THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCES
<< CHAPTER XL >>
THE TRUE WORSHIP OF THE LORD REPRESENTED BY THE OFFERINGS OF
THE WISE MEN FROM THE EAST. THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF GOLD.
FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH, AS UNFOLDED BY CORRESPONDENCE.
From the Intellectual Repository for January, 1851
NOTHING is more precious to us than time, and the opportunities it every moment presents of working out our salvation by the subjection of every purpose, thought, imagination and act of our external to some divine and spiritual principle from the WORD OF GOD in our internal man. Thus " to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness " is our great and blessed duty, as well as the great safeguard against evil of every kind. The performance of this duty, through faith in the Lord, and the love and practice of his holy precepts, brings with it the blessed assurance that whensoever the Son of Man cometh to summon jis hence, He will find us ready, " with our loins girded and our lamps burning." Our months and days here are most precious because in time, during our probation in the world, we form the plane and the basis of our spiritual and eternal states. We are now in the ultimate plane of creation; and as regeneration can only be commenced in ultimates, " now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation " ; the more we cultivate our privileges here, the more extended, deep and solid will become the plane or base upon which our mansion of bliss hereafter can be erected. This plane or base can be cultivated to an indefinite extent ; every moment may add something to its extension and culture. Our natural state may be compared to a vast wilderness, like the uncultivated plains of Australia or America, which in their natural state grow nothing useful for man ;f but which are susceptible of cultivation to an indefinite extent, and of producing fruits in every variety for the good of mankind. Thus, whilst we are here, the cultivation of our natural state can be enlarged, and the portions already brought under spiritual culture may be still improved as to quality and capacity for the production of the more exalted fruits of righteousness and of happiness. But when we leave this world, the ultimate of creation, we cannot extend and perfect the base upon which our mansion in heaven is constructed.
Now, all this spiritual culture of our natural state is denoted by the true worship of the Lord. Hence it was that the Latins used a term to denote worship which signified culture, namely cultus. Thus Cicero says " Religio Deorum cultu pio continetur." But the true worship of the Lord is involved in the offerings which the wise men brought unto Him at his nativity, an event which we have recently commemorated. These offerings were Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh ; and the men who brought them were guided to Bethlehem by a star, which went before them.
All these particulars respecting the Lord s nativity are recorded, not merely as historical events, but for our instruction in righteousness, " that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." The Magi, or the wise men who came from the east, were in possession of knowledges from ancient revelations and traditions, that the Lord would come into the world to accomplish the redemption of mankind by subjugating the hells, glorifying his Humanity, and establishing a new dispensation of his mercy and goodness, or a New Church upon earth. There had always been from the first prophecy that was delivered, " that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent s head," an anticipation in the minds of the pious of this great event ; and when the " desire of all nations " was about to come, this hopeful anticipation was exceedingly active. The star which guided the wise men was the emblem of the knowledge they possessed respecting the Lord s Advent ; and in reference to us of the New Testament Dispensation, and especially of the New Jerusalem Church, this star of spiritual knowledge should shine more brightly to our minds than it did to the wise men of old. This knowledge should bring us to the Lord at the commemoration of his nativity, and induce us to bring spiritually, in genuine worship, our offerings of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
The Lord s nativity in itself is to be infinitely distinguished from the nativity of every other man. And unless this infinite distinction is in some measure seen, it is impossible to form a true idea of his Humanity, and of his being one with the Father even as the soul is one with the body. The reason why the Christian world in general thinks of the Lord s human nature as similar to the human nature of another man, and why they separate his Divine nature from his Human, is owing to the fact of their not having true ideas concerning his conception and nativity. If they would but think, as the Word plainly teaches, that his Father was the Divine Being Himself, of whom He was conceived, and that, of consequence, his soul was infinitely distinct from the soul of all other men who are conceived of merely human fathers, they would begin at the right point, to contemplate the true nature of the Lord s Humanity, and would see, as the apostle declares, that " in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," and that, consequently, his human nature must needs be divine, and not merely human; since no merely human nature, however exalted, could possibly contain all the fulness of the Godhead.
But as everything good and true, everything innocent, holy and happy must be born in us, if we are to become the subjects of regeneration, and thus prepared to enter into heaven ; therefore the Lord s nativity, or his being born into the world, represents the birth of everything spiritual and heavenly from Him into our individual world, that is, into our natural man. " Christ in us," says the apostle, "is the hope of glory;" therefore the Lord, as to his divine love and wisdom, must be born in us, as the only hope of attaining to our glorious destiny in heaven. When, therefore, we commemorate the Lord s Nativity, we should remember that the most profitable way of contemplating this subject is, that the Lord as to all the principles of his kingdom (see Luke xvii. 21), must be born within us and that this birth is effected by the acknowledgment of Him in his Divine Humanity.
The Lord was thus born into the world to become our Redeemer and Saviour, in order that his redeeming and saving love and truth might be born in us individually. This blessed spiritual nativity, or this re-birth of man, is accomplished by virtue of the genuine principles of a living, holy worship. This worship is denoted by the offerings of the wise men ; and we become truly wise in proportion as we offer up this holy worship to the Lord.
Gold, as the emblem of the first principles of a living worship, signifies the worship of the Lord from pure love or goodness. This is the first essential of all worship and of all genuine religion ; and gold so frequently mentioned in Scripture, is the proper correspondent emblem of this love or goodness. Hence it was that this precious metal was so universally employed in the structure of the tabernacle and the sanctuary. The ark was overlaid with gold, the altar of incense in like manner, and nearly all the utensils of the sanctuary were either made of gold, or overlaid with it, in order to teach us, by the most striking symbols, that all worship should be performed from the principle of pure love. Hence it is that the Lord says to us, " I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayst be rich " (Rev. iii. 18), in order to teach us that He in his Divine Humanity, is the only Source whence all genuine love or pure good ness can be received.
But what is genuine love, and what is the relation of pure goodness to genuine love ? There are various kinds of love and goodness, and it is of infinite moment to know what is genuine and what is spurious. As it is of importance to know whether gold is genuine, alloyed or spurious, possessing nothing but the color, or the external appearance ; so it is of infinitely greater importance to know whether the love and goodness which actuate our life are of a genuine, or of a spurious character, since our happiness or misery in eternity will depend upon our life s love, or on our governing affection. There is natural good, moral good, and spiritual good. Natural good has relation solely to our natural life, its wants and supplies ; and its source is the love of self and of the world. This is necessary for our natural state and our self-preservation, but it is not signified by the gold mentioned in the Word. No genuine worship springs from this love, and from the consequent goodness predicated of it ; for all goodness is predicated of what a man loves, and consequently so long as a man is actuated by principles originating solely in what is selfish and worldly, he can offer to the Lord no gold of genuine love and goodness.
Moral good is of a higher order than merely natural and sensualgood ; because it springs from principles founded in man's rational nature and in his relations to society, and especially to the community in which he lives. These principles relate to what is equitable, just, honorable and becoming in decorum and manners. By this good a man rises above the animal, and above the selfishness of his own nature, and approaches nearer to the dignity of a real and true man. But from this moral good, so far as it originates in selfish and worldly considerations, which have relation to our merely natural life, no spiritual and genuine worship can be offered to the Lord. It is not the pure gold that He can accept ; it may appear on its surface like gold, out the substance within is spurious and base, because, being derived from motives originating in the external man only, its quality is merely selfish and worldly. This good may make a man a good citizen of the world, and an orderly and even a virtuous member of society ; but it cannot make him a citizen of heaven, nor prepare him to dwell with angels. An atheist may from these principles be an irreproachably moral man ; but as his morality can only originate in what is merely natural, it is evident that he cannot thereby rise into a spiritual and heavenly state. Thus no pure gold of genuine worship can be offered to the Lord from this source only.
But when a man's moral principles are taken from the Word of God, his morality will have a spiritual and divine principle within it, and he will become not only a good citizen of the world, but a citizen of heaven at the same time ; his " citizenship will," as the apostle says, " be in heaven." Hence he can bring his offering of gold in the worship of the Lord ; his heart will be influenced by that love and goodness from which all true worship springs. The highest order of good that we can receive from the Lord is called celestial; this good is received from Him when everything in our internal and our external man is brought under the influence of love to Him above all things; when He is the beginning and the end of all our motives, affections and doings ; when we love to live in dependence on Him alone, are resigned to his will, and acknowledge Him as the God of our sorrows as well as of our joys, directing all things, whether in states of prosperity or adversity, for our eternal good. The purest gold that we can offer to the Lord in worship, is from these principles, and it is called celestial good. Hence it was the first which the wise men, when they had opened their treasures, offered to the Lord.
Frankincense, as being grateful in its odor, was largely employed in the representative worship of the Jews, and generally throughout the ancient wrorld, among the Asiatics, Greeks and Romans. The use of incense, therefore, in worship, was a rite derived from very ancient times. The true signification of this rite, as of every other, can only be known from the correspondence which, w hen explained, is easily understood. Frankincense, as being delightfully fragrant, corresponds to the gratefulness and blessedness of the spiritual life, as formed by the divine truths of God s Holy Word. All worship offered to the Lord from the spiritual affection of truth is grateful to Him ; hence we so often read that the odor of incense was grateful to the Lord. Hence also it was that there was an altar of incense. The prayers of the saints are expressly called incense (Rev. v. 8), which is a proof that the offering of incense corresponds to the worship of the Lord from a spiritual affection of divine truth, that is, an affection irrespective of anything selfish and worldly, whether it be honor or gain. This second offering, therefore, of the wise men, denotes the worship of the Lord from a spiritual ground, or from the pure affection of truth ; whereas, the offering of gold denotes the worship of the Lord from pure affection of goodness springing from a pure and exalted love of the Lord. We, therefore, bring an offering of frankincense unto the Lord, when we consecrate to Him all the intellectual and moving principles of the mind, when our thoughts, our imaginations, our plans and projects, in short, when everything which constitutes our intellectual and mental life is brought tinder the divine influence of love to our neighbor. In this case the incense of our worship is grateful and acceptable to the Lord.
Gold and Frankincense, therefore, denote the interior and the inmost principles of all holy worship, without which the Lord cannot be approached in love and faith, however He may be approached with the lips and with outward professions of love and worship. He who does not spiritually bring with him this gold and frankincense when he worships the Lord, cannot worship Him in spirit and in truth, because he has not, through faith and love, the internal vital principles from which all true and acceptable worship springs. But as an internal principle, our worship is not complete unless our external man as to his appetites and desires, is also consecrated to the Lord. Myrrh, therefore, in the order of principles, signifies the establishment of what is good and true from the Lord in our sensual and most external principles of life. Hence it was that Myrrh, as an odoriferous plant, was extensively employed in the service of the sanctuary in making the holy anointing oil. (Ex. xxx.) Myrrh also was used as an ingredient in the embalming of bodies ; it was thus employed to embalm the Lord s body (John xix. 39, 40), to denote, by the law of correspondence, the preservation of divine and spiritual life in our lowest sensual principles, in our appetites and sensations, so that whether we eat or whether we drink, we may do all, as the apostle says, " to the glory of God." Let us, then, bring unto the Lord, when we engage in prayer in our closets, in our family circles, in the public worship of Him, and in all the duties and acts of life, the offerings thus spiritually understood and applied, of gold, frankincense and myrrh. FIDELUS.