LEAF, FLOWER AND FRUIT
In an earlier lesson we took a general view of the three kingdoms of nature, and we found three classes of mental objects to which they correspond. The animals - warm, sensitive, active - correspond, as we saw, to the warm, sensitive feelings or affections of the heart. And what is there in the mind, alive and growing, but not sensitive like the feelings? Our intelligence or knowledge on many subjects. This is the mind's vegetable kingdom; and the fixed facts and principles on which all things rest are the solid rocks. Ever since we took this general view we have been studying the animals, and in every case, when we asked, To what does this animal correspond? we could answer at once, To some affection.
Now we come to the plants, which all correspond to our knowledge or intelligence or wisdom upon various subjects. (HH 111; AC 3220) Can we recall a few passages from the Bible where plants in general are mentioned?
Remember what is said of the offerings brought by Cain and Abel - for the animal and vegetable kingdoms are there brought into contrast. "Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and unto his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." (Gen. iv. 3-5) The firstlings of the flock with the fat thereof represent innocent, loving affections, which we know are acceptable to the Lord. And it is easy to see that Cain's offering of fruits here represents mere intelligence, for the Lord said to Cain, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" (AC 341-355)
"The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden. . . . And out of the ground, made the LORD God t o grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food." (Gen. ii. 8, 9) The whole picture is descriptive of the spiritual state of those early people. And what in particular do the trees of Eden represent? Their knowledge of many kinds. And with those innocent people knowledge was not laboriously acquired; but they enjoyed perceptions of truth from the Lord. This is suggested by what is said of the trees, that the Lord God planted the garden and made the trees to grow. Trees "good for food," or fruit-trees, evidently correspond to knowledge of how to do useful works. Trees "pleasant to the sight "mean perceptions delightful to the thought. (AE 739; AC 98-106) We read of Solomon's wisdom: "And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes." (I Kings Iv. 33) Wisdom includes the whole range of human intelligence, from the most spiritual and interior to the most natural; it deals also with human affections of every kind and degree. (AC 7918) . Recall also the destruction of every green thing by the locusts in Egypt. (Exod. x. 15; AC 7647, 7671; AE 543; see Chapter xx) Before we study particular kinds of plants, suppose we take a typical plant and observe its steps of development from seed through stem and leaf to flower and fruit. Let us choose a fruit-tree as the most complete plant for our study. And the mental fruit-tree is our knowledge in regard to some kind of good use. (AE 739; AC 102)
The Seed and Root. Where does the natural tree come from? It grows from a seed. And the seed is from some older tree. How does a tree of knowledge of some good use begin? From a suggestion from some one who already has knowledge of this use. This suggestion is the seed. The natural seed must settle into the ground and must send out little roots which take firm hold, and which also draw in food for the plant. We do the same spiritually when we take home a suggestion of some use, and look about among our circumstances and the facts we know, to learn how the use can be done in our case. It is hard to transplant a tree after it has taken root, and so when our knowledge is based on and adapted to one set of circumstances it is hard to change and adjust it to other circumstances. (TCR 350; AC 880, 5115)
The Stem and Leaf. When a seed has taken root, what is the next step towards bearing fruit? It must send up a stem, perhaps with many branches, and clothe them with green leaves. These leaves are like lungs to the plant. (AC 10185) They receive the air through little mouths, and in the sunlight take from it food which the plant needs. With this they enrich the sap, and move it around and around in the sunshine till it is ready to become a part of the organic structure of the plant.Our tree of knowledge sends up its stem and reaches out branches as it makes a plan for doing use. If the use is one which applies in many ways to various relations of life, the plant has many and spreading branches.Next, we must do a work like that of the leaves. We must consider carefully the information we have gathered; must ponder it well in the best light we have, till it takes its right place as an organic part of our tree of knowledge. At this stage of our growth, the use is still rather remote, but we have an intellectual delight in the knowledge for its own sake, thinking only distantly of the use for which it is preparing. Our tree of knowledge is now in leaf. (AR 936; AE 1339)
The Flower and Fruit. The fruit is what the tree lives and grows for, and it corresponds to the use to which our tree of knowledge leads. But between the leaves and the fruit come the flowers. The parts of a flower; the bright petals and even the stamens and pistils, are modified leaves. They do a work not wholly unlike the leaves, but more delicate; they distil the finer juices for the fruit; and while the leaves were working in a general way for the whole plant and the whole crop of fruit, each flower is working for its own particular fruit. Are there also special thoughts preparing for each useful work as the opportunity draws near? There are; and they are the blossoms of the tree of knowledge. These are happy thoughts, not from mere intellectual delight, but from the more heavenly delight of doing the good use. The bright colors of flowers and their fragrance and honey, picture the happiness of these thoughts made glad by the immediate prospect of accomplishing the use. (AC 5116, 1519)
Then the fruit, which, as we saw, is the use at last accomplished. Fruit is food for men; and the doing of good uses is real satisfaction to the spiritual life. In the fruit are many seeds; and each use we do shows us many more to do, and gives the suggestion to others to do like uses. (AE 1339; AR 936; AC 10185; TCR 106) You will notice that the steps of progress of the tree from the seed to the fruit are in reality the steps of a man's regeneration first the reception of instruction; next, the intellectual enjoyment in knowledge; and finally the heavenly enjoyment and satisfaction in the good use to which knowledge leads. In the Bible passages which now come to mind, telling of the growth of plants from seed to fruit, the growth of knowledge is described, and, in a broader sense, a man's regeneration. (TCR 106; AC 5115, 5116)
What spiritual planting is, is very plain in the parable of the sower. "Behold, there went out a sower to sow: and it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, some fell on stony ground, . . . some fell among thorns, . . . and other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased. . . . The sower. soweth the word." (Mark iv. 3-20) The Lord's words are so many suggestions of duties and good uses which He wishes men to cultivate in their lives. Some now, as of old, do not take His words at all to heart, and they are soon forgotten; some hear with joy but have no patience when trials come; some suffer their good plans to be crowded out by schemes that are not good; some in an honest and good heart hear the word, and understand it, and bring forth fruit with patience. Notice the three steps: hearing, understanding, doing. (Matt. xiii. 23; D. Life go; AC 3310; AE 401) The first Psalm says of the man who shuns evil "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." (Ps. i. 3) He shall abound in the heavenly satisfaction of good uses, and he shall have abundant intelligent thoughts in regard to uses. (AE 109; AC 885; AR 400) We read in the Gospel of a tree which bore leaves but no fruit. "And when he saw a fig-tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. And presently the fig-tree withered away." (Matt. xxi. 19) Do we ever get so far as to think about doing good, and still, even when we have opportunity, not do it? Do we sometimes enjoy knowledge intellectually, but have none of the heavenly satisfaction in doing? Was this true of the Jewish Church when the Lord came to it seeking fruit? (AC 9337; AE 403; TCR 106)
Can we all see what is meant by fruits in these passages? John the Baptist said "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance. . . . And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." (Luke iii. 8, 9) The fruits are evidently good works; and it is surely true that knowledge which does not come to works is taken from us, in the other world if not in this. (AC 7690) Our Lord said of false prophets: "Ye shall know them by their fruits. . . . Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. . . . Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt. vii. 15-20) Does it mean more than that people are to be judged by their works? A prophet of the Lord was a mouth-piece of the Lord's truth. Impersonally, the truth itself was the prophet. A false teaching is a false prophet. How are we to distinguish between true teachings and false? (TCR 435; AC 5117; AE 403, 212) "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. 5; AC 9258)
There are beautiful passages which show how unconsciously to us the change goes on from the reception of instruction, through the stage of intellectual interest, to the delight and heavenly satisfaction of doing good. They show how tenderly the Lord cares for this spiritual growth in us, which is in fact our regeneration. "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." (Mark iv. 26-28; AE 911; AC 5212, 10124) "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not; they spin not. . . . If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and to-morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Luke xii. 27, 28; AE 507; AC 8480)
Author: WILLIAM WORCESTER 1897