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PERSONS >> Elements of Human and Divine Character

We wonder sometimes that the Bible in its letter tells of such trifling things sparrows, and flowers of the field, fishes, stones, mustard-seed, houses, garments. But we have learned how all these things, trifling in themselves, represent elements of spiritual life, and Divine qualities in the Lord Himself. On this account alone they deserve a place in the Sacred Scriptures. And sometimes we wonder that the Bible is so largely composed of the history of certain people not very great nor very good - that it tells so much about Abraham, and Joseph, and Moses, and Samson, and David, and Solomon, and Elijah, and the apostles. How can the history of these men form a part of the Holy Word? Is it possible that they like the natural objects which seemed so trifling, are representative of elements of human and Divine character?

Recall the parables in which the Lord taught of heavenly life. He used the birds and flowers as types of spiritual things; did He also use men to represent human qualities, and even to represent Himself? There is the parable of the good Samaritan; do not the priest and Levite, and the good Samaritan, stand for classes of persons, and for elements of character in us all? Therefore, the Lord says, "Go, and do thou like wise." (Luke x. 30-37; AE 444; AC 9057) And the parable of the prodigal son. Do not the prodigal and the elder brother represent classes of people, and dispositions in us all? And the father, so kind and forgiving, does he not represent the Lord? (Luke xv. 11-3 2; AE 279; AC 9391) Another parable tells how a king forgave his servant, but withdrew his forgiveness when the servant was unforgiving to a fellow-servant. 'The king stands for the Lord, for we read, "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you." (Matt. xviii. 23-35; AC 4314, 2371) Again "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard." The householder is the Lord; we and our various faculties are the laborers. (Matt. xx. 1-16; AC 1069; AE 194) In another parable, a householder made ready his vineyard and let it out to husbandmen who refused to render the fruits in their season. "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. . . . And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them." (Matt. 33-45; AE 122, 922; AC 124) "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many," but those who were bidden "all with one consent began to make excuse." Is it not the Lord who makes ready the heavenly feast; and do not we, or elements in us all, pray to be excused? (Luke xiv. 16-24; AE 252; AC 2336) We read of a man traveling into a far country, who delivered talents to his servants, and after a long time came and reckoned with them. Our translators have recognized this as a parable of "the kingdom of heaven." It is the Lord who entrusts talents to our keeping, and leaves us free to use them well or to abuse them. (Matt. xxv. 14-30; AE 675; AC 5291) Elsewhere we read: "As a man taking a far journey . . . left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch." So plainly it is the Lord who does this, that our translators have introduced the parable by the words, "For the Son of man is as a man," etc. (Mark xiii. 34; AE 187, 194) In still another parable the Lord told of a rich man who commended his unjust steward because he had done wisely. Even in this story, apparently so unheavenly, is contained a lesson of heavenly life. (Luke xvi. 1-8; AE 763; DP 250) And He told of an unjust judge, and added, "Shall not God avenge his own elect?" (Luke xviii. 1-8)

In all these parables, elements of human character, and even the Lord Himself, are represented by men, sometimes by men who are not good. The same is true in the  histories which form so large a part of the Bible. They are histories, but at the same time they are Divine parables of spiritual life, and the persons who figure in them, imperfect as they are as men, represent various elements in our spiritual life, and even the Lord Himself. (AC 1409, 1025, 1876)

Remember how the Lord said, "Search the scriptures: . . . they are they which testify of me." (John v. 39) The Gospels were not yet written; it was the Old Testament of which He spoke. Again He said "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me." (John v. 46) As the Lord walked with the two disciples to Emmaus, after His resurrection, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke xxiv. 27) He came also to the eleven disciples. "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." (Luke xxiv. 44) Again we read, "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev. xix. 10)

The Bible gives the history of nations and men, and yet in its deeper meaning it tells of our own regeneration, and of the Lord, so that when He came He was "the Word made flesh." (John i. 14) The whole Word is a unit; it is all sacred, and of practical value. Throughout the history of the Old Testament, as in the parables of the New, we seem to read, "So is the kingdom of heaven;" "so is the Son of man."

Can you name a person in the Old Testament history who is evidently representative of the Lord? Is it true of David? In a prophecy spoken long after David lived and died, it is still promised: "I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David. . . . And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them." (Ezek. xxxiv. 23, 24) "David my servant shall be king over them; and they shall have one shepherd. . . . My servant David shall be their prince forever." (Ezek. xxxvii. 24, 25; Hosea iii. 5) Plainly it is the Lord who is here meant by David. (Luke i. 32; Mark xi. 10; Rev. xxii. 16; AC 1888; AE 205; D. LORD 43; TCR IV end)

David was a king and a man of war. What in the Lord's life is represented by David's wars, and by his strong rule? The Lord's conflicts were with evil, for He fought with all the powers of hell, and overcame them. These were the battles and victories which David's wars represented. They rep resent also the conflicts with evil in our own hearts,, in which the Lord conquers as we ask His help. And is the Lord a king? and where is His kingdom? "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke xvii. 20, 21) "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. . . . Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." (John xviii. 36, 37)

These words teach us that it is by means of His truth that the Lord conquers and is king. In His own temptations He met the tempter with Divine words of condemnation "It is written, Thou shalt not." (Matt. iv. 1-11) And we feel His power to conquer in our temptations, and His gift of strength to rule ourselves, as we repeat His commandments and read His Word.

The Divine truth exposes every evil and condemns it, and establishes and guides a good life. The Lord in His Divine truth does this kingly work. In this aspect, especially, He is represented by David. (AE 205; D. LORD, 43, 44)

Remember this when we read how David was called from the care of sheep in Bethlehem, to be king. In a much deeper sense it was true of the Lord. Think of the Lord beginning to meet the haughty and deceitful arguments of evil, in the simple power of literal Divine truths, as we read of David with his five smooth stones overcoming the giant Goliath. Think of the Lord's utter rejection of evil, with no reserve nor compromise, when we read of David's utter destruction of his enemies. And David's sins and remorse should suggest to us the Lord's sense of the weakness of the humanity which He shared with men, and His Divine humility. (Ps. li.; PP)

This thought, that David means the Lord and His Divine truth battling with evil, conquering and ruling, gives a wonderful sacredness and interest to the Psalms, of which the sweet Psalmist himself said, "The spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." (2 Sam. xxiii. 2) Look through the book of Psalms, and see how those ascribed to David are Psalms of conflict or of triumph. Read them as the expression of the Lord's own heart in the conflicts and Divine triumphs of His life; and of our hearts as we permit His truth to conquer and to rule in us. For example: "A Psalm of David. Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O LORD." (lxx) "A Psalm of David. Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him." (lxviii) "A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight." (cxliv) David, in the Bible, whether in history or prophecy, or song, represents the Lord conquering and ruling in the power of His Divine truth.

After faithful conflict comes peace. The state in which truth is the defense and guide, gives place to one in which love joins with truth and makes it easy and delightful to do good. After every temptation and victory of our Lord, the Divine love was received more fully, with its peace. How are these states of peaceful strength represented in the Bible parable, as the states of conflict are represented by David? By Solomon and his glorious and peaceful rule. His very name means the Peaceful. Read of the abundant gold in the time of Solomon; read of his wisdom, and how he built the temple of the Lord. "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree, from Dan to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon." (1 Kings iv. 25) Read this story of peaceful strength, and see in it all a representative picture of a peaceful, heavenly state when the enemies of the soul are overcome, and a dwelling for the Lord is prepared. See in it a picture of the Lord's glorification. Therefore the Lord said of Himself, "Behold a greater than Solomon is here." (Matt. xii. 42; AC 3048,5113; AE 654)

We found that the Psalms ascribed to David are Divine songs of conflict and triumph. It is of interest to notice the character of the two Psalms which bear the heading, "A Psalm of [or for] Solomon." "The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness. . . . In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace till the moon be no more." (lxxii. 3, 7; PP; AE 242, 365) "Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth to his beloved in sleep." (cxxvii. 1, 2; PP; AC 3696) Read these Psalms as expressions of a heart which has gained a victory and is at peace. Especially read them as expressions of the Divine peace which followed conflict in our Lord.

But there are many states which must be passed through before the victories of David can be gained and the peace of Solomon enjoyed. We must look for a representative account of these in the story of the first innocent people of Eden, and in the history of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to king David.

First, the story of Adam and Eve in Eden. How like the Gospel parable of the householder who made ready his vineyard and let it out to husbandmen! It is a picture of the church in its first innocence, and of childhood's innocence, and of the Divine innocence of our Lord's childhood. (AC 64; TCR 466; AE 617) Then the call of Abram from his country, and kindred, and his father's house. ' It reminds us of the Lord's saying, that His disciples must leave house, and kindred, and lands; and of His question, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" They all express the awakening sense of the duty to leave a natural life, to come into spiritual states of obedience to the Lord. (AC 1989, 1407)

We read on in the history of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and his sons, and find it all a parable, telling of the successive developments of heavenly life in ourselves and especially in the Lord. Briefly, Abraham represents the heavenly will, Isaac the heavenly understanding, and Jacob and his sons the heavenly life in all its various forms. (AC 1025, 1409; Chapter 39)

Reading in this spiritual way we can understand the promise made to Abram and repeated to Jacob: "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Gen. xii. 3, xxviii. 14) We lose sight of Abram and Jacob as men, and think of the heavenly will and heavenly life which are represented, and of the blessing which attends them. We think of the Lord, and of his Divine love brought down into human life to multiply good affections and true thoughts with their blessings in the lives of men. (AC 1424, 3709; AE 340) We see new meaning in our Lord's words, that "many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. viii. 11) We think not of the patriarchs, but of the heavenly affection, intelligence, and life which they represent. And we think of the Lord who gives these heavenly blessings to men and angels. (AC 2187, 2658, 10442; AE 252; HH 526; TCR 735)

So when we read in the parable, that the beggar Lazarus "died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." (Luke xvi. 22) It is the Lord who receives in His great love those who are poor in spirit. (AC 3305, 6960; AE 118)

We must not now stop upon the history of bondage in Egypt, the exodus, and the conquest of the promised land. We know that it is more than the history of Israel. "I will open my mouth in a parable," says the Psalm; "I will utter dark sayings of old." (Ps. lxxviii. 2) And as we read on we find that the parable is this very history of deliverance, and desert wandering, and conquest. It is a universal story of regeneration. It is the history of deliverance from bondage to external evils, and of victory in deeper temptations, in our Lord's human life, and through Him in us. The leaders of Israel, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon, and the rest, represent the Lord in successive stages of His redeeming work, and as He is received by us in the stages of our regeneration. (AC 1409; AE 19)

There are also the prophets, who are, as it were, personifications of the Lord's Word which they spoke. Their history teaches us, as in object lessons, of the relation of the Word and of the Lord Himself to the world and to our own hearts. "Elijah the prophet" must come before the Lord; yet not the man Elijah, but the literal Divine truth of right and wrong for which he stood, whether heard by the Jews from the mouth of John the Baptist, or learned by us from the Bible. (MAL. iv. 5; Luke i. 17; Matt. xi. 14; AC 5620; AE 19, 619, 724) The Lord was rejected at Nazareth, but He points us to the history of Elijah and Elisha to learn more fully how He and His words are despised by a dead and formal church, and are welcomed only by Gentile hearts. (Luke iv: 24-27; AC 9198, 4844)

In thinking of Elijah and John the Baptist we have already been led across from the Old Testament to the Gospel, and we find that here also persons are representative of elements of human character and of the Lord. (AE 19, 724) Think especially of the twelve whom the Lord chose to be with Him, and to go forth to preach. These twelve, like the twelve tribes of Israel, represent all who receive the Lord's teaching and are of His church. They represent also all the elements of a heavenly character in an individual soul. As apostles, sent out to preach, they represent especially all the different forms in which the Lord's truth goes forth and is received. (Chapter xxxii.; AC 10683; AE 9, 100, 430; AR 790; HH 526) Can we now understand the Lord's promise to the twelve: "Verily, I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel"? (Matt. xix. 28) As the twelve tribes are all developments of heavenly life, so the apostles who judge them, are the many forms in which the Lord's truth is received, judging, instructing, guiding each development of life according to its character. (AC 6397; AE 9, 333, 431; AR 79; TCR 226)

We might go farther, as we have already done in our study of the tribes (Chapter 39) , and learn what element of heavenly character each apostle represents. This would be especially easy in the case of Peter, James, and John, the three most prominent apostles, who were often chosen to be with the Lord, as representing the twelve. (Mark v. 37, ix. z, xiv. 33) Remember that it was Peter who confessed the Lord: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. xvi. I6) This faith in the Lord, Peter represents. Therefore the Lord replied: "I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." (Ver. 18, i9) If for a moment we supposed the Lord meant that the man Peter is the church's foundation and holds the keys of heaven, we should learn differently a few verses farther on, when the Lord "turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me." (Ver. 23) Faith in the Divinity of the Lord is the rock on which the Christian Church rests; this holds the keys of heaven. This faith is represented by Peter. (AC preface to Genesis xviii. and xxii., 3750; AE 9, 411, 820; AR 768) John is "the disciple whom Jesus loved." This means that he most loved the Lord, and felt most deeply the Lord's love for him. The Gospel written by John's hand is full of tender perception of the Lord's goodness. (John xiii. to xvii) John also wrote in an Epistle: "Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (I John iv. 7, 8) Love for the Lord, and a life inspired by this love, is what John represents. (AR 879) This helps us to understand the Lord's words about John which were not understood by the first Christian people: "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? " (John xxi. 22, 23) He did not mean that John should not die, but that love for the Lord, which John represented, would endure through times when there would be little true faith. (AC 10087; AE 8, 821; AR 5, 879)

The apostle James we do not know so well; but from his close association with his brother John and with Peter, we are prepared to learn that he represents neighborly love, which is like unto the love for the Lord, and which is intermediate between true faith and that deepest love. There is an Epistle of James, which if not the writing of this apostle, is at least by one of like character, as is implied by the common name. The Epistle is full of precepts of neighborly wisdom and kindness. This is the element of heavenly character which we are taught is represented by James, the companion of Peter and John. (AC preface to Genesis xviii.; AE 444, 600) Remember the request of James and John: "Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy kingdom." (Mark x. 3 7) The Lord did not promise to the two apostles, personally, the natural power they desired; but it is true that the two loves, for the Lord and for the neighbor, which James and John represent, do prepare men to share the Lord's strength for every heavenly use. This spiritually is to sit on His right hand and on His left. (AC 3857; AE 600)

Turn now to the Revelation. Still we find the familiar names of the tribes of Israel and of the twelve apostles. All thought of the men who bore the names has been lost, and we think only of the elements of heavenly character which the persons represent. "I heard the number of them which were sealed and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. Of [each tribe] were sealed twelve thousand." (Rev. vii. 4-8) The sealed from every tribe represent all who are prepared for heaven by a genuinely good life in any of its varied forms. (SS 11; AE 39, 430, 452; AR 348, 363) The holy city, New Jerusalem, "had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. . . . And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Rev. xxi. 12,14) The names of the apostles are on the city's foundations, for it pictures a heavenly state resting secure on the Divine truth in all its adaptations to human needs. The names of the tribes are upon the gates, because entrance to this heavenly state is found by all who live the Lord's truth faithfully, according to their several ability. (NJHD 1; AE 1309, 1312; AR 900, 903) "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Rev. xxii. 14)


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