MUSTARD >> Man's faith or good before he becomes spiritual
Scarcely an aromatic, and yet a condiment, the mustard may with some propriety claim a few words here. The least of the seeds sown in the garden, it yet may become the tallest of the herbs. In the plain of Buttauf, in the central part of Galilee, during the month of April, we rode among mustard plants ten and twelve feet high.
Slender trees they were, with scant foliage; and yet they were specimens of very rapid herbaceous growth, tree-like in form. They belong to the family which gives us the water cress, cabbage and cauliflower, turnips, radishes, and horseradish—plants in which the roots, stalks, and leaves are the edible portions, and not the fruits. These food storers are mostly biennials, which devote the first year of their existence to the gathering of material into themselves which they would expend upon the production of seed the second year. But the gathered materials are the use they do, and the seeds are only suggestions for gathering more. In this they are like men who spend their lives in gathering stores of wealth, or learning, or muscle, without any ulterior object; the stores themselves being good to them, and their use to the community. In accumulations of this kind there is much self-confidence, and sense of personal importance; and yet there may be a generous willingness that the stores should be of use to others.
The mustard, though a member of the family, is an annual, and does not gather stores in this way; but its rapid pushing itself into the semblance of a tree, displays the same spirit of selfconfidence and importance. Its chief use is in the seeds, which are sufficiently pungent to cause blisters when applied to the skin, or to be an active irritant in the stomach.
It may seem strange that the Lord should choose this as an emblem of faith, or of the kingdom of heaven; but it is an emblem only of the least of faith and the beginning of the kingdom of heaven. “A grain of mustard seed,” Swedenborg says, “is man’s good before he becomes spiritual, which is the least of all seeds, because he thinks to do good of himself. What is of himself is nothing but evil; yet as he is in a state of regeneration, there is something of good, but it is the least of all things” (Arcana Coelestia #55).
The faith which the disciples had—even James and John when they would have commanded fire to come down from heaven, and when they desired to sit, one on the right hand and one on the left, on the Lord’s throne—had much self-confidence in it, and much expectation of being great and doing great things. In all this it was like the grains of mustard seed, aspiring and stimulating, but innocent and intending only good, even if somewhat irritating to their companions; producing, in fact, the same effect as chafing.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875