THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCES
<< CHAPTER XIV >>
CORRESPONDENCE OF THE VEGETABLE WORLD, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.
The objects and productions of the vegetable kingdom of nature, of which growth, but neither sensation nor locomotion, is predicable, are, equally with those of the animal kingdom, used in the Word of God as the appropriate representative forms and correspondences of holy and spiritual subjects and objects, or their opposites. Thus, shrubs and flowers, herbs and trees in general," from the cedartree in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall "(1 Kings iv. 33) ; "from the rose of Sharon to the lily of the valley" (Cant. iii. 1); all "trees pleasant to the sight and good for food" (Gen. ii. 9); "thorns, also, and thistles" (Gen. iii. 19); nettles and brambles (Isa. xxxiv. 13) ; wormwood and hemlock, correspond to or represent the countless things of intelligence, observance, and knowledge both true and false, wholesome and pernicious, and to innumerable kinds and degrees of doctrine and persuasion which may be implanted, germinate, and fructify within the mind, together with the thoughts, perceptions, and affections which belong thereto. They are, so to speak, the outward emblems, the diversified forms, and natural types of existences in the spiritual world and the world of mind. This may, in a great measure, be confirmed from the physiology, colors, properties, qualities, and uses of flowers, plants, and trees ; their respective productions, and the different localities where they are found.
Trees, as a whole, or In their complex, denote such principles as pertain to the entire mind and life, and also such as are thence derived, of a lower degree, or having a less degree of spiritual life, than those signified by animals. Gardens, vineyards, olive-yards, forests, groves, and meadows, denote various degrees and states of intelligence and wisdom, doctrine and knowledge. This is indicated by the very names of the trees in the representative garden of Eden, for one is called " the tree of life," and the other " the tree of knowledge of good and evil " (Gen. ii. 9) ; hence, also, we read of " trees of righteousness" (Isa. Ixi. 3), and "trees of the Lord" (Ps. civ. 16).
The roots of plants and trees, hidden beneath the ground, will signify the faculties of exploring the Word, and of acquiring thence, and retaining in the outward memory, whatever knowledge is congenial to the mind, and desired for its support, and also the principle of charity as the base of genuine wisdom ; or, in a contrary sense, of perverting knowledge to selfish purposes, and making it the ground of fanaticism and folly. We therefore see what is meant where the Lord, speaking by the mouth of his prophet, describes man delivered from his spiritual enemies, under the expressive name of Amorites, and says, " Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks ; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath " (Amos ii. 9) ; and where the seed having no root, that is, no ground in charity, withers away (Mark iv. 6). The stem and the branches denote the truths or false principles themselves, combined or separate, and in the act of being confirmed (Ps. Ixxx. 11).
The leaves, which are either perennial or evergreen, are, as it were, the organs of respiration to the vegetative soul, and denote internal or external knowledge and doctrine; thus also faith, which, when alone, is described as a tree with leaves only, and is therefore condemned (Matt. xxi. 19). The fruits which are the ultimate effects, and the very purpose of the vital faculty, containing the seeds, in which are the primary germs of a new generation, signify all kinds and degrees of good and useful works, made manifest in a righteous life, and their corresponding rational delights, or of evil works, rendered obvious in a corrupt life, and their corresponding sensual pleasures, heavenly works, produced from the pure and exalted love of God and man, or infernal works, fabricated from impure motives, prompted by the love of self and the world. In these works are either the elemental germs of a glorious progression in the rich blessings of charity and faith, extending even into eternal ages, or, on the contrary, of the multiplication of evil and folly, and their attendant and endless miseries (Jer. xv. 16). Thus the Lord, speaking of false prophets and of false persuasions and doctrines, says, " Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit ; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them " (Matt. vii. 16-20). And again : " Either make the tree good, and his fruit good ; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt : for the tree is known by his fruit " (Matt. xii. 33).
Flowers of multifarious form and brilliancy of hue signify, in a good sense, intellectual perceptions and their indefinite delights ; while their variations, in quality and degree, are denoted by their configu rations, colors, odors, and other properties. Among the ornamental and useful trees of paradise were those "pleasant to the sight," signifying the perceptions of such truths as were designed to afford inmost gratification to the understanding and reason ; and esculent trees, or trees bearing delicious and nourishing fruit, called " trees good for food" (Gen. ii. 9), to signify the perceptions of goodness intended more immediately to invigorate and delight the affections and dispositions of the will. How vividly and how beautifully does Swedenborg illustrate the true nature of the divinely inspired writings from the correspondences of the vegetable world, in the following brief but interesting passage :" The Word is like a garden which may be called a heavenly paradise, containing delicacies and delights of every kind, delicacies of fruits and delights of flowers, in the midst of which are trees of life, and beside them fountains of living water, and forest trees round about the garden. Whoever is principled in divine truths, by virtue of doctrine, is in the midst of the garden, among the trees of life, and in the actual enjoyment of its delicacies and delights. When a man is not principled in truths by virtue of doctrine, but only from the literal sense, he abides in the boundaries of the garden, and sees nothing but forest scenery ; but when a man is in the doctrine of a false religion, and has confirmed its falsities in his mind, he is not even in the forest, but in a sandy plain without, where there is not even grass."
" The man who leads himself, judges of that paradise, which is the Word, from its circumference, where are the trees of the forest; but the man whom the Lord leads, judges of it from the midst thereof, where are the trees of life. The man whom the Lord leads is also actually in that midst, and looks upward to the Lord ; but the man who leads himself sits down in the circumference, and looks outward to the world." T. C. R. 259 ; A. E. 1072.
There are those vegetables, also, mentioned in the Word, whose specific signification depends upon their productions. Such are the medicinal plants, as the aloe and the balm of Gilead ; the vestuary, as the cotton-tree and flax, etc. Now, if we attentively survey the characteristics and uses which thus distinguish the genera, and even species, of herbs and trees, they will materially assist us in perceiving and confirming the signification of each. Nothing, for instance, can more fitly represent a weak condition of faith, when grounded in the mere appearances of the letter of the Holy Word, and, in an opposite sense, of mere faith alone, destitute of all vital influence and power, than the elastic but feeble reed, on the river s bank, shaken by every wind. Yet such is the fulness of divine mercy, that we are assured by the Lord that He will not " break the bruised reed " (Isa. xlii. 3; Matt. xii. 20) ; " He will strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees " (Isa. xxxv. 3). In the opposite sense, by a bruised reed is signified an external, irresolute faith, faith separate from charity, and its weak and miserable delusions, on which no one can rely without danger."Behold," says the prophet, " thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it" (2 Kings xviii. 21 ; Isa. xxxvi. 6). But a firm and true faith, rooted and grounded in love, and the perceptions thence derived, will be signified by the nobler, stronger, and more durable productions of the vegetable tribes.
Thus, where faith derived from charity, in the internal man, becomes operative in the external, and is intellectually and rationally confirmed by scientific knowledge into conscientious conviction, it is signified by the gnarled but majestic oak, whose branches form an umbrageous retreat, and whose roots strike deep into the solid earth. Such faith, perception, and conscience, however powerful, are comparatively of a low order ; they are represented, therefore, by a tree, which, though distinguished for its strength and vitality, yet produces no fruit suit able for human food. Such was the signification of an oak, when Joshua renewed the covenant between the Lord and Israel : " He took a great stone, and set it up under an oak " (Josh. xxiv. 26), to represent the steadfastness of that covenant on the part of God, and the fidelity with which it ought to be observed on the part of man. Such was also the signification of the oak groves of Mamre, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sojourned (Gen. xxxv. 27) ; and on this signification is grounded the reason why the angel who appeared unto Gideon in the world of spirits was seen sitting under the shade of an oak (Judg. vi. 11). In a bad sense, however, an oak signifies the sensual confidence and presumptuous boastings of the natural mind under the influence of which man idolizes and worships his own intellect as real power. In the expressive language of the prophet, " He heweth down and taketh the oak, which he strengthened for himself among the trees of the forest : he maketh a god and worshippeth it ; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god" (Isa. xliv. 14-17). And, further, to denote that such vanity will in the end expose its deluded victims to derision, and in the hour of trial will wither forever away, it is said, "They shall be ashamed of the oaks wrhich ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth "(Isa. i. 29, 30).
When the church is spoken of in the Word, as to the reception of goodness and truth of a celestial quality or degree, mention is always made of the olive-tree. This goodly tree, with its outspreading branches, which flourishes only in wrarm and sunny situations, which with its products constituted some of the riches of Judea, and from whose fruit a fragrant and valuable oil is extracted, signifies the celes tial principles of love to God and charity towards all men, derived from God s infinite love towards his creatures.122 In reference to such a characteristic, it is said, " The Lord called thy name, A green olivetree, fair, and of goodly fruit " ( Jer. xi. 16). In the prophetic visions of Zechariah, he saw in the spiritual world two olive-trees by the golden candlesticks, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof, which were representative of these celestial principles, and of which the angel said, " These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth " (Zech.iv. 3, 14).
The same principles were also signified by the two witnesses seen in vision by the apostle John, of which he says, " These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth" (Rev. xi. 4). On account of this signification of the olive, the oil was, by divine command, the principal ingredient employed for the purpose of anointing priests and kings, when consecrated to their holy and responsible offices, and also for the anointing of the sacred vessels of the tabernacle and temple. In the Mosaic ritual the people were commanded to present it to Jehovah in several of the free-will offerings of their representative worship ; and it was used, by divine direction, for supplying the golden lamps in which the lights were to be kept burning continually before the Lord (Lev. xxiv. 2-4) ; teaching us that when the true worship of the Lord is celebrated in the inner temple of the soul, the oil of divine love is always given to cause the lamps of truth and doctrine to burn before the Lord in a constantly-ascending flame of love to God and benevolence to man, made visibly manifest in a charitable and useful life. So, when the Psalmist speaks of his growth in the celestial life of love and charity, which blesses, imbues, and sanctifies the inmost of the soul, and expresses his gratitude to the Lord for this precious gift of his love, he says, " I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God " (Psalm lii. 8) ; and, again, " Thou anointest my head with oil " (Psalm xxiii. 5).
When the true signification of oil is known, the miraculous increase of the widow's oil by Elisha the prophet, recorded in 2 Kings iv., may be seen, in every particular of the inspired history, to be an exact representation of the influx of divine love into the affections, for the support of spiritual life, in all seasons of temptation, peril, and distress ; for it is the life of heaven in the soul, which induces unwavering confidence, brings sweetest satisfaction, vivifies all the principles of the mind, and saves from spiritual death. It was from this signification of oil, as denoting the heavenly principles of love and charity, that under the Jewish representative economy, priests, prophets, and kings were consecrated to their respective offices and functions by being anointed with a holy ointment, made by divine direction according to the skilful art of the apothecary (Ex. xxx. 25), and of which olive oil was the chief ingredient, to denote that in the administration of all the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the kingdom, and in the exercise of the authority and talents and ministry intrusted to their charge, they were to be inwardly imbued with the holy affections of love and charity, and that all the governing principles of the mind and life wrere to be consecrated by the unction of these precious principles. Hence we read, " Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity ! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard ; that went down to the skirts of his garments" (Ps. cxxxiii. 1, 2). The Lord s love for man, and man's love of the Lord and of his neighbor, are "the oil of gladness" (Ps. xlv. 7), and " the oil of joy "(Isa. Ixi. 3).
Again, in the beautiful and impressive parable of the ten virgins with their lamps (Matt. xxv. 1-13), designed by our blessed Lord and Saviour to set before us the efforts and qualifications necessary to obtain a blessed and everlasting state of conjunction with Him, and of association with the angels of his kingdom, we are told that the lamps of the five foolish virgins were extinguished for want of oil in their vessels, to teach us the all-important lesson, that however brilliantly the flame of truth may appear to shine upon us for a season, irradiating all around with its brightness, yet, unless it be constantly supplied with the pure oil of celestial love, it will soon go out, and leave us shrouded in thickest darkness ; and that unless we obtain this sacred principle from its own source, the abiding love of the Lord Jesus Christ in our souls, and earnestly labor to make it our own by works of penitence, obedience, and charity, the door of the nuptial chamber will be eternally closed against us. Our protestations and importunities will be unavailing, and the awful sentence will go forth against us, "Verily, I say unto you, I know you not." On the other hand, if in our vessels with our lamps we are abundantly supplied from the Lord with his precious oil, if the affections of our hearts are receptive of the celestial gifts of love and charity, then will the light of heavenly truth burn more and more brilliantly upon our path ; and when in the midnight conflict of temptation we hear the sudden and startling cry, "Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him," we shall be prepared to obey the summons, to arise and trim our lamps, and to enter with our Lord into the secure and blissfulmarriage chamber of heaven.
When the church, or a man of the church, as to goodness and truth of a spiritual character or degree, is spoken of, it is signified by a vine, which is the noblest plant of the creeping kind, celebrated for its tendency to extend its roots and branches without limit, for its rich clusters of fruit, and for the wines which are obtained therefrom, and "make glad the heart of man" (Psalm civ. 15). And in reference to the establishment of the church by the Lord, and the derivation of all its constituent principles from Him, both in general and in particular, He says, " I am the true vine " (John xv. 1 ) ; and the Psalmist, evidently speaking of the Israelitish church, says, " Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt : thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river" (Psalm Ixxx. 8-11). To represent a state of apostasy of this church, or of any of her members, and the sad and destructive results which, though they spring from the ascendancy of false and evil persuasions and lusts, appear to be the consequences of Divine displeasure, it is added, " 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" (12, 13). He then supplicates the Lord s mercy for its restoration in these words, " Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts : look down fromheaven, and behold, and visit this vine ; and the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch which thou madest strong for thyself" (14, 15).
Similar things are described in the prophecy of Isaiah, where the church in general, and every member thereof in particular, is treated of under the type of a vineyard, which, though gifted with every blessing, and protected from all enemies, so as to afford it the most ample opportunity of yielding richest fruits, in correspondence with the divine care bestowed upon it, yet it only brought forth the bitter clusters of the wild grape.
" Now I will sing to my well-beloved [saith the Lord], a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill ; 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. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. 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 ? And now go to ; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard : I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shail be trodden down: and I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged ; but there shall come up briers and thorns : I will also com mand the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. 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).
When the elemental principles of the church, both in general and in particular, are described in regard to natural goodness and truth with their delights, or their opposites, then we have mention made of fig-trees, fig-leaves, and figs. The correspondence of these fruittrees may be confirmed from the circumstances that they flourish in barren and stony situations, where little else would grow, and do not properly blossom, but shoot out their fruit even before the. leaves appear. Thus, when the prophet is speaking of the defect of that natural usefulness which precedes the attainment of spiritual knowl
edge, the good fruits of external faith and charity, thus of the want of mutual affection and simple obedience in the church and in man, he says, " There shall be no figs on the fig-tree, and the leaf shall fade " (Jer. viii. 13). And when, again, a flourishing state of the church is spoken of, or man in a state of regeneration, when the fruits of a good life by keeping the divine commandments are abundant, then it is said, " The fig-tree yields its strength " (Joel ii. 22).
Fruits correspond to works, either good or evil, according to their kind, and agreeably to the subject of which they are predicated ; and leaves to knowledges and truths thence derived, either genuine or falsified. The sweet fruit of the fig-tree signifies natural goodness, or goodness in an external form, such as is manifested in an outwardly moral life. But the works of morality may be done from vile and impure, as well as from righteous and pure, motives, from hypocrisy as well as from sincerity. This important distinction which obtains among the members of the professing church, and between the principles constituent of the natural mind, as to the inward quality of a moral life, is thus described in a vision of the prophet Jeremiah : "The Lord showed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord. One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe ; and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah ? And I said, Figs ; the good figs very good ; and the bad, very bad, that cannot be eaten, they are so bad" (xxiv. 1-3). When the outward works of the church or of man are corrupt, prompted by utter selfishness, defiled by loathsome covetousness, they are " like vile figs that cannot be eaten." And when, by transgression, man lost, or still loses, his innocence ami in tegrity, he is represented in the Word as vainly attempting to screen his nakedness and guilt by sewing "fig-leaves" together, as endeavoring to hide his inward depravity by the hypocritical veil of a mere external conformity to the outward decencies of life, framing doctrines from the letter of the Word to excuse his unclean lusts, and to cover the pride of self-love. On account of this signification of the fig-tree and its fruit, and in order to represent to us that the Lord knows by his truth and constantly explores the real state of the church, and the interior quality of all her members, He was pleased to perform, when He sojourned on earth, a striking miracle on a barren fig-tree, which was a type of the church at its end, and which, exhibiting an exuberance of leaves, ought also to have borne a proportionate abundance of fruit.
The Lord hungered, to denote his divine and ceaseless desire that man should receive his life and spirit, and bring forth the blessed fruits of repentance, reformation, and regeneration (Matt. xxv. 31-46). It is said, therefore, that He saw it afar off, far distant from Himself and heaven, bearing nothing but leaves, nothing but truths and doctrines which were falsified, more outward conformity, the acknowledgment of the lips, while the heart was far from Him. "But the time of figs was not yet," glorious and continual opportunities of producing richest fruits had passed by unimproved. The sun had shone and the dews had fallen upon it in vain. Its doom was therefore pronounced, " No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever." The axe was "laid to its root" (Matt. iii. 10). Judgment was executed, and " the fig-tree was immediately dried up from the roots" (Mark xi. 12-20).
When those principles in the natural mind, which, by the reception of what is evil and false, do injury to charity and faith, or, on the contrary, may, in the regenerating process, be deprived of their hurt ful qualities, and made subservient to good purposes, are spoken of in the Word under corresponding imagery drawn from the vegetable kingdom, they are described by prickly, stinging, and noxious plants, shrubs, and trees, as thorns and thistles, nettles and briers, etc. Such natural principles as are denoted by thorns and briers, when they are made subordinate to use, serve for protection and defence to interior principles. Hence we read of the householder who planted a vineyard, of which it is said, he "hedged it round about "(Matt. xxi. 33).
When the desecrated church is treated of, or when the human mind is described as no longer cultivating and cherishing therein the heavenly plants of paradise, but as giving birth and permanent existence to such natural principles as are injurious to goodness and truth, producing disorder and desolation, among other divine judgments it is declared that "Thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof" (Isa. xxxiv. 13). But when a luxuriant state of the Lord s church or of the human mind is the subject of prediction or promise, in which the plants of heavenly extraction and spiritual growth, that bring delight to the soul, are by regeneration substituted for the wild, hurtful, and disorderly productions of an unregenerate state, then we read, " The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them ; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing : the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God " (Isa. xxxv. 1, 2).
Having thus explained the spiritual signification of the olive-tree, the vine, the fig-tree, and the bramble, we shall be prepared to under stand the truly wonderful and divinely-inspired parable of the trees going forth to choose a king over them, in which these particular trees are mentioned.
The children of Israel, we read, did evil in the sight of the Lord. They built altars and reared groves, and consecrated them to the infamous worship of Baal. They were, in consequence, given up to the power of their inveterate enemies, were compelled to dwell in dens and mountains, and wrere greatly impoverished. Then they cried unto the Lord in their distress, and He sent an angel, who commissioned Gideon to become their deliverer. After obtaining a signal victory over the hosts of Midian, the Israelites desired that he would become their ruler ; but he refused, saying, " I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you : the Lord shall rule over you." After his death, however, the children of Israel returned to their idolatry. They remembered not the Lord their God, but made Abimelech their king. On this, Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon (all his brethren having been perfidiously put to death, and he having with difficulty escaped), ascended to the summit of Mount Gerizim, and receiving by divine inspiration a message from God, he spake to the men of Shechem the following parable : " The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them ; and they said unto the olive-tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive-tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees ? And the trees said to the fig-tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig-tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees ? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees ? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow : and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and de vour the cedars of Lebanon " (Judges ix. 8-15). Jotham proceeded to apply the words of this parable to what Israel had done, in that they had chosen Abimelech, a low-born, haughty, and cruel man, to be their king, in preference to the lawful heir, whom he had treacherously destroyed, and predicted that the fire of civil discord would be kindled among them, and terminate, as a con sequence, in their mutual destruction.
Although this inspired parable, in its proximate sense, was strikingly applicable to the historical circumstances in which the kingdom of Israel was then placed, it is perpetuated in the Word of God, not simply to convey admonition to nations and their rulers, but because, in its holy internal sense, it has reference to something that transpires in the minds and experience of all men. In the idolatrous worship of the rebellious Israelites, and the punishment of slavery and oppression to which they were subjected by the implacable Midianites, which, as a corresponding result of their impious conduct, they brought upon themselves, we see striking representative figures of the awful departure of men from the pure worship of the true God, to the worship of self, and, as a consequence, the awful and distressing captivity of the soul to sensual passions and cruel propensities, which ever seek to exalt themselves above the love and service of God, and to which they are obnoxious. From such appalling states of spiritual bondage and tyranny nothing can deliver us but a humble acknowledgment of our transgressions. This brings to our aid Divine interposition. When mercies are apparently withdrawn, and past deliverances are forgotten or feebly remembered, how prone are we to turn again to our evil ways, and resume our evil habits, to forget our gracious Deliverer, and to enthrone within us, as the chief ruler of our desires and thoughts, our father and king, the low-born, ambitious, sordid, and ferocious love of self, signified by Abimelech. Thus we stand in need of the constant correction and admonition contained inthe parable of the trees.
The bramble, as a hurtful shrub, signifies those individuals who, like Abimelech, are influenced only by low, selfish, domineering desires and worldly motives; and, in the abstract, such desires and motives themselves, together with the states of mind and life in which they are cherished. Gideon, on a previous occasion, had said, " The LORD shall rule over you ; " but the people were not willing to be led and governed by Him. Therefore, in seeking for a supreme ruler, they are represented as applying first to the olive-tree, significative of internal celestial goodness derived from love ; secondly, to the fig-tree, significative of external celestial goodness grounded in obedience ; thirdly, to the vine, significative of spiritual goodness proceeding from a sincere affection of truth, all originating in the Lord ; and the refusal of these trees implies that the people were become so selfish and wicked that they would not submit to the Lord, nor to any heavenly influence of goodness or truth proceeding from Him. Lastly, they apply to the bramble, significative of spurious goodness springing from hypocrisy, under which is the infernal love of dominion, signified by the expressions attributed to this tree, " Put your trust in my shadow," and which, notwithstanding appearances to the contrary, they desired should reign over them. For, in such a sensual, carnal state, here represented by Israel, a state from which peace and concord are absent, the olive-tree of celestial love and charity is neither desired to reign, nor could reign, without " leaving its fatness where with God and man are honored." Nor could the fig-tree of natural goodness and truth be promoted, where mutual good-will and social kindness are banished, without " forsaking its sweetness and good fruit" of genuine piety and morality. Nor yet could the vine of sacred wisdom assume dominion without " leaving its " delicious " wine which cheereth God and man," well-pleasing to the Divine giver, and a source of delightful refreshment to the humble receiver. So the trees are described as applying to the bramble, the evil which springs from falsity and hypocrisy, as their true king. This they regard as their only good. The bramble willingly accepts the sovereignty, and they fancy themselves secure. This willingness on the part of the bramble forcibly indicates its suitableness to the disposition of those over whom it is elected to reign ; but, mark the awful conclusion.
When truth is separated from its life, when the outward profession of godliness is but the hypocritical covering of inward lusts, knowledge confers the power of doing evil instead of good ; and, unless prevented by timely and heart-felt repentance, the burning fire of concupiscence breaks forth to the destruction of conscience, and the annihilation of all tranquillity and joy. Even the glorious cedars of Lebanon, those truths revealed from heaven, which may be perceived and confirmed by the lofty powers of the reason, bend before its desolating progress, and it rages in its unquenched and tormenting fierceness forever (Isa. Ixvi. 24; Mark ix. 43-48).
In the sermon on the mount, our blessed Lord and Saviour instructs us, from the objects of the vegetable world, how we are to distinguish between good and evil intentions. We are to know them by the fruits which they bring forth, or the effects they have upon our tempers and conduct. " Do men," says He, "gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit ; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth corrupt fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them " (Matt. vii. 16-20). In order to repress an overweening and injurious anxiety for the morrow, to withdraw us from all trust in our own vain prudence, to excite within us an implicit dependence on the care and protection of Him without whose superintending Providence nothing could exist, and to teach us, finally, that truth or faith alone, however glittering and gaudy, is insufficient for our salvation, He directs our attention to the verdure and beauty of the grass and the flowers which enamel the fields, but may be, notwithstanding, cast into the oven. In seasons of trial and temptation, the truths of heaven appear to be withdrawn, as the flowers fade during the inclemency of winter. But on the return of another spring and summer, the sun arises in its strength and they are renewed, and appear again in all their brilliancy, glory, and fragrance, to adorn, to delight, and to refresh the mind. " Consider," says He, " the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin : and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith ? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat ? or, What shall we drink ? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed ? (for after all these things do the Gentiles seek) : for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness ; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt, vi. 28-33).
In regard to such evil and false principles as are implanted by birth in the natural mind, He affirms in another place, " Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matt.xv. 13). And John the Baptist, speaking from an inspired dictate of the power of divine truth, which is revealed to man in order to extirpate such false and evil principles from the mind, declares, "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the tree : therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire " (Matt. iii. 10). The Lord also teaches us, in the parable of the tares and the wheat (Matt. xiii. 25-36), the just distinction which obtains between genuine and spurious faith and charity ; such good fruits as originate from the Lord Himself and from the activities of his Holy Spirit, or such false doctrines as are the productions of selfintelligence, and such spurious practices as originate in self-righteousness, the fruits of mere external zeal and formal morality, which claim as a merit the applause of men, instead of the praise of God. In the parable of the sower, the Lord again teaches that if the seed, which is the Word of God, or the divine truths of heaven revealed therein, fall " among thorns," which fitly represent the sordid cares and sensual pleasures of this world, it is said that " the thorns spring up with it and choke it." " But that on the good ground," He says, " are they who, in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke viii. 7, 14, 15). Again, our Lord compares Himself, in the process by which He was glorified, to " a corn of wheat falling into the ground," and afterwards " bring ing forth much fruit " (John xii. 24). The same figure is a striking representative of man s regeneration, by the inward reception of truth and goodness, and of his spiritual growth and fruitfulness.
The return of vegetation in the season of spring is so true an emblem of the process of regeneration by which man obtains newness of life, and also of the resurrection of the soul into a new state of existence in the spiritual world, that few can mistake it. Under this symbol, the apostle Paul speaks of a resurrection from spiritual death, and also of the resurrection to spiritual life at the death of the body, calling them fools who did not perceive so plain an analogy. " Thou fool," says he, " that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die : and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain. So also," adds he, "is the resurrection of the dead " (1 Cor. xv. 36, 37,42). For it is the vital germ, within the body or substance of the seed, which brings forth and vegetates, the outward coverings when separated from the living germ are decomposed, and either absorbed or dissipated ; and just so it is with the natural body, when the living, sentient spirit is by death separated therefrom. And lest the grossminded Corinthians, to whom he was addressing this letter, should mistakenly suppose, that, instead of speaking to them on the subjects of regeneration and resurrection to eternal life, he was advocating the Jewish notion of the resurrection of the material body, he emphatically adds, " There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God ; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" (verses 44, 50, 54). The Lord also says that such as hear his word and believe it, are raised from the grave ; they pass from death unto life (John v. 24, 25). And in his first general Epistle, the apostle John writes, "We know that we have passed [already passed] from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death " (iii. 14).
The trees signify the church and her members as to the reception of the knowledges, doctrines, and truths of the Word, the good affections thereto belonging, and the works which proceed therefrom ; and in an opposite sense, the perversion of all truth from the implantation of false principles in the mind, together with the evil affections thereto belonging, and the vile works which are thereby produced, as is evident from a great variety of passages in the Word of God.
Thus, " Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord ; in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away" (Psalm i. 2-4). And again we read, "Thus saith the Lord : Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh ; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green ; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit" (Jer. xvii. 5-8). And in order to teach us that He will humble the proud and exalt the lowly, that He will cause the verdure of mere intellectual attainments and the hope of external profession to wither forever away, that the mind which is destitute of intelligence, as the tree of the arid desert is of moisture, but which sincerely desires it, He will make to flourish by the rivers of living waters, the Lord says, "All the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish : I the Lord have spoken and have done it " (Ezek. xvii. 24). Professing members of the church, who fail to bring forth the fruits of usefulness in the life, are further described as " trees cumbering the ground " (Luke xiii. 7.
The hyssop, bitter to the taste, and flourishing on walls, is spoken of in the Word to signify external truth and its corresponding goodness, or the genuine doctrines of the letter of the Word, and a life of charity in agreement therewith ; for such doctrines inculcate the bitterness of self-denial, and thus are mediums of spiritual purification. Hence this herb was commanded to be used in the Levitical ceremonials for the cleansing of leprosy, and in composing the waters of purification. In this sense, too, the Psalmist, from the depths of contrition, implored the divine mercy in these memorable words, " Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean : wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm li. 7). But the lofty, majestic, and evergreen cedar, which Solomon contrasted with the lowly hyssop, abounding in the forests of Lebanon, and yielding an aromatic and valuable wood, which, in consequence of its durableness, was regarded as in corruptible, signifies, in a good sense, the internal or spiritual truth of the Word of God rationally perceived, and its appropriate good ness, a rational knowledge of tilings spiritual, and inward perceptions thereof, applied to exalted and enduring goodness of heart and life. Hence cedar-wood was so extensively used in the construction of the representative temple, and the Psalmist says, " The righteous shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon" (Psalm xcii. 12). "The trees of the Lord are full of sap : the cedars of Lebanon, which He hath planted" (Psalm civ. 16). He calls upon "fruitful trees and all ce dars, to praise the name of the Lord " (Psalm cxlviii. 9, 13). And the unwilling prophet pronounced Israel s goodly tabernacles as " cedar-trees beside the waters " (Num. xxiv. 6). So, again, " the tree of life," which signifies, in a supreme sense, the Lord Himself, as to his divine love, whence proceeds the eternal wisdom of his Word, and, in a subordinate sense, man s inmost love and life derived from Him and directed towards Him, is described as bearing twelve manner of fruits, producing, by the Lord s presence and influence in the affections and thoughts, all kinds and degrees of good works, works of use and charity, freely done by man, apparently as of himself, but in reality from the operations of the Lord in him and by him. And it is further said of this " tree of life " that " the leaves "all external knowledges and doctrines" are given for the healing of the nations," that is, were designed to restore men from the enervating maladies of sin to states of spiritual health and vigor, and thus lead them to a cheerful and conscientious observance of all the outward duties of moral and civil life (Rev. xxii. 2; Ezek. xlvii. 12).
The palm is sometimes called the date-tree. It is evergreen, always flourishing and fruitful, and is celebrated for the three hundred and sixty uses to which the lofty trunks, the aspiring branches, the umbrageous leaves, and the pleasant and nourishing fruit, are said to be applicable. It grows by springs of sweet water, and its Hebrew appellation, in its radical meaning, expresses its uprightness and stature, --it never naturally grows crooked. It was one of the constantly recurring ornaments of the carved work of Solomon s temple, and pilasters were made in the beautiful form of its trunk. Branches of palm were carried anciently before conquerors, in their triumphant processions, as signals of victory. Hence they were borne and cast before the Lord, on his entrance into Jerusalem, with cries of hosanna (John xii. 13), representative of his triumphant entrance as the Redeemer into his church, and each individual composing it; and were seen by John in the hands of angels (Rev. vii. 9), as denoting victory and confession. For palms signify, in the Word, wisdom and intelligence from the Lord, in acts and use, producing all kinds and degrees of spiritual goodness ; thus perfect uprightness from the love of goodness, leading to the confession that all victory over spiritual enemies is from faith in conjunction with divine power, and so to the renunciation of self-merit. The Israelites, in their journey from Egypt, pitched their first camp at a resting-place where they found twelve fountains of water and threescore and ten palm-trees ; so the regenerating Christian, in his progress through the wilderness of temptation, finds divine consolation, refreshment, and rest at Elim, a state of instruction and affection, in which the truths of faith in all abundance, and the good affections thence resulting, in all fulness, are found for the support and encouragement of the fainting soul. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm" (Ps. xcii. 12). But when the palm is mentioned in an opposite sense, it denotes self-derived intelligence, self-worship, and a vain and spurious morality.The idols, therefore, spoken of in Jer. x. 5, are described as being "upright as the palm-tree ; " for in such a state of mental perversion and pride there is no confession of divine aid, and it is said they "speak not," and are powerless to do any good ;" they must needs be borne, because they cannot go."
When the Lord predicts the establishment of a new Dispensation of goodness and truth in the minds of men, and describes the result ing changes which would ensue, the streams of spiritual and natural knowledge and intelligence which He would cause to flow from Himself, through his Word, to banish ignorance, to illustrate and enrich the external mind, together with the abundant glories and manifold privileges with which the members of the church would in consequence be blessed and adorned, and the rational and ever-new truths and delights with which they would be amply supplied in the process of regeneration, He says, in the language of correspondence, by the mouth of the inspired prophet, " I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys : I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar of Shittah, and the myrtle and the olivetree; I will set in the desert the fir-tree, and the pine, and the boxtree together" (Isa. xli. 18, 19; and, again, Isa. xxxv. 1, 2, 7).
These trees are evergreens of the lowest order, and include all kinds ; they manifestly denote the most external of those divine gifts with which the soul is enriched in the progress of its great change from a desert to a fruitful field, and in which flourishing state it blossoms in loveliness and fertility, and is said to " rejoice and blossom like the rose." But in regard to the spiritual blessings and celestial delicacies of love and wisdom in the internal faculties of the soul, and their perpetual increase, together with the safety and rest obtained by the faithful members of so glorious a dispensation, trees bearing relishing, nourishing, gladdening fruit, are introduced, as in the following pas sage (Dent. viii. 7-9), to the words in it. While of the perpetuity and security of such a state it is written, " They shall sit every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree; and none shall make him afraid " (Micah iv. 4)." Blessed," therefore, "is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green ; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit "(Jer. xvii. 7, 8).
Again, the same wonderful and momentous subject of the regener ation of man, with the gradual process by which it is effected, is thus spoken of by another prophet :" I," Jehovah, " will be as the dew unto Israel : he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return ; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine : the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon " (Hos. xiv. 5-7). Here the commencement of regeneration is described, in which the divine influences descend into the soul as the gentle dew is deposited on the tender herb (Deut. xxxii. 2). By this the principles within the mind are renovated and vivified. To grow, or rather blossom, as the lily signifies, to become receptive of truths of heaven appropriate to such a state in the understanding, to perceive their beauty, and that they were designed to encourage us in states of trial, to give us victory in every conflict of temptation, and to enable us with joyful hearts to bring forth the fruits of piety and holiness in the life. To cast forth roots as Lebanon, signifies not only to acquire but to retain such truths, so that they will be allowed to extend their influence downwards into the lowest or natural and sensual principles of the mind, where they become fixed and confirmed elements of spiritual life. By the branches spreading in the open atmosphere is signified a succeeding state, in which truths and knowledges are extended towards heaven, are multipled, arranged, and invigorated, because they are all regarded as having relation to the fruits of love and charity, of which, when they are brought forth, or made manifest in the attractive excellences of a good life, it is said, the beauty shall be as the olive-tree. By the scent being as Lebanon is signified, that thus the highest state of intelligence from rational perception is attained, and man becomes, in his finite degree, fully receptive of celes tial truth and love from the Lord ; " a fragrant tree of his right hand planting" (Isa. lx. 21), " a tree of righteousness," laden with the rich fruits of wisdom, virtue, intelligence, obedience, and use, prepared to be transplanted to the paradise of God. Hence it is added," they that dwell under his shadow shall return ; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine : the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon."
It is from this correspondence of the vegetable world to the church, the man of the church, and the interior principles of the human mind, both in respect to good and evil, truth and falsity, that trees are said to know (Ezek. xvii. 24) ; to clap their hands (Isa. Iv. 12) ; to sing and rejoice (Ps. xcvi. 12) : to praise the Lord (Ps. cxlviii. 9) ; to envy (Ezek. xxxi. 5) ; to be withered (Joel i. 12) ; to be cumberers of the ground (Luke xiii. 7) ; to be burnt up (Joel i. 19).
Again, the Lord s feet signify his divine natural principle; and, in consequence thereof, the literal sense of his most Holy Word, and also his church on earth. For the feet are those parts of the body which are in immediate contact with the ground, and on which the body rests as upon a base; and the literal sense is that containant on which the divine will and wisdom rest, and are revealed to the church. Hence, when the prophet Isaiah predicts the future glorious state of the Lord s kingdom on earth, when the exalted doctrines and truths of the Word, represented by the noblest productions of the vegetable kingdom, would be discovered, and his people would plainly perceive that the outward letter and the church by whom it is received, were the very hold, or resting-place, or sanctuary of the Lord with man, He says, " The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary ; and I will make the place of my feet glorious " (lx. 13) ; or, as Bishop Lowth more emphatically translates the latter clause, " that I may glorify the place whereon I rest my feet." To denote, further, that all these faculties and blessings are derived every moment of existence from the Lord alone, through his blood, and are the gifts of divine love, which is ever active for their preservation and cultivation, He says, " I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away : and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." " Abide in me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, 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. 1-5). How full of consolation and instruction are these divine expressions when rightly understood !
That trees, in the Word, signify man, and, abstractedly, principles of the human mind, both good and bad, is still further evident from what the Lord says by the prophet Ezekiel, when predicting the judgment which they induce upon themselves who profanely associate the doctrines and truths of the Holy Word with their own sensual lusts and false persuasions, and that they would perish by the love of evil. " Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field ; and say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the LORD ; Thus saith the Lord GOD ; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree : the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the LOUD have kindled it : it shall not be quenched. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?" (Ezek. xx. 40-49.) And also what the Lord says by the same prophet where he is treating of the destruction of a perverted church generally and individually, by skeptical reasoning, and the establishment of a New Church among the Gentiles, and describes the process of vivification, or regeneration, in each individual member, He says, "And all the trees of the field," etc. (Ezek. xvii. 24).
In further proof, let me direct your attention to the signification of wood, which in general corresponds to natural goodness. Wood is obtained from a tree which bore some kind of appropriate fruit, in agreement with its peculiar nature ; from most kinds an oil may be expressed ; it may be enkindled, and serve the purpose of affording genial warmth to the body ; it was anciently employed in the construction of temples, called houses of God, and in the formation of various musical instruments employed in the celebrations of worship ;it is also extensively used in the construction of habitations, and the fabrication of innumerable articles of convenience and use ; and from all these characteristics, and many others founded in its uses, its physiological structure, and even its chemical composition, it may be most satisfactorily proved that various kinds of wood, especially such as are precious and durable, correspond to various principles of goodness or charity, natural, rational, spiritual, or celestial, or their intermediates, appertaining both to the internal and the external mind and life. But in the opposite sense, wood which has no intrinsic value, the fruit of the tree whence it is hewn being described as evil, or in itself abounding with such qualities as are hurtful or destructive, or where it is perverted to a wicked purpose, corresponds to what is evil, in some of the above degrees, and has relation to the lusts of the unregenerate man and his wicked doings. In the former, or good sense, therefore, cedar-wood, as signifying works of charity performed from rational intelligence and goodness, is spoken of so frequently in reference to the Temple at Jerusalem, and in the Mosaic ritual is directed to be applied in the purification of the leper, when the plague of leprosy was healed (Lev. xiv. 4). It is this principle of goodness in the will and life which builds up the Lord s dwelling-place in the soul, and without which it is impossible that man can be renewed and cleansed after he has been smitten by the direful " plague of his own heart ;" for he has profaned to evil purposes the holy things of God's Word, and such are given up to their uncleanness who " change the truth of God into a lie" (Rom. i. 25). This profanation of truth is always signified by the plague of leprosy ; and because the Jews, being in possession of the Word of God, were more than other nations addicted to this evil, therefore that plague was more prevalent among them than among other nations. And hence the Lord Jesus not only cleansed the lepers who were brought or who came to Him, approach ing Him as goodness itself, but commanded his disciples also to cleanse them. " Now are ye clean," says He on another occasion, " through the Word which I have spoken unto you " (John xv. 3) ;"Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth" (John xvii. 17).
It was because wood, in a good sense, and in the lowest degree, corresponds to natural goodness, or charity, that the bitter waters of Marah, in the wilderness, were miraculously made sweet by Moses casting therein a tree, according to the express command of Jehovah (Ex. xv. 25). In the bitterness of those waters we may see a just representation of that state of spiritual trial, induced by murmuring and disobedience, in which the knowledges of divine truth, however desirable, are attended with bitter and perplexing thoughts, and afford no satisfaction to the thirsty mind, because they are separated fromthe heavenly principle of love or goodness. In this case, the Lord shows us a tree of healing virtue, which, if cast into the waters, will instantly deprive them of their bitterness ; and what is this, but a heavenly principle of charity in the heart, brought out or made manifest in a good life and conduct ! In the opposite sense, wood denotes the evil lusts of self and the world, for these are the opposites of charity or goodness ; as the woods, for instance, of which idols were made (Isa. xlv. 20), or which were used for funeral piles (Isa. xxx. 33). Wood has also the same contrary signification when those are treated of who attribute goodness to themselves, instead of to Him from whom alone it proceeds, thus who suppose that their works of goodness and charity are meritorious. These are said to have for saken the worship of the Lord, and are called worshippers of idols made of wood, the works of their own hands (Jer. i. 16). In the same sense it is thus spoken of in the prophecy of Habakkuk, " The stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber [or wood] shall answer it " (ii. 11) ; " Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach!" (ii. 19.) Here the prophet is denouncing self-righteousness and self-conceit, and warning those who are destitute of genuine truth and goodness, against all such delusive dependence. Evil lusts, signified by wood, are represented as answering to sensual suggestions, as echoing and confirming all false principles in the understanding, as assenting to the vain imaginations which they excite, and as instigating their possessors to seek instruction for evil purposes, thus to forsake the eternal truth, the Rock of Ages, and to throw their confidence upon their own idle speculations and pretended merits ; but a woe is pronounced upon all such as thus " say to the wood, Awake ; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach ; " who thus set up the idols of their own unclean hearts in the place of God and of his Word, for " they sacrifice unto devils, not to God. Of the rock that begat them they are unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed them" (Deut. xxxii. 17, 18).
" All goods which exist in act are called uses, and all evils which exist in act are also called uses, but the latter are called evil uses, and the former good uses. Now, as all goods are from the Lord, and all evils from hell, it follows that no other than good uses were created by the Lord, but that evil uses originated from hell. By uses, we mean all things that appear on earth, as animals of all kinds and vegetables of all kinds; of both the latter and the former, those which furnish use to man are from the Lord, and those which do hurt to man are from hell."
" The things that do hurt to man are called uses, because they are of use to the wicked to do evil, and because they contribute to absorb malignities, and thus also as remedies. Use is applied in both senses, like love ; for we speak of good love and evil love, and love calls all that use which is done by itself." " Evil uses on earth mean all noxious things in both the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and also in the mineral kingdom."
" Such in the animal kingdom are poisonous serpents, scorpions, crocodiles, dragons, owls, mice, locusts, frogs, spiders, noxious worms and insects, also flies, moths, lice, mites, and injurious animalcules ; in a word, those that consume grasses, leaves, fruit, seeds, meat and drink, and are noxious to beasts and men. In the vegetable kingdom they are all malignant, virulent, and poisonous herbs, as hemlock and aconite, and pulse and shrubs of the same kind; in the mineral kingdom, all poisonous earths. These few particulars, adduced for the sake of science, are sufficient to show what is meant by evil uses on earth."
" Nothing whatever exists in the natural world that does not derive its cause and origin from the spiritual world, and that good is from the Lord, and the evil from the devil, that is, from hell. By the spiritual world is meant both heaven and hell." " Now, it is influx from hell which operates those things that are evil uses, in places where those things are which correspond." " Such, likewise, are the appearances in the spiritual world, which are all correspondences ; for the interiors of the mind of the inhabitants of both heaven and hell are, by such effigies, presented actually before their uses." See D. L. W., pp. 330 -347 ; also Ap. Ex. 109 ; H. & H. 103-190.