The Ten Blessings
A Series of Twelve Sermons
W. F. Pendleton
Academy Book Room, Bryn Athyn, PA
First Sermon: Matthew 5:3
"Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5: 3.)
The fifth chapter of Matthew opens with these words: "And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain; and when he was set, His disciples came unto Him; and He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying." Then follow the blessings, or Beatitudes, being the first words which the Lord uttered in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount; and the first of this Sermon, as well as the first of the Beatitudes, is, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The kingdom of heaven is composed of those who are poor in spirit, and they are blessed in the possession of it; of them is the kingdom of heaven.
But let us review briefly the opening words of the chapter before proceeding to a consideration of the text.
"Seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain." By "seeing," when predicated of the Lord, is signified His Omnipresence and Universal Providence; but, as it is said that He saw the multitudes, and since "the multitudes" mean those whom the Lord came into the world to redeem and save, by "seeing" is here meant the presence of the Lord by His Human with men in the world, or His Advent. By His going up or ascending into a mountain is meant the glorification of the Human of the Lord, or union with the Divine itself; few by "a mountain" in the Word is signified the Divine Love, and also the inmost heaven, where the Divine Love reigns. By the Lord's sitting down on a mountain is meant His presence in His glorified Human in the inmost heaven, and through this heaven with the whole human race. By His disciples "coming unto Him" is meant the presence with Him of those who are to be teachers and leaders of mankind in both worlds; and their instruction by Him immediately follows, for it is said that "He opened His mouth and taught them, saying." The subject treated of in the universal sense is the revelation of Divine Doctrine from the Word out of the inmost heaven; for by the mouth of the Lord is signified His Word. Properly speaking, the subject is the opening of the Word and the revelation of its internal sense in the form of Doctrine, and, at the same time, instruction from it and illustration by it.
Then follows the teaching given by the Lord to His disciples; and what the Lord said to them treats of the Divine Doctrine and its reception by men; setting forth, especially in the Beatitudes, that when the Divine Doctrine is received, man has eternal life; for eternal life is signified by the word "blessed." But before the Doctrine is given, the end in view in the giving of the Doctrine is first represented—the end for which the Lord came into the world, which was the establishment of an internal church, His spiritual kingdom among men. This end is signified by the mountain on which the Lord sat when He taught His disciples, and the Doctrine which He taught them was to be the means by which His eternal kingdom was to be established in the world.
The first Blessing treats of the first state of the church in its reception of the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, or of the Divine Doctrine revealed by Him out of His Word. In general, the Blessings treat of the establishment of the church in a series, of one step or stage after another in its reception of the Divine Truth of the Word, until the end of which we have spoken is reached. Or, what is the same, they treat of regeneration in a series, since that which treats of the successive establishment of the church treats at the same time of the regeneration of the individual man of the church; for the church is established by the regeneration of the individuals who compose it.
The first thing in the implantation of the church is the reception of doctrine from the Lord in the understanding. There is no church before this; for it is doctrine from the Lord that makes the church, and nothing else. When true doctrine is received, the church is said to begin; and it does then actually begin, but not before. Previous to this, man has been going through the stages of preparation for the church; the Lord has been preparing him to receive true doctrine from heaven; but until doctrine is received, the church itself is not with him. That which introduces into the church is the same that introduces into heaven; for the internal of the church is heaven; and, in the spiritual world, no one is introduced into heaven until he has received the true doctrine of heaven. Hence it may be said that the Blessings treat of the series of stages by which man is prepared for and introduced into heaven; indeed, at the close of the series it is said, "Great is your reward in heaven."
Doctrine received into the understanding is the beginning of the church; that is, doctrine enters the mind, forms the understanding, and thus begins the church. Not only does doctrine begin the church, but the whole work of the establishment of the church, from beginning to end, is performed by doctrine, by the doctrine of truth from the Word in which the Lord is present. Doctrine is the means by which the Lord approaches and applies Himself to the understanding of man, the means by which a new understanding is formed. Doctrine is the Divine instrumentality in establishing the church, in regenerating man, in preparing him for heaven. Without doctrine there is no church, no regeneration, no life of heaven with men, no salvation to the human race. This is the reason it is said that the first thing in the implantation of the church is the reception of doctrine from the Lord in the understanding; and this is the reason that the first thing uttered by the Lord in His discourse to His disciples on the mountain was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The Blessings which follow treat of the various stages of the reception of doctrine from the Lord, or of the various stages in the establishment of the church by doctrine, or again, of the stages of preparation for heaven by means of doctrine from the Word, and finally of the reward in heaven to which true doctrine leads.
The first thing, let us repeat, in the implantation of the church, the first step in the series, the first state of the church itself, is doctrine from the Lord received into the understanding, and, at the same time, faith in such doctrine. This agrees with the teaching in the Writings throughout, that faith is the first thing of the church in the order of time. This first state of the church, this first thing in the regeneration of the man of the church, is what is meant by the "poor in spirit," who are said to be blessed because the kingdom of heaven is theirs—"for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
It has been supposed from the beginning of the Christian Church, and many still believe, that heaven is for the poor and not for the rich; and the Word of God does teach this in the merely literal sense. The Lord on one occasion said to His disciples, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God," (Matt. 19:24); and where the Blessings are repeated in Luke, it is not said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," but "Blessed be ye poor; for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). It is not surprising, therefore, that those who take the teachings of the Word in their most literal sense, who follow the letter rather than the spirit, who read the Word without true doctrine, should suppose that the poor and not the rich are to be received into heaven. True doctrine, however, reveals that the Word has a spiritual sense throughout, and that many things therein are spoken, not for their literal significance, but for the sake of their spiritual meaning.
The letter of the Word is not without intimations of a spiritual sense, and the text is a remarkable instance of this. "Blessed are the poor in spirit" On reading this, the reflecting mind may see that whenever the poor are spoken of as blessed, and as worthy of the kingdom of heaven—indicating the class of those who are able to be received into heaven—the poor in spirit are meant; and such a mind may reflect further that when the rich are spoken of as being excluded from heaven, it is not meant that those who are rich in this world's goods are to be shut out from heaven merely because of their riches. True doctrine shows that the poor in spirit, or the spiritually poor, are meant by "the poor" in the Word; and that the rich in spirit, or the spiritually rich, are meant by "the rich" in the Word.
It is well to note here, in respect to the spiritual sense of the Word, that every term has a good and an evil signification, for the reason that every good of heaven is turned into its opposite with the evil; and hence there is a society of evil spirits in hell opposite to every society of angels in heaven. The fact that every good and truth flowing down from heaven is turned into its opposite with the evil, explains many things that appear inconsistent in the letter of the Word; for there is hardly a word or phrase that is not used in both senses,—sometimes in a good sense and sometimes in an evil sense. Thus there are two classes of the poor, when regarded in the light of the spiritual sense; namely, the poor who are without the riches of heaven, which are the knowledges of genuine truth from the Word, and yet who desire them from a humble heart, and the poor who are also without such knowledges, but who in the pride of their hearts do not wish for them, believing that they possess the riches of heaven in the conceit of human intelligence. These are meant by the Lord in Revelation, "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich." (Rev 3:17,18.)
It is the same in the Word with the rich as with the poor; there are two classes of them. Those are said to be rich who possess the riches of heaven, but who are still humble in heart, having no conceit or pride of intelligence in the rich things of the Word which they possess. These are meant where the Lord said, "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, but thou art rich." (Revelation 2:9.) The rich in the evil sense are those who possess the things of the Word, but who ascribe them to themselves and their own intelligence and not to the Lord. These are the rich who know not that they are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;" and these are the rich, of whom it is said that it is "easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for such to enter into the kingdom of God."
We read in the text that it is the "poor in spirit" who are received into the kingdom of heaven. By "the poor," as we have seen, are meant those who are in spiritual poverty, who know that they do not possess the goods and truths of heaven, and are thus in humility of heart. In the text, the application is especially to those who are about to be formed into a church of the Lord, or about to begin the work of regeneration, or the state in which they are when they are prepared to be taught the genuine truths of heaven, which are spiritual riches; which state is the acknowledgment that they know nothing from themselves, that no truth is their own, but that all is from the Lord. They who are in this state are ready to receive genuine truths in the form of doctrine from the Word. Hence it is said that they are "poor in spirit;" for "spirit," when it is mentioned in the Word, signifies the understanding, or the understanding of truth. Blessed are they who have implanted in the thought of their understanding the acknowledgment that all truth is from the Lord, and nothing at all from man. These, in reality, are spiritually rich, for in that acknowledgment are involved and contained all the riches of heaven; and therefore it is said that "of them is the kingdom of heaven." This acknowledgment, indeed, is the first requisite for entrance into that kingdom.
The kingdom of heaven is the spiritual kingdom which the Lord came into the world to establish—not a worldly kingdom such as the Jews vainly expected. John warned the unbelieving Pharisees of this when he said to them, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 3:2.) The Lord said the same words when He began His preaching (Matt. 4:17). But the Pharisees, in the pride of their spirit—in their confirmed love of the world—were unwilling to believe in any other kingdom than a kingdom of this world; and so they did not repent, and hence did not prepare the way for the Lord and His kingdom.
The kingdom of heaven on earth is the church, a spiritual kingdom among men, where the Lord reigns, and where men are prepared for heaven by the truth of doctrine from the Word. They who are in true poverty of spirit, and no others, are introduced into this kingdom, into this true church of the Lord. These are said to be blessed because in their heart-acknowledgment of the Lord as the Divine Teacher of men is involved all the happiness of eternal life.
We have seen that the opening words of the chapter, the words which precede the text, treat of the revelation of the Divine Doctrine from the Lord out of the inmost heaven, for the sake of establishing His new spiritual kingdom, or a new church on earth; and the series which follow treat of the reception of that doctrine by men on earth, and thus of the establishment of the church with them; and reception into the understanding, as the first step, brings the blessing of heaven with it. All of this is made more clear by the use of the term spirit in the first words which the Lord uttered to His disciples, when He said to them that the poor in spirit are blessed, because they have the kingdom of heaven; for by the reception of the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, they are placed among those who are under the government of the Lord as King, and who, by performing uses in His kingdom, are made happy forever.
When it is said in the Word that the Lord teaches, the meaning in the universal sense is that all Divine Truth proceeds from Him in His glorified Human; and since it is said here that He taught His disciples, the signification is that He reveals the Divine Truth to the men of the church on earth in the form of doctrine adapted to their understandings, that is, to the understandings of those who are in humility of spirit, but not to the proud in spirit; for the Divine Truth can never be adapted or accommodated to them, since there is in a proud spirit, or in the conceit of human intelligence, nothing that can receive the pure Divine Truth of the Word. It shuns the truth, shuts it out, as a diseased eye shuts out the pure light of the sun, being tormented by it.
Now since the subject of the series in this chapter is the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord and its reception by men, and since men first receive it in the understanding, the word spirit is used in the first of the series, and not the word heart. These two words go together, and are often coupled together in the Word, as where it is said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a firm spirit within me." (Ps. 51:10.) Again, "Make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31.) But in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord did not say at first to His disciples, "Blessed are the poor in heart," but "the poor in spirit;" and He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," because the subject of the series is the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, its revelation as Divine Doctrine to men, and its reception by them. In the sixth blessing, the Lord says, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." This is because the regenerate state of the will is there the subject; but six blessings are passed before this state is reached; and so in this first blessing "spirit" is used and not "heart."
The lungs are never spoken of in the Word; but their function, which is breathing, or respiration, is frequently referred to under the term "breath" or "spirit;" for this is what the word "spirit" means— breath. In the human body, the lungs represent the understanding and the heart the will; but in the Word, "heart" and "spirit" are coupled together as representing the will and the understanding. In the text, however, the heart is not mentioned, but instead, respiration, breath, or spirit. Anyone can see that the respiration or breath of the body is not meant when it is said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." The mind is meant, or the understanding; and, as we have seen, by the "poor in spirit" are meant those who are in humility and not in pride of spirit or understanding, and that with these the church is to begin when the Divine Truth of Revelation, or the Divine Doctrine, is received by them.
And now let us repeat—and the truth gathers force by repetition—let us repeat, that humility of understanding consists in the acknowledgment that all truth is from the Lord, that all doctrine is from the Lord, and nothing from- man, nothing from nature, nothing self derived. When this acknowledgment is implanted in the thought of the understanding, when this acknowledgment is implanted in the active thought of the church, then is such an understanding, then is such a church, blessed by the Lord; then is the life of heaven present in such a man and in such a church. "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
It follows as a natural conclusion that they who are not poor in spirit will not receive the Divine Truth when it is revealed, will not receive or believe the teaching of the Lord as He gives it to His disciples, or from the disciples themselves when they are prepared to give it to men. All such, if they persist in their pride of spirit, will be cursed and not blessed. We have referred to the fact that everything in the Word has an opposite sense. So it is in the text, where the opposite of blessing is curse. Blessing expresses the state of eternal happiness in heaven, and curse the state of eternal misery in hell; and the text might be presented in its negative aspect, —Cursed are the proud in spirit; cursed is he in whose understanding is the pride of his own intelligence; cursed is he who confirms himself in his own self-conceit; cursed is he who confirms himself in the belief that all truth is from man, and not from God; for the kingdom of heaven is not of such.
It is not that the Lord curses, for He never curses any man; but men curse themselves by persisting in the refusal to receive what He has to give; and here, in the negative aspect of the text, it is the persistent refusal to receive the Divine Truth which proceeds from Him, and to acknowledge that it is from Him— this is the curse, the curse of the present day.
In our own time, the Divine Truth has been given anew unto men; the Lord is now teaching the spiritual truth of His Word to men in the world as He never taught it before; but there is for the most part persistent refusal to receive it; and that which stands in the way is the proud spirit of man, the worship of human intelligence, the conceit of human understanding, the belief that truth is from nature and from man, and not from the Lord, the persuasion that man lives from himself, and not from heaven, and the Lord in heaven. This is the great obstacle to the reception of the Divine Doctrine now revealed by the Lord out of heaven; and this is the cause of the slow growth of the New Church with those who are in it. This is the curse of the Christian world; and the New Church is not yet out of the shadow of this curse.
The conceit of human intelligence is what is signified in the Apocalypse by "the dragon,"—the enemy of Michael, the persecutor of "the woman who fled into the wilderness," and who is called "that old serpent, which is the devil and satan." He is called "satan" because of this same pride of intelligence, and he is called "devil" because the pride or conceit of human intelligence has its origin in the love of self, which is always signified by "devil" in the Word. This is the devil, this is the satan, this is the dragon, this is the self-love, this is the conceit of human intelligence, which is the great enemy of the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem, and the cause of the slow growth of the New Church in the Christian world.
Blessing is life, and curse is death—eternal life, eternal death. It is worth while to note here the meaning of the word "blessed" in the original Greek. The word here translated "blessed" is the common adjective in Greek signifying "happy." The Blessings or Beatitudes might be called the Happinesses, and the first one might read: "Happy are the poor in spirit; for of them is the kingdom of heaven." But in its root the word is a compound signifying "not dead," that is, alive, immortal; and it appears in the phrase, "the immortal gods," of classic literature. The poor in spirit are not dead; they are alive, they are immortal, they live forever.
The poor in spirit are alive and immortal, live forever, because they have received the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, because they have received the Divine Doctrine revealed by the Lord out of heaven, because they are in illustration from the Lord, because they have been delivered from the pride of their own intelligence and the dominion of their own self love, because they have been released from spiritual captivity, because they have been delivered from the dominion of the spirits of the dragon, and because, while yet in the world, they are as to their spirits with the angels of heaven. And thus we see, perhaps but dimly, the wonderful significance of those first words of the Lord to His disciples gathered around Him on the mountain, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for of them is the kingdom of heaven." Amen.
H. H. 357, or 365;
A. C. 9209.
Second Sermon: Matthew 5:4
"Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4.)
The three great evils that have afflicted mankind are famine, pestilence and war. There are, in addition, fire and flood, heat and cold, storm and earthquake; also the loss of relatives and friends, the loss of property and possessions, the loss of reputation and fame; and other evils which by their presence bring distress, calamity, or ruin upon states, communities, families, or individuals; and they cause men to mourn, they cause grief of mind and spirit, which sometimes takes the form of weeping or bitter lamentation, causing tears to stream from the eyes, accompanied perhaps by cries uttered from the mouth, and even in some nations with beating of the breast.
The evils, however, which we have mentioned, and which are the cause of mourning, distress, or grief, are merely natural evils. They pertain to this world and to the life of the body. Famine, pestilence or war, fire, flood, or earthquake, may kill tie body, but they cannot destroy the soul. They may bring to an end life in the natural world, but they cannot bring to an end life in the spiritual world. The destruction of the whole earth, the wiping out of the visible heavens, cannot cause man as a spiritual being to cease to exist.
These are the things men mourn over—the evils which bring natural calamity. But in the eyes of the angels they are of little moment. In heaven they are not regarded, except so far as they contribute to break the force of natural loves, and thus to bring man into a becoming state of humility, by which he is prepared to receive the spiritual things of the Word. The angels regard these natural evils as of small moment, because they are not the real evils that afflict the human race. They indeed bring natural calamity or death, but they do not bring spiritual death. Spiritual death is damnation or eternal misery in hell; it is to be shut out of heaven forever, and is what is meant by the "second death" in the Book of Revelation. These natural evils, therefore, are not treated of in the spiritual sense of the Word, which is the Word for the angels in heaven.
The spiritual sense, which is the angelic Word, is also to be the Word for the New Church on earth, and the man of the New Church must learn to look upon the natural evils spoken of as of but little account; he must learn that spiritual evils are the evils to mourn over, the evils which destroy the soul, which bring ruin to the spiritual life of men. The Lord, in all that He uttered, was speaking to and teaching primarily the angels of heaven, and at the same time the New Church which was to come. Thus He spoke of spiritual things to spiritual men and angels, while in the outward form and appearance He spoke of natural things to natural men and children. When He spoke, as in the text, of mourning, He referred primarily and essentially to mourning, distress, and grief over the spiritual evils which afflict the human race, and which destroy men eternally.
In the outward form, indeed, He spoke of the use which mourning over natural evils may bring to men, by breaking the power of the lusts of the flesh, and thus in preparing them for the implantation of the spiritual seed of the Word. Viewed in this light, even mourning over natural evils becomes a blessing, and there is a comfort and consolation that flows forth from it, since, in the Providence of the Lord, it is made to contribute to the advancement of spiritual life. Even in this sense it may be said, "Blessed are they that mourn." But this is not the sense primarily in view in the words of the Lord. The spiritual sense of what He said treats of the spiritual evils which desolate the church, which bring it to its consummation, which destroy what is spiritual in the life of man, and which would destroy all that is spiritual in the world if Divine power did not intervene to stay the hand of the destroyer.
Grieving over the spiritual evils which desolate the church, and which tend to its destruction, is signified by "mourning" and "weeping" in many passages of the Word, treating at the same time, as in the text, of the consolation which is to come to those who so mourn and weep over the church, even as the Lord wept over Jerusalem. The following are examples:—
The same is the subject of the following passages:
And in Luke, where the Blessings are repeated, in the passage corresponding to the text, we have these words: "Blessed are ye that weep now; for ye shall laugh." (Luke 6:21.)
Thus are the former things to pass away, and new things to come; thus are they to receive consolation who become regenerate and are to be formed into a spiritual church by the Lord; thus is the promise given of rescue and relief to those who mourn over the desolated state of the church, and are in temptations on that account. They will be comforted; all their mourning and weeping shall cease; for God Himself shall "wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Our attention naturally turns here to the cause of the mourning of which we have been speaking, the cause of the mourning or grief that is treated of in the spiritual sense of the text. What is it that causes the spiritual man, the regenerating man, to mourn? What is the cause of grief in a spiritual church that is being formed by the Lord?
We have seen that the cause is not worldly calamity, or natural evil of any kind—nothing that affects the body or life in the world; but that it is grief over the spiritual desolation of the church, grief on account of the presence in the church of that which is destroying its spiritual life, rendering it impossible for men to be saved, if nothing comes to stay its destructive course. Perceiving this, the spiritual man grieves; he mourns over the state of the church, is in distress on account of the presence of that which threatens his own spiritual life, as well as that of the church and of the human race. But what is the particular evil, or falsity of evil, that is in view in the words of the text, where the Lord said to His disciples, "Blessed are they that mourn"? There must be some special thing, some particular falsity of evil in view here which causes grief to the man of the church.
In order to find this out, we must go back to the verse which precedes the text, where the Lord says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." We must go back even further, namely, to the opening words of the chapter, where we are told that the Lord, on "seeing the multitudes went up into a mountain, and sitting down there, His disciples came unto Him, and He opened His mouth and taught them." From these opening words we learn that the subject of the series in the spiritual sense is the revelation of the Divine Doctrine out of the inmost heaven, and the instruction of those who are in simple good, and the formation of a new church out of them, without which the saving work of the Lord would cease with the human race, and all men would perish. Then follows what is called the Sermon on the Mount, beginning with the series of the Blessings; and the first words uttered by the Lord are, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The words "poor in spirit" take up and express the truth that is universal in the series of the Lord's discourse on the mountain; namely, that the Divine Doctrine must be revealed for the restoration of the church and the salvation of mankind. But the application here is that this Doctrine must enter and be received by the understanding in a state of humility of thought and affection. The understanding is signified by "spirit," and the humility of the understanding by being "poor in spirit." The first state of the Church is, in fact, the subject of these opening words of the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Blessed are they that acknowledge that they know and understand nothing from themselves, or from the light of their own intelligence, but that the Lord alone knows all things, and that He alone is able to teach from His Word the true Doctrine of heaven. It is this state of the understanding that receives revelation from the Lord out of heaven; and with those who are in it a new church will be formed, and salvation become present with men. This is the first state of the church, and the church does not begin until the Divine Doctrine is received by those who are in this humble state of the spirit, in this humility of thought in the understanding, who thus are not in a state of human self-conceit, or in the pride of mere human intelligence. With these alone the church on earth begins, and with them alone is it established, and they alone are saved.
Two things are presented to view in these opening words of the Lord: first, the humility of the understanding, which receives the true doctrine of the Word when it is taught by the Lord; and second, the opposite of this, namely, the non-humility of the understanding, or the pride of human intelligence, the belief or persuasion that man lives from himself and not from God, which persuasion, or human self-conceit, is signified by the dragon in the Apocalypse, and by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This same human self-conceit is in view in the first words of the Sermon on the Mount, in view as that which opposes the reception of the Divine Doctrine; and this negative or opposite sense of the Lord's words may be expressed by saying, "Cursed are they who are not poor in spirit; for the kingdom of heaven is not theirs." Cursed art they who are saturated with the pride of human intelligence, who are in the persuasion that they live from themselves and not from God; for thereby they shut themselves out of heaven, and cannot be saved; for the church, the Lord's heaven on earth, cannot be established with them. This falsity of evil, this false persuasion in full possession of the understanding, destroys the church and all things of it, and effectually prevents its reestablishment with those men who are in it. This is the falsity of evil that generally prevails in a vastated church; this is the falsity of evil that prevails now in the Protestant Christian world: and unless the Lord should come again, no flesh could be saved.
There are some, however, who receive the Lord in His coming; there are some who are not under the dominion of their own intelligence; there are some who are "poor in spirit," who acknowledge in heart that they do not live from themselves but from God, whose minds can receive the Divine Doctrine when it appears, who are interiorly affected by the truth of the Word, whose understandings are illumined by that truth, and who, in the light of new truth, are able to perceive the desolation of the church, and the cause of that desolation. And because this,—the pride of human intelligence,—threatens the integrity of the Doctrine itself, there is distress, grief, and mourning.
The distress arises, therefore, from seeing that the church is in ignorance because it is without truth and unwilling to see the truth; from seeing that the falsities of self-intelligence have taken the place of the truth of the Word; from seeing that these falsities, and the pride of self-conceit which they engender, are in the church, and are in the active endeavor to destroy what remains of the church, and prevent any new implantation of its principles and life. Hence die grief, the distress, the mourning. But there is at the same time resistance; for to see evil as evil is to resist it. This resistance to the falsities which assail the faith and life of the church is what is called in the Writings the combat of temptation; the temptation itself is what is signified by "mourning" in the text.
Let us at this point endeavor to make clear that the thing which desolates the church, destroying the spiritual life of men, threatening the existence of a new church, causing grief, distress, mourning with those who are in charity, and who love the spiritual things of the Word—this cause of the desolation of the church is not the ordinary self-conceit or pride in the possession of the scientifics of the world, such as men have who are in no concern whatever about spiritual things, having not even any profession of belief in them, openly denying and rejecting them. This common self-conceit of men is not what is specially in view in the words of the Lord. It is indeed not excluded, for those who are in it are in no state to receive the spiritual truth of the Word, and even despise and reject it when presented. But they are in no concern about such things; they are indifferent to them, and on this account make no active assault upon the spiritual life of the new church. But those are meant who are in pride, in self-conceit, on account of their possession of the things of the Word and of heaven. They are themselves in no concern about salvation and eternal life, but they are concerned about dominating the thought and life of others, are concerned about their own position of eminence and reputation for learning in the things of the Word, and are ever ready to assail and destroy the faith of those of the church who are not willing and ready to become subject to their thought and will. They make use of the spiritual truth of the Word to build themselves up, and at the same time to oppress and subjugate others. It was such as these that formed the imaginary heavens before the Last Judgment, and who cast the simple good into hell; it is such as these that actively oppose the institution of a new church, and endeavor to destroy the new doctrine as soon as it is born into the world. And the greatest danger to a new church is, that they may even outwardly accept its doctrine, for the sake of the worldly reward of power and dominion that it brings. It is such as these that are meant by the dragon in the Apocalypse, who persecuted die woman; by the serpent in the Garden of Eden who deceived the woman; and who assault the "poor in spirit," causing them anguish and distress of spirit, grief and mourning.
It is said in the Apocalypse that the dragon stood before the woman, ready to devour her child as soon as it was born; and we are told that by the "woman" is meant the New Christian Church which was to come, and by the "man-child" its doctrine. The "dragon," as we have seen, signifies the pride of human intelligence in spiritual things, especially that intelligence which concocted the dogma that man is saved by faith alone without obedience to the Commandments; teaching that the Commandments are to be kept for the sake of moral and civil life in the world, but that they contribute nothing to salvation, faith being the only instrument by which men are saved, and by which they become heirs of the spiritual kingdom of the Lord.
Now, wherever the New Church appears it is assailed, and its existence threatened, by the ruling falsity of evil in its environment. In the Protestant Christian world, the environment of the New Church in its beginning—the ruling evil—is the pride or conceit of human intelligence; and the ruling falsity of that evil is the belief or persuasion that man lives from himself and not from God, and that since he lives from himself, he also thinks from himself, his thought is his own, self-derived, from no source outside of himself. These are they who are not "poor in spirit," with whom the kingdom of heaven is not, and with whom it can never be until after serious and bitter repentance. This is the state that opposes the New Church, that assails its doctrine and life; it is the dragon that stands before the woman, ready to devour her child as soon as it is born, it is the same serpent that deceived the woman in the Garden of Eden. It is this state of conceit, of pride in the things of human intelligence, of belief that man lives and thinks from himself, that makes the reception of the Doctrine of the New Church difficult, and causes the Church at first, and for a long time, to be confined to a few, and is the cause that it will not increase among many until it passes through "great tribulation and affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the world, or ever shall be again." It is this state that is signified in the text by they that mourn; it is this state that causes grief and distress to those who are in the spiritual affection of truth, who love the spiritual things of the Word of God.
It was said that the first thing of the church is the revelation from heaven of genuine doctrine, and the reception of it into the understanding of those who are meant by the "poor in spirit." But as the understanding of truth is nothing without spiritual affection, nothing but thought from the memory; and as spiritual affection is nothing else than the activity of charity, or love to the Lord and love to the neighbor; so the real truth is, that love or charity is the first thing of the church; and hence its activity, which is the spiritual affection of truth, is the first thing of the church, and they are in this affection who are meant by the "poor in spirit"; and no others but those who are in such spiritual affection will receive, or can interiorly receive the spiritual truth of the Word as now revealed by the Lord in His second coming into the world.
It is this same spiritual affection of truth that is signified in the Apocalypse by the woman clothed with the sun, who was persecuted by the dragon. The assault of the dragon, or of those who are in the pride of human intelligence,—those who believe that they live from themselves and not from God,—is upon the new doctrine indeed, upon the understanding of truth indeed, but in reality it is an assault upon the spiritual affection of truth, which is the first of the church, which, if it does not survive—if it is destroyed, if it dies,—the church will die, spiritual life will be extinguished from among men, and all will be over with the human race.
It is the perception of this danger to the Church that is the cause of grief and mourning to the spiritual man of the Church. It is a danger to the Church,— its greatest danger,—because it is the ruling falsity of evil in the Protestant Christian world, and is what has desolated the Church. It is what has destroyed, and is destroying, the spiritual life of men; and it is that which will strangle the life of the New Church in its beginning, if it is not met and successfully resisted; and the spiritual man grieves because of its presence and activity. The danger is the greater because this evil is implanted in the natural of every man. It is this in the man of the Church himself which, if excited into activity, will deceive him, lead him astray, and destroy his spiritual life, even as the serpent deceived the woman in the Garden of Eden, and through the woman the man, and caused their expulsion from the Garden of the Lord. It is the perception of this threatening danger; it is the perception of this falsity of evil active in itself; it is the perception of his own tendency to be persuaded that he lives from himself, thinks from himself, and not from God; the perception of his own tendency to attribute his truth, his thought, to himself; the perception of this very activity in the New Church itself, which is the cause of the grief and mourning. It is the perception that the life of the Church is threatened, that the spiritual life of every man in the Church, including himself, is in danger,—it is this that causes him to grieve over the desolation of the Church, to grieve because of the continued activity of that which threatens its existence, that causes the difficult reception of the spiritual truth of the Word, that places the New Church in jeopardy, and causes its existence in the Christian world to be exceedingly precarious, and makes it necessary in the Providence of the Lord that it should at first be confined to a few, while a gradual preparation is made for its increase among many. And we may be sure that this increase will not take place until the dragon and all his progeny are driven forth from the interior thought and life of the Church.
This, however, will be done. The danger will be removed; the dragon will be cast out; the pride of intelligence will be cast down from its seat; the life of heaven will become an established factor in the life of men; the Church will increase from a few to many; the New Heaven will continue to be formed from a New Church on earth; the Church will consist of regenerate men and women, and they will no longer fear the assaults of the destroyer of the souls of men; the land will no longer be desolate; the "wilderness shall rejoice and blossom as the rose"; the "tabernacle of God will be with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God."
For has not God Himself, the Lord our Savior Jesus Christ, promised to comfort them that mourn, to calm the unrest and disturbance of mind arising from temptations, to inspire a hope that would take the place of despair,—a hope for the continued existence of the church, a hope for the regeneration and salvation of the individual man,—a new perception, a new light, a clearer understanding, a new delight in the things of heaven. All these, and immensely more are involved and contained in the words of our Lord to His disciples, when He said unto them, as He sat upon the mountain, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." Amen.
Lessons: II. Samuel 1:11-27. Revelation
C. 5480; or
A. R. 884; or
N. J. H. D. 187-195; or
T. C. R. 165.
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.
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;
Fifth Sermon: Matthew 5:7
"Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7.)
In order to understand the words of the text, it is necessary to know something of the environment or conditions in which they were uttered by the Lord. For all He said to His disciples had in view the actual states of men, and involved the reasons for His coming into the world, the reasons why the God of the universe had made Himself manifest and visible to men, why He had come to sojourn among them as one of them.
If all men had been merciful, if the element of mercy had been dominant in human life, there would have been no need for the Lord to come and make Himself manifest in a body of material flesh and blood. But because mercy was almost absent as a factor in the relations of men with each other, it was necessary that He who was Mercy Itself should come and exercise mercy, and thus restore that which had been lost; for without the quality of mercy, human life is impossible in the association of men with each other. And the Lord teaches in the text, and elsewhere, how mercy is to be restored. All men are in need of mercy; the Lord God of heaven and earth has come to impart it unto them; but in order that they may become active recipients of this human angelic quality,—this Divine principle of life,—they must exercise it toward one another. "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy."
By "blessing" in the Word, and being blessed, is signified to receive eternal life. Only the angels of heaven are blessed, because they alone live. Those who are shut out of heaven, who shut themselves out of heaven, are not blessed. They cut themselves off from blessing and the source of blessing. They continue to exist, but they cannot be said to live; for only those live, and are blessed in living, who conjoin themselves with God and consociate with their fellow men, who love to be conjoined with God and love to consociate with their fellow man. All such are blessed, all such live, all such are in heaven after death.
Hell is not life, the infernals do not live, no one in hell is blessed, because everyone there is disjoined from God, and strives against consociation with his neighbor, except so far as the neighbor can be subjugated and compelled to serve the activities of his self-love. There is no life in hell because there is no love with those who are in hell, nothing to conjoin one with another; and because there is no love, there is no mercy. All mercy is of love, is the exercise of love towards those who are in need of the ministration of mercy; and all men are in need of this heavenly ministration. The Lord also pointed out to His disciples that there is no way for anyone to receive the ministrations of mercy but for himself to enter into the active exercise of it towards others. But there is no mercy in hell, or among evil spirits towards each other. Cruelty there takes the place of mercy; for the law is the same in things that are opposite. They who are cruel and vindictive will have cruelty and vengeance visited upon them. As ye give, so shall ye receive. This law is operative in heaven, in hell, and in the world. There is no escape from it. As ye give, so shall ye receive; as ye visit upon others, so shall it be visited upon you.
In the Golden Age, the conditions of heaven were the conditions of the world. Love and mercy were active principles of human life. But at the time of the Lord's coming, these heavenly principles no longer prevailed among men. The conditions of hell had become the conditions of the world. Men were no longer in a state of blessing, because hatred had taken the place of love; cruelty and revenge were everywhere the practice in men's relations with each other. Men even justified themselves in being cruel and vindictive; they had forgotten that the only way to the mercy which they so much needed, and which every man craves in his soul because he needs it, is for the individual himself to begin by being merciful to others.
There is no man who does not at times feel the need of mercy; there is no man who does not at times pray for mercy; and the Lord comes down from heaven, and says unto him, even as He said to His disciples on the mountain: Be merciful, and ye shall receive mercy. Ye feel the need of mercy; therefore exercise it, in order to receive it. If mercy flows forth out of you into the world, it will flow down into you from heaven, and it will flow back from the world unto you again. The universal law of creation has no exception, that influx accommodates itself to efflux; where there is a going forth, there will also be a return; in other words, where there is action, there will also be reaction; as ye visit upon others, so shall it be visited to you again. Influx is from the Lord; efflux is towards the neighbor, and reflux is a return again from the neighbor. For it is a law of all creation that where there is a going forth, there is also and always a return. As we give forth, so shall we receive back again; as we give, so shall we receive by influx from the Lord; and as we give, so shall we receive by reflux from the neighbor.
This law of efflux and reflux became, in the Ancient Church, what is called the law of retaliation. The word retaliation signifies requital, reprisal, retribution, paying back, returning upon another what he has brought upon us, giving back like for like; and in the ancient law it was "a punishment similar and equal to the injury sustained," which was also called retaliation in kind. This law became a rigid statute of the Mosaic code, well suited to the genius of the Israelitish people, with whom justice was but another name for vengeance, even though it was exercised under the forms of law. "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," was the requirement, a justice not tempered with mercy. But the Lord taught His disciples that, while they were to "hunger and thirst for justice," they were not to hunger and thirst for vengeance; and thus, after teaching them concerning the law of justice, that it is to be desired above all tilings, He immediately follows with the law of mercy, in order that they might know that the justice which is inspired by revenge, and sought for the sake of vengeance, is not the justice of God, but a justice having its origin in a kingdom where a cruel retaliation is visited for all offences, and where the law is fulfilled that the unmerciful cannot receive mercy.
The law of retaliation, which is the law of strict, rigid and cruel justice, justice without mercy, is the direct opposite of the law which reigns in heaven, which is the law of mutual love. The law of mutual love is the law of efflux and reflux, under the operation of which the angels are consociated together, conjoined together as one. This is especially the law of marriage in heaven. With every angelic couple, there is an efflux of love from each to the other, and a reflux of love from each to the other, by which they are joined together in a perpetual and never ending union of heart and mind, of body and soul, so that each may say of the other, as Adam said of his wife, "This one is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh." A union which God has joined together, and which man cannot divorce or tear asunder. But where the law of retaliation reigns, and a rigid and vindictive justice is visited upon all, and is exacted and required of all, where justice is insisted upon to the exclusion of mercy, there can be no union of souls, no mutual love, no reciprocal efflux and reflux, no truly human life, no influx from God, no blessedness by conjunction with God, no eternal felicity in consociation with men. For only those who give mercy and love can receive the same from the fount of mercy.
The Lord, therefore, when He came into the world, abolished the representation of the infernal law of retaliation for injuries sustained, and decreed that the law of mutual love should be represented instead; and it can be said with truth that this is the burden of His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Early in the Divine discourse we find the teaching, expressed first in the words of the text, "Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy." They that give forth mercy shall receive mercy; they shall receive it both by the influx of mercy from God, and by the reflux of mercy from men.
In the twentieth verse of the same chapter in which the text occurs, the law appears again, "Except your justice shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." The justice of the scribes and Pharisees, the justice of the world at large, was the justice of revenge, and self justification in the exercise of cruelty and revenge upon others. In no case can such as these enter into the kingdom of heaven, where the supreme law is the law of mutual love, and conjunction by mutual love. The Lord therefore abolished this law, and its representation in the civil code of nations, in order that the way might be prepared for the perpetual reign of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
As soon as the Lord spake to His disciples, abolishing for the Christian Church the law of vindictive justice, such as then ruled with the nations of the earth, especially with those known as the scribes and Pharisees, He immediately adds the teaching that anger or revenge, or hatred of the neighbor, is not to rule in the dealings of men with each other, that men were not to visit wrath one upon another for injuries done, to requite wrath for injuries received, to pay back or retaliate wrath for wrath, evil for evil, "Ye have heard that it was said by them or old time, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. 5:21, 22.) In other words, he that visits wrath upon another shall have wrath visited upon him from hell, the source of wrath; and the only escape from it is to be merciful, even as our heavenly Father also is merciful, who is kind even to the unthankful and the evil. This is not a sentiment, but a law; not a theory, but a fact; and presents the only way of escape and refuge to man from the influx of the wrath of hell. Be ye merciful, and ye shall obtain mercy.
Later in the same chapter, (5:38-42), the Lord teaches more plainly that there is to be in the Christian Church no revenge for injuries done. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man shall sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." In these words, the Lord presented before His disciples the law of Christian good. It is not meant that we are meekly and tamely to submit to all indignity and wrong, for neither would this be of charity; but there is to be no revenge for injuries done; we are not to resist evil with evil in return; the old law of retaliation and vindictive justice is abolished; evil is to be resisted, not of man, but of the Lord; for vengeance belongeth unto Him, and He alone can resist evil and remove it far away from us. If we resist evil from evil, it will return upon us again, and the last case is worse than the first.
The Lord then delivers the Christian law of retaliation; for the word retaliation, or talio, was not originally used in a bad sense. It simply meant returning like for like, and in heaven returning good for good. It is the law of mutual love,—of loving, and of being loved in return. But in the Christian Church on earth men were to begin by returning good for evil; for he who does not begin in this way will not reach the state in which the angels are,—a state of mutual giving and receiving of all things of good and truth, of mercy and love. The Lord therefore said to His disciples, speaking through them to the Christian Church, inculcating the genuine law of Christian good. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father in heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt. 5:43-45)
This was a new law in the world, a new principle of human action; and it is new even now, even in this enlightened age of the world; and for the natural man it is a hard saying. The natural man is not willing to love his enemies; he wishes to resist evil with evil, he wishes to retaliate injury for injury. Thus the law of Christian good is but little understood; it has taken little hold upon the affections of men; it exercises but little influence in the activities of the world; it is, indeed, an almost unknown factor in the practical working of human life on earth. And because there is but little Christian good or genuine charity among men, there is scarcely any faith; for where there is no charity neither is there any faith, since the one does not exist without the other. For this reason, the Lord has come again into the world, and is establishing a new Christian Church, wherein the law of Christian good is to be the law of life, by which the kingdom of heaven is to come and be established in the world.
Finally, in the seventh chapter, the third of the Sermon on the Mount, the Christian law of retaliation receives its complete formulation in what is called the Golden Rule. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." (7:12.) Here we are taught that the law of Christian good, the law of mutual love, is the sum of the Word of God, the burden of the law and the prophets,—the spirit of the law, the spirit of the Gospel, from first to last. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets;" this is the Word of God, this is the doctrine of the Church, this is the essence of the true Christian religion, the universal law of life for angels and for men.
No man wishes that another should do evil unto him; he does not desire injury and wrong at the hand of others; so strong is this desire in him, that he at once resents it, and perhaps meditates revenge, when evil is visited upon him by another. He wishes that the neighbor should do good to him; and he wishes to enforce or compel others to do good to him. Every evil spirit in hell desires good from others; he longs for it; he wishes others to love him, and he even prays for mercy when he is in misery and distress, as when he receives the punishment of revenge at the hands of his enemies. This is a universal fact of human life. Every man desires good from others, would have others love him, and be merciful unto him. And the Lord God our Savior, living in the world among men, knowing the human heart as no man could know it, knowing the needs of human life as men cannot know, gives unto men the Christian law of ethics, the Christian law of retaliation, the Christian law of mutual love,—" As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." The standard of our doing, of our giving to others, is the standard of what we would have them do unto us, and give unto us. As ye would have them do to you, do ye even so to them. This is the standard; this is the law in heaven. Every angel lives according to this law; every angel is constantly giving what he would wish to receive; and since he gives, he also receives. He blesses others, and the blessing of others returns upon him. He is merciful to others, and mercy flows back upon him. He loves others, and is loved by them again. Thus mutual love is the spring of angelic life.
Men, however, apply this law negatively, as it is applied in hell. As men do unto you, do ye in like manner unto them, whether evil or good. If men do evil unto you, then do evil to them in return. If so be they do good unto you, then do good to them, but wait until they do good unto you before ye do it unto them. This brings men back to the ancient law of retaliation, that men are to render evil for evil, and takes them away from the law of Christian good which teaches that men are not to resist evil with evil, but that they are to resist evil with good, and that the very resistance to evil, which is at times necessary, is not to be from the evil in them, the evil of revenge, but from the love of good. Evil is to be resisted, indeed, but it is to be done from good, that is, from the Lord.
The principle enunciated in the Golden Rule clearly indicates that the individual must himself be active, and not wait for the action of others. Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. As influx is prior to efflux, so is efflux prior to reflux. What we receive from the Lord we send forth in the life of use; and he who receives the efflux of our use reacts, and gives back in return of what he receives. Action is prior to reaction; and this is just what the Golden Rule means in the relation of men with each other. Let us state it in this way: As ye would have men shun evil toward you, so do ye shun evil toward them; as ye would have men refrain from injuring you, therefore refrain ye from injuring them; as ye would have men do good to you, so do ye do good to them; as ye would have men be merciful unto you, so be ye merciful unto them. The standard of our own action is thus plainly set before us in what we would wish others to do unto us. Whatever we may wish others to do unto us should become with us an active principle of life toward them, and this even regardless of their action or their attitude toward us. We are not to study their actions, or their attitude, and shape ours accordingly. If we do this, we are waiting for the action of others; and in doing this, we are making ourselves a passive subject. This is not the Golden Rule; this is not the law of mutual love. This law requires that the standard which we form —which every man forms—for the action of others toward him should become his standard of action towards them, an active standard toward them, a standard that does not wait for their action, but which should be the active efflux of his life, regardless of their state or mental attitude. If they meditate injury or do evil to him, he is not to make this his standard of action towards them; for he does not wish them to do evil to him; he wishes all men to do good to him; therefore let this be his course of action towards them. As ye would have men do unto you, do ye even so to them. The efflux must precede the reflux, for the efflux is the active and the reflux is the reactive. If ye would have the reflux, first let there be efflux. If ye would receive, first give. If ye would have the reaction, first act. As ye would have others do, so do ye unto them.
Every angel in heaven is this kind of active subject. He receives from the Lord, he gives to the neighbor, and the neighbor responds to his action. There is thus with all the angels a constant state of action and reaction with each other, a continual efflux and reflux. This is the mutual love of heaven, and the source and cause of all angelic happiness. For in all their action and reaction towards each other, in all their efflux and reflux, there is delight, and this is the source of happiness in heaven which is perpetual.
It is the opposite in hell. Every inhabitant of hell applies the Golden Rule negatively. There the law is eye for eye, tooth for tooth, wound for wound, burning for burning,—the return of injury for injury. Every evil spirit studies to return upon another the evil which the other meditates or practices toward him; and the statement of the law there would be, Whatsoever evil others do to you, do ye even so to them. Every evil spirit watches another with the eye of a hawk, and shapes his own action toward the other by the evil he observes in him. The standard of evil he observes in the other toward him, he makes his own standard in return; and so the law of mutual love in heaven becomes in hell practically this, actually this, Whatsoever ye would not that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them. We would not have them do evil unto us; and notwithstanding this our standard for them, we do evil unto them, since they do evil unto us. This, for the most part, is also the standard of the world at the present time, the negative application of the Golden Rule. Nearly two thousand years have elapsed since the giving of this wonderful law to men,—the spiritual law, the law of mutual love in heaven; and yet men still act according to the old law of retaliation,—the negative, the opposite of the Golden Rule.
Men long for mercy, pray for it in their hearts, wish others to exercise mercy toward them; but because they do not perceive the exercise of mercy in others, they will not themselves practise it. But this is not to be so in the New Jerusalem, which the Lord is now establishing in the world. They who would dwell within the walls of that Holy City, must remove from their lives all negative application of the Golden Rule, and shun as a sin any application of the old law of retaliation for injuries done. Revenge is to have no part in the city of God; no return of evil for evil; for the law of mutual love is to prevail. In that great city is to be fulfilled to the life the injunction of the Sermon on the Mount, and men are to be rescued from damnation, men are to enter heaven in the fulfilling of it. For in that great city is now to be fulfilled the real spiritual significance of the law, the real spiritual meaning that was in view when the Lord uttered the words inculcating mercy towards others. It was the exercise of mercy over the souls of men, the rescue of men from the misery and cruelty of eternal damnation, from the cruelty of those who would take away the bread of life, who would close heaven and open hell to mankind. This was the mercy that the disciples were to exercise, and this was the cruelty against which they were to wage war, namely, in giving to men the genuine spiritual truths of the Word, the truths which the Lord had come to give, and which false prophets and false priests had taken away from men. The lost truths of the Word, by which alone men could be saved, were to be restored. The apostles were to exercise a compassion for the spiritual miseries of mankind. And this mission the New Church is to fulfill as it has never been fulfilled before; for the Lord has given unto men new truth, and a new power in truth, such as was never given before, and thus as never before there is to be a spiritual fulfillment of the words of the Lord. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." All who thus bless others will be blessed in tie doing; untold blessings will return upon them, in time and in eternity. Amen.
Lessons: Numbers 14: 11-25; Luke 10:
T. C. R.
Sixth Sermon: Matthew 5:8
"Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God." (Matthew 5: 8.)
In the progress of regeneration, as described in the Blessings, we have now reached the stage which is marked by a growth of love and charity, and in consequence, by an increase of light in the understanding, which is the light of illustration. This growth and increase is what is signified by the pure in heart who shall see God. The Lord did not at first speak of the pure in heart, but of the poor in spirit; nor did He say that these should "see God," but simply that "of such is the kingdom of heaven." Those who are poor in spirit, that is, who are ignorant of the spiritual truths of the Word, and acknowledge their ignorance, are considered by the Lord to be of His church as soon as they make such acknowledgment.
But all spiritual development is to follow,—growth in charity and faith, in love and in illustration, which is effected by means of temptations. They that mourn shall be comforted; the meek shall inherit the earth; they that hunger and thirst after justice shall be filled; the merciful shall obtain mercy; the pure in heart shall see God. Love is established in the will, and light in the understanding, by the process of spiritual purification that has been taking place in the interiors of the natural mind, and man is now prepared for the great work of regeneration yet to come,—the conquest of the external man. When this new state of the regenerating man,—this love and this light,—becomes collective as well as individual, then may it be said that the internal church is established, ready to become external also, ready to increase in numbers, in activities and in uses.
Let us not forget that this great work is the result of the universal Redemption effected by the Lord when He was in the world, and which was represented in the healing of the multitudes; and at the same time the result of the Glorification of His Human, represented by His ascent into the mountain, when He taught His disciples. When these two are accomplished,—Redemption and Glorification,—then the Lord is able to conjoin himself with the human race, form a church on earth, and save all who are willing to cooperate with Him in a life of obedience, in a life of repentance.
In order to understand the Divine work of Redemption, it is necessary to have a knowledge of the imaginary or seeming heavens, filled by the evil masquerading as angels of light, and to know that the essential part of Redemption was a Last Judgment performed upon these imaginary heavens; because it is necessary to know that the regenerating man, and the church itself, is infested and assailed by the spirits of these heavens. Such spirits are present, and assault the church in its beginning and throughout its progress, even until its final triumph.
Those who constituted the imaginary heavens, and those who were in the lower earth previous to the judgment, as also the two similar types on earth, are described by the Lord in the following words, "And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were just, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his heart, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." (Luke 18: 9-14.) The Pharisee represents the state of those in the imaginary heavens, and at the same time the state of those in a consummated church on earth; and the publican the state of those in the lower earth, who are to be received into the new heaven, and at the same time the state of the Gentiles on earth, or the state of those with whom a New Church can be formed.
As will be readily seen, the Pharisee represents in particular a state of pride and self-conceit in the things of religion, a pride in the possession of the riches of the Word and of the church, and a conceit of superiority over others on that account; and hence they who are such despise others in comparison with themselves. These, being unregenerate as to the internal man, but possessing the knowledges of truth in their external mind are able to live an outward life of piety; and when they pass into the other world, they form the imaginary heavens and infest those who are of the church, infest those who are undergoing regeneration, those who are humble and sincere, acknowledging that they are ignorant, that they know nothing from themselves, but only from the Lord, and who on that account have no conceit of human intelligence nor pride of superiority over others. They see and acknowledge their own evils, and say with the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
The establishment of the church with those who are; represented by the publican is described in the series of the Blessings; and the presence of spirits who are in the opposite, who are hypocrites like the Pharisee, is also described. The presence of these is involved, but not manifestly expressed, in the Blessings at first, but towards the close their presence and their persecution of those who are of the church is openly spoken of. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of justice; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Verses 10-12.)
That the state of the Pharisee, or the state represented by him, is a state of hypocrisy and conceit in the things of religion, is evident from the denunciation of them by the Lord in various passages of the Gospels, especially in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew. In that chapter we find these words, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." (Verses 25, 26.)
It will thus be noted that the Pharisee is clean and pure in his outward conduct, but not clean and pure in heart; hence the injunction by the Lord to them to "cleanse the inside of the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also;" for the "outside," or the external man, is not really clean, even though it appears so, unless the "inside," or the internal man be clean also. But the Pharisee and the hypocrite appear unto men to be clean, because of apparent cleanness of speech and conduct. As to the internal man, however, they are not clean; for the lusts of self-love and the love of the world, together with a conceit of superiority over others, are active there. They are not "pure in heart," and on that account cannot "see God;" for no man has the light of God without the love of God. But the simple, the faithful, the honest, the sincere, the just, the upright, who acknowledge the Lord as the only Teacher of men, and who receive His teaching when He reveals the spiritual doctrine of His Word, who receive this doctrine and apply it to life,—these, by the gradual processes of regeneration, become "pure in heart," and these are they that "see God;" and no others see Him.
It can now be clearly seen that to be "pure in heart" is to be regenerated as to the internal man. But that the external man is not yet regenerated, is evident from what follows in the Blessings, where the persecutions of the church are described, or the temptation combats of the man of the church; for if the external man were regenerated as well as the internal, there would be no further conflict, and man would be wholly clean, safe from all persecution.
At this point, let us consider what the internal man is, which is signified by "heart" in the text.
The Heavenly Doctrine teaches that the internal man is regenerated first, and that when the internal is regenerated, by means of it the external also is regenerated; and that the external is not regenerated before this, whatsoever the appearance may be. This is what is meant by the Lord's teaching, which we have quoted, that the inside of the cup and platter must first be cleaned, that the outside may also be made clean. By the internal man which is regenerated first, or before the external man, is not meant the internal spiritual man proper, or that degree of the mind which is on the plane of the heavens, and into which evil does not enter, which is man's heaven while he lives in the natural world, and the heaven that he enters openly and actively after death; but the internal of the natural mind is meant; and the external of the same. For the natural mind is twofold, internal and external; and both are evil, both in need of regeneration.
Before regeneration, and with all the unregenerate, the internal of the natural mind is nothing but evil, since it is nothing but the love of self and the love of the world and the evil affections of those two loves, and also the thoughts of those affections, which are falsities. The internal of the natural man, therefore, by birth and inheritance, and by acquired life, is nothing but evil and falsity, and unless it be regenerated, unless its evils and falsities be removed, and goods and truths from heaven take their place, there can be no salvation. Hence the first thing of regeneration is the formation of a new will and a new understanding in the internal man, before the same can be done in the external. This internal of the natural is, as was said, the "inside of the cup and platter," which must first be cleansed before man can be made clean. Those who are regenerated as to this internal are they who are called the "pure in heart." The external man is also nothing but evil; but it does not so appear to the outward view, because of the assumption of the appearance of piety and uprightness in speech and conduct.
The real life of every man while he is in the world, both the life of the evil and the life of the good, is in his internal natural; but so long as he lives in the body, he puts on an external or apparent life. The unregenerate and the wicked man assumes it as a cloak or covering for the evils that are within, that are in the internal natural; and even the good man is sometimes under the necessity of putting on an appearance not in agreement with a genuine internal. This covering is put on in order that accommodation may be made to the company in which one is, and in order that one may yield, or appear to yield, to the ruling public opinion, against which he does not wish to go, on account of various causes looking to a good end with the good, or to mere selfish or worldly advantage with the evil. But he lays this covering or cloak aside when he is left to himself, when he is alone or by himself, as when he is in his room at home, or at other times when he thinks freely from his ruling love, uninfluenced by his surroundings or the opinions of others. When thus situated, he thinks from his own will, and his thoughts then are according to his will or love; and if this will or love be evil, the thoughts will of consequence be false thoughts, or falsities of his evil. It is the formation by regeneration of this internal man that is the subject of the text, and of the preceding verses; and the purity of heart spoken of takes place when, by regeneration, the evil lusts of the internal man have been removed, and a new will or a new love takes the place of the old, and at the same time a new light in the understanding. So that when such a man thinks or meditates alone, his thoughts are even more sane, more true, more wise, than when he is in the company of others; for he is thinking in greater freedom, since he is then thinking as a good spirit, or as an angel of heaven, the restraints of the outer world upon him being removed.
In the series of the internal sense of the Blessings, the subject is the descent of good into the natural by the process of regeneration,—the way having been prepared by truth of doctrine from the Word. When the truth is received into the understanding as taught by the Lord in His Word, received humbly, affirmatively, and with affection; when one is affected by it from within, believes it, wills it, loves it, lives it, then the combat begins; resistance is made to all that which opposes the truth, all false doctrine and all evil lust; and in the degree that the combat is successful, in the degree that falsity and evil are removed, heaven is opened,—the internal spiritual man is opened,—and heaven descends out of the spiritual into the natural; first into the interior of the natural, forming there a new will and a new understanding; the conjunction of good and truth takes place, man is introduced into consociation with the angels and is conjoined with God; and it is of such that it is said, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God."
Heaven is now in the interior of the natural, and this heaven in the natural is what is called the church; and the state and process by which this is brought about in the individual is what is called regeneration; for regeneration takes place in the natural, and the church is where regeneration is, namely, in the natural. It is for this reason that the church is called in the Writings the Lord's heaven on the earth—on the earth, that is in the natural. Strictly speaking the church is where a number of such are associated together, and where the state of heaven in the interior of the natural is the dominant state of life with those who are so associated. When spiritual good is present in the interior of the natural, conjoined with truth of doctrine there, and when this state is dominant in an organized or consociated body called the church, then heaven is come down to earth, and the tabernacle of God is with men.
Let us remember, however, that the establishment of the church in the interior of the natural is not its complete establishment; as applied to the individual, the regeneration of the interior natural is not regeneration as a complete state. There is much work yet to be done; there is much of combat yet to take place; for the external opposes, and the external must be subdued and brought into order. As soon as the church has established itself in the interior of the natural, it is assailed by the powers of hell in both worlds, and the external is excited to oppose its further descent. Hence arises the combat of temptation, a combat more grievous than before. It is the combat of Michael and the dragon. The powers of hell assail. This assault is what is called in the letter of the Word persecution, and it is so called in the latter part of the Blessings, as we have seen.
The word rendered "pure" in the text may be literally translated clean. In the original tongue, it signifies to be cleansed, and thus to be freed from dirt or filth, as is done by washing with water. Water, in the spiritual sense, is the truth from the Word; and the evil lusts of the will in the interior of the natural are the filth from which men are to be cleansed. The cleansing of the internal of the natural by the truth of faith is what is meant by the words of the Lord to Peter, when He said, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. ... He that is washed hath no need save to wash his feet, but is wholly clean." (John 13: 8, 10.) By the "feet" is signified the external man which is still to be purified after the internal has been made clean. The same is signified in the Psalms, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a firm spirit within me." (51: 7, 10.) A "clean heart" and a "firm spirit" (or a true spirit) are the new will and the new understanding in the internal of the natural, concerning which we have been treating. We find the same in another Psalm, "Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul to vanity, nor sworn to deceit. He shall receive the blessing of the Lord, and justice from the God of his salvation." (24: 3-5.) As in the text it is said that the "pure in heart shall see God," so in this Psalm it is said that "he that hath clean hands and a pure heart shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord, and stand in His holy place."
We thus have before us the doctrine, and this doctrine illustrated in the letter of the Word, that the internal man,—the internal of the natural man,—must be regenerated first, and when this is regenerated, that by means of it the external is also to be regenerated. All regeneration of the external before this, before the internal is regenerated, is spurious and a sham; and it is of this the Lord spoke in His denunciation of the Pharisees; that is, of the external and its state before the internal is regenerated, before the lusts of evil have been removed from the internal man; for He said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear just unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." (Matt. 23: 27, 28.)
A man may be outwardly sincere, outwardly just and true, outwardly faithful and upright; he may outwardly speak the truth, he may outwardly confess the Lord, he may outwardly do good, outwardly keep the commandments; yet, if he be not inwardly sincere, inwardly just and true, inwardly faithful and upright, if he speaketh not the truth in his heart, nor confessed the Lord in his silent meditations, if he does not inwardly do good, if he does not inwardly keep the commandments, all those things which he does outwardly are of no avail in the sight of heaven. He is still unregenerate; the lusts of evil still dominate his internal thought, which is to dominate the man—for the internal will and thought make the man—he is a whited sepulchre, that is, within full of the bones of the dead and all uncleanness, full of hypocrisy and iniquity; and a church in which this state dominates its thought and life is a dead church, making the establishment of a new church a necessity in order that men may be saved. In the establishment of a new church there is hope for the human race; for since the Last Judgment has been accomplished, man may become pure in heart and see God, may shun the lusts of evil as sins against God; and in the state established by the removal of lusts, he will come into the light of heaven, or the light of heaven will descend into his interior thought, and in that light he will see the light of God, he will see God in His own Divine light; and be conjoined with Him.
The spiritual end in view in the series of the Blessings is conjunction with God, and the stages of the process by which conjunction with God is reached is presented to view in the internal sense. The continual repetition of the word blessed shows that this is the end throughout the series. Blessing, in its universal sense, is nothing else than conjunction; for conjunction with God is heaven itself, and the source of all its happiness and delight. This is the reward, which we are told will be "great" in heaven, for which the angels rejoice, and are exceeding glad to all eternity.
There are two distinct steps or stages in the process of being conjoined with God. The first is by the regeneration of the internal man, and the second is by the regeneration of the external man through the internal. By the regeneration of the internal man, the state is reached in which the church or the man of the church is said to see God, a state that is essential before conjunction is made final and complete—made final and complete by the regeneration of the external man.
Illustration or spiritual enlightenment is the subject of the latter clause of the text, "For they shall see God." We learn from the Heavenly Doctrine that the meaning of these words is that the genuine truth of doctrine appears to those only who are in illustration from the Lord, and they only come into that illustration, into that heavenly light, so as to be able to remain in it, in whom evils have been dislodged in their internal man, in whom spiritual good or spiritual love has descended from heaven into their interior natural, and who consequently love truth because it is truth, and because truths are for the uses of life.
These are they who are in illustration when they read the Word; these are they who are in illustration when they read the Writings; these are they that see the Lord in His Word; these are they that see the Lord in His spiritual Word, as He comes a second time among men; and this state is the New Jerusalem descended from heaven to earth, the city which "has no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there." Amen.
Lessons: Joshua 7: 1-15. Matthew 23:
Seventh Sermon: Matthew 5:9
"Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5: 9.)
The seventh blessing is on the peacemakers, or on those who are instrumental in making peace between nations, between families, or between individuals who, on account of division, discord, or quarrel, have been at war with one another. And the literal meaning is, that they who cause such discord to cease, and bring together again those who have been divided and hostile, so that harmony, concord, union, take the place of dissension, strife, or open war, perform so distinguished and noble an act that they are said to be blessed in the sight of heaven. Those who so contribute to the welfare and happiness of mankind are indeed worthy of all praise, and entitled to rank among the benefactors of the human race.
Natural peace, however, is not spiritual peace. In every verse and sentence of the Word of God there is a natural idea, and there is at the same time interiorly within it a spiritual idea. Now what is spiritual peace, or peace under a spiritual idea? And what are peacemakers in the spiritual sense, or as that term is understood in heaven? It is important to see as the angels see, and to understand the Word as they understand it; for thus our thought becomes like theirs, and by our affections we are consociated with them.
Spiritual peace corresponds to natural peace; and as natural peace arises when there is a cessation of natural strife, discord and war, so spiritual peace arises when there is a cessation of spiritual strife, spiritual discord, and spiritual war. Natural war is combat against those who attack and attempt to take away natural life, natural property and possessions, and natural liberty; but spiritual war is resistance to spiritual enemies, resistance to hell, to evil spirits from hell or, in the abstract, it is resistance to that which rises up out of hell and assails the spiritual life and spiritual liberty of man. That which rises up out of hell, or is inspired from hell, is evil love, evil lust, evil affection, evil desire, and excites the same in men in the world, thus threatening to destroy spiritual life,— love to God and love to the neighbor—for these are spiritual loves, and make of men spiritual men.
That which rises up out of hell, and is inspired into man with hostile intent and purpose, is not only infernal love, infernal lust, and all evil affection, but also infernal falsity; for wherever there is infernal lust, there is at the same time infernal falsity; the two go together and are inseparable. Infernal falsity which destroys spiritual life is falsity about the Lord, falsity about His Word, falsity about heaven and the way to heaven, falsity about life, and about that which makes the life of heaven. Such infernal lust and such infernal falsity, when they enter the mind, when they take possession and remain in the mind, destroy all spiritual life, take away spiritual peace, introduce dissension, discord, and strife among men, and lead them to hell, never again to see peace and rest; for indeed "there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." (Isaiah 57: 21.)
Sometimes, even in the outer world, peace is the result or effect of war; sometimes war is for the sake of peace,—a more genuine, lasting peace than would be possible by any other instrumentality. And so it is in spiritual war, which is the combat of spiritual temptation. Spiritual peace is accomplished by war, by waging a war of resistance to that which opposes and assails spiritual life, against infernal lust and infernal falsity. When such combat ceases, when such evils and falsities are overcome, then there is peace; then there is the peace that is called the peace of heaven.
There is no peace in heaven except that which has been acquired by war, combat, temptation; and heavenly peace is with no one on earth except after combat. No peace is possible to man, no spiritual peace is possible in the natural of man, except that which follows the overcoming and the removal of natural lusts and the dispersion of the falsities of the natural man. Peace cannot possibly be given, cannot possibly be imparted to the natural of man, until this takes place. That is what the Lord meant when He said to His disciples, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I am not come to send peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34.) By the "sword" is signified war, combat. The result of the Lord's presence in the natural of man is not peace, but combat, temptation, spiritual war. Peace comes in the end, but it is the peace that is the result of war, the result of conquest over those who are the enemies of peace.
The natural man would have peace without war; he prefers peace to the sword; and so he will not fight against his spiritual enemies, that is, he will make no effort to put away evil lust and infernal falsity. He assumes instead a state of natural good, and hence he is at apparent peace with his neighbor, while discord and strife reign within. These are they of whom it is said in Jeremiah, "They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace." (8:11.)
The natural man, following his innate inclination, is more concerned about suppressing temptation than he is about shunning evils. He is unwilling to enter into the combat necessary for the removal of evil, and cries, Peace! By union with others of the same disposition, he obtains what he calls peace—peace in the external sphere, peace in the outward appearance; a peace that covers evils, but does not remove them, a peace that hides the discord within. The peace that is sought by avoiding combat is what is meant by "peace" in the passage we have just quoted from Jeremiah. "They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace."
The peace of heaven comes only through the combat of temptation, and there is no other pathway to eternal peace. It is familiar, and shines upon every page of the Heavenly Doctrine, shines in every chapter and verse of the letter of the Word—shines to him who has eyes to see—that there is no heaven without shunning evil as sin against God; and the bright light also appears to the seeing eye that there is no shunning of evil, and thus no obtaining of the peace of heaven, without the combat of temptation, without spiritual war. This warfare, this combat, this temptation, which arises in resisting evil, in removing the falsity of evil, is what is meant by "work" or "labor" in the letter of the Word, and heaven is spoken of as a state of rest from such labors. This is what is meant in the book of Revelation by the words: "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow with them." (14:13.)
In the first chapter of Genesis we have given us a description in the literal sense of the creation of the universe in six successive days, and on the seventh day there was rest; hence the seventh day was called the Sabbath, the word meaning rest. But in the spiritual sense the new creation is described, which is the regeneration of man and the formation of heaven from regenerate men—the six days being the life of spiritual labor in the world, the labor of temptation combat, and the seventh day, or the Sabbath, being the rest and peace of heaven, the peace which follows labor, the spiritual labor of temptation combat. The labor is in reality the Lord's labor, though man labors from Him, and thus in cooperation with Him; hence it is said that on the seventh day the Lord rested from His labors—a rest and a peace which He imparts to those who go with Him in the path of regeneration.
So essential is this spiritual labor to the regeneration of men, so essential is it in the acquisition of the peace of heaven, that it appears throughout in Divine Revelation, and it is always involved, or expressed where peace is the subject. The Blessings are no exception to this rule. We find that the idea of combat or temptation appears early in the Blessings, and runs through to the end. This idea comes out openly in the second Blessing, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." We find in this Blessing that the idea of war and the idea of peace are coupled together, and that the one is the result of the other. They who mourn are comforted because they mourn. Mourning is the grief and distress that attends temptation combat, and the comfort is the consolation of peace which always follows genuine spiritual temptation. Both temptation and consolation, both war and peace, appear also in the latter part of the Blessings; where the war or combat of temptation is signified by persecution, and where the peace that follows temptation is signified by the "reward in heaven," which we are told is "great"—so great that it cannot be described in human language, as we learn from the Heavenly Doctrine.
In the letter of the Word, when an idea once enters the series of the spiritual sense, it continues to the end of the series. This is true in the Blessings in respect to the idea of temptation and consolation, the idea of spiritual war and spiritual peace. This idea enters, as we have seen, with the second Blessing, and it appears again in a striking way in the seventh, which is before us for consideration, "Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God."
As has been shown, wherever peace is spoken of in the Word, war is involved in the spiritual sense—war is involved as having taken place, and peace follows as an effect,—the peace that comes by war, the peace that arises as the result of conquest and triumph over evils and the falsities of evil. It is so in the series of the Blessings. The peace that is spoken of is the peace that is made by war, and the peacemakers are warriors on behalf of the truth of the Word. Michael and his angels were peacemakers when they fought the dragon and overcame him by the blood of the Lamb; Joshua was a peacemaker when he overcame the nations in the land of Canaan, the nations who held the heritage of Israel; David was a peacemaker when he drove back the Philistine hosts, so that they came to disturb Israel no more. The Lord Himself came into the world as the Divine Peacemaker; and the chief thing that contributed to the peace which He came to establish was His conquest and subjugation of the hells. Every man, every regenerate man, is a peacemaker when he makes war, as of himself from the Lord, against the lusts of evil in himself, and overcomes them, thereby inheriting the peace of heaven,—the peace of which the Lord spoke when He said to His disciples, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16 :33.)
The special application of the doctrine of the text is to the peace that comes as the result of the conflict between the internal and external man, in which the external man resists the internal, but is finally overcome. Spiritual peace is the outcome and effect.
We have learned that in the sixth Blessing, the one which precedes the text, that the subject is concerning the regeneration of the internal man, the internal of the natural, which at first was nothing but evil, into which spiritual good has descended from heaven, forming a new will and a new understanding in the internal natural. This is the first of regeneration; that is, as the Doctrine teaches us, the internal man is regenerated first, and by it, and after it, the external. The internal man, which is regenerated first,—or he in whom the internal man has been regenerated, in whom a new will and a new understanding have been formed in the internal man, in whom the conjunction of good and truth has taken place in the interior of the natural, —he it is who is meant by the "pure in heart" in the sixth Blessing. These are they, the "pure in heart," that "shall see God." By the "heart" is meant the internal of the natural man, and by purity and cleanness of heart is meant the regeneration of that internal. Those who are such are said to "see God," that is, they are in illustration or spiritual enlightenment. They see God, they see Divine things in the Word, they see Divine things in heavenly light, they have a will to do them, and they carry them out into life, fighting against and overcoming all things in the external man which resist and oppose the life of heaven from the Divine of the Lord in heaven.
All spiritual peace is from the conjunction of good and truth. When there is the conjunction of good and truth in the internal man, or the formation of a new will and a new understanding, a new heart and a new spirit, then there is peace—peace in the internal of the natural, but not as yet in the external. For the external still resists, and so long as there is such resistance, there is no complete and established peace. Hence the new internal must now come forth and conquer a peace in the external also.
In the previous Blessings, the subject is the formation of the new internal man in the natural, but now, and until the end of the series, the subject is the union of the internal and the external, which union is accomplished by subduing the evils which still have their abode in the external. When the internal and the external man are thus brought into union, then follows the peace of heaven, the reward in heaven.
This conflict between the internal and the external man is called "making peace," and those who are engaged in this conflict,—this war for the sake of peace, —are the peacemakers of the text, who are called the "children of God." The internal and external man have been divided; they have been in hostility to each other; they have been at war with each other, and the conflict has been prolonged. But at last the external has submitted, the evils in the external that caused resistance to the internal have been put away, the internal and external man are now in agreement, harmony is restored where before was discord, division, disunion, strife; now there is concord, union, friendship, love, peace. The peace is yet to be disturbed from time to time till the final triumph is gained; but the external is willing to submit itself, bring itself into order, into harmony and correspondence with the internal man. Jacob is willing to submit to Esau, the external man desires peace,—peace by conjunction with the internal man.
We are not surprised, therefore, to find that the word "peace" in the Greek language, as used in the original of the text, signifies to "connect into one," to "join," to "fasten together." For it is indeed true that war distracts, divides nations, families, individuals, from each other; but peace restores, brings back unity, brings those together who had been separated and hostile to each other.
Men are by nature hostile and at war with God and with each other. Peace comes when this ceases. Peace comes when man ceases to fight against God and His Providence, when he ceases to strive for the mastery over his neighbor. Peace comes when the external man ceases to resist the internal. The external was hostile to the internal, endeavored to overcome and subdue it; but now it is willing to be at peace; now it is willing to bring to an end its resistance to the internal, to cease its assaults, is willing to join itself with the internal to receive its life, react with it, conjoin itself with it.
To be willing to make peace, therefore, is to be willing to cease doing anything that tends to the injury of the neighbor, to the injury of good, to cease doing that which operates against and injures the life of heaven, the life which is from God, the life which is the love of God, which is conjunction with God. For when man is conjoined with God, he is at peace; for then he not only loves God, but he loves the neighbor; and no man wars against that which he loves. He is then at peace with God and at peace with the neighbor; and the Divine sphere of peace, the heavenly sphere of peace, is with him and in him. All who receive this peace are called the children of God, the sons of God; for then God is their Father, and they are born of Him by regeneration. Natural birth is from a natural father, but spiritual birth, the new birth, is from God as the Father. They who make peace through the combat of temptations are thus newly born, and become the sons of God.
But let us now take a view of the text in its more interior spiritual sense, which is abstracted from any idea of persons. We have already shown in this series of discourses that the general subject of the Blessings is the revelation of the doctrine of genuine truth by the Lord, and the reception of it by men in the world who are to form the church. This true doctrine is indicated and expressed by various words and phrases from the beginning to the end of the series. We are now face to face with the fact that doctrine is signified by "peacemakers." We have seen that the Lord is the Peacemaker in the universal sense, and we have now to add that the Divine Doctrine, which is the Lord in the church, is the peacemaker and the only real peacemaker among men. Nothing else brings peace that is enduring and eternal. But Doctrine is composed of parts, which are variously termed doctrines, doctrinals, or truths of doctrine. These doctrines, or truths of doctrine, are what wage war in all spiritual temptation, and are what are meant by peacemakers in the plural. Against these true doctrines, false doctrines are arrayed and assail; and, as has been shown, such false doctrines as attacking the truths of the church, are present, actively present, throughout the progress of regeneration, as described in the Blessings, and cause the most bitter trials of temptation to those who love the truths of the Word.
Doctrine is composed of parts, and the parts or truths must be in harmony with each other; hence the significance of the meaning of the word "peace" in the Greek language—to connect into one, to join or fasten together,—indicating to us that peace is made in the church, the enemies of peace being overcome, when truths of doctrine are brought into agreement, into concord, into harmonious relation with each other, so as to make one body or united whole. There is no spiritual peace in the church until all the parts of doctrine are thus brought into harmonious agreement, each assigned its proper place and value in relation to all the other truths of doctrine. It is thus that we are to understand the signification of peacemakers in the abstract spiritual sense. Hence, when united together in one harmonious body of doctrine, its truths are spoken of as "blessed;" for by "blessing" is signified harmony and union, and the peace and happiness which result therefrom,—both in doctrines, and in those who receive them. For when harmony of doctrine in all its related parts is brought about, then the men of the church are also brought into harmony with each other in charity and good will, and the peace and happiness of heaven is present with the men of the church. Men are then united, not only in doctrine, but in heart and life; they are consociated with the angels and conjoined with God, the Author of all peace.
Now, in order that man might be conjoined with Him, and be at peace, God Himself, the Father of angels and men, came into the world. He came into the world to teach the doctrine of peace, to impart peace, to bless His people with peace, that all men might become the sons of God, and be thus blessed with eternal peace. But the greater part of mankind were not willing, and are not now willing to receive this peace, and hence they spurn the doctrine of peace. They prefer to fight against God, to resist the things which are of God, to shut the door of peace, to shut the door against Him who is the only Author and Maker of peace, the only Giver of peace. This is the reason it was said that "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:10-13.) Amen.
Lessons: I Kings 22:10-37. Revelation
Eighth Sermon: Matthew 5:10
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for the sake of justice; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10.)
The blessings upon the persecuted immediately follows the blessing upon the peacemakers, and it might appear at first sight that there is no special connection between them; but when we understand that the Word of God is written in a series, and that each thing connects with that which precedes it and with that which follows it, we know at once that there is some connection between the idea of persecution and the idea of peacemaking. We have already seen what this connection is. We have seen that by the "pure in heart" are meant those in whom the internal man has been formed anew, preparatory to the regeneration of the external, and that the conflict between the internal and the external is what is meant by peacemaking, because peace, the peace of heaven, is the result of spiritual war, and is acquired in no other way. The conflict arises because the external man assaults the internal, or those who are external men assault those who are internal, being inspired by the evil spirits who occupy the imaginary heavens, and who have put on a garment of external holiness for the sake of deceiving and ruling over the simple and the well-disposed. These latter are internal men, though not as yet instructed in the things of the kingdom of heaven; but as soon as they are instructed, their love of truth is assailed, and hence it is said that they are "persecuted for the sake of justice."
In the Greek language, the word persecute signifies to put into rapid motion, to pursue, to follow eagerly. The idea is that of energetic and at the same time malignant pursuit, as of dogs after a wounded deer, or as when the deer stands at bay and there is conflict. The meaning is similar in the English word persecute, namely, to pursue with the purpose of injury, to grieve or afflict another, to harass, punish or endeavor to destroy the property, life or good name of another. It is especially applied to persecution of any one on account of his religious opinion or mode of worship.
When the natural idea of persecution is applied to the spiritual life of man, or to his regeneration, we are quite ready to see what is involved in the spiritual sense of the text. There is indeed a manifest suggestion of spiritual persecution, or spiritual temptation, in the definition which applies the word to persecution of another on account of his religious opinion or mode of worship; for this in reality presents to our view that thing in the Writings which is called spiritual temptation. We are told that the distress and grief in which man is when his faith is assaulted, when attack is made upon the doctrine which he believes and loves, when the spiritual truth of the Word which he has made a principle of life and conscience is assailed with bitterness and malignity,—that the distress and grief of heart which arises when that which is valued above all things is placed in jeopardy, —this is spiritual temptation, and brings before us the subject of the text, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for the sake of justice; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
There is involved in the idea of persecution a condition that is most general. There is nothing that exists that is not in danger of assault or attack, in danger of the destruction of its form and mode of activity; and there is nothing that exists that does not resist this attack upon its constitution, structure, mode of life, or use. Even in the mineral kingdom, every pebble or grain of sand, every piece of metal or mineral, is in danger of what we call destruction from the corroding or biting acids of nature, or from other causes; and it may or may not successfully resist this attack. In the vegetable kingdom, every seed, plant, flower or fruit is environed by its enemies, and it may successfully resist, or may be compelled to yield its life as the result of attack. Every animal is in the same situation, and there is no exception in animal life to this fact of nature. Every man, as soon as he is born, begins to be persecuted, or his natural life attacked; dangers attend the life of the body at every step of its growth. It is so with the spiritual man, or man after his spiritual birth in adult age, and hence we read of the great red dragon which stood before the woman to devour her child as soon as it was born. (Rev. 12:4.)
We find the subject of spiritual persecution, which is spiritual temptation, in the Word throughout, either expressed or involved. It is the burden of most of the Psalms, and it is in nearly every chapter of the Prophets and the historical parts of the Word. The Lord often spoke of it to His disciples, as when He said, "But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles." (Matthew 10:17, 18.) "Remember the word that I spake unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." (John 15:20.) "They which are sown in stony ground have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time, afterward, when affliction and persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended." (Mark 4:17.) The Lord also said to the Jews, "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them ye shall scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city." (Matthew 23:34.) And in Revelation we read that "when the dragon saw that he was cast into the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child." (12:13.) And the reason why this subject is so often treated of in the Word, the reason why the Lord so often spoke to His disciples concerning it, is because men receive eternal life by means of temptations, by means of persecutions, by means of conflict and resistance to evil and falsity when they assail. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of justice; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5: 10-12.)
They who suffer persecution, they who are in spiritual temptation, are they who are in the spiritual affection of truth, the affection of truth for its own sake, the affection of truth for the sake of truth—the spiritual truth of the Word—not for the sake of self or the glory of the world, not to satisfy the cravings of ambition or for the applause of men, not for the sake of worldly advantage or worldly reward, not for reputation and gain, but because the truth is from the Lord and points out the way of life, because it reveals what evil is, and points out the way to the removal of evil, because it leads to good, to use, to heaven and to the Lord, because it establishes man in his true relations with his neighbor and with his God, because it renews, vivifies, restores, because it is the only thing that makes life worth living, because it is the only thing that has eternity in it and the hope and promise of eternal life. This is the spiritual affection of truth, the love of truth for its own sake, the love of truth because it is truth; and these are they that suffer spiritual temptation, that suffer persecution for the sake of justice, but who thereby receive the kingdom of heaven; for the promise is, "Great is your reward in heaven."
The assault of persecution is the attempt of evil spirits, and of men who are inspired by them, to deprive others of truth, to take away the truth that is so much loved and valued. This is done by insinuating false doctrines, false ideas, false principles; and when these enter the thought and engage the attention, truths cannot appear; they are as it were under a cloud. Man loves them, but they seem to be gone away, and there is anxiety and distress. There is a constriction of the faculties of the mind, and freedom seems to have departed, and with it all the delight of life. Man is held bound, as it were in prison. He is unhappy because he cannot understand the truth of the Word; yet he wishes to understand it; and sometimes he reaches the extreme of despair, which is to stand upon the brink of hell, into which he would fall if the Lord did not come to rescue and deliver. But even in this state he is blessed, because the truth is still there, the affection of truth is still there, the Lord is still there, and even more present than before, and delivers by giving new light, new truth in a new perception; for every new perception of truth is a coming of the Lord to redeem and save.
This affection, the affection of truth for its own sake, is the ruling idea in the Blessings, and this ruling idea presents itself in many forms. We see it in the first Blessing, where the "poor in spirit" are said to be blessed. There is blessing in true poverty of spirit because in the love of truth for its own sake there is the acknowledgment that all truth is from the Lord, and nothing of it from man; and those who have this acknowledgment in the thought of the understanding are they who are said to be "poor in spirit." We see it again in the fourth Blessing, in which the Lord says, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall be filled." The love of truth for its own sake, which is also called the spiritual affection of truth, is a hunger and thirst after justice; and the state of justice is the state established in those who love truth because it is truth. No others are really just, or are in the love of justice. And now the same thing appears in the eighth Blessing, which is before us. The regenerating man is now established in justice and the love of justice, and he is persecuted because of it. The internal man is formed, the spiritual affection of truth has descended out of heaven into the interior of the natural; a new will and a new understanding are there; his hunger and his thirst have been satisfied; conscience is there; the love of justice is there; and he is assailed because he is just, and will not bend to the demands of the world, nor yield to the love and delights of the world, which are still active and still capable of being excited in the external man.
We read that when a man lives according to the precepts of the Lord, he procures to himself justice, not the justice of the Lord's redemption and redeeming work, for this justice is the Lord's alone, but the Lord Himself as justice. (T. C. R. 96.) To live according to the precepts of the Lord is not to live according to the precepts of the world, the precepts of man, the precepts of human intelligence. To live according to the precepts of the Lord is to believe in justice, it is to love justice, and to do it; then man receives the justice of the Lord. When man loves justice, and does it, he is assailed by the powers of hell because he acts not according to the appearance, and is unwilling to act according to the appearance, but believes in a just judgment, and lives accordingly. He does not act according to what the world wants him to do, but according to what he sees to be right. He has the courage to say, No. He does not believe in the appearances of truth, nor does he accept the appearances of good; and so the fires of jealousy, hatred and revenge are enkindled against him, and he is persecuted because he loves the truth more than the opinions of men, and justice more than the demands and requirements of the world. In so doing he is following the Lord; for the Lord, when He was in the outer world among men, was persecuted for the sake of justice. He came into the world as Justice Itself, and to establish justice among men; He was therefore reviled and persecuted, and finally made to suffer the ignominious death on the cross; all because the Divine Justice was embodied in Him,—the Divine Justice, which at the same time was the Divine Love and the Divine Mercy.
There is nothing the infernal spirits so hate as justice, and hence there are none they so hate as those who are in the love of justice, and who do justice from the love of it. This is the reason they inspired the Jews to revile and persecute the Lord and put Him to death, and this is the reason they inspire men in all time to do the same to those who are images of the Lord. But notwithstanding infernal hatred and fury, the Lord, by acts of justice, redeemed the human race as a whole, and will redeem every individual man who is willing to love the justice of God, and make it his own by acts of justice in his own individual sphere and life. Nor can any man be redeemed and saved unless he believes and has faith in justice, and unless he loves it, and does the justice which is not his own but the Lord's with him.
That which is of essential value in human life is always considered as worth fighting for, in order to hold it when threatened, or to obtain it when it is not as yet in one's possession, but is most ardently desired for its value and its use—such as the liberty of one's country. When one loves spiritual or eternal life, commensurate with its value, he will endure all things to keep it and to preserve it, no matter what the cost may be. He will also love the instrumentalities of that life, which are truths of doctrine from the Word; and he will defend them with all the ardor and energy of his soul. The truths of the Word, and the life that is obtained by them, is what is meant by justice; and the spiritual temptation which arises, —the stress and strain, the grief and pain, the sorrow and anguish, when one is assailed for his love of justice and its truth,—is what is meant by being "persecuted for the sake of justice."
But all is not justice that appears like it. Even the wicked,—evil spirits and evil men,—may put on the robe of justice; and the regenerating man at first —perhaps not in this life—is not able to distinguish between those who love justice for its own sake and those who put it on from self will, caprice, self-love, the love of dominating, and who do not value the thing itself except as instrumental to selfish ends; who even put on the garment of the Word, and clothe themselves with the habiliments of eternal life, girding themselves about with the eternal justice of God, in order to accomplish their wicked designs. And we are told that the evil in the other world so clothe themselves, to the end that they may persecute the good under the appearance of what is just, thereby justifying themselves. This is the justice that is without mercy. These are they that deceive the faithful after death, forming what are called the imaginary heavens, and holding tie simple in both worlds under their dominion, by means of those in this world who co-operate with them. When those who have in themselves a remnant of good discover the character of these hypocrites, they then resist their inflowing spheres, and fight against them for their spiritual life; while the evil, on their part, persecute with the endeavor and purpose of subjugation, or of holding them under their Egyptian bondage; and their persecution is under the appearance of truth and justice. It is not the open attack of the evil fighting an honest war, but the insidious attack of malignant cunning under the appearance of right and justice, under the appearance and claim of being the rightful holders and guardians of the truth and good of heaven. Especially in the other life do these "wolves in sheep's clothing" practice their persecutions upon the innocent; but the church on earth is also infested by their pestilential sphere—a church which has as its dominant principle of life a "hunger and thirst after justice," a love of the truth and good of justice, the justice which is revealed by the Lord in His Word.
It is thus that the real temptations of the church in both worlds arise, namely, from the evil who are in possession of the truths of the church, and not from the evil who are in ignorance of them. The evil who are in possession of the truth are meant by those who "persecute for the sake of justice;" and they are permitted to assail the truth of justice, which they interiorly hate, because of the acquisition of good that accrues to the church, or to the regenerating men of the church, by persecution, or by the combat of spiritual temptation.
At the stage of regeneration which we have now reached in our consideration of the subject of the Beatitudes, the internal man is formed, with its new will and new understanding; but the external man is still in evil, and this fact or condition of the external makes it easy for falsities to invade and excite in the external the delights of the love of the world, and thus to assail the internal. It is through these delights that evil spirits, by their falsities of evil, are able to enter, to have a hold, and to bind, to inflict pain, grief and distress,—to persecute. For the conflict of temptation is a conflict of the delights of the internal and external man; and so long as evil delights are in the external, the devil has power; and if these delights are not fought against and removed, the internal will in the end be overcome, and the imprisonment of man become permanent in some society of hell after death.
Because of the bitterness of the conflict at this stage of regeneration, a strong word like persecution is used to express the idea of a cunning and malignant assault upon the spiritual life of man—upon the spiritual life of those signified by the disciples whom the Lord was addressing. They are to be persecuted because they love justice and its truth; but still they are blessed even in the persecution, and by it; for it is to be the means to them of obtaining the kingdom of heaven; it is to be the means by which the Lord is to give them that kingdom, or introduce them into His church on earth and into His heaven in the other life.
In the text, the phrase "the kingdom of heaven" is used the second time in the series of the Blessings. It occurs in the first in these words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," and now a second time in the text before us. First, "the poor in spirit," and now "they which are persecuted" are to receive the kingdom of heaven. We read in the Doctrine that "the kingdom of heaven signifies the church, because the kingdom of the Lord is in heaven and on earth, and His kingdom on earth is the church." John the Baptist preached in the wilderness that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The Lord also, preaching in Galilee, spake the same words, by which He meant that He had come into the world Himself to establish an internal church, which was to be His heaven on earth, preparatory for His heaven after death.
Now why is the term used twice in the series? It appears like a repetition, but we are taught that there are no repetitions in the Word; where there is an apparent repetition of words and phrases, it is because one treats of truth and the other of good, or one treats of wisdom and the other of love, or again, one treats of the understanding and the other of the will. It is so in the present instance. In the first Blessing the subject is faith, or the understanding of truth, and the acknowledgment in the understanding that we know nothing from ourselves, but only from God, as we are taught by His Word; now, however, the subject is charity in the will, established there by means of temptations. In either case, we become an inhabitant of the kingdom of heaven, or a member of the church on earth,—first by a spiritual faith, and second by charity or a spiritual love of the neighbor. Faith comes first in time, and then there is a regular progression from faith to charity, through the path way of spiritual temptation,—the only pathway from faith to charity, from the earth to heaven.
The Lord's kingdom, indeed, is also over hell, and hell is therefore made to serve the ends of His kingdom; for nothing exists that is not made to serve the ends and uses of the Lord's spiritual kingdom among men. The evil serve by means of temptation, by means of the war they are permitted to wage against good,—an unwilling service, but a use which those who are in evil must serve, whether they will or not; for resistance is excited on the part of the regenerating man, and in this resistance his redemption is nigh, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Therefore," in patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem encompassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. ... So likewise when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand." (Luke 21:19, 20, 31.) Amen.
Lessons: Deuteronomy 30. Luke 21:1-24.
5069, 70; or
T. C. R.
Ninth Sermon: Matthew 5:11
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake" (Matthew 5: 11.)
We continue the subject of the spiritual temptations of the church, or the conflict between the internal and the external man. The conflict has now become grievous. It is a battle for life—not for natural, but for spiritual life. Hell as a threefold power is arrayed against the church in the effort to destroy it, but heaven assists. That the hells may not prevail, and spiritual life be wholly destroyed, all three heavens are opened and flow in to assist the church against the triple assault of hell. This assault, combining all the infernal forces, is expressed in the words of the text, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."
The Lord speaks later in this chapter of the threefold power of hell as three degrees of hatred, in the following words, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (5: 21, 22.)
The threefold character of hell, as consisting of three classes of malignant spirits, whose assault the church is to resist, separating itself from association with them, by shunning their diabolical evils, is also spoken of in the First Psalm, as follows: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night." As in the text, the man is said to be "blessed" who successfully resists this threefold assault of hell; that is, as to his spirit, he will be introduced into heaven by his delight in the truth of doctrine from the Word, the delight of the spiritual affection of truth, the source of eternal happiness to the angels in heaven. Those who are in the delight of this affection will conquer, because the Lord is in it, and by it inspires man to resist the forces of hell.
The text translated more literally would read as follows, "Blessed are ye, when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say every evil word against you lying, because of me." The word translated falsely or lying may also be rendered liars. The contrast is presented between the disciples of the Lord, on the one hand, and those who lie about them, on the other. The disciples are mentioned four times as being included in the pronouns ye and you) and the liars, or those who lie about them, are also mentioned four times, as being subjects of the verbs which are used. The Lord was addressing His disciples, and this is the sense of His words, "Blessed are ye [the disciples] when they [the liars] shall revile you, and when they [the liars] shall persecute you, and when they [the liars] shall say every evil word against you, lying, because of me." That is to say, it is because of me, your Lord, that the liars revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you. In the preceding verse, the disciples are told that they are persecuted because they are just, because of the justice in which they are; but a greater and more intense persecution follows, they who bring it are called liars, and it is now a war that is waged against the disciples, not because they are just, but because of Him, the Divine Teacher, Christ, who is Justice Itself, the Truth Itself, the Doctrine Itself. In the corresponding passage in Luke 6:22, we are told that the assault is made against the Lord as the Son of Man,—" Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach and cast out your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man." The Son of Man is the Lord in His Second Coming, revealing Himself in His Word as the Divine Doctrine, to establish a new Christian Church that will worship Him alone as the God of heaven and earth,—the context treating of the hatred and persecution of those who will then worship the Lord in heart and life.
They who so persecute the disciples are in opposition to the Lord, in opposition to the truth of His Word; they say that the truth is false, and are therefore called haters and liars.
They revile, persecute, and lie in the name of justice, in the name of the truth, and even in the name of the Lord; claiming to be the true representatives of the Lord, of justice and of righteousness; falsely asserting that the disciples are what they themselves really are, unrighteous, unjust, and deniers of the Lord and His Word. They are liars, they hate justice, righteousness and truth, yea, the Lord Himself, but veil their hatred under the appearance of faith in Him and in righteousness of life. The word translated "falsely," or "lying," signifies to deceive, and they who are meant are in fact deceivers and hypocrites. In a general sense, those who are in this state among men in the world are understood, but in a more interior sense evil spirits are meant who in the other world, under the guise of angels of light, have made to themselves false or seeming heavens. In a still more interior sense, which is the sense abstracted from persons, false doctrines are signified by "liars,"—false doctrines which are made to appear as the very truths of heaven.
The fact has been pointed out several times in these discourses, that the general subject of the Blessings is the establishment of the church by the implantation of the truth of doctrine, and the assault upon that truth by those who are in active opposition to it. Thus the temptation of the church as to truth of doctrine is also treated of, and runs through the series, even from the beginning. (See A. E. 659.) The Blessings, therefore, in an entire idea, teach that those in whom the truth of doctrine is implanted will receive eternal life by means of the spiritual affection of truth in which they are. These are they that are blessed and receive the great reward in heaven, which is conjunction with the Lord by use and in happiness forever.
The Lord was speaking to His disciples as the Teacher of men, and He was imparting the truth which was to bring salvation to mankind. It was no temporal kingdom that He came to establish, nor did He teach them concerning their temporal welfare. The world is full of books that treat of the temporal good of man, and they are being multiplied every day; for it appears that this is all that the mass of men are interested in or care for. But the Lord taught concerning the welfare of mankind in a kingdom where they were to live eternally; and it is this eternal welfare in an eternal kingdom that is meant by the word blessed, which the Lord repeated so many times in this early part of His discourse on the mountain. And the fact or eternal verity is now made clear that men are blessed even in their temptations, that even spiritual persecution is overruled and made to serve as an instrumentality in the salvation of men, an instrumentality for tie opening of heaven and introduction into it.
In the eighth Blessing, the subject is concerning the spiritual persecution or spiritual temptation of the church in general. "Blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of justice." But now, in the ninth Blessing, we are told that this temptation is threefold, signified by revile, persecute, and speaking falsely. Also, in the eighth Blessing it is said that die persecution is for the sake of justice, but now that it is for the sake of Me,—Jesus Christ the Lord. It is because of Him that the disciples, or the men of the church, whom the disciples represent, are reviled, persecuted, and lied about. In reality the assault is upon the truth which the disciples or men of the church hold, and which they confess before men. This truth is the Lord with them. It is because of this truth, which is the Lord Himself present in the church,—it is because of this truth which they love and defend, that the church has to undergo spiritual persecution. The general subject of both verses, therefore, of the two Blessings now before us, is the active assault by evil spirits who are hypocrites, and of evil men whom they inspire, and who are like unto them, and the active defense of the truth by the loyal members of the church in both worlds, by those in both worlds who are in the spiritual affection of truth. As we have said, the assault is really upon the Divine Truth from the Lord out of heaven, and because of it and its presence in the church, and so upon those who love it because it is the truth, and who from love defend it.
There are involved also in the ninth Blessing, as we have shown, three degrees of the temptation of the church, or three degrees of assault upon its life, thus three classes of evil spirits who make the assault, and therefore three degrees of the church itself, and thus three degrees of the Divine Truth of the Word which makes the church. The assault upon the inmost life of the church, upon its love to the Lord and its charity toward the neighbor, is what is meant by "revile"; the assault upon its mediate life, upon its doctrine, its faith, upon its understanding of the Word, is meant by those who "persecute"; and the assault upon its ultimate life, upon its works and uses, is meant by those who "say all manner of evil falsely, for my sake."
We have already intimated that the assault of the three hells upon the church involves the opening of the three heavens; and there is in fact an opening of the three heavens by the Lord in His Second Coming, or the opening of the three senses of the Word at that time. This the Lord has done, and the hells rise up to destroy the spiritual and celestial truth of the Word now revealed. The opening of the three heavens, or the three senses of the Word, is necessary at this day; for without this, as we are told, no flesh could be saved. The assault of the entire hell to destroy the last remnant of spiritual life with men was thus foreseen by the Lord, and provision was made by Him to meet it at once, in order that some men might be saved. The opening of the three heavens, or the three interior senses of the Word, is what is meant where John says in the Apocalypse, "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps." (14: 2.) A voice from heaven is revelation, which was first heard as the roaring of great waters, then as the sound of thunder, and finally as sweet music,—the playing on harps, and the singing of a song,—a song which had not been heard since the days of the Ancient Church; and hence it is called a "new song," which was sung by the whole heaven in glorification of the Lord, because He had come a second time into the world, proclaiming Himself the only God of heaven and earth, the only Teacher of Doctrine unto men.
We have mentioned the fact that the subject of the Blessings as a whole is the implantation of the truth of doctrine from the Lord by His Word, and that this implantation is attended at every step by temptation, which is spiritual combat or resistance to the falsities which assail the truth of the church. This assault upon the doctrine, upon the faith of the church, upon its understanding of the Word, is especially signified by persecution, and is the principal subject or leading idea in the verse which precedes the text, "Blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of justice." But as all things are threefold, or in a trine, so it is with the temptations of the church, and this because the life of the church itself is threefold or trinal. And so we have now presented to our view the assault that is made by the hells upon the entire life of the church from its inmost to its ultimate, upon its charity, upon its faith, and upon its uses or its works.
Hitherto the subject was the assault upon its faith, or its doctrine, which is signified by the term "persecution"; but now a more grievous assault is made upon the church and those who love the truth of the church. They are not only persecuted, but they are reviled, and they are not only persecuted and reviled, but all manner of evil is spoken against them. They are reviled for their charity, which is the love of the truth for the sake of the truth; they are persecuted for their faith, which is faith in the truth of God, a faith which rejects the conceits of human intelligence; and all manner of evil is said against them because of their application of truth to the uses of life, and because they willingly bear testimony to the truth before men, are ever ready to confess to the world all things of their faith in God and His Word. They are therefore reviled, persecuted, and lied about; that is, the truth which they represent is reviled, persecuted, and lied about,—all because of the Lord and His presence in His Word, which presence He reveals, and which revelation is received and loved by those who are to constitute His church. They are reviled because of their love, they are persecuted because of their faith, and their very testimony is turned against them and made an offence in the eyes of men, because they would that all men should be as they, lovers and doers of the truth of the Word of God.
The word translated revile signifies to censure, inveigh against, upbraid, to insult with opprobrious language, to bring reproach or disgrace upon any one. It signifies nearly the same as the word which is elsewhere translated to blaspheme, and which is applied especially to those who bring scandal or disgrace upon the Word of the Lord, and upon the Lord who is in His Word and who is the Word, and at .the same time upon those who love the Lord and His Word, and who, because they love the Lord, are in spiritual good or charity towards the neighbor.
As we have just said, the word blaspheme has nearly the same meaning in the Greek language as the word revile, and it is therefore legitimate for us to apply what is said in the Writings about blasphemy to the word revile, since the two words are so similar in their signification. Indeed, we read (A. E. 778) that "in human languages, as also in the Hebrew, there are various words by which blasphemings against God and Divine Truth are expressed; such as calumnies, reproaches, ignominies, taunts, revilings, vituperations, witty sayings, mockings, jeers, and many more." In fact, any term of human language which can be used to bring ridicule or insult or scandal upon the Divine Truth, or upon the Lord who is the Truth, would signify the same, or nearly the same, as blaspheme; and so it is with the word revile in the text.
Concerning blasphemy, we read that by "bringing the name of God into what is vain" is signified blasphemy and profanation, and that "blasphemy takes place when the things of the Word or of the doctrine of faith, thus the things which are holy, are held in derision, and are dragged down to unclean earthly things, and so are defiled." (A. C. 8882.) Again, in explaining the words, "Thou shalt not curse God," we are told that by this is signified "that Divine Truths are not to be blasphemed, as appears from the signification of 'cursing,' as denoting to blaspheme, for they who blaspheme also curse. The reason why it denotes that Divine Truths are not to be blasphemed is because 'God,' in the internal sense, is the Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord." (A. C. 9221.) In the next number (A. C. 9222), the words are explained, "Neither shalt thou revile the prince among thy people," by which is signified that "neither is the doctrine of truth to be blasphemed, appears from the signification of 'prince,' as denoting the primary truths of the church." It is stated further that "Divine Truth is the Word and the doctrine of truth from the Word," and that "they who in heart deny this truth blaspheme it, even though they praise it and preach it with their lips."
We are told further (A. R. 571, 692) that blasphemy is the denial of the Divinity of the Lord and of the holiness of the Word, and that it occurs when doctrine is not taken from the Word, but is hatched out from human intelligence; and that this latter is blasphemy, because the church is from no other source than from the Word, and is according to the understanding of the Word. If, therefore, a church comes into existence from any other source than the Word and doctrine from the Word, the name of God is blasphemed; for the Lord is then denied in heart, even when He is preached and outwardly confessed in the worship of the church; and it is said of such a church that it is "full of names of blasphemy," that is, it is filled with the sphere of profanation. Hence by the word revile, as used in the text, is signified the opening of the hell of blasphemy and profanation, and the influx of scandals from that hell against the Lord and His Word, by which every vestige of the church is destroyed, except with those who receive power from the Lord to resist and overcome that profane and unhallowed sphere.
The signification of persecution has been presented in the discourse on the eighth Blessing, wherein it was shown that by those who are "persecuted for the sake of justice" is meant the assault that is made upon the doctrine of revelation, the doctrine of Divine Truth, doctrine from the Word, the assault being made by those who have applied their human intelligence to Divine Revelation, and therefore falsifying and perverting it. For no man can understand the Word, or doctrine from the Word, unless he be in illustration from the Lord, unless the light of the Word itself shine in his mind as a lamp to guide him in his reading, in his study, and in his meditation. If he be not in illustration from the Lord, his mind will be filled with the light of the world, which is the light of human intelligence, and with this false light to guide him, he can do no otherwise than falsify and pervert the Word of God. Such a man is not in illustration from the Lord because he is not in the good of love to the Lord,—for it is love that kindles its own light in the mind,—and he is not in good of love to the Lord because he has not inwardly kept the commandments, although he may have kept them outwardly to be seen of men, for the sake of being regarded as an upright, pious, and religious man.
The light of human intelligence will necessarily falsify the Word, and doctrine from the Word, because the fires of heaven have not been enkindled in a mind where the pride of human intelligence dwells; for where there is no fire there is no light; and where the fire of heaven is not in the will or heart of man, the fire of hell is there, and the fire of hell is hatred of the neighbor. Such a man, as we have said, cannot do otherwise than pervert the Word and hate those who are in the true understanding of the Word, who are in this because of the love of heaven that is in their hearts, by virtue of an inward keeping of the commandments of God. Such hatred becoming active is what is called "persecution." The persecution that is treated of here is not so much a persecution as to the natural, material life, such as the early Christian martyrs suffered; it is not so much the confiscation of one's property and natural possessions, or the taking away of one's natural life; but it is a spiritual persecution; and a spiritual persecution is an attack upon the spiritual doctrine of truth which one holds and loves, presenting false arguments and false conclusions against the truth of one's faith, presenting with skill and cunning the falsified truths of the Word, bringing the mind into doubt and anxiety as to whether the truth that has been believed and loved is really true, the genuine truth of the Word. This doubt and anxiety is what is called spiritual temptation, and when the assault is resisted, and the truth defended because of the love of it for its own sake, it is called spiritual combat or spiritual war. In the eighth Blessing, the Lord said to the disciples that they would be "persecuted for the sake of justice," by which is meant that those who are in the faith of genuine truth desire to bring this truth into life, and that on this account they are assailed. If they hold their doctrine merely as an opinion or speculative theory, they are not disturbed; but because they wish to bring it forth in the fruits of their own life, and ardently desire that others should do the same, their faith is assailed, and the attack is followed up and persisted in with continuous energy. This is spiritual persecution.
But in the ninth Blessing, the element of blasphemy and profanation appears, and is set forth in the words of the text, especially in the first word—revile; and, according to a principle of all revelation, what is first said in a series enters into and rules in all that follows. As we have seen, the word revile, which is essentially the same as blaspheme, is the assault that is made upon the very essential love of the church, which is love to the Lord, which assault is made from the hells of the profaners of the Word. The second word is persecute,—" Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you." It is the same word that is used in the previous Blessing, "Blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of justice," but it has not here identically the same meaning, because it is modified by the series in which it comes; and the series treats of the profanation of the Word, and the assault upon the faith of the church by those who profane the Word. The persecution, therefore, is of a more malignant character than the former persecution.
We are told that the sphere of the profanation of the Word is a suffocative sphere, like some horrid, pungent, noxious gas, which, entering the lungs, paralyzes respiration, and poisons the blood. The lungs, and the respiration of the lungs, correspond to the understanding and the activities of the thought of the understanding. Thinking is spiritual breathing. The sphere of profanation entering the mind paralyzes the thought, producing a state of spiritual suffocation, from which there is no deliverance except by the Divine Power of the Lord. The former attack or persecution is mild as compared to this, and is relied upon as a last resort of the hells to destroy the faith and doctrine of the church. It is indeed a last resort, but there is still another which is meant by the words, "And say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake"; or more literally, "And say every evil word against you, lying because of me." This is the third term of the temptation described in this verse, the ultimate or last form of it.
By evil word is meant the same in general that is meant by scandal in the letter of the Word, especially in the New Testament. It is usually translated offence, and literally means a stumbling-block, which latter is defined in the English Dictionary to be "any obstacle of hindrance; something that may cause one to err or fall." In the same, scandal is defined to be the "heedless or malicious repetition and dissemination of evil reports; in law, malicious defamation by word of mouth." Behind scandal, or an evil word in regard to another, as we see from the definition, there is usually malice, which also is defined to be a wilfully and deliberately formed design to do another an injury. Thus the evil word or scandal is not an unpremeditated word, and is well expressed by the phrase "malice aforethought."
As we have seen, the evil that reigns in the sphere of profanation is malice or malignity of the worse kind, producing, where it enters, paralysis of the mental faculties. It is this malice that inspires and produces the scandal or evil word of the text. As used in the letter of the Word, and in the Writings, the term scandal must be understood as covering a broader field than the common usage of the word. In general, it is false assertion concerning the character of another; and more than this, false assertion concerning the Lord and the Divine things of the Word and the church. The Lord was merely a man like other men, having a human father; the Word is a human production, inferior to the standard works of literature; the heavenly doctrine is human in its origin, and immoral in its teaching; the Revelator for the New Church was insane; the men of the new Christian Church believe in and practice free love. These are among the innumerable instances of what is meant by "scandal" or "offense" in the Word, or by an "evil word" said against a disciple.
A scandal or evil word, when it is said, closes argument. The disposition of the mind that hears it is to accept it without investigation, and there is perhaps no further thought concerning it. It is like an obstacle suddenly thrown in front of a man, causing him to stumble and fall,—perhaps into a ditch or pit, out of which he may not be able to rise. For the sphere of profanation, the sphere of blasphemy,—a sphere of malignity,—is persuasive, and the ordinary mind is defenceless against it. This is the final effort of the hells to destroy the church, and its purpose is to close the human mind so that no light from heaven may enter into it, and that dense darkness may reign where light should be. It ceases to be an open, honorable, direct attack upon doctrine held and believed, but it is an indirect attack upon the same doctrine by attacking the character of those who hold and proclaim it. If they are destroyed, then the doctrine has no foothold among men. It is like destroying the foundations; for the church is founded in men, in the men who receive it and love it. If there are none left who believe and love the doctrine revealed from heaven, that doctrine is no longer present in the world, and there is no longer any church on earth. But this cannot be, since the Lord is present and reigns in His church among men.
In the Eleventh Psalm, the question is asked, "If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?" By the "righteous" or "the just" are meant the angels of heaven, and heaven could not continue if the church on earth should be destroyed. But the answer is given that the church will not be destroyed, even though it be in the midst of temptations. "The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men." (Ps. 11:3, 4.) "For evil doers shall be cut off; but they that wait upon the Lord shall inherit the earth." (Ps. 37:9.) Amen.
Lessons: Psalm 74. Revelation 12.
Tenth Sermon: Matthew 5:12
"Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5: 12.)
In the delight of spiritual affection is all heavenly happiness, because that delight is the activity of spiritual and celestial love, or of love to the neighbor and love to the Lewd. This delight has been expressed from the beginning of the present series by the term Blessed repeated several times; but it now takes on a threefold expression in the words Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven. The corresponding passage in Luke (6:23) is also threefold, as follows, "Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, great is your reward in heaven." By rejoice is signified the delight of the affection of truth, by be exceeding glad, and also by leap for joy, is signified the delight of the affection of good, and by the reward in heaven is signified the delight of the affection of use. First truth, then good, and finally the two together in use; in these three is all the happiness of heaven, coming as the result of spiritual labor and conflict. The idea of the conflict is also expressed in a threefold manner, in the verse preceding the text, where we find the terms revile, persecute, and speaking all manner of evil. First the persecution, which is threefold; and now the triumph or victory in the reward of heaven, which is also threefold.
From the beginning, all through the series, a duality has appeared. Each Blessing is expressed in two distinct sentences or parts, the first of which has relation to truth, or the affection of truth, and the second to good, or the affection of good; and now the third is added,—use, which is the end in all from the beginning, the inmost and the ultimate of all, the first and last of the Word, of tie church, and of heaven,—the very heavenly reward itself.
The reward follows the persecution, but let us note carefully that the reward is not on account of the persecution or temptation, but on account of overcoming in temptation. The reward is for the combat, and not for the pain of the combat. It is not for what we have suffered and endured, but for our resistance in it, that the victory is given. Suffering is a condition, not an end. When the body recovers from disease, it is not because of the pain that health has returned, but because of the resistance of the body to that which has assailed its life. Temptation is to the spirit of man what pain is to his body; it is the anxiety and distress which is felt when man, as a spirit, and from the love of his spirit, resists that which assails its life. As in the body, the pain ceases when health returns, so in the spirit, temptation ceases when the victory is gained; then there is happiness and rejoicing, and the spirit enters into its reward.
The purpose in the combat is that the internal may subdue the external, that what is of heaven in the interiors of man may subdue what is of the world in his exteriors. But an internal must first be formed. Heaven must descend into the interiors of the natural, and form itself there, before it can proceed to the conquest of the external man. Hence the Blessings treat first of the formation of this new internal, or of this new mind, of this new will and new understanding, of this new love and charity, of this new faith, of this new conscience, in the interior of the natural mind.
This, as we are taught, must first be formed, and until it is formed the evils of the external man cannot be subdued, and regeneration take place. The final subjugation of the external, and bringing it into correspondence with the internal, is now effected; and the state of this correspondence, which is the heavenly state, is the subject of this Tenth Blessing, which we are now to consider. Let us now endeavor to enter more fully into the spiritual sense of this final Blessing.
The Lord said to His disciples that they were now to rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great would be their reward in heaven. The words translated exceeding glad are usually translated in the Writings by the word exult, and are expressive of a higher and more intense degree of joy or happiness than the word translated rejoice. We have seen that the ruling affection in the Blessings is the spiritual affection of truth; and it receives various modes of expression in the series throughout. Here the word rejoice is used, the first word of the verse, including in it all that precedes, but having associated with it a term of a higher and more interior signification than itself, expressed by the phrase be exceeding glad, or exult; and the higher thing that is signified is the spiritual affection of good. The affection of truth indeed comes first in the order of regeneration, and afterwards the affection of good, or a new understanding of truth comes first, and by it a new will of good is formed. It is this new understanding formed by the spiritual affection of truth, and the delight of that affection, that is expressed by the word rejoice; and it is this new will formed by the spiritual affection of good, and the delight of that affection, that is expressed by the words be exceeding glad or exult. These two make the internal man; that is, the new understanding, with its affection and delight, which is the affection and delight of truth, and the new will, with its affection and delight, which is the affection and delight of good; and the Lord expressed to His disciples the heavenly happiness there is in this internal state of truth and good in the internal man by the words, "Rejoice and be exceeding glad."
But the new understanding and the new will, now conjoined as one, have now come forth and subdued the external man, removing its lusts and delights, its falsifications of truth, its perverted principles of life. This has not been accomplished except by a long contest or conflict between the internal and external man, in which the external man has resisted the internal; in which, the falsities and evils of the external have fought against the truths and goods of the internal; in which, evil spirits have entrenched themselves, hoping thereby to secure permanently a foothold upon the earth; and in which, men in the world have co-operated with evil spirits, and assisted in the assault upon the truths and goods of the internal man. For the greatest and most grievous temptations of the church, and of the individual, take place when men in the outer world cooperate with evil spirits of the inner world in a combined attack upon the principles of the church stirring and rousing into activity the evils that are in the external man of the members of the church. If anything will destroy the church, it is this combined assault that will accomplish it; and this attack has power because the falsities and evils that are in evil spirits, and in men like unto them, are also in the external natural of the regenerating man. But when these are removed, the united forces of hell, and of the world, have no longer any power; man is at rest in the heavenly state, and the church, as the Lord's heaven on earth, is in the fruition of its life, resting in the happiness and peace of its uses. This is what is meant by the words of the text, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven."
The new understanding now occupies the external man and reigns in its thought, and in the expression of its thought in speech; and the new will also reigns in the external, in all its affection, and in the expression of its affection in the actions of the body; that is, the new understanding and the new will reign in the uses performed by word and deed, and there is happiness and delight in the uses so performed. This is heaven, this is the heavenly state, which to some extent is felt in the natural world, and experienced in fullness in the spiritual world after death, and this is what is meant by the words, "Great is your reward in heaven." For the reward of heaven is freedom and happiness in a life of use.
The word here translated reward (Greek, misthos), signifies pay, wages, salary, rent, profit, income, gift, and so reward; and in a bad sense, paying back, requital, punishment. The corresponding word in the Latin (merces) is similar in meaning, and is derived from a verb (mereo) signifying to deserve, to merit, also to earn, get, obtain, gain, acquire. From the Latin come the English words merchant and merchandise, or that which is acquired by trading. It thus has in it the general idea of what returns to or upon any one, whether good or evil, as the result of work, labor, effort, or output of any kind. The word thus came to be applied in the Christian Church,—and it is so understood according to the appearance in the literal sense of the Word—to the reward after death of heavenly happiness and bliss, coming as a gift to him who has been faithful in the things of a religious life while living in this world; also to the punishment that comes upon him who lives a life of wickedness and sin. The idea of merit came at length to be applied to the idea of reward, and the faithful were taught to believe that heavenly happiness would be given to them as a reward or gift on account of their merit or deserving arising out of life of piety on earth. The evil also would receive the reward which they have merited, in the punishment by the fires of hell always burning, tormenting, and torturing than forever.
We have already indicated, however, that the reward of heaven is not anything that is arbitrarily given in return for works done while on earth, especially the works of piety, but that it is nothing else than the legitimate result, in the life of charity in the will and faith in the understanding, devoid of all idea of merit or self-deserving; that it is nothing else than the delight of use from the love of use, or love appearing as use. It is the delight in doing without thought of self or of what one merits and deserves. It is the delight in giving forth by work or use without reflection or deliberation on what one is to receive in return for what he does. It is like a man who works from the love of his work, and not merely for the pay or wages he is to receive; for it is well known that he who works from the love of his work is delighted with the work itself, and that the salary or income is not the first consideration with him, however desirable such acquisition may be for the support of natural life. It is well known, also, that those who succeed are for the most part those who love their work, who take an interest in the work itself, and who thus do not rebel against work, and feel themselves driven to it merely for the return in money they are to receive for it. In fact, the latter state is more like that in hell, where the evil are driven to labor by the hope of reward or the fear of punishment; and the former state is like that in heaven, where the angels are in the constant activities of use from the love of use itself, where the delight of use is their chief delight, and the only delight that is heaven to them; with the difference, however, that the uses which the angels perform, and in which they have the delight of their life, are the spiritual rather than the natural uses of charity. Natural use has in view natural sustenance in the world, and the natural good of society, the temporal good of men; but spiritual use has for its end the spiritual good of men, the eternal salvation of the human race, since this is the end with the Lord Himself, imparted by Him to the angels of heaven. This end, therefore, reigns in every use in heaven.
The product of natural use is the reward of natural acquisition,—property, land, honors, the wealth of this world. These also are blessings when they are not made the chief end, but are regarded as instrumentalities for higher uses. These blessings come according to needs, as seen by Providence,—the result of work or natural use performed from the love of it. And they may even come where wealth itself is the end; but such wealth is only temporary; it does not last longer than the life of the body, and cannot be taken into the other world. The only wealth that survives natural death is the wealth or riches of the mind, the acquisitions of the spirit.
There is, indeed, a wider view of the reward of natural use than the mere acquisition of material wealth. There are certain mental acquirements that come as a reward in the performance of the uses of the world. There is no physical or material reward without a corresponding mental reward or acquisition; for there is such a thing as natural intelligence, and there are other related qualities of the natural mind and character. These are given to men by means of the use which they perform; and every man who does systematic work with energy and industry is rewarded by certain mental acquisitions, certain mental possessions, the properties of natural reason and intelligence. These are the real rewards of natural use. The man who does not work cannot come into these rewards of use, cannot become an intelligent or rational man of the world. His mind remains dull, stupid, undeveloped. All the work done before actual use begins, such as the work of natural education, is but a preparation for use, and is thus but a preparation for intelligence. For let us repeat that real intelligence comes only by work; let us repeat that natural work is not only for the acquisition of material wealth, but also for the acquisition of intelligence; and indeed one may obtain natural intelligence by work, even if he does not acquire wealth. This is true of a number of men.
Natural education is the stewing of the memory, the training of the faculties, the provision of instrumentalities, preparatory to the performance of use. But these do not bring intelligence, still less wisdom. If a man stops here, he is in a state of arrested development and he will be placed among the herd of the dumb, driven cattle of the world. He will have no real mind, no real human understanding,—not even a natural understanding, except perhaps some faint resemblance of it, so long as he associates with other men. He must proceed to work; he must apply the instrumentalities he has acquired by his early education, or he will be a fool among the workers of the world.
The thing to which we wish to call attention in respect to natural use is this, that it is the delight of work from the love of it that opens and expands the faculties of the mind; and this is the reason that those who work, especially those who love work, and take delight in work, are the men who reach the highest degree of natural intelligence, who receive the real reward of the world, the real acquisitions that are of value among men who reach the highest positions of dignity and eminence.
It is because of this instrumentality of delight,—the delight of work,—in opening the mind and expanding all its faculties, that the delight of use in heaven is called the heavenly reward. It is not because of the delight of use alone that it is called reward, but because it is the means of stimulating all the faculties of the mind, the means by which is all intelligence and wisdom in heaven,—all understanding, all perception, all illustration to the angels, to all who inhabit the kingdom of the Lord. As in the world, men have all real natural intelligence by means of work, by means of the delight of work from the love of it, so it is in heaven,—except that the work or use in heaven is spiritual, and not natural, and thus that the intelligence and wisdom in heaven is spiritual, and not natural. And we see herein the reason why it is said in the Writings that by "reward" in the text,—the "reward in heaven" which will be "great" to those who overcome in temptations, is meant salvation. For it is just this thing we are talking about that is salvation,—this thing of spiritual delight in use, stimulating and opening all the faculties of the angelic mind, bringing to the angels a continual increase of intelligence and wisdom.
This is salvation, because in it a man is saved from the opposite state in hell. There is no delight of use from the love of use in hell. The devils have no love of use; and where there is no love there is no delight, and thus no happiness. And where there is no delight of use from the love of it, there is no opening, but rather a closing of the mind, more and more. Instead of a love of use, the devils have a hatred of use; and where use or work is hated,—as we see dimly represented in the world where men hate work,—there can be no intelligence, no perception, no enlightenment of the mind, naught but dense ignorance, folly, stupidity, and insanity. It is salvation from this state that is called the heavenly reward, a salvation that begins by the gradual formation of a love of use while man still lives in the world of nature. It is well known and often remarked that work keeps a man out of mischief. It saves him from many of the ills of human life. Extend this idea into the other world after death, and we can see what salvation is, the salvation that keeps men from the eternal mischief and misery of hell, by introducing them into the eternal work and use of heaven, and into all the acquisitions of use in heaven. Hence the fulness of meaning in the Lord's words to His disciples, and to all men who would be saved from the mischief of hell, and who are willing to fight to be saved from it, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven."
Now there must be with men not only natural work from the love of it,—for the sake of the acquisitions of natural intelligence,—but there must also be the beginnings of spiritual work, and thus a preparation while in the body for spiritual uses after death. For he who would enter into the kingdom of heaven in the spiritual world must have something of that kingdom in him before he enters that world. Spiritual work while still in the world consists in the acquisition of the truth of doctrine from the Word, and in combat from that doctrine, and for it, against the falsities of evil which rise up from hell,—from the hell of the natural man. This combat from doctrine introduces to spiritual use, when man,—fighting from the Lord in doctrine,—overcomes in the combat of temptation. It introduces him into the delight of spiritual use, and thereby into the sphere of angelic intelligence and wisdom, which will be relatively obscure while in the body, but immensely full and active after death for great shall be your reward in heaven. This is taught throughout the Blessings; this is what is meant by blessing which is so often spoken of and repeated: and finally, it is openly spoken of in the text as the reward in heaven which those are to receive who overcome in the combats of temptation,—the reward of use.
In the explanation of the text given in the Writings, we are told that by the words "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven" is signified, in general, heaven and its joy to those who are in the spiritual affection of truth, for they alone fight and conquer because the Lord is in that affection, who resists and conquers for man in the combats of temptation. (A. E. 695.) This introduces us to the subject of redemption, or the redeeming work which the Lord accomplishes in the regenerating man, and in the church in the process of its growth and development. In fact, the Blessings, which we have been considering, treat in their inmost sense of this redeeming work of the Lord, treat of the Lord's part in the work —the Divine essential work—in the regeneration of man and in the establishment of the church.
When the Lord was in the world, visibly among men, He performed a universal work of judgment and redemption in the spiritual world, subjugating the hells, bringing the heavens into order, and establishing the beginnings of a new spiritual church on the earth; and in order that this new spiritual church might continue to be established, the work of judgment and redemption also continued, and is to continue forever. Every man who is saved must first be redeemed, and the church itself must be continuously redeemed from the power of hell, in order that it may become more and more a spiritual church on the earth. The Blessings, in their inmost sense, treat of this Divine work of judgment and redemption, and of the process by which the Lord successively redeems the church and the man of the church, separating him from hell, and finally introducing him into heaven.
In the Blessings we learn that the Lord redeems man by first instructing him in truths of doctrine from the Word. This is what is meant by the words which introduce the Blessings, "And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying." When the truth is taught, the Teacher Himself is present in the truth which He teaches, inspiring into the truth received by those who are "poor in spirit," who acknowledge their ignorance and are willing to be taught—inspiring into them the spiritual affection of truth. This affection then becomes the inmost of the church, and the Lord is in that affection, imparting the power to resist the assaults of evil spirits; and as there is combat, and in the degree of the combat on the part of man, the Lord overcomes for him, and disperses the evil spirits who infest him, casting them into hell, and thus separating him from them, introducing him into heaven—for redemption is nothing else than the judgment which separates the regenerating men of the church in both worlds from the societies of evil spirits, who are in the world of spirits, dispersing those societies and casting its members into hell. This judgment and redemption is going on continually in the world of spirits—the casting into hell of the evil spirits which environ and threaten the destruction of the church. This final triumph, and the salvation which follows redemption, is what is meant by the words of the text, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven." And indeed there is no rejoicing, no exultation, like that of men when there comes to them after death the realization of a release from the power of evil spirits, and a realization of introduction into heaven; for then, as the affection of truth has been the inmost of the church, the affection of good becomes the inmost of heaven, and they will forever be inspired by the delight of use in heaven, they will forever rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great will be their everlasting reward. Amen.
Lessons: Deuteronomy 10: 6-22. Matthew 10: 16-42. A. C. 9981-9984.
Music: Liturgy, p. 503, 533, 568, 614, 659. Hymnal, p. 144, 147, 151.
Prayers: Liturgy, nos. 150, 151.
Eleventh Sermon: Matthew 5:12 continued
"For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." (Matthew 5:12.)
It is a principle of the Divine Word that what is first said in any given series is universal therein, and reigns throughout to the end. We have seen this rule illustrated in the series of Blessings, in the introduction to which we are told that the Lord opened His mouth and taught His disciples. To open His mouth and teach, when said of the Lord, is to open His Word and reveal true doctrine from it, in order that a church may be formed in the world by means of doctrine so revealed, in order that a church may be formed with those who receive this doctrine in heart and life. But the truth of doctrine cannot be impressed upon the mind, upon the internal mind, unless it be received in a humble and willing spirit, and man acknowledges that he can be taught by the Lord alone through revelation from His Word. Hence the first Blessing speaks of the "poor in spirit," who are they that are affected by truth for the sake of the truth itself, and who are therefore in the spiritual affection of truth, that affection by which the internal man is opened, and which is assailed in the combats of temptation; which latter, therefore, is also treated of in the series. For whenever there is any spiritual opening in the regenerating man, the opposite is at once present by permission of the Lord, in order that the reception of the truth may be broad, expansive and yielding; and not hard, narrow and resisting. The opposite is therefore permitted to be present, or spirits who are in the opposite, introducing doubts by which are inaugurated the anxieties of spiritual temptation, and which are not removed except through a series of bitter tribulations. These tribulations of the church, experienced by those who are in the spiritual affection of truth, are also treated of in the series of the Blessings, and appear prominently at the close, in the use of the word persecution, which is brought upon those who love the truth because it is the truth.
Another principle of Divine Revelation now comes to view, namely, that whatever reigns in any given series, as its universal, appears at its close. We have seen that the ruling idea in the present series is that those are redeemed or regenerated by the Lord who receive the truth of Doctrine from Him, and live according to it, and who therefore must of necessity undergo a succession of temptation combats, or spiritual labors, by which the truth is established, or implanted in the internal man. The blessing which comes as a reward of combat, as the triumph of victory, to him who perseveres to the end, now appears at the close, and is spoken of as the "reward in heaven," coupled with the joy and gladness that attends a life of use in the kingdom of the Lord.
As we have stated, temptation is treated of from the beginning of the Blessings, though it does not appear prominently at first; still it is present, since evil spirits assail even in the initiament of the church, endeavoring to strangle or choke its life, or to devour the man-child as soon as it is born. This temptation, this persecution of the woman which brought forth the man-child, is involved, though not openly expressed, in the first Blessing of the series, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." For none are "poor in spirit" except those who are humbled by temptations. All others are proud in spirit, filled with the pride or conceit of human intelligence, attributing their intelligence to themselves and not to the Lord. This element of temptation, present throughout, becomes prominent at the close, and is openly spoken of in the words,
Blessed are they that are persecuted for the sake of justice. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake;" and finally in the words of the text, "For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
It will be noted that now, at the close of the Blessings, the Lord speaks of those who follow Him as prophets, and not as disciples; and in the beginning of the series which follows the Blessings, they, as prophets, are called the "salt of the earth." The prophets in old time were they who proclaimed the truth, even in the presence of kings and rulers, even in the presence of a hostile civil power, and on that account were persecuted. The disciples themselves, as apostles, fulfilled this role of the prophets, even to the martyr's grave; and we are told that on this account they were permitted after death, to wear a martyr's crown,—a badge of the reward of victory. The prophets, then, are they who confess the truth, and who openly proclaim it before men, in confessing and proclaiming the Lord in His coming to save mankind. They speak the truth openly, and conceal nothing. These, and no others, are the true prophets of the Lord; these, and no others, are called the "salt of the earth," and the "light of the world;" and the church that is established by the doctrine so proclaimed is spoken of as a "city set upon a mountain, which cannot be hid;" for, as is added," men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that it may give light to all in the house;" and the disciples, who are to become apostles and prophets, are exhorted to let their light shine before men, "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
The disciples were told, in the closing words of the Blessings, that they would be persecuted as the prophets who were before them had been persecuted. By this is meant, in the historical sense of the words, that the disciples, in their work as apostles and evangelists of the coming of the Lord, would be persecuted as the prophets of the Jewish church had been, because of their bold proclamation of the truth without fear of consequences to themselves. But history, with the idea of time, of place, and of person, is removed when we enter into the spiritual sense of the Word. We are then given a view of conditions in the spiritual world rather than in this; and we are not told of the prophets who worked before, or previously to any given period of the church's history. Removing, therefore, the idea of time from the term before, and thinking rather of what is prior in state, we learn of the tribulations of the faithful in the other world previous to the judgment. We learn of the formation of the New Heaven out of the faithful after they have passed through tribulations. We learn of their songs of deliverance on entering the societies of the New Heaven, wearing the martyr's crown; or, as viewed more interiorly, on entering into the delight and happiness of use in those heavenly societies, fulfilling the words, "Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven." We learn of the descent from the New Heaven of a New Church to men in the world. We learn of the spiritual temptations of the church, or its tribulations in both worlds, in the process of its formation and establishment. The tribulations of the faithful in the spiritual world is what is meant, therefore, by the "persecution of the prophets who were before you." The tribulations of those of the church in this world, who are faithful and true to the teachings of the Lord in His Word, is what is meant by you, the disciples, who are also persecuted. The formation of heaven and the church by the marriage of good and truth, as the result of spiritual temptation, is what is meant by the disciples as prophets being called the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set upon, a mountain that cannot be hid, whose good works are seen by all men that are capable of any spiritual understanding of the Word, and seen for a time even by those who only look to see in order to falsify, pervert, and accuse.
The New Heaven is formed of those who have gone before us into the spiritual world, and have passed through the spiritual persecutions which are permitted to come upon every regenerating man; and the New Church descends from them, or by means of them, to the earth. It is said of those who have gone before that "their labors do follow with them;" it is also said of the church on earth that it "enters into the fruits of their labors;" and it is indeed true that the church is continually entering into the fruits of their labors; for those who have gone before are still present and still laboring. For the New Heaven is the internal of the church on earth, the inmost of which is the Lord Himself. The Lord is the soul, the New Heaven is the mind, and the Church on earth is the body of this Greatest Man. Without the labor of the Lord Himself when He was in the world, without His presence now in His Divinely Glorified Human, without the labors of those who have already gone into the New Heaven, the Church on earth would be a body without a soul, a body consummated and dead. The salt would be salt- less, the light would be extinguished; all would be darkness on the mountain where the city should have been; there would be no good works by which men could glorify their Father in heaven, nor would any man be left to glorify.
Those who are here called persecutors, in the book of Revelation (12:10) are called the accusers of our brethren. By the "brethren" there are meant the same as the disciples or prophets who are persecuted. We read that there was rejoicing in heaven because "the accuser of our brethren was cast down, which did accuse them before our God day and night." Concerning these words we are told that "by the brethren are meant those who are in the doctrine of the New Church, and in a life according to it. By accusing is signified to oppose that doctrine, to denounce it as false, and to cry out against it; and because they do this continually as before God, the dragon is called the 'accuser of our brethren,' that accuses them before God day and night. The devil also does this, when he tempts; for he draws forth various things from man, which he calls falsities, and condemns." (A. R. 554.)
We read further that "by an accuser is signified one who impugns, chides, and rebukes; the same expression, also, in the original tongue, signifies an adversary and rebuker; and what is wonderful, they who are dragons, although they make no account of the life, yet accuse the faithful in the spiritual world, if they observe in them any evil of ignorance; for they inquire into their life, in order that they may reproach and condemn, and hence they are called accusers," (A. E. 746) and further that "diabolical spirits desire nothing more ardently than to find something false; nay, it is common with them to induce from themselves something false, and then to make it a subject of accusation." (A. C. 1917.) It may be added that by Satan is meant an adversary, a persecuter, an accuser; and we read in Revelation (12:9) of him who is called "the accuser of our brethren," that he was "the great dragon who was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan;"and further, that this same dragon, the Devil and Satan, was cast down into the earth, where he persecuted the woman that brought forth the man-child (12: 12, 13), by which is meant that in the Last Judgment the spirits of the dragon were cast down from heaven into the world of spirits.
It is clear from this teaching, therefore, that the spirit of accusation is abroad in the world of spirits. The Doctrine also teaches us that what is active in the world of spirits is also active in the natural world; and we know, both from observation and experience, that this same spirit of accusation does indeed prevail in the natural world, that it prevails in every department of human endeavor. It is strikingly illustrated in the political field, especially in the activities of a political campaign. This spirit is in the political world because it is abroad in the churches,—the source and spring of all human activities. If the church were in charity, there would be charity everywhere among men; but since it is not, real charity is a thing difficult to find. The New Church at the present time is largely pervaded by the same spirit, since whatever is the prevailing spirit in the world of spirits and in the natural world is most difficult to resist, because the hereditary inclination of everyone is to the same thing, and the human mind yields to it as if to an irresistible force; and since it is the spirit of hell, and not of heaven, it follows that the New Church will be established just in the degree that this spirit is met and overcome.
The Lord Himself was reviled, accused and persecuted. All manner of evil was said against Him. Hence He, as the Greatest Prophet, is meant in the supreme sense of the words, "For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." The Lord Himself was before, prior, above all the prophets and all the disciples; He was therefore persecuted more than all others, and it is because of Him that others are accused and persecuted; it is because of Him that the church and the regenerating men of the church are hated, even as He Himself said to His disciples on another occasion, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. ... If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also." (John 15: 18, 20.) But the Lord resisted and overcame, and those who would be of His Church and His heaven must also resist and overcome; and they can resist and overcome because He did it, and will do it in them and for them, if they cooperate with Him, and labor from Him. If the Lord could not escape persecution, neither can they. For if they yield to persecution, they will cease to resist evil, and the Lord can then do nothing for them.
The spiritual descends into the natural of man, or heaven descends into the world of spirits and into the church on earth, just in the degree that good spirits and regenerating men resist evils and falsities inspired from hell,—resist the assault, the persecution of infernal spirits; and what is more, according to such resistance there will be increase—increase of intelligence and wisdom, increase in the societies of the New Heaven, increase in the Church on earth.
Increase always follows persecution. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. The battle of liberty brings life to a nation. Spiritual temptation opens heaven, and the life of heaven flows down into the church, bringing renewal to all her activities, producing the fruits of both spiritual and natural increase.
The sons of Israel, who represented the church, were persecuted in Egypt. They then represented the church when good or charity begins to take the first place, and is made fruitful by the multiplication of truths. Hence we read that "the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them." Now evil spirits, as soon as they observe that charity has become the first thing of the church, both in faith and in practice, are moved to assail and extinguish its life, for they see that, unless this be done, their dominion over the souls of men will soon come to an end. Hence the new king of Egypt, who knew not Joseph, "said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens." (Exod. 1:7-11.)
But a church that is in the beginnings of spiritual good, a church in which charity has assumed the first place, instead of extinguishment by persecution, enters into renewed growth and activity because of the persecution, or because of its resistance to assault. Hence we read that the more the Egyptians afflicted the children of Israel, "the more they multiplied and grew." (Exod. i: 12.)
Persecution, or spiritual temptation, is therefore a necessary means to spiritual growth; indeed, an instrument of mercy in the hands of the Lord, permitted of Him, because in no other way is effected deliverance from the thraldom of infernal spirits, and introduction to the peace and happiness of heaven. "For every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15:2.) —Amen.
37: 1-14. Revelation 10.
Twelfth Sermon &mdash 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.