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Previous: 39. Palestine Up: The Language of Parable Next: 41. The Tabernacle and Temple

40. Houses and Cities

Are there certain states of mind which have become habitual to you, in which you love to "dwell," and in which you feel "at home "? They form your spiritual house. They may be dark chambers, gloomy and unwholesome; they may be large upper rooms; perhaps there is a house-top raised into the bright air and sunshine of heaven. Your house may be substantial and beautiful, or it may be insecure and vile. Your house takes its form and quality from the use in which your love finds its delight; it is furnished and adorned with the thoughts and feelings which accompany and surround you in your work. We say that one's home is where his use is, and if we wish to make one feel at home we show him where and how he can be useful. (AC 710, 9150; AE 208)

We are taught that in heaven there are houses of great variety and of inconceivable beauty, and that each house is exactly adapted in general and in every particular to the use in which its occupants find their life and delight. Even in this world we adapt a building so far as we can to some use which is to be done in it. We usually know a church, a library, a factory, a stable, or a dwelling-house by its shape. The furniture of each room tells us its particular use, whether it is a parlor, a kitchen, or a bedroom. We may know from the house and its furnishings whether the occupant is a farmer, a fisherman, a merchant, a minister, or a student of science. We even judge from the appearance of the house something of the character of those who live in it; their taste, their orderliness, their ability. In the spiritual world where outward things far more. perfectly agree with internal states, houses are exact expressions of the uses of those who live in them, in general and in every particular. In heaven each one finds the use and the house for which he is perfectly adapted, and in them he feels thoroughly and entirely at home. (HH 183-190; AR 611; AC 1628, 1629; CL 12)

The Lord has said: "In my Father's house are many mansions. . . I go to prepare a place for you." (John xiv. 2) We think of the angel homes in the great house hold of heaven. But each one's home is essentially some heavenly use which he has learned to enjoy, with the delightful affections and thoughts which surround him in doing it. The love of some heavenly use with its delights is the mansion which the Lord prepares for every one on earth and in heaven. (AC 9305; AE 731; HH 51) The Lord's own great love from which all heavenly uses and their delights spring, and which includes them all, is the Father's house. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (Ps. xxiii. 6; AC 3384; AE 220)

"And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit." (Isa. lxv. 21, 22) How much more the blessing means when we see in it the promise of learning the good uses of heaven and of abiding in them! To build for another to inhabit means here to acquire only to lose again through falsity and evil. (AE 617) "Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it." (Ps. cxxvii. i) We cannot acquire for ourselves the enjoyment in a heavenly use, which is a heavenly house; it is from the Lord alone. (PP)

We have already thought of the houses built upon the sand and upon the rock. (Luke vi. 47-49) We may fancy that we dwell secure in enjoyments of our own devising, based upon mere appearances of what is right and good. But unless our enjoyments are real uses which rest upon the Lord's commandments, and bring us into living relation with the Lord who is the Rock, we have no strength, and in trial and temptation our chosen enjoyment, seemingly so secure, is swept away. (AE 411; AR 915) There are some who have not this foundation, who do not know a peaceful state of mind, happy in usefulness and safe in constant dependence upon the Lord, but who drift here. and there, never at rest, never secure. If we have in some measure found the sure foundation and enjoy the comfort of feeling at home in some good use, must we not help others to find it too, and to share its peace and strength? We are then bringing the poor that are cast out to our house, as the Lord has commanded. (Isa. lviii. 7; AE 386; AC 3419)

"And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands. for my sake and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life." (Mark x. 29, 30) The house which the disciples of the Lord must leave is the selfish state of mind, peopled by evil affections and thoughts, in which we naturally are at home. A heavenly enjoyment in some good use will even now be given by the Lord, freer, happier, with good affections and thoughts in abundance; and this heavenly house death does not take away, it is "eternal life." (AE 724; AC 4843)

"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first." (Matt. xii. 43-45) How plainly the house in which the evil spirit dwells is the man's own mind, the state of affection and thought which he makes habitual in his daily occupation! Do we not often shut the doors to heaven and admit evil spirits as our guests? But by the Lord's help we may drive them out. When that is done, these verses show us the danger of leaving our minds idle, and empty of good thoughts and affections. If we leave them so, the evil from which we thought ourselves freed will return with fatal power. (AC 4744, 8394; AE 1160; DP 231)

If evil spirits may come into our house, making gloomy and vile the motives and thoughts in which we live and labor, why may we not have heavenly visitors with bright, helpful influence? The Lord Himself says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. iii. 20) If we merely learn about the Lord and hear His Word, He is only knocking at the door. He comes in when by doing His commandments we receive Him into our heart and life. Then His presence abides with us through every day and makes life satisfying. (AE 248-252; AR 217-219; DP 33) Remember how the Lord "sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat. And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare? . . . He shall show you a large upper room furnished there make ready." (Luke xxii. 8-12) Remember also how the Shunammite woman prepared a chamber for the prophet Elisha, who was a representative of the Lord. "She said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither." (2 Kings iv. 9, 10) So should we prepare for the Lord to abide with us. Remove the forbidden evil things which bar the door to Him. Do not ask Him merely into the outer court of our casual thought, but into the inner chamber of our love. Let Him not find the chamber bare, but furnished with true thoughts and kind affections which He can enjoy and use. (AC 3142, 5694, 7353; CL 2 70)

This thought about the inner chamber, that it means the inmost hidden things of our thought and affection, helps us to understand these words of the Lord: "When thou grayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." (Matt. vi. 6) And these: "That which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops." (Luke xii. 3) The most secret things of thought and feeling will plainly appear when after death our interior life is revealed; and they are even now known in heaven and by the Lord, which is especially meant by their being proclaimed upon the house-tops. (AC 7454, 7795; AE 794; HH 462)

We have been thinking of our spiritual houses as the habitual states of affection and thought, in which we work and live and feel at home. Each one's house is especially his affection for his peculiar use, and is different from every other house as his use and his way of doing it are different from others. But while each one has his own special use, is it possible that these may form parts of larger, more general uses? And while each has his own way of working, still many persons may work upon the same general principles. Such a large, comprehensive use with its general principles upon which many work together, is like a city busy in a common industry, built upon a common foundation, and defended by a common wall.

In the ancient time the members of each family of a nation lived together and formed what was called a city. Living thus apart from others, each family developed its own kind of life based upon its own understanding of the laws of life. When the inhabitants of a city were mentioned in those days, the spiritual thought was of a special development of character and use, while the city itself suggested the principles on which that life was based and by which it was defended. (AC 2451, 4478; AR 194, 712)

In heaven also the angels live in societies according to the varieties of their reception of Divine truth and their application of it in uses. These societies are like so many states and cities. A city therefore means to the angels, as it meant to the wise ancients, the principles of truth which give stability and form to some heavenly use. (AE 223, 652; HH 50, 184; CL 17) If we now recall passages from the Bible where cities are mentioned, you will see that they stand for true principles or doctrines which support and defend good life and uses, or false doctrines which excuse evil life.

When we read of the Israelites destroying the cities of their enemies, we shall think of the overthrow of false principles by the power of Divine truth. "O LORD, thou art my God; . . . thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. For thou hast made of a city a heap; of a defended city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city, it shall never be built. Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee." (Isa. xxv. 1-3; AE 223; AC 402; AR 194) When we read of the strength of Jerusalem, we shall think of the power of Divine principles of truth to support and defend and guide a heavenly life. "In that day shall this song be' sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth truth may enter in." (Isa. xxvi. 1, 2; AE 223; AR 194; AC 2851)

In that beautiful Psalm of the redeemed we read: "They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. . . . And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation." (Ps. cvii. 4, 7) To find no city is to be without true doctrine by which to live; we receive it from the Lord. (AE 223, 730) "Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." (Ps. cxxvii. 1) We saw in the first clause a Chapter of our inability to gain for ourselves the love of heavenly use; we are equally unable without the Lord to preserve our understanding of true principles of life. (PP) Remember the parable of the talents, and how their lord gave to the faithful servants authority over ten cities and five cities. (Luke xix. 12-19) It tells of the gain of heavenly intelligence by the faithful use of the faculties entrusted to us. (AR 194, 606; AE 223, 675; AC 5297) "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. v. 14,16) How plainly the city on a hill is a symbol of true principles taught from love of good life! (AE 223, 405)

We can now read with still greater pleasure other verses about "the city of God " (Ps. xlvi. 4), seeing still more clearly that it is a symbol of the doctrines of a true church from the Lord's Word, guiding and defending the Lord's people in good life. "Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth." (Zech. viii. 3; PP) "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together." (Ps, cxxii. 3; AR 880; D. Lord 64; TCR 782) "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. . . . Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell [or number] the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following." (Ps. xlviii. 2, 12, 13) It is an appeal to love the interior truths of the church, and the external truths which defend it from falsities; for they will endure to eternity. (AE 453, 850)

And now we do not need to be told the meaning of the holy city seen by John. "And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. . . . And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates. . . . And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. . . And the , twelve gates were twelve pearls: . . and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." (Rev. xxi. 10-27) It is a promise of a new church founded upon true doctrines from the Word, safe in the knowledge of the Divine protection, and living in golden ways of love. (AR 194, 879-925; AE 223, 1305-1334; NJHD 1; TCR 781-784; AC 8988)


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40. Houses & Cities

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