is said that their internal state is "hard and resisting, and rejects all influx from the Lord"; but that those who are in charity and faith together are, in their internal, "yielding and soft, and receive influx" from the Lord. (A. C. 8321.) The former are outwardly in the things of the church, outwardly meek and pious, but there is in their spirits anything but a state of piety and meekness, anything but charity and good will to the Lord and to the neighbor.
So it is throughout the Blessings,—the opposite stream appearing more fully in the latter part of them, because of the greater activity of the assault upon the life of the church that is there represented.
The two streams are in men and spirits. The two streams are in the church in this world, and in the world of spirits. For it is to be noted that the subject is concerning those who are in the same doctrine, but not in the same life, thus who are in opposition as to life; concerning those who receive the doctrine of revelation into the understanding and at the same time into life, or into the love which is the life, and concerning those also who receive the doctrine into the understanding, but not at the same time into the life. These two classes of persons are separated in the final judgment; but until then, they are together in the doctrine of the church. This is what is meant by the words of the Lord in Luke, when treating of the judgment, "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other left." (17: 34.) By "bed" is signified doctrine. Those who are in the truth of doctrine, and at the same time in the good of life, will be taken into heaven when the judgment comes; but those who are in the truth of doctrine, and not at the same time in the good of life, will not be, and cannot be, taken into heaven in the time of the judgment. These two classes are in view in the series of the Blessings; and we learn from this fact that the opposite is always present—present until the judgment comes, and then it is present no longer. It is present so long as man lives in the world, and so long as he is in the world of spirits. During this time there are always the "two who are in the same bed," and they must needs be together until the day of final reckoning. Then the "one shall be taken and the other left."
In the world of spirits there are societies of spirits who are being prepared for heaven; into these societies evil spirits also enter, and they are able to enter because they are in the outward profession of faith in the doctrine of the church; otherwise they would not be received. Like the tares and the wheat, they cannot be distinguished and separated until the time of theharvest. They are together in the true doctrine of heaven, but not in its life; and because they are not at one in the life of heavenly doctrine, the good are infested, and mourn over the presence of evil with them; but they do not as yet know its source, from whence it comes, nor from whom it comes. They are in one bed, and the good are not yet taken and the evil left.
The man of the church on earth—the regenerating man of the church—is inserted as to his spirit into these societies which are preparing for heaven. On this account he experiences in his interior life the active states of those societies. He is happy in their states of uplifting, and is depressed, miserable, and grieves in their states of infestation, the source of which he knows not. A striking truth here appears, which is that the regenerating man of the church on earth is infested as to his spirit by those in the other world who are in the outward profession of the faith which he believes and loves. They are together in the same bed, and it may be a long time before the fulfilment of the promise that "one shall be taken and the other left."
These two states are also represented in the church on earth,—states where the opposites are together,— where the opposites are together by virtue of the confession of a common doctrine, but where there is at the same time internal collision because the life, or the life's love, is not in common but opposite. For there are those who are in the outward profession of doctrine, and who at the same time love it for its own sake; and there are those who are also in the outward profession of doctrine, but who do not love it for its own sake, but for the sake of themselves and the world. These two states are altogether opposite. The church is in constant danger from this state,—from those who outwardly adhere to the doctrine of the church, but who in their interior life are in opposition to it; and if this state should predominate, the church would be destroyed, as has been the case with all the churches of the past.
There is this, however, to be said; namely, that in the church on earth, some may be in a state of inward opposition to the life of the church, -and yet not remain in that state, but may pass out of it by a life of repentance. There is also this to be said, that all men are at first in this state of opposition to the Lord and the life of heaven, because the natural, where evils reside and predominate, is that which is first active in every man; and even the regenerating man is prone to lapse into this state of opposition, and to make himself for a time the subject of spirits who are actively hostile to the life which is from the Lord. This state of opposition continues longer with some than with others; it is harder for some than for others to submit in their interior thought and will to the life which flows in from the Lord; it is more difficult for some than for others to come into a state of spiritual meekness, into a state of internal submission to the ways of the Lord's merciful Providence. The state of stubbornness and hardness of heart therefore continues longer with some than with others; and with some it remains forever.
As we have seen, the opposite is made present in the church, in this world and in the other, by the acceptance of the doctrine of the church by those who are in internal states opposed to its life,—either in a temporary or a permanent opposition. No otherwise can the evil in the spiritual world be present in the societies of the good than by the profession of the faith, by the acceptance of the doctrine of those societies. So it is in the church on earth; there could be no presence of that which is opposite unless there were at the same time the profession and acceptance of the truth of the church; by means of this truth it can make itself present, causing grief, infestation, temptation. And this is of use. This is the use intended of Providence by the presence of the opposite in the church or in the man of the church,—the use of infestation, fermentation!, temptation. For there is no spiritual growth without temptation, and there is no temptation unless the opposite be present. And if we can suppose a church without those in it who are in a permanent internal opposition, still the Lord will provide or permit the opposite to be excited even in those who have something of spiritual life in their internal, as in the case of Judas, who betrayed his Lord and yet was saved after death.
It does not concern us to know who are in permanent opposition, and who are not. We could not know if we would. We are not to know while we are in this world. After death we shall know, even as we are known. But in this world, in the church, we may know of the presence of the opposite in ourselves and in others; and we may know the use which this is to perform,—the use of infestation, the use of fermentation, the use of temptation, by which a state of internal meekness is formed and established; a state of internal submissiveness and obedience to the Lord; a state of internal patience, gentleness, and charity; a state of rational and spiritual good, which, as we are taught, "never fights, however it is assailed; because it is mild and gentle, patient and yielding; for its character is that of love and mercy." (A. C. 1950.) This love, this mercy, is the presence of the Lord in the internal man. Standing there in the midst of the angels, He invites us to come unto Him, even as He said while on earth, "Come unto me, all ye that laborand are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt, 11:28-30.) Amen.
Numbers 12. Matthew 11: 16-30. A. C.
7298; or H. H. 359; N. J. H. D.