Fourth Sermon: Matthew 5:6
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5: 6.)
The miracles of the Lord when He was in the world were mostly miracles of healing and miracles of feeding, and He thereby represented in a natural manner before the eyes of men the spiritual work which He came to perform. Spiritual pestilence and spiritual famine universally prevailed. Men were sick with spiritual disease, and were deprived of the bread of life which should be provided for the nourishment of their souls. The Lord removed the spiritual pestilence, and brought back the bread of life to men, by waging spiritual war against those who were the cause of the misery of mankind, against the authors of the spiritual diseases which afflicted men, against those who had given stones to eat instead of bread, and serpents instead of fishes. The work by which He accomplished this is called redemption, which He accomplished in the spiritual world, by which He cast the evil into hell and brought deliverance to the good, introducing them into heaven. Then began the Divine process of the establishment of a new spiritual church, which should endure forever as the means of salvation unto men.
When men are sick they are not hungry, they have no appetite for food. The first thing in restoration to health, therefore, is deliverance from the causes of the disease, in order that a normal hunger and a normal appetite may be restored, so that the body may receive the nourishment it needs, and, by restoration to health, return to the orderly courses of its life. Hunger and thirst for food and drink, a sound appetite, are a sign of returning health, are a sign that the tissues of the body are to be rebuilt, that the body is to recover, that the man is to return to the performance of his daily calling and function among his fellow men.
The Lord, as the Divine Healer, as the Physician of souls, in order to restore spiritual appetite to men, must needs heal their spiritual diseases and set them on the road to health. This He did by the universal work of redemption to which we have referred. Evil spirits who infested every man coming into the world and going out of the world, were themselves sick— sick with incurable disease. They had spread contagion everywhere. It was necessary, therefore, that they should be removed from the presence of men, or there could be no restoration to sound health of mind and body, no chance of a cure for the spiritual ills of mankind. This the Lord accomplished, and this He represented by the miracles of healing which He performed when He walked among men.
The Lord came as the Healer, the Restorer, the Savior of men; and it is remarkable that the words save, savior, and salvation, are derived from a root signifying "to heal." The word salt comes from the same origin, salt being that which saves or preserves the food that we eat. And salt is the first thing mentioned by the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount after the Blessings were given. He then said to His disciples, "Ye are the salt of the earth," signifying that in them was represented that which was to be the saving principle of mankind, because in them was represented a true internal or spiritual church, by which all men were to be saved who could be saved, by which all men were to be restored to health who could be healed.
The whole series of the internal sense of the Sermon on the Mount leads up to this point, namely, the establishment of an internal or spiritual church, which was to be the saving principle among men, in which the Savior Himself was to be present, performing His Divine work of healing or salvation. When we speak of an internal or spiritual church, it is important to understand that it is formed of those who are internal or spiritual men, and that the process by which a spiritual church is established is one and the same with the process by which the individual man is regenerated; and that which in the Word treats of the one treats at the same time of the other, the only difference being as the difference between that which is general and that which is particular or individual. The church in general is formed of a number of individual men who are churches in particular. The one does not exist without the other, and this twofold establishment is what is described in the Blessings.
It is also important to understand, in this connection, that every man has an internal and an external of thought and affection, or an external and an internal of understanding and will, or an external and an internal mind. By mind, here, we mean the natural mind. The natural mind is internal and external. The external of thought and affection, or the external mind, is that by which a man accommodates himself to the life of the world, which he does when he is in the company of others; but the internal of thought and affection, or the internal mind, is that in which a man is when he thinks in himself when he is alone, or not in the company of others. It is well known that any man can speak and act contrary to what he thinks and wills, as in the case of hypocrites—a proof that there is an external and an internal of the natural mind.
The internal of the natural mind is the man himself, but the external is merely the man as he appears or wishes to appear to others. It is in this internal, therefore, that the essential work of repentance and regeneration are to take place, and in which is the essential life of the church. For it is here that evil spirits have their abode—in the evils that are active there. It is also in this internal that the Divine doctrine is to be received; and it is received there when a man believes it in sincerity of heart, and is affected by it because it points out the way to heaven and the Lord. This interior reception of doctrine from the Lord is what is treated of in the Blessings from beginning to end. In their internal sense, they treat of the gradual and progressive regeneration of the individual man of the church, and, at the same time, of the progressive establishment of the church in general,—all of which is effected by doctrine, and by a life according to it, and must be effected while man still lives in the world of nature.
The story of the successive regeneration of the church, or of the individual, is the story of the successive reception of doctrine given by revelation from the Lord, and of the mode and manner of its reception. And, what is remarkable, the same story, according to the law of opposites is the story of the successive rejection of the doctrine of revelation, and thus the successive degeneration of those who would be of the church, but who are not willing to obey, in their internal man, the law which the doctrine of truth reveals.
The "poor in spirit" are they who receive the truth in a humble heart, and are spiritually affected by its precepts of doctrine and life. But the rich or proud in spirit are they who receive and outwardly profess the doctrine of the church, but who are not inwardly affected by its truth, and continue proud, as before.
They who receive the truth in heart grieve inwardly when they perceive that the truth is not received by others, who indeed may outwardly profess it, but who are not concerned about its acceptance in heart and life. The former "mourn" over the state of the church, but the latter are not disturbed or grieved by a lack of spiritual life, for they are concerned only about the worldly prosperity of the church, not about its spiritual uplifting.
The third state is represented by the "meek," who are internally submissive to the truth as coming from the Lord, and are in spiritual good. In opposition to their state are those who do not bow internally before the truth, but yield only to the life of the world and are in merely natural good.
A fourth state now comes into view,—a state of spiritual hunger and thirst for the good of life which the truth of doctrine reveals. In the state represented by the "meek," there is marked the beginning of a new will in the internal man; but now there is presented to our view the beginning of both a new will and a new understanding, signified by the words "hunger and thirst." They who are in charity must also be in faith; they who are in the affection of good must also be in the affection of truth. These are they that "hunger and thirst after justice," or for the good of life which the truth of doctrine reveals. There are those in the church who have spiritual appetite and desire, and there are also those present, by virtue of the outward profession of doctrine, who have no appetite and desire for the spiritual truth of doctrine, no desire for the life which is called "justice." The former receive the truth, and appropriate it; the latter receive it, indeed, but do not appropriate it in heart and life. The two classes are together because of a common profession of faith in the doctrine of revelation, and remain together until the judgment, when "the one shall be taken and the other left."
The process of the establishment of a spiritual church is the continuing process of the Lord's universal work of redemption, and, at the same time, the continuing process of His universal work of judgment, or the process of the separation of the good from the evil, the separation of those who from the heart desire the truth revealed from heaven and its good,—their separation from those who have no such desire, and to whom no such desire can be imparted, because they cannot be led to love the truth for its own sake. When the time of separation comes, it is said to the one class: "Blessed are ye that do hunger and thirst after justice; for ye shall be filled." And to the other it is said: "Cursed are ye that do not hunger and thirst after justice; for ye cannot be filled." The one class is conjoined with God, and the other is disjoined, separated from God—a permanent conjunction, and a permanent separation.
The one thing needful in the restoration of the body to health, when it has been in a state of sickness and disease, is the excitation or stirring into activity of the appetite for food, to bring back a healthy appetite for nourishment, a healthy hunger and a healthy thirst. So it is in the spiritual body of the church. If there can be stirred in it a healthy appetite for the spiritual things of the Word, it is a sign of returning health, and gives a bright and happy promise of future spiritual increase. For the growth of the spirit corresponds to the growth of the body, and the processes of restoration to health correspond in every particular. Let us, therefore, examine briefly into the growth of the body, that we may, as by a reflected light, behold the growth of the spirit.
We read in the Heavenly Doctrine that it is necessary for man to be born in the world of nature, and to have a body formed from the kingdoms of nature; that he should live in such a body for a time, longer or shorter, as the case may be; and the reason given for this is, that the life of the spirit may become fixed and permanent upon a basis of the hard and concrete ultimates of nature; and that, upon this basis, formed and fixed by life in the natural world, he may be prepared to live a permanent and immortal life in a world above or within the world of nature. This is the reason why every angel in heaven, and every devil in hell, was once a man born in the world, who, after a life spent in the world, passed into the spiritual world, there to live forever.
The body, after it has performed this function of fixing and rendering permanent and enduring the life of the spirit, is laid aside at death, and is never more resumed. Having performed this use, the body is cast off as a garment, worn out, and no longer of service to the man, now a spirit in the spiritual world. As an inhabitant of the spiritual world he is a complete man, no longer in need of a material body such as he had, and such as was necessary to him, while in the natural world. But the Doctrine also teaches that, although the gross material body, which is visible to the senses, is rejected at death, not all that is called the body is laid aside or left behind. Man, when he passes into the spiritual world, retains or carries with him something from the natural world, which remains with him as the cutaneous envelope of his spirit, which holds and contains the life of his spirit, even as the skins and coverings of the body hold together and contain the life of the body,—the blood and the other bodily fluids. This cutaneous envelope or covering of the spirit is not formed of the gross material substances of nature, but of its purer substances,—substances which are invisible to the senses. This invisible body remains in the inmost sphere of nature as the covering of the spirit, and by it a man continues forever in touch with nature, with the things that are in nature, and with men who are living in the natural world. Those who have passed over to the other side of the curtain or veil that has been drawn are thus still with us, though unseen by our natural eyes, their presence unperceived by our natural senses, yet intimately in touch with every heart throb of our bodily life.
Now, in order that we may continue after birth to exist in the natural world, during the period of our natural life; in order that we may continue to live during our allotted period in the world of nature, it is necessary that our bodies, both visible and invisible, be nourished from the kingdoms of nature. It is necessary that the body be continually renewed, and its waste restored, from the things of nature, both visible and invisible, provided for its food; and in order that the body may seek and perpetually provide for itself its sustenance from nature, the Lord has implanted in us what we call hunger, and with hunger He has implanted thirst; for the solid substances of nature cannot be taken in and assimilated to the life of the body without conjunction with the fluids of nature. Without this implanted hunger and thirst, we could not be impelled or induced to seek the food of our life. Man would die as soon as he is born. And therefore the child is born hungry and thirsty, and immediately begins to seek the food necessary to sustain its life, from an implanted appetite that continues to the last hour of its life, when not interrupted by sickness or disease.
This implanted appetite, which prompts the body to seek its food, is both conscious and unconscious, both voluntary and involuntary. The deliberate effort in seeking food has more in it than is apparent to the senses. It reaches beyond the domain of studied and deliberate effort. We are eating and drinking when we know it not. There is invisible food, as well as visible. The food which we eat by conscious endeavor is provided on our tables, and comes from the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. We eat, drink, and enjoy it, and thank God for it, if so be there is a heart of thankfulness in us. But there is another kingdom of nature, a fourth kingdom, which is universal in the other three,—the kingdom of the auras or atmospheres, called the elementary kingdom. This kingdom is largely invisible to the senses, but it contains an immense store, an immense ocean of substances for the nourishment of the body. We are eating and drinking of this kingdom every moment, whether we sleep or whether we wake—an eating and a drinking that requires no direct effort of our own, or almost none. With every incoming breath, the blood drinks in by the lungs from the oxygen of the air. The animal spirit, or purer blood, drinks in every moment through the pores of the skin from the immense, unlimited stores with which the ether abounds; and so on all the way up to the universal atmosphere, which has its origin in the spiritual sun itself. The appetite implanted in the interiors of the body for the ethereal food of the elementary kingdom, we are scarcely aware of; but it is present, potent, and perpetually active, perpetually seeking and striving for its food. This food from the elementary kingdom is the chief source of the health of the body, the chief sustenance of its interior invisible life.
Hunger and thirst, or appetite, is implanted by the Lord, that by means of it the body may be created and preserved. It is implanted before birth, and acts invisibly in the pre-natal life for the creation of the body,—mediately by the blood of the mother, and immediately from the kingdom of the auras. It acts after birth, and it is granted to man then to aid its invisible operation by his own conscious effort in procuring for himself food and drink.
Hunger and thirst, or appetite, is nothing else than love or desire. It is the love of the bodily life, prompting the desire and effort to maintain the body, prompting us to eat and drink, that the life of the body may be sustained. The Lord implants in us this love of bodily life, that the body may live and perform the use for which it was created, that man may live in this world for a time and in the other world forever and there perform the use for which he was created.
There is, however, an appetite not inherent by birth, but which is implanted by the Lord after man is born, of which it is now necessary for us to speak. In the text, the Lord tells us of an appetite for justice. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall be filled."
It is necessary to know what justice is, and how an appetite or desire for it is acquired. This is necessary to know, for the Lord tells us about it, and when He teaches in His Word concerning anything, it is a sign that there is something for us to do, in order to obtain that which He is teaching; and, indeed, there is something for us to do in order that He may implant in us a love of justice.
Now what is justice? and what is it to be just? What is the state in which a man is when it is said of him that he loves justice? A love of justice exists where one loves that which is right and true in itself, without regard to selfish or worldly considerations; without regard to fear, favor, or natural inclination. It exists where there is a wish and a desire to find the right and follow it, and which causes what is right and just to determine the course to be pursued, allowing no other consideration to decide what is to be thought and what is to be done in any given case that calls for judgment or for action. In other words, justice is what is called in the Writings the "good of life," in which a man is who has received the truth and loves it for its own sake, thus making it the standard and ride of his life.
There are degrees of justice, however, as there are degrees of every good.
First, justice is civil good, or the good of the civil state, the good that is provided for by the civil law and its administration, and, at the same time, by the obedience of the citizen or individual member of the state to the civil law.
Second, justice is moral good, or the good of the moral state or kingdom, the good that is provided for by the observance and keeping of the moral law, as given in the letter of the Ten Commandments.
Third, justice is spiritual good, or the good of the spiritual state or kingdom of the Lord on earth,—a kingdom where no earthly potentate rules, where society is not the master or mistress, but where the Lord alone reigns as King; where men keep the civil law, and the moral law, and the spiritual law, because it is all from the Lord, and not from man. This kingdom is the Church.
Fourth, justice is celestial good, the good of heaven itself, especially the good of the supreme heaven,where the Lord is the all in all. They come into this good who love the Lord above all things and the neighbor more than themselves.
Fifth, justice is the very Divine Good, which the Lord acquired to Himself by the glorification of His Human when He was in the world. He made Himself justice—for justice was nearly gone from the earth— and thus He is able to justify every man who believes in Him and lives according to the precepts of His Word.
We have shown that every man is born with a love of his own corporeal good, or with a love of providing for the good of his body, and that he immediately sets to work to satisfy his bodily appetites. The first of these is hunger, and with it thirst. We have also said that no man is bora with a love of justice or good in any of its degrees, but this is implanted in him by the Lord after birth. The bodily appetites or loves, therefore, man inherits from his parents; but the love of justice, and of all that is involved in the idea of justice, is received from the Lord as our Father in heaven. This receiving of the gift of all spiritual and celestial good from our Heavenly Father is the new birth or regeneration.
The Lord implants these gifts in man when he lives in obedience to the laws of Divine Order,—when he lives in obedience to the laws of the state, when he lives in obedience to the moral law, when he lives in obedience to the spiritual law, or the precepts of doctrine from the Word. For reaction is necessary, that there may be conjunction. All things in the spiritual world and all things in the natural world, all things in the mind and all things in the body, are forms resulting from the union of two forces, the force of action and the force of reaction. The regeneration of man is no exception to this law. God acts and man reacts, and the result is that man is conjoined with God, is reborn, and the spiritual gifts of love are implanted in him; he is saved, and becomes an angel of heaven.
The reaction is also from the Lord. The Lord provides reaction by means of the world of nature,—by afflux from the world of nature. By influx from God and afflux from nature, a mind is formed after birth,— a will and an understanding; in this mind, freedom is an essential characteristic. The Lord then teaches this human mind the laws of His Word, the laws of justice, the laws of civil and moral good, the laws of spiritual and celestial good. By these laws, by obedience to these laws, man reacts with God, is born anew, is regenerated and saved; he is made into the image of God, a form that lives forever.
The gifts of love that are implanted in man by reaction with God become in him a spiritual hunger and thirst, a hunger and thirst after the justice of God. He hungers and he thirsts—two things. They are two, yet one, for they go together and act together. This involves that there are two things desired, two things sought after—justice and the law of justice. The law is truth, the law is wisdom, and justice is good. Wisdom and justice are two, and yet they are one, even as the law of God is one with the justice of God. These are never separated. Hence they are expressed by one term in the text—justice. Wherever there is justice, there is law or wisdom. What is justice in the civil state without wise administration, or administration according to law? What is moral good without a knowledge of its laws and a wise application of them to moral conditions? What is spiritual good without the spiritual laws of wisdom revealed in the Word? So it is on every plane of human life. Justice and wisdom, good and truth, are one and inseparable. Man desires both, seeks for both, when love has been implanted in him by God, his Creator. There is nothing he then so much desires as wisdom and its good, which is justice.
In the Word of God, the desire for truth or wisdom is called thirst, and the desire for good or justice is called hunger. This is notable in the text, and in many other passages of Scripture. Men speak of a thirst for knowledge; and knowledge is wisdom when it is applied to the uses of life, when it is used in the search for the justice of God. The man who seeks it from the heart acquires it, and he is blessed in the acquisition. To be blessed is to be introduced as to his spirit into heaven while he yet lives in the world; to be blessed is to be conjoined with God by reaction with God while he is still a man among men.
Now the teaching of the text is that they who hunger and thirst after justice shall be filled. The same teaching is given elsewhere, as in the Psalm, "He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with good," (117:9); and in Luke, "He hath filled the hungry soul with good, and the rich He hath sent away empty." (1:53.) To "fill," in these and other passages of the Word, means to have all that one desires. This is indeed true of those who "hunger, and thirst after justice," or the good of heaven. They shall have all that they desire. This is the state of the angels of heaven. Whatever they desire or wish for is immediately given them by the Lord. This would not be good for us in this world of preparation and probation; but there is no unsatisfied desire in heaven. And this happy state is promised to all who hunger and thirst for the things which are of God. In order that this state may be reached, however, there is much to be removed from the life of man, and it means incessant and continual war so long as man lives in the world.
As we have seen in the series of the Blessings, the first thing in the order of time is to make war with the conceit of our own intelligence. If this be removed, all the rest will be easy. For self-conceit, especially self-conceit in the things of religion, is the poison of the human mind. It is the great destroyer of human spiritual life. It is the serpent in Eden; it is the dragon of the Apocalypse. This is what has consummated the church, and brought spiritual desolation and ruin to the human race. This is the reason a Second Coming is necessary, that salvation may be brought back to men; and this is the reason it is said, "Except those days be shortened, no flesh can be saved." But now the Lord has come, and in His coming is fulfilled the prophecy, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send hunger in the land, not a hunger for bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord." (Amos 8:11) The Lord has come, and the invitation is given to all men to come unto Him, even as we read, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Rev. 22:17.) Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 29:7-24. Matthew 25:31-46;