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Previous: 36. Gold and Silver Up: The Language of Parable Next: 38. Representative Countries

37. Copper and Iron

Here are two metals very useful in their way, but much less precious than gold and silver. Copper looks like gold, and iron has a cool gray color more like silver; but they have not the endurance of the precious metals, notwithstanding the greater hardness of iron, for they quickly tarnish and rust.

We remember that metals correspond to a class of facts which we call principles or laws, which are fixed and sure in substance, but which take form according to the circumstances to which they are applied. (Chapter 36) Are the golden and silver principles of the Two Great Commandments the ruling principles today in homes and society, in factories and stores, in politics? We are controlled oftener by less heavenly principles. The law that obedience leads to natural happiness and prosperity has some influence; a principle which answers well to copper. Copper resembles gold in color and softness; it is also used for money. So does the natural motive bear some likeness to the heavenly one; but while the golden reward is to share the Lord's pure love of goodness, the baser motive regards only natural benefits. How easily this principle may lose its brightness and be corroded by selfishness! So is copper compared with gold. (AC 425, 9465; AE 70, 1147; AR 775)

But is there still another principle which at present has a larger part in restraining men from crime and in keeping them busy in useful work? The law of necessity. Do right because you must; if you break the laws of order you suffer for it. Government based on this principle is "an iron rule "; if the requirements and penalties are very stern and inflexible, we may call them "cast-iron." Iron is the metal of today for building and machinery and railroads and a thousand other things; and does not the stern logic of necessity at the present time shape men's modes of life and impel and give direction to their industries? Men require today the proof of natural logic; they are not led by perception, nor by spiritual intelligence, nor by authority. This is iron-like. (AC 425, 426; AE 176; AR 148)

The copper principle, like the golden, appeals rather to the feelings; this iron principle, like the silver, appeals to the intelligence, but now of a low, natural kind. When we are tempted to do wrong or to neglect out useful work, the iron by its stern truth rouse, us to reason. (AR 148) It is interesting to notice that the law that we should do to others as we would have them do to us, which in that form is silver, becomes, in an evil and natural state of life, the iron law of retaliation: "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth "- illustrating the relation between silver andiron. (AC 1011, 8223; AR 762; AE 556)

Does this thought help you to understand the meaning of the promise, "For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron "? (Isa. ix. 17) Copper, in our translations of the Bible, seems to be somewhat confused with brass which is an alloy of copper with zinc, and bronze which is an alloy of copper mainly with tin, but for our present purpose, they all are practically the same. Is not the prophecy of gold for brass and silver for iron a promise of advance from a natural state where we labor for natural benefits and from natural necessity, to a spiritual state where we shall labor in love for the Lord and with intelligent delight in serving one another? Plainly the wood and stone here mean goodness and truth as judged by the lowest standards, those of bodily sense. Instead is to be given regard for what is naturally useful and reasonable. (PP; AC 425, 643, 1551; AR 775; AE 70, 176) With a similar meaning the promised land, which is a type of the spiritual life, is described as a "land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass." (Deut. viii. 9; AC 425) In the days of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, we read that Shishak king of Egypt invaded Judah; which pictures a state in which the spiritual life is yielding to the principle of doing what seems naturally good; which, indeed, was the case at that time. Is there any significance in the fact that Shishak "took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. And king Rehoboam made in their stead brazen shields"? (1 Kings xiv. 26, 27; AE 654; AR 503)

We learned of the Golden Age and the Silver Age, so named from the principles which ruled in those heavenly times. Remembering what we found the ruling principle to be today, what shall we call the present age? Iron? That was already its quality when the stern, literal commands were given to the Israelites. (AE 70, 176; DP 328; HH 115; CL 78)

Before men sank so low and became so external, there was a time when they treasured up rules of life handed down from the Golden Age and obeyed them because they made happy homes and happy tribes. This was the Copper Age. (CL 77)

King Nebuchadnezzar in his dream saw a great image. "This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay." (Dan. ii. 31-33) The interpretation given through Daniel applies the dream to Nebuchadnezzar himself and the kingdoms to come after. But Nebuchadnezzar is himself a type of the love of one's self and of ruling over others, and the image becomes a history of this love. The head of gold tells of the Golden Age when men loved themselves and power only for the sake of serving the Lord. The breast and arms of silver are the Silver Age when these things were valued as means of use to one another. The belly and thighs of brass tell of the Copper Age when men enjoyed only the natural benefits of power, and began to find a selfish enjoyment in ruling over others. The legs of iron represent the Iron Age when men loved to exercise stern, arbitrary power, and could themselves be restrained only by such iron rule. That the feet were of iron and clay means that even the stern law of external restraint became weak by mixture of falsity and evil. You do not need to be told the meaning of the "stone cut out without hands, which smote the image, . . . and filled the whole earth." It is irresistible truth received from the Lord; Divine truth, not of human invention, which condemns selfishness, and lays anew the foundation of good life. (PP; AE 176, 411; AR 913; AC 3021, 10030) Once more recalling our last Chapter we remember that gold was used for the furniture and walls of the tabernacle, as a type of the heartfelt acknowledgment of the Lord's goodness which should surround His presence in our hearts. About the tabernacle was a court, to represent not the deep affections of the heart, but the outward life with its deeds open to the eyes of the world. Shall we find the altar and laver and the bases for the en closing curtain of the court, of gold? (Exod. xxxviii. 1-8) When love for the Lord rules the motives, then considerations of what is naturally right and good must carry the motives into act. This is the brass of the tabernacle court. (AC 10235; AE 70)

We read in the Revelation, of the appearance of the Lord to John, that "his feet were like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." (Rev. i. 15) We have learned that the feet represent the natural, external plane of life, in contact with the world, and that the Lord's feet represent the Divine presence with men in their natural life. (Chapter 8) Brass is the principle which leads to natural goodness, and in its highest sense is an emblem of the Divine goodness on this natural plane. (AR 49; AE 70) A similar Chapter is taught in the story of the brazen serpent, which the Lord applied to Himself. "The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. . . . And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." (Numb xxi. 6, 9) "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John iii. 14, 15) The serpent, we know, which beguiled the innocent people of Eden, is the love of sensual pleasure. (Chapter 17) How can we be delivered from its power when it charms us and benumbs us by its bite? In only one way. The Lord by His life on earth took this same nature which beguiles us, and in Himself made it good, yes, Divine. We can therefore look to Him and receive help to overcome appetites in ourselves. The serpent raised upon a pole is an emblem of the sensual nature in our Lord lifted up from the earth and glorified; to this we may look and live. (AE 70, 581; AR 49; AC 3863)

Many times we read of ruling the nations "with a rod of iron." (Rev. ii. 27, xii. 5, xix. 15) In all these places "the nations " mean various kinds of evil. In what form must the Lord's law come to check evil? In the form of commands and penalties, and of stern, hard truths appealing to the natural reason. In the Psalm we read: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron." (Ps. ii. 8, 9) Is it not a promise that the Lord will enable us to subdue the natural, rebellious plane of our own nature by the power of His stern, literal truth? (AR 148;  AE 176; AC 426, 4876)

Is it possible that our principles of life may become perverted, so utterly perverted, that they defend and justify evil in our hearts? Then we need the Lord's help to set us free. "Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder." (Ps. cvii. 16; Isa. xlv. 2; AC 9496)


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37. Copper & Iron

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