<< THE WICKED HUSBANDMEN. >>
THE REJECTION OF DIVINE TRUTH.
33"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35"The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. 38"But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40"Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41"He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." 42Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.( MATTHEW XXI: 33-43)
Those who do not love the truth, finally reject it from their minds and lives. And the more it displays its character, the more persistently they reject it, and resist its influence. And, therefore, in the judgment, such men must spiritually perish, because they have no inward grasp upon the truth; and, the more their minds are developed in their characteristic quality, the more they will be opposed to the Divine truth; until, finally, they will reject it even from their memory.
The householder is the Lord; and His house, or dwelling-place, is in the mind of each individual man. If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him; and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him."
Vines represent truths, growing in the mind. The Lord, as the Divine Truth, calls Himself "the true Vine." The vineyard is, then, in a general sense, the Church, where the truth is planted, and where it grows, and bears fruit in a good life. Personally, the Lord's vineyard is set up in the man's understanding, where the truths of the Lord's Word are planted.
When the Church is represented by a vineyard, all the things of the Church, the knowledge, intelligence and wisdom, in the men of the Church, are implanted by the Lord, as a man plants the vines in a vineyard.
" And hedged it round about." The hedge served as a fence, for protection, and for separating one field from another, For the vineyard in man's mind needs protection from the man's own sensuous nature, as well as , from the evil influences of others. "The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it."
These green, living hedges, which protect the growth of truth in our minds, are the literal precepts of life, such as the, Ten Commandments. These commandments, as laws of conduct, are our best protection against the attacks of evil influences, So the whole of the letter of the Lord's Word is a guard, a hedge, or protection, to the inward truths of the spiritual sense of the Scriptures. "The world, the flesh, and the devil," are always prowling about our mental vineyard, and seeking to break into it, and to destroy it. And the hedge not only protects, but also distinguishes and separates one field from another. And so, in the regenerating mind, there must be order and arrangement of principles. We must learn to put the various kinds of good and truth in their proper places, in our love, and in our thought. Some things are more important than others And some things are ends, some are causes, and some are effects. When we learn to make an orderly arrangement of mental principles, then the knowledges from the Word, which we use in doing this, are the mental hedges, which distinguish and separate one mental field from another. And, in fact, much of our spiritual protection depends upon our clear and rational distinction between different principles.
As we put the Lord first, the neighbor next, and self last, we protect ourselves from the dangers of unregenerate life, in which the heavenly order is inverted, and the disorder of the hells is established, with self first, and the Lord last.
Evil spirits always try to confuse our minds, in our distinguishing of good from evil, and of truth from falsity, in the practical life. But "knowledge is power." Observe the mind that has no clear distinction of principles; that does not know what the Lord is, and who He is, and what He teaches; that does not distinguish between its sensuous impulses and the promptings of guardian angels; and you will find that mind open to attack from all sorts of evil influences and false notions.
Like a weather-cock, it is moved by every wind, and has no fixed position of its own. It does not affirm anything. But the positive, affirmative mind, with clear knowledge of distinctions, is on its defence against the suggestions of evil spirits. It distinguishes the quality of such influences, and hence knows their source. By carefully discriminating between what is of the Lord, and regenerate, and what is of self, and unregenerate; and what belongs to heaven, and what to earth, we are fore-warned, and thus fore-armed. We can see the enemy's real character, in spite of his pretences; we discover the wolf behind the sheep's clothing. And this distinguishing of principles must be made in the daily life or conduct, as well as in the affection and thought; for where there is no clear rational discriminating of principles, the mind becomes confused as to good and evil; and then there is no practical and thorough separation from evil; and, hence, no thorough purification of the life. There is no sound hedge, for protection.
In just such things you may read the history of every general Church on the earth. So long as its members retained a clear, rational and practical distinction between principles, especially between good and evil, the Church flourished. But, as the world cast its sensuous influences upon the Church, and gradually and cunningly weakened the minds of the members by indulgence, clear rational distinctions were lost, and confused in practical application; and then the members made idols of non-essential matters, and disputed over outward forms, while they allowed the inward spirit of religion to die out. Thus, as the hedge is essential to the protection of the vineyard, so the discrimination of principles, by the Lord's commandments, is essential to the safety of our mental vineyard.
Then the householder "digged a wine-press in it;" i. e., he dug a place for the wine-press, and set up the press, for future use. The Lord, as the Householder, prepares the man's mind for his future work, in the attainment of spiritual life. The wine-press is used to separate the juice of the grapes from the pulp and skin. In our mental life, our works are the grapes, or fruits of the truth sown in our mental vineyard; that is, in our natural understanding. If our works are good, they will yield the clear juice of spiritual. truth. For a man learns spiritual truth by doing the natural truth; i. e., the truth, being carried out to good fruits, yields its spirit. " If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. " A man, by the examination of the spirit and quality of his works, sees the spiritual truth that is embodied in them. This examining is using the wine-press. It is drawing out the very spirit and essence of his works.
The wine-press, itself, is the rational faculty, the thinking principle of our mind, in which there is a pressure, or struggle, to develop the character, or spirit, of our doings. Using the wine-press represents considering our works, in the light of the Lord's Word ; separating the inward spirit and motive from the outward act.
We need to beware of feeling satisfied with the outward form of the act; and we need to examine the motive, as to whether it is heavenly or worldly; whether our works are wrought in God, or in self. " He that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." Grapes are not wine. So, the outward good fruits of the truth are different from the spiritual truth which may be drawn from them.
The householder "built a tower" in the vineyard. The tower was for observation, and for defence. While the grapes were ripening, a watchman was placed in the tower, to observe the approach of any enemy, or wild beast; that any stealing, or any injury to the vineyard, might be resisted. And, at times, there was need of the fortified tower as a protection, and a place of retreat, in case of attack.
The essentials of such a tower are that it shall be elevated, to give a large field of observation, and that it shall be strong, for defence.
The tower represents interior truth, truth elevated above the surface of things, and yielding a higher point of spiritual thought, and, hence, greater protection and defence from attack. In an elevated state of thought, the rational mind is a watchman, which comprehends the state of things, and sees the approaching dangers of sensuous life. The tower was built of stones, representing truths from the letter of the Word, interiorly understood. Truths are lifted out of the memory, and above external thought, when they are taken up into the understanding, and into the heart.
It is a great advantage, to see the coming of evil before it reaches us. For instance; something has been said that has begun to stir up our bad temper. After our bad temper has been aroused, we justify ourselves, by saying that the other person made us angry. But, in our anger, we go further than we first intended. We do evil. Now, suppose we had set our spiritual intelligence on the high tower of interior truth, to watch our spiritual vineyard. Our intelligence would have seen our temper coming up; and would have known that it would go too far. And, being fore-warned of its approach, we could have been ready to put it down.
Thus, interior truth, truth seen and known in its spirit and motive, enables us to maintain a watchful survey of our whole life, and to observe our dangerous states, as they arise. Our tower is elevated, to give us observation and warning; and it is strong, to retreat into, in case of need. For there are times when a man's sensuous thoughts are confused, and when he needs the protection of well-known spiritual truths. " Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation; the spirit, indeed, is willing, but the flesh is weak." "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."
LETTING OUT THE VINEYARD.
The householder, having made ready his vineyard, put it to use; he let it out to husbandmen. By letting out, the lessee takes the property, to use it, according to the terms of the lease; but not to abuse it. So is it in the human mind, and in the Church. In each man's mind, the Lord prepares a vineyard, and lets it out to the man, to use, to enjoy, but not to abuse, nor to claim as absolutely his own. The principles of the Church are taught to men, and, as far as possible, implanted in men's minds. And we can use them, according to the terms of the lease. These terms are the Ten Commandments. Under these Commandments, we have a right to take, use, and enjoy, all mental land and vines, all the good and the truths of the Church.
But, in using them, without abuse, we must acknowledge them to be the Lord's. And then, when we live in love, wisdom and obedience, we render to the Lord of the fruits of His vineyard. But, if we regard these
Divine principles as our own, and forget our allegiance to the Lord, and decline to render Him an account of our occupation and use, of them, we commit spiritual robbery.
The householder letting out his vineyard, represents, then, the Lord communicating truth to men, through His Holy Word, and thus preparing the men for the works of spiritual life. So, in the allegory of Eden, the Lord placed Adam and Eve in a garden, "to dress it and to keep it;" i. e., to use it, to keep it in order, and to protect it from injury, so that it might continue to bring forth the fruits of love, wisdom and holiness.
THE MAN'S WORK.
In this work, a man can, spiritually, as the husbandman can, literally, prepare the ground, plant the seed, take care of the growing crop, and gather the harvest. But he cannot make the seed, nor produce the growth. He can, diligently and faithfully, use the means that the Lord provides. And, at the same time, he can humbly acknowledge his dependence upon the Lord, without whom man can do nothing. For the Lord not only gives us the means, but He gives us, also, the ability to use the means, and He sustains our strength, in that use.
GOING TO A FAR COUNTRY.
But, as we do our actual work, we seem to act from our own ability. The Lord's agency does not manifestly appear; He seems far away. We seem left to ourselves. This is what is meant by the householder going "into a far country," after letting out the vineyard. Places represent states of mind. We receive truth in the understanding, especially when the understanding is elevated, and open to the light of the Lord's Word. But the actual use of the truth is in the practical doings of natural life, when the outward thought is engaged.
THE LORD'S RETURN.
But, as we bring the truth into our acts, and bear the fruits of the truth, and secure actual good from the truth, these good fruits seem to recall the Lord. Thus the Lord is not near to man in the mere form of truth, but in the life of truth. As we work in our own name, the Lord seems at a distance, gone "into a far country," because our state of mind is far removed from Him. Spiritual nearness and remoteness are in character, and not in space, alone. "The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him; to all that call upon Him in truth." And yet it is said of the evil man, "God is not in all his thoughts." Evil is selfish; and it separates men from the Lord.” Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you."
We cannot see the sun, except in the light of the sun. In fact, we could not have known of the existence of the sun, except from its own light. So, we cannot see the Lord's presence, in our mind, except in the light of the Lord's own truth, communicated to us. Therefore, the more we look to the Lord, the more light we have. And the truths in our mind will thus be brought to good fruit. And, as the mental fruit ripens in goodness, the Lord seems to draw nearer and nearer, because we draw nearer to Him.
THE TIME OF FRUIT.
Thus, the time of the fruit draws near. Fruits must be formed, increased, and ripened. There are successive stages of growth. As the sun ripens the fruit, so the Lord, as the Sun of Righteousness, acts upon our mental fruits, and ripens them. And their quality will depend upon our inward motives. The time of fruit comes, when the truth, received into the understanding, begins to influence the will, and thus to come out into practical good works.
Every man's fruits are of the same character as himself; "for the tree is known by its fruit." All men bear some kind of fruit. Often, in outward appearance, the works of evil men resemble those of good men. But their quality is different. And the quality of the grapes will show, when they pass through the wine-press. The sweetness, or bitterness, will be in the juice. When the principles planted in our mental vineyard begin to bear practical fruit in good works, then we begin to get messages from the Lord, claiming His share in these good fruits.
He sends his servants, that they may "receive the fruits." These servants of the householder are the truths of the Lord's Word, which teach us our relation to the Lord. When any truth, planted in our understanding, begins to influence our will, and to bear fruit in our practical life, the Lord sends certain truths of His Word, to remind us that the good we have now acquired is not our own, but His; that we must acknowledge His ownership of our mental vineyard, and our accountability to Him for our use of it.
In a historical sense, the servants of the Lord are the prophets and teachers whom He has sent, in all the ages, to call men to the remembrance of their dependence upon the Divine Life. In a sense abstracted from persons, the servants are the truths which the prophets taught; "as He taught by the mouth of His holy prophets, which" have been since the world began. "And it is literally true that men, the Jews, especially, beat, killed, and stoned, these prophets, personally, as men; and they spiritually persecuted the truths which the prophets taught from the Lord. "
The good that is in our works depends not upon their quantity, but on their quality. We may not claim heaven by the multitude of our good works; for, the moment we claim heaven, we claim our works as our own; and as we do this, we take all the heavenly quality out of them.
ABUSING THE SERVANTS.
But, as the selfish man performs works that are good in form, he does them in his own name. And then, as he sees and comprehends the truths of the "Lord's Word, which demand of him an acknowledgment of the Lord, he rejects such truths. He takes these servants of the Lord, and beats them, kills them, and stones them. "When the truth is separated from the Lord, the life is taken away from the truth, in the mind which separates it. Truth that we claim as our own, is defiled by our evils of self-love.
BEATING, KILLING AND STONING.
To beat the servant, here means to pervert the truth, by our evils of life. To kill a servant, is to deprive the truth of life, by separating it from love, and from practical uses. To stone the servant, is to falsify the truth, by wresting it from its true sense and spirit, and applying it to favor our evils. For a stone, in a good sense, represents natural truth; but, in a bad sense, it represents truth falsified, and made false, to the mind, by a false application of it. When the Israelites stoned the prophets, they represented what they were mentally doing, in falsifying the truths which the prophets taught from the Lord.
"Again, he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did unto them likewise." In the Divine Mercy of the Lord, He still seeks to help men, even in spite of their persistent iniquity. The Lord always readjusts our spiritual circumstances to our spiritual needs. If we resist Him, in one way, He comes to us in another way, seeking to save us. He gives us every opportunity to repent and amend.
It has been so in every dispensation of the general Church, and it is so in the life of every individual man. The Divine Word is" read, and preached, "line upon line, and precept upon precept; here a little and there a little." Servant after servant is sent to us, with messages from our Lord, calling for the fruit of the vineyard. If simple truths do not reach us, more profound truths are sent to us; truths more penetrating; truths in different phases and aspects.
And yet, if we do not love the truth, we go on rejecting it, in every form ; for, in every form, it rebukes our evils. He who voluntarily breaks one of the commandments, spiritually breaks them all. They are as a chain ; if you break one link, you break the chain. He who intentionally rejects one known truth, rejects the spirit of all truths; and rejects the Lord, Himself, who is the Divine Truth. All truths are similar in spirit; for they are all Divine. And he who hates one truth, hates all; for he hates the Divine spirit of truth. He does likewise to all these servants of the Lord.
No wonder, then, that the wicked husbandmen rejected even the son of the householder, when they had rejected his servants. "Last of all, he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son." If there is anything in a man to which the truth can appeal, surely the Lord. Jesus Christ, the Divine Truth incarnate, could reach him. The beautiful life of Jesus, and His exalted teachings, would reach any heart that can be reached.
In the coming of Jesus, we have both precept and example. But the evil leaders of the Jews were even more antagonistic to Jesus, than they were to the truths which were taught in the Old Testament. When they saw the spirit, or quality, of the Lord, they were aroused to. Intense hostility to Him, because they saw His antagonism to their characteristic life of evil. "They said among themselves [literally, in themselves], This is the heir; come, let us kill him , and let us seize on his inheritance." So, in every evil mind, the inward purpose is to destroy the influence of the truth; for, if the truth should establish itself in their minds, they would be deprived of their worldly lusts.
"This is the heir;" i. e., these are the very conditions which receive the Lord, and come into His love and wisdom. Evil men reason that, if they can reject from their minds this state of new life, which is the Lord's dwelling-place, and which is heir to all that the Lord has to give, they can claim all the merit of their good works, and have no further need to acknowledge any Divine agency in their lives.
Man inherits all his spiritual life from the Lord. And that principle, in man, which opens him to the reception of heavenly life, is the principle of innocence, coupled with humility. But, to the self-exalting mind, nothing else is so abhorrent as humble innocence. The self-lover makes every effort to crush out any beginning of such a principle in his mind. Thus, in the evil man, the external mind resists every attempt of the Lord to open the man's interior mind.
The evil husbandmen three times resisted the will of the householder; they resisted the first and the second companies of servants, and then resisted the son. "Three," as a representative number, denotes fulness, completeness, as to truth. Thus, in three times rejecting the truth, evil men completely and entirely reject it, and confirm themselves in the life of opposite false principles.
CATCHING, CASTING OUT, AND SLAYING.
The husbandmen "caught [the son] and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him." To catch him, or take him, is to reject the truth from the will; to cast him out of the vineyard, is to reject the truth from the understanding; and to slay him is to reject the truth from the daily life. Thus, the evil mind, brought to face the truth, voluntarily destroys, in itself, the life and influence of truth, and, hence, of all heavenly love.
Historically, the parable relates to the Jews, who had the Word of God, and should have lived by It. But they rejected the prophets, and the Lord, Himself. And the spiritual kingdom was taken away from them, and given to the Gentiles. The Lord did not actually take away the spiritual kingdom from the Jews, but they thrust it away. The Lord never withdraws His love from men. Not only are all things good and true and useful the gifts of the Lord, to men, but more than this; they are His continued gifts; and their goodness depends on their coming now from the Lord. They cannot be separated from the Lord, and preserve their goodness. The Lord's mercies are "new every morning, every evening new." "The Lord is good to all, and His tender-mercies are over all His works." He keeps even the devils from being worse than they are.
The Divine Truth, as a son, or outbirth, of the Divine Love is the heir to all things which Divine Love can comnunicate. For good comes to us by means of the truth. But, if we reject the Divine Truth, we reject the Divine Good that is within the truth. W e reject all that the truth would enable us spiritually to inherit from our Lord.
The Lord Himself, as the very Spirit of Truth, is what the evil mind rejects, and casts out of its mental vineyard, that it may seize the inheritance; that it may banish all idea of God, and may claim all good and truth as its own and may, in its own pleasure, so adulterate the good, and falsify the truth, that their Divine quality will be destroyed; and that self may be set up as its God.
Thus the evil man comes to regard his mind, and all his faculties, as entirely his own, and without any responsibility to anyone for his use of them. Thus, to "seize upon the inheritance," is to separate the heart, the understanding, and the life, from the Lord. Jesus said, "Ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration, ..... Shall inherit everlasting life." "The Lord knoweth the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever." And, as regeneration unites us with the Lord, the regenerate man, and the Church, are often, in the Scriptures, called "the inheritance of the Lord."
After stating the evil actions of the wicked husbandmen, Jesus said, "When the lord, therefore, of the vineyard, cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?" That is, what will be the result of their own evils? For the Lord will not injure them. The punishment of evil comes from its own character and conditions, and not from the Lord.
To the evil men, themselves, the penalty seems to come from the Lord; for they think, if He had been willing, He might have arranged things otherwise, making evil always pleasant in its results. But this would not be possible. The Lord is good, truth and life. And all life, and all joy, must be in and from Him. And, necessarily, the man who voluntarily and knowingly separates himself from the Lord, separates himself from all genuine happiness. "If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered."
Therefore, when, in the Scriptures, it is said that the Lord destroys, or punishes, the wicked, the literal sense speaks according to natural appearances, and not according to spiritual truth. The Lord teaches us truth, and that truth judges us, by our treatment of it. So Jesus said, "I judge no man; the Word which I have spoken unto you shall judge you."
Evil destroys itself. "Evil shall slay the wicked." It is not God that destroys them, but their own wickedness. "The wages of sin is death." Jesus said, "I came not to destroy the world, but to save the world." And yet, though the Lord seeks to give heaven to every man, still evil men cannot receive heaven, because they will not; for they persistently reject the only influences which form heaven in the human soul.
TAKING AWAY THE VINEYARD.
Therefore, necessarily, the vineyard will be taken away from the wicked husbandmen, and given to others. All who live from the principles of the Lord's Word, which are summed up in the Ten Commandments, will be regenerated, and saved from the hell of evil. They will shun evils, as sins, and do good.
But those who do not live by good principles, will not be saved; for they will make a hell in their own hearts. And, after death, they will voluntarily tends towards hell, because they are, inwardly, already in hell, and are not willing to be in heaven, because they are not willing to live a heavenly life, and thus to form a heavenly character. For it is the character of the man, and not the place, that makes heaven to be heaven.
Those who will not live by the truth, finally lose even the knowledge of truth. Jesus said, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words." So, our love to the Lord makes us delight in the words of our Lord; And, as we
live by the truth, we grow in spiritual intelligence; we cultivate the vineyard. "Through Thy commandments, Thou hast made me wiser than mine enemies. . . . . Through Thy precepts I get understanding. Therefore every false way do I hate." "A good understanding have all they who do His commandments." But "from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have."
In the Divine Providence, whenever a Church has declined, another Church has been raised up, to keep alive the vineyard of the Lord. The First Coming of the Lord instituted the First Christian Church, after the ruin of Judaism. And, about a hundred years ago, as the First Christian Church became corrupted in doctrine and in life, the Lord made His Second Coming, in spirit, and in the truth, in the revealing of the inward, spiritual sense of His holy Word. And He instituted the New-Church, the Church of the New-Jerusalem, to take up the work in His vineyard. And, as the very corner-stone of this New-Church, stands the truth of the Divine Humanity of Jesus Christ, as one God, in one person, seen in three aspects, or manifestations. This is the "stone which the builders rejected" from the Old Theology, but which has now" become the head of the corner," in the New-Jerusalem. "O God of hosts, look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; and the vineyard which Thy right-hand hath planted."
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887