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Previous: 5. Seeing and Hearing Up: The Language of Parable Next: 7. Speech

6. Eating

As the natural eye is the servant of the understanding, which we have called the spiritual eye, extending the sight of that eye out into the natural world, and as the natural ear is, so to speak, an extension of the spiritual ear, just so the whole human body is but the garment which the spirit weaves for itself, that it may live in this natural world. All the organs of the body are in close relation with the spiritual organs; they are their natural agents, and they are, as it were, models of the spiritual organs; in a word, they correspond to them. In their number, their uses, and their mutual relations the organs of the body teach us, as in an object Chapter, of the spiritual faculties. (I. S. B. 11, 12; H. H. 432; A. C. 7850; D. L. W. 377.) We are now to discover, if we can, the mental process which corresponds to eating.

Does the mind, as well as the body, need food that it may keep healthy and strong, and may grow? Suppose children are given plenty of bread and butter and good natural food, is this all they need that they may grow up to be useful men and women? If parents spread the table, but did no more for their children, would the children become strong and healthy in mind as well as in body? Their bodies might grow, but their minds would starve and remain undeveloped for lack of food of another kind. Why do children want to know so many things, and ask so many questions, except because their minds are hungry? They need interesting "food for thought," as we say, and they need knowledge of what is good which will satisfy their affections. Instruction in such knowledge is the mind's food.

The reception of food into the body is a wonderful and most interesting process. Food is taken by the lips, its hard parts are crushed by the teeth, it is moistened with the saliva, tasted by the tongue, swallowed, digested in the stomach and intestines, and its good parts drawn up into the currents of the blood. This process, so wonderful in itself, is even more wonderful when we think of it as an object-Chapter, teaching us how the spiritual food of instruction is received into the mind and made a part of it.

Little children receive simple instruction unquestioningly from their parents, as they take milk and other soft food. But presently they like to seek knowledge for themselves, and to examine into things a little, and at the same time they have some teeth to bite with. As they grow older they learn not to take everything on trust, nor even for what it pretends to be. They examine it closely to see what it really is, before they accept it. This critical examination of what comes to the mind for acceptance is like the opening of food by the grinding teeth. The principles which we have established as fixed and sure, by which we make the examination, are like the teeth. Little children are without teeth spiritually as well as naturally. They gain spiritual teeth as they learn to set guards at the doors of their minds which permit nothing to pass till it is opened and explained. (A. E. 990; A. C. 4795, 5565.) Natural food must now be moistened. If food is perfectly dry we cannot taste it, and cannot by any possibility swallow it. We speak of instruction sometimes as being "dry"; if it is very dry we cannot receive it at all. What do we mean by calling it "dry"? That it is uninteresting. And what makes a subject interesting or uninteresting? I can imagine a Chapter about the details of travel in some foreign country, or about certain chemical or mechanical processes, or about a hundred other things, which would be to me so dry that I could not grasp and remember them at all. But if I was about starting on the foreign journey and had need of those particulars, they would not be dry. Instruction is always dry if we are not shown its application to our needs and circumstances. The perception of its relation to us, makes it possible to receive it. To have this relation of instruction to our life pointed out, is like receiving with the food refreshing drink which makes the food easy to swallow. (Chapter xxviii.) Better still if we perceive for ourselves the relation of the instruction to our needs, as the mouth itself moistens the food.

But even when accepted, new knowledge does not become at once a living part of ourselves. Very much that we are taught and accept as true, lies long in the memory before it really becomes a part of our character. In fact, we usually need a little time to ponder a new bit of knowledge before we appropriate it as our own and find our thought made richer and our life made stronger by it. So the food must be digested in the stomach and intestines, before it can be drawn up into the blood and be built into the tissues of the body. (A. E. 242, 580; D. P. 80.) The reception of instruction and making it our own is a process which exactly corresponds with the natural process of eating. It is quite another thing from simply understanding another's idea; that is seeing. Spiritually as well as naturally I see a thousand things which I do not eat.

Is it possible that children might have abundance of natural food, and also new and interesting instruction about scientific and worldly things, and still their heavenly characters remain starved? The angel in us cannot live and grow strong on merely worldly knowledge. That we may " increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man," we need also instruction from the Lord in regard to what He knows to be really good and true. "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Come ye, buy, and eat." (isa. lv. 2, 1.) We could of course apply the words to the persons we imagined above who thought only of providing natural food. Can we not apply them also to ourselves when we are content with merely worldly thoughts and interests? We eat that which is good, when we receive from the Lord instruction which feeds the soul and makes it grow strong and beautiful for heaven. (A. C. 680, 5576; A. E. 750.) It is this good food of which the Bible speaks. Let the class recall passages where hunger and food and eating are mentioned, and see that they tell of instruction in heavenly life from the Lord.

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." (matt. v. 6.) We are spiritually hungry when we earnestly desire to know what is good, and for the purpose of building it into our characters. (A. R. 323; A. E. 386.) In the prophet we read of "a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the lord." (amos viii. 11.) The verse itself explains that the famine meant is a great lack of knowledge of what is good and true, such as the Lord's words can give. (A. E. 386.) The satisfying of such hunger is described in the verse, " Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me joy and rejoicing of my heart." jer. xv. 16; A. E. 617.) In contrast with the good food of His own instruction, remember how the Lord warned the disciples, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." At first they thought only of natural bread, but afterward they understood "how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." (matt. xvi. 6, 12; A. C. 7906.)

Read, in the Revelation, of the little book which the angel gave to John, saying, "Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey." (Rev. x. 9.) The little book represents some instruction from the Lord, especially the truth that the Lord is the Saviour and Redeemer, which it is pleasant to hear and acknowledge; but it is very difficult to understand and acknowledge the Divine Human presence and power which make salvation possible, on account of confirmed false ideas about the Lord. Still more difficult is it to make the truth really ours in life. (A. E. 617, 618; A. R. 481.) In the Psalm also we read, " How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Ps. cxix. 103), also telling of the first pleasure in being instructed from the Lord's Word. (A. E. 619.) " Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. . . . Whatsoever en-tereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly and is cast out into the draught. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart." (matt. xv. 11, 18, 19.) Natural food does not defile nor strengthen the spirit; no more does knowledge, so long as it lies only in the memory. It is still outside the man, as food in the stomach is outside the living tissues of the body, and not a part of them. What is good must still be chosen and worked into the character; and it is not too late to reject what is evil. (A. E. 580, 622.)

The disciples were one day gone into the city to buy meat, and returning to the Lord at Jacob's well, "prayed him, saying, Master eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. ... My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John iv. 31-34.) So we go searching for natural food and knowledge which shall make us strong in worldly life, but forget that the Lord is strong with perfect knowledge of what is good and true, and that we "should have asked of him," and He would have given living food and drink. (A. C. 5293; see also john vi. 27; matt. iv. 4; A. C. 5915, 9003.)

The people who heard the Lord, and took His words into their lives, grew strong in spirit. Once, yes twice, when He had for many hours been teaching the people, He caused them to sit down on the grass, and fed their fainting bodies with loaves and fishes. (matt. xiv. 19; xv. 36.) What spiritual work is pictured in this feeding of the multitudes? (A. E. 617.) Let us think of all the Lord's gifts of natural food as coming from the same hand which fed the multitudes; and they should, like that miracle, be reminders to us of His constant desire to give us the knowledge which will make us strong in spirit. Let us not forget the Lord's gift of natural food when we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" (matt. vi. 11), but think also of the "living bread" which strengthens the spirit. (A. C. 680.)

The Lord shares with us knowledge which is ever living in the currents of His own Divine mind. He feeds us with His very own; with Himself. "I am the living bread, which came down from heaven," the Lord declares in John. "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." (john vi. 48-58; A. C. 4735.) When we receive any good affection or true thought into our life and are strengthened by it, we ought to remember that the Lord is feeding us from His own life. As He gives us instruction of what He knows to be good and true, so He would have us share with others who are ignorant but desire to know, the knowledge in which we have found strength. "Is not this the fast which I have chosen? ... Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry? ... If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul," etc. (ISA. lviii. 6-10; A. E. 386; A. C. 9050.)

Can we see why the Lord so many times speaks of heaven as a feast? "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many." (Luke xiv. 16.) "And in this mountain shall the lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." (isa. xxv. 6.) "I appoint unto you a kingdom . . . that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom." (Luke xxii. 29, 30.) "Blessed are they that are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Rev. xix. 9.) Such words mean that heavenly life consists in receiving constantly from the Lord a knowledge of what is good and true, and in working it into our character as our very life, sharing it also with one another. That it is the Lord's feast, and that we eat at His table, means that He gives us of His own, and that in receiving we become united with Him. (A. E. 252, 617.) Can we see also why sacred feasts formed a part of the ancient representative worship? (A. C. 3596.) And also why the Lord welcomed publicans and sinners by whom are represented those who see and confess their sins to His table, to eat with Him?

Finally, do we see why the Lord instituted the Holy Supper as the most sacred act of worship? "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke xxii. 19, 20.) This eating with the Lord pictures our reception from Him of His own knowledge of what is good and true, and our conjunction with Him as we appropriate it into our lives. (T. C. R. 702-710.) And does the sacrament merely picture this reception of spiritual food from the Lord? or does it actually promote that reception? It actually promotes it; and partly for the reason explained in the beginning of this chapter, that the physical organs and physical processes are in close relation with the corresponding spiritual processes. (A. C. 7850.) While we are eating natural food, we are more open than at other times to receive and appropriate spiritual strength from those with whom we are eating. The knowledge of this fact led in the old time to the custom of eating with friends as a means of sharing with them good things of spiritual life. We still regard it as helpful to good understanding and friendship, to break bread with others, and to ask them to our table. In the same way we are especially open to receive and appropriate from the Lord knowledge of what is good and true, while we are partaking of His Holy Supper. (T. C. R. 433, 434, 727; N. J. H. D. 210-213.)


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6. Eating

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