<< THE VINE AND ITS BRANCHES. >>
DIVINE AND HUMAN LIFE.
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. [JOHN XV 1-10]
The Divine Love is the Life of the universe, the Father of all things. "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." Creation lives only by and in its connection with Him as the one, only Source of Life.
THE REPRESENTATIVE MEANING.
The parable presents the case of a vine planted and cared for by the husbandman. Growing trees and other plants represent the growing principles in the minds of men. The husbandman is the Father, the Divine Good, the Divine Love, the Essential Divinity, which inwardly dwelt in the Humanity of Jesus Christ. The Humanity is the Divine Truth, or Divine Wisdom. In the glorification, the Divine Humanity was united with the Father, or Essential Divinity, in the one Person of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the one, only God. "I and the Father are one." "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." Love is the indwelling life of truth. So, Love and Truth are two, in us, until united in regeneration.
The Lord, Jesus Christ is the" true Vine," because He is the Divine Truth, embodying and manifesting the Divine Love. He is the one God, in one Person, but known to man in the three aspects, of Love, Wisdom and Power. Only in Christianity, and especially in the New-Church, can the character of the Lord Jesus Christ be intelligently understood. He is the" true Vine," the Divine Truth, inwardly tilled with the Divine Love, the Father, and one with Him.
The vineyard is the church, in man's mind. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel." The vine in the vineyard, is the Lord's truth in the Church; i. e., in the minds of men who are in the Church. The Lord, as the personification of the Divine Truth, is the “true Vine," planted in the world, by the Divine Love. Truth is derived from Love, as a son from a father. As the husbandman plants the vine, so the Father, or Divine Love, brought forth the Divine Human, and planted it in the world, to form a Church, for the salvation of men. As the husbandman cares for the vine, so the Divine Love takes care of the Divine Humanity, the Divine Truth, "I, the Lord, do keep it. I water it,
every moment, Lest any hurt it, I will keep it, night and day." The Divine Love, through the Divine Humanity, dwells in all the truth that we know, and operates that truth. Truth, alone, has no vitality: its life is from the Divine Love, dwelling in it.
PRUNING THE VINE.
In the vineyard, the husbandman goes about, cutting off dead branches; and trimming the living branches, to bring them into the best condition. So, in our minds, the Lord plants His vine of truth, and cares for it. He seeks to take away all the dead things of evil and falsity, and by discipline, to purge, or purify, what is good in us, that it may become even better.
As regards the Lord, Jesus Christ, in his Humanity, the branches were His human affections, derived from His natural mother, These were taken away, if dead; and purified, if good, so as more fully to contain the indwelling Divine Life. But, as to man, every one who receives the truth is a branch of the Vine. His life branches but from the one Life, of the universe. He receives life from the Lord, as a branch receives its life from the vine.
It is the Lord's presence in us that makes us branches of His Vine. The Church is called "the mystical body of the Lord." In infancy, we are held in innocence, as branches of the Vine. But, as we mature, and assert self-will, the Lord operates to take away what is dead and evil, in us, and to lead us, through temptations, to become purer, and more fully alive, and more closely united with Him.
SEPARATING FROM THE LORD.
All who know truth, but do not love and practise it, separate themselves from the Lord. The branches will not bear fruit, unless, in our minds and lives, the truth so operates as to grow to charity and love. The Lord does all He can, for every man. He gives the man all the good he will receive, and takes away all dead and evil things, as far as the man is willing to resist and shun evils.
And happy are we, when we do not resist our Lord's work of taking away our dead evils, and of purifying our partial good; when we lovingly and cheerfully accept the trials and discipline of life, as means of leading us out of evil, and further into good. Divine Love comes to us, in the truth: and if we favorably regard the truth, and obey ,it, the Lord will lead us to greater good.
THE LORD IN MAN.
The Vine of truth is in each man, in such manner as the Lord can dwell in him, in the man's conscious life of intention, thought and act. Every circumstance of our life is nicely adjusted to our spiritual needs; to the pruning and purifying of our branches. The Lord's vine, implanted in our minds, becomes, in us, what we are willing to have it become, it is different, in different men ; and in the same man, in different stages of his progress. Thus our growth in regeneration, is a growth in the process of pruning and purifying the vine of truth, in us. And our care of the vine of truth is our treatment of our Lord, Himself For He, as the Divine Truth, is the Vine in us. And so we might read the text thus, "Every branch that beareth not fruit in Me:" for the genuine fruit of truth is goodness, and that goodness is the Lord's presence in us, when we abide in Him, and He abides in us.
PURGING THE VINE.
Every step, or stage, in our progress, is not final, but progressive; it is but a preparation for further progress. "He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit," greater in quantity, and better in quality. Our stages of spiritual progress are represented by the varied journey of the Israelites, from Egypt to Canaan, conquering, to-day, but to go on to greater conquests, further in the journey. While we are looking upon our trials as misfortunes, how greatly it would remove their sting, to remember that they are permitted purgings of our vine, to increase our spiritual fruitfulness. The redeemed pass through great tribulation, If we would try, one tenth as hard, to resist our evils, as we try to escape their discipline, we should soon be free from them.
CLEAN, THROUGH THE WORD.
" Now ye are clean, through the Word which I have spoken unto you." We cannot know the Lord, except as He reveals Himself to us. He makes His holy Word the medium of life to us, by revealing, to us, in it, the principles of Divine and Human life. The literal sense of the Divine Word reaches the outward life of our senses; and the inward, spiritual sense leads us to spiritual intelligence, Thus, by.His Word, the Lord leads us upward and inward, elevating our thoughts, purifying our affections, and setting our conduct in order; pruning and purging our mental vine; leading us to reject, and to resist, every feeling, thought and act that is not 'in agreement with the spirit of the Divine Truth.
Not natural water, nor natural blood, can spiritually cleanse us, but the Truth of the Lord's Word. And the secret of the symbolic meaning is this: the letter of the Word of God is figuratively called water, and the spiritual sense is figuratively called blood. Water represents natural truth; truth as applied to the conduct. So, baptism is with water, for representing a, cleansing of the outward life. But the holy supper is with the spiritual blood of the Lord the Divine Truth: and, literally, with wine, called "the blood of the grape," to represent spiritual truth.
ABIDING IN THE LORD.
" Abide in Me, and I in you." The Lord is the indwelling life of all things. But, for men to receive that life, they must abide in the Lord, so that His life can abide in them as the branches of the vine must live by their connection with the vine, Itself. And the quantity and quality of life, in every man, must be according to his relation to the Lord. The branch can merely use the life supplied to it by the vine. And so we bear good fruit, only in the measure and manner in which we use the life supplied to us by the Lord. And what the Lord can impart to us, depends upon the quantity and quality of our love to the Lord, and, thus, on our openness to receive what He seeks to give. What the regenerate man does, he does from the Lord. But, without the Lord, no man can do any good.
Thus, the closer and more perfect our union with the Lord, in heart and in life, the greater will be our fruitfulness, and the better the quality of our fruit. As our Lord reveals Himself in His holy Word, so, without His Word, we can do nothing that is good, because we cannot know anything of spiritual principles, There is nothing in ourselves to sustain
our life. Life is supplied to us, by our Lord, moment by moment, as a stream flows from its fountain; as the sap in the branch comes from the vine; as the blood in the body circulates from the heart. The branch brings forth like the vine: so men bring forth good, like the Lord; i. e., it is genuine good, in so far as it is the Lord's life circulating in them.
CAST OUT, ETC., ETC.
"If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth, as a branch, and is withered." Ceasing to maintain connection with the Source of life, he loses the supply of life. He is cast out, not by the Lord, but by his own character. He casts himself out from the Vine, by refusing to abide in it.
" And men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." Evil men are gathered, when their own evil affections gather themselves together in the central principle of self-love. They are brought into spiritual association with those, in the spiritual world, who are like themselves in quality. They are cast into the fires of their own fiery evil passions, the fires of their self-made hells. In these fires of unholy lusts, all heavenly things perish from them. The hells are not punishments, made by Divine wrath ; for, speaking spiritually, there is no such wrath : God is Love. The hells are the inevitable consequences of man's rejection of the blessings of the Divine Love, turning good into evil. God gives every man a heart, that he may love his brother-man : but the man who turns love to hatred makes a hell in his own heart. "I have set before thee, this day, life and good, and death and evil." Life and good are in the use of what the Lord gives to men; and death and evil are in their abuse.
ASKING WHAT WE WILL.
"If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." When a man's whole life, inwardly and outwardly, in intention and in act, is formed in accordance with the Divine laws of spiritual and natural life, he abides in the Lord, as a branch in the vine, And the stream of Divine life flows into the man, and through him, filling and blessing him. Thus, the whole power of the heavens operates in and through the man, and gives him power to do what he desires to do. In this state, the man is held in heavenly order. He wills to be, and to do, as the Lord wills, He loves to be led by the Lord. All his desires are such as come to him from the Lord. He can have all that he wills, because he wills such things, only, as are in agreement with heavenly life. He has power over evils and falses, because, in him, the heavens are present, to control the hells. He is taught from the Lord's Word, and thus, from the Lord, Himself, who is in His Word.
In this man's beautiful life, the beatitudes of heaven give perfect satisfaction. Every desire flows from the Divine Love; every thought from the Divine Wisdom : every act from the Divine Power. There is nothing in heaven that he cannot have, if he desires it; and there is nothing outside of heaven that he would be willing to have. Can you imagine a more desirable condition than one in which you can have every want satisfied, freely and fully?
SECURING OUR DESIRES.
And how can a man secure all that he wants? Only in one of two ways : either he must have power to conquer all opposing forces, and to acquire all that he naturally desires; or he must acknowledge some standard of right, and submit his desires to this test. Either he must be able to have all that he wants, or he must bring himself to want only what he can have. Now, it is very easy to see that no man can subdue the universe, and control its laws, and make his own will master of all things.
But he can succeed in having all that he wants, by a simple change in himself. If he will abide in the Lord, and submit his self-will to the Divine will; his thoughts to the Divine truth; and his conduct to the Lord's commandments; he will come to desire nothing that he should not have. And then he may ask what he will, and it shall be done unto him, because he will ask what the Lord loves to give. A regenerate, heavenly nature will not ask anything except what is heavenly, and such things he can freely have, in all the abundance that he can use. As a branch of the vine, he has the benefit of all the life that circulates through the vine. How great, then, the wisdom of angels, in abiding in the Lord; and how great the folly of devils, in resisting the Lord's mercy.
The Lord, in love, refrains from doing, for evil man, what they desire ; for such satisfaction would only sink them deeper into misery, At each stage of a man's life, he craves what agrees with his present nature. As his nature changes, his wants change. Everything desires according to its organization. The eye longs for light, and the ear for sound. The fish seeks water, and the bird seeks the air; the herds and the flocks desire pasture, and the carnivorous beasts demand flesh and blood. Everything utters a cry for the things that feed its nature. By the same law, the devils madly cry for revenge and filth, and the angels gently pray for love and purity. But, while the devils must be restrained, in their insane follies, the angels cannot breathe a desire which is not promptly and fully gratified. " No good will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
And it is a glorious truth, that the way to full satisfaction of our desires is not through the subduing of all things. To our self-will, but in the submission of our self-will to the commandments of our Lord. We are in disorder, and estranged from the beneficent laws of human organization. And the universe seems to be opposed to our individual desires. But, as soon as we curb our self-will, and return to the laws of heavenly order, the whole universe turns to greet us as a friend, and lays at our feet every gift that we can desire.
Men were created for a heavenly life; and, as soon as they enter into that life, the door of a new world opens; and they find themselves just beginning truly to live. And then they may have whatever they will, for-the Lord moves them to ask, as He moves the fish to ask for water, or the eye to seek the light. In fact, the Lord has already provided for men all that they can ask. See the whole universe, spiritual and natural, created for a home for men, and supplied with all things necessary to the human organization. And those who use, without abusing, the gifts of the Lord, may ask what they will, and it shall be done unto them. The only conditions are, that they shall abide in the Lord, and keep His commandments: for, without these conditions, men cannot attain a state of life in which they can receive heavenly blessings.
“Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples." The Father is glorified, when the Divine Love is manifested in the lives of His children. “Let your light so shine among men, that they may see your good works, and may glorify your Father who is in heaven." And where is heaven, but in the human soul. Those who truly keep the Lord's commandments, exalt the Father, the Divine Love, in their own hearts and lives; and they bear testimony, by their example, as genuine disciples, seeking, in their own conduct, to exhibit the goodness of the Lord. No truth becomes living, in us, until we practise it; until it bears fruit. The seed, which perpetuates, is not in the blossom, but in the fruit. How often we see a beautiful truth, as a sentiment. We talk of it, and think of it. But, if we do not practise it, in our daily life, of what value is it, to us? “Every branch .... that beareth not fruit, He taketh away."
It is a serious truth, that we do not embody any principle in our spiritual organization, as our own, until we put it into actual practice. The things that we have been pleased with, but have not practised, will, in the judgment, be lopped off as dead branches, bearing no fruit for spiritual life.
IN THE LORD'S LOVE.
“As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love." As the Divinity is united with the Humanity, by love, so the Divine Human is united, by love, with all who lovingly live by the Divine Truth, The Divine Love flows into the Divine Truth, and the Divine Truth comes down to men, bearing, in its bosom, the Divine Love. As the Divine Love makes the Divine Truth to be what it is, so the Divine Truth, as a Vine, sends forth the Divine Life into all its human branches. We continue in the Lord's love, when we continue to love the Lord; for the Lord always abides in all who are, willing to receive Him.
KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS.
"If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love." Thus, union with the Lord is practically effected by obedience to the Divine Truth, as known, as the assumed Human was united with the Divine, by fulfilling the Divine will. All human knowledge and wisdom, to be fruit-bearing, must lead the man to shun evils, as sins, and to keep the Lord's commandments, "All religion relates to life, and the religious life is to do good." Thus, by keeping the commandments, men become images and likenesses of the Lord. For the commandments are an expression of the Divine Life. As far as a man loves good; and does good, according to the Lord's commandments, so far does he love the Lord. All evil is opposed to the Lord, and to genuine human life. Keeping the Divine commandments, the Divine Love will flow into our hearts and lives, filling them with new and expanding life, branching out, more and more fully, towards the full "measure of a man, that is. of an angel."
TRUTH IN THE LIFE.
As novitiates, we found the truth very interesting. We could talk of little else. And if it has now become an old story, then that truth is not bearing fruit in our lives, as it should do. Our branch needs pruning and purifying. We are cultivating some dead things, that do not belong on the Lord's vine, The great question is, not how much truth do we know, in quantity; but what is the quality of our love, and of our life. If we are losing our interest in the truth, we are not abiding in the Vine, and its life is not flowing into us, and producing good fruit. Something, in us, is stopping the flow of the vine's life. Thus, our real interest in the truth, our work for the truth, and our willingness to put away every desire and thought that is opposed to the truth, are as mental thermometers, measuring the degree of our advance, or our backsliding, in the life of the Church. If we have kept up our interest in the truth, it will be like a growing branch of a great vine, daily sending forth new shoots, new blossoms, new fruits. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not: they are new every morning."
TRUTHS OF THE NEW-CHURCH.
To the soul that feels their renewing influence, in the growth of a new and better life, the truths of the Church, drawn from the Word of God, never grow old and stale. Truths grow stale to those who neglect to use them. Every new step upward and inward presents the two worlds, of nature and of spirit, in new lights and phases; exhibiting, to the ever growing soul, new views of the goodness and mercy of the Lord. "O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit." Truth that is loved and lived never grows old, or rusty. Use keeps the truths alive, in us, as exercise strengthens our bodily muscles. The growing vine of truth is ever becoming new, shedding old branches, and putting forth new ones, moved by the inward force of expanding love.
It is a great privilege to know the doctrines of the New-Church, opening the inward meaning of the Divine Word. But our responsibility is increased by our knowledge. And it is a fearful thing to lose interest in these grand and heavenly truths. To lose interest in these truths, is to lose interest in the higher and holier life to which they point. "Create, in me, a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
If we find these grand truths less interesting to us than they have been, it will be a serious mistake to lay the fault to our numerous worldly cares, or to any other external circumstances. The more our cares, the more we need the truth, to direct us. But, we shall need to look into our own hearts, for the cause of our indifference. If we lose interest in the truths of our Lord, we lose interest in our Lord, Himself.
But our Lord said, "If ye keep My commandments; ye shall abide in My love."
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887