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Previous: 22. The Olive Up: The Language of Parable Next: 24. The Fig Tree

23. The Vine

The vine cannot stand alone, but attaches itself by strong tendrils to a tree or other support that it may rise off the ground into the air and sunshine where it can bear its fruit. The leaves are large; the flowers are small and inconspicuous. The grapes are borne in clusters, each grape being a little sack full of sweet juice which may be easily pressed out as wine. The wine is very unlike the oil which olives yield; it is more like water, but made sweet and spirited in the vine by circulation in the sunshine. It seems like water with sunshine in it.

When we studied the fishes, we thought that the water in which they live is like an atmosphere of merely natural, worldly thought, while the sunny air which the birds love is like an atmosphere of spiritual thought, in which one looks from a more interior point of view and with a recognition of the Lord's providence in all things. In the vine, we find the water drawn up and circulated in the air and sunshine till it becomes infused with life and spirit. Is it possible for the natural truth of science, or of history, or of right and wrong to undergo in us a similar change?

Can we learn the truths of nature or of the letter of the Word in their plain, natural form, and earnestly reflect upon them in spiritual light till they seem no more mere natural truths but are made sweet and living by a perception of a heavenly purpose - a Divine Providence in them all? The faculty in us which can so transform natural truth and infuse into it the sunshine of heaven is the spiritual vine.

A beautiful example of such transformation is given us in the Lord's sermon on the mount, where the Lord took the plain, literal precepts to them of old time, and presented them in new forms which revealed their heavenly spirit. The stern command, "Thou shalt not kill," becomes "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." "Thou shalt not commit adultery," becomes "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." In raising the natural truths into heavenly light, revealing the heavenly spirit in them, the Lord was "the true vine." In the miracle at Cana also, when the Lord turned the water into wine, He showed His desire and power to turn the commandments into blessings in us as we study and practice them. (John. ii. 1-10; AE 376)

We called the olive the tree of knowledge of the Lord's goodness; the ability to perceive His goodness and to bring forth something of it in works of neighborly kindness. Let us call the vine, knowledge of the Lord's wisdom; that is, the ability to perceive His wisdom in the truths of nature and the letter of the Word. and to embody it in good works with a delightful sense of its heavenly blessedness. (AC 1069, 5113, 9139; AE 376)

Do we see why the vine cannot stand alone, but must attach itself to other objects to rise into the air and bear its fruit? The ability to see and enjoy the Lord's wisdom takes direction and shape from the thing to which it is applied, and bears its best fruit when guided upward from the earth in association with what is elevated and noble. (Compare water, which takes its form and color from that which holds it. Chapter xxviii)

As we turn to the Bible, we find a man or the church many times compared to a vine. What element in the church or in man's character is especially meant in such comparisons? The spiritual intelligence; the ability to see the Lord's wisdom in natural truths and to bring it forth with delight in works of charity. (AC 5113, 9139)

"Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. . . . Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it." (Ps. lxxx. 8-16) Evidently it tells of the children of Israel, and of the Lord's church, which they represented. Especially the verse tells of the development of spiritual intelligence in the church, and in each member of the church, and even in our Lord's own human life, from the natural knowledge which is represented by Egypt (Chapter xxxviii), and the dangers to which it is exposed from the attacks of evil passions with their false arguments. (AE 405, 518 654; AC 5113)

"Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill [literally, in the horn of the son of oil]: and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. . . . What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? . . . For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry." (Isa. v. 1-7) This beautiful song of the vineyard is in reality a song of the house of Israel, that is, of the Lord's church. Especially it is the story of the Lord's care for the spiritual intelligence of the church; for its ability to perceive His wisdom and bring it forth in works of charity. What is suggested by "the very fruitful hill" or "the horn of the son of oil " in which the vine is planted? Does it not suggest the innocent, loving state of the Most Ancient Church, from which sprung the intelligence of the Ancient Church; or the innocent affections of childhood, from which spiritual intelligence grows; or the good heart which makes one wise? (AC 1069, 9139; AE 375, 918)

In almost the same words the Lord in the Gospel describes His church. "Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. . . . And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them." (Matt. xxi. 33-45; AE 922; AC 9139)

Spiritual intelligence was especially characteristic of the Ancient Church, which followed the childlike innocence of Eden and is represented by Noah and his descendants. In the story we read, "And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard." (Gen. ix. 20) In these few words is described the ability of that church to perceive in natural truths the Lord's spiritual wisdom, and to bring it forth in works of charity. (AC 1069) But what can be meant by the words which follow: "And he drank of the wine, and was drunken "? (Gen. ix. 21) They mean that the people of this church lost their heavenly character through conceit in their own intelligence. We say that one's "head is turned " by conceit; he becomes foolish, spiritually drunken, when he trusts his own intelligence, and falls into many errors. (AC 1071, 9960; AE 376)

To learn what spiritual drunkenness is, turn again to the parable of the vineyard "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! " (Isa. v. 20-23; AE 376; AC 1073; AR 721) "The inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Rev. xvii. 2) These are the words used in the Revelation to describe the terrible falsifications of truth due to the love of ruling over others, especially in the Roman Catholic Church. (AE 1035; AR 721) Many times olive oil and wine are named together in the Word: what two elements of the church or of character do they represent? "Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over." (Ps. xxiii. 5; AC 5120; AE 727) "Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine." (Ps. civ. 15; AE 375) The good Samaritan bound up the wounds of him that fell among thieves, "pouring in oil and wine." (Luke x. 34; AC 905 7; AE 375, 376, 962; NJHD 87)

"I am the vine," our Lord says, "ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit for without me ye can do nothing." (John xv. 5) These words have always shown us our need of dependence on the Lord. We see now that they especially teach that all spiritual intelligence is from the Lord, and all ability to do works which are really wise and good. (AC 1069, 5113, 9139) Can we see also why the Lord, in instituting the Holy Supper, "took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood "? (Matt. xxvi. 27, 28) Of what spiritual gift from Him is the wine a symbol? And it is more than a symbol; it is actually a means of communicating to us the spiritual gift. The wine represents and helps us to receive a perception of the wise ways of life and of their delightfulness. It is the Lord's blood because we receive from the current of His Divine thought. (TCR 706, 730; AE 376; NJHD 211-213)


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23. The Vine

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