35. Ivory and Pearl
Ivory and pearl seem to belong among the stones and jewels, but they are both from the animal kingdom. Ivory is from the tusks of the elephant, and pearl is found in the shell of an oyster. We must give a thought to the animals which produce them.
The elephant is the largest and strongest of the land animals now living. It has other marked physical peculiarities; do you think of one? The curious trunk which serves the elephant in place of hands. But strictly, what is the trunk? It is the elephant's nose which is so wonderfully developed. Do you think of another peculiarity? The tusks. And what are they? They are two teeth from the elephant's upper jaw, which grow so large and strong that they become very formidable weapons. We find further that elephants are wonderfully intelligent, having a quick perception quite equal to any animal, and they are easily trained to do useful work. Their patience sometimes is exhausted, and then they become furious and can hardly be restrained. They seem to have a remarkable memory of wrongs done to them, and there are many stories told of their revenge for injustice which they have received.
Animals as a class correspond to what? To the warm, sensitive affections of our own hearts, some of them good, some bad. The elephant then corresponds to some affection,, and evidently a strong one) - one which is useful and which yet is liable to be aroused even to fury. What can this affection be? The wonderful development of the elephant's nose and teeth may help us to decide.
What spiritual faculty corresponds to the nose? Quick perception of the quality of people and things. (AC 4403, 46244633) And the teeth? The opening of our food by the teeth corresponds to critical examination of what is offered us for belief and acceptance, to see what its real inwardness is, and to discover anything amiss which may lie concealed in it. The teeth by which we make this critical examination are our well-established principles of right and. justice by which we judge. (Chapter 6) The tusks of the elephant represent such knowledge of justice; far more than is needed to examine the spiritual food offered for our own acceptance, but reaching out to explore the affairs of life around us to discover their true quality. The elephant therefore corresponds to an affection with remarkable perception of the quality of people and things, and with very strong and firmly established knowledge of right and justice with which to lay open and explore them. Do not these qualities accord well with the elephant's keen sense of justice, and his indignation at being imposed upon?
We must conclude that the elephant corresponds to a strong love of justice, which is quick to detect and expose fraud, and which is easily aroused to indignation. The tusks are the knowledge of what is just and right, by which judgment is made and injustice exposed. This fixed knowledge of right and justice is beautifully pictured by the firm, white ivory. It has almost the fixity of those facts to which stones correspond. But as the tusk is a part of an animal, and in its core contains a sensitive nerve, so this knowledge of justice is a living thing which not only knows but keenly feels what is unjust. (AE 253, 1146; AR 774; AC 1172, 6188)
We read of, the days of Solomon, that "once in three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." (1 Kings x. 22) "Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold. . . . There was not the like made in any kingdom." (18-20) No doubt the workmanship was like the gold and ivory work of the Greeks, in which the gold adorned but only partly concealed the ivory. The gold served also to join the pieces of ivory together. The throne is evidently a symbol of the king's rule; and what elements or qualities of his rule are represented by the ivory and the gold? The ivory suggests the fixed principles of right, and the gold the kindness which both adorns them and unites them in a common purpose of judgment from love. But we are anticipating our next Chapter. One further thought. Solomon in all his glory is a type of "one greater than Solomon," and his throne represents the Lord's Divine rule. The gold is then the loving kindness of the Lord's rule, and the ivory its absolute rightness. (AR 229; AE 253, 514) The same Chapter is taught us in these words of the Psalm: "Justice [which in the Bible sense means love] and judgment are the foundation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face." (Ps. lxxxix. 14, xcvii. 2; AE 298)
Pearl is from the oyster. To what kingdom does the oyster belong? Animal. Then it corresponds to some affection. Is it good or bad? Good; it is harmless and useful. But it is not a highly organized creature, and it lives in the sea; which suggest that the affection to which the oyster corresponds is not a very interior and spiritual one, but comparatively low and external, allied to the mental fishes, which are affections for worldly life and for gathering natural knowledge. (Chapter 19) It is, then, some natural affection, and rather a low one at that, which is the spiritual oyster.
Is it an affection for doing some active use? What does the oyster love to do? To lie still and feel safe in its strong shell. It seems an embodiment of passive enjoyment in ease and safety. The formation of pearls about intruding objects which cannot be otherwise excluded is another and a remarkable illustration of this same characteristic, showing the oyster's supreme concern for comfort. It is bound at any cost to be free from irritation and annoyance.
Is therein us any such enjoyment? Among the many enjoyments in activity, is there a pleasure in lying still and feeling safe? Is it not somewhat like the feeling with which we draw up to the fireside on a stormy night and enjoy the thought of a good, tight roof between us and the weather? And we know a nobler satisfaction of a similar kind: a peaceful sense of protection from the annoyances of evil, through the power of the Lord. This is the oyster in its best sense. The pearl is the fact or knowledge of the Lord's saving power, which grows in strength and beauty day by day. (AR 727, 916; AE 1044, 1325; HH 307; NJHD 1)
Does not this knowledge deserve to be ranked with the noblest wisdom, as the pearl takes its place among the gems? "No mention shall be made of coral or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies." (Job xxviii. 18; AE 717) And yet this knowledge has a tender quality which does not belong to the sparkling jewels. It is the product of life; it has been learned through the painful consciousness of evil, and the suffering of temptation. At the center of the pearl is the hurtful thing from which it gives protection. So about our consciousness of evil forms day by day our knowledge of the Lord's power to save, which is the spiritual pearl.
In a parable the Lord said: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." (Matt. viii. 45, 46) This is one of a series of parables which liken the kingdom of heaven to many different things. Each parable points out some special quality of heaven. And what quality of heaven does this parable reveal? Its peaceful security from all things that offend; the consciousness of our own weakness, but of the power of the Lord to save. This surely is one element in the blessedness of heaven. (AR 727, 916; AE 444, 840, 863, 1044, 1325)
In the description of the holy city, it is said: "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl." (Rev. xxi. 21) The twelve gates are the knowledge gained in many different ways, of the Lord's power to save. The gate is of one pearl, because this knowledge includes all, and is the sum of all. In keeping the Lord's commandments we feel and know His power to save; we pass the gate of pearl. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." (Rev. xxii. 14, 15; AR 727, 916; AE 1325)
Is the knowledge that we are safe and comfortable liable to abuse? May it be made to minister to a spirit of indolence and self-indulgence? Would not this be the forbidden casting of pearls before swine? (Matt. vii. 6; AE 1044; AR 727) Yes, even the fact of safety in the Lord's salvation, the precious pearl of heaven's gate, is trampled under the feet of swine when it is scornfully rejected or when it is made to excuse an evil and indulgent life.