<< THE LOST PIECE OF SILVER. >>
THE LOSS AND RECOVERY OF TRUTH.
8"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (LUKE XV. 8-10.)
A neglected truth is practically lost to us, until we return to an affectionate practice of it. And, with our renewed recognition and practice of a truth, there comes renewed union with the good which the truth teaches, and which is the inward life of the truth. And, as we renew our mental connection with the truth and the good, we renew our connection with our Lord, who is the Source of all good, all truth, and all life. And, in this renewed connection, we are lifted up, mentally, into a state of spiritual rejoicing.
THE LITERAL STORY.
The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, seeing the Lord associating with publicans and sinners, sought to destroy His influence among the people, by accusing Him of being a sinner, also. In their evil character, they could scarcely imagine that Jesus could have any heavenly motive for associating with social outcasts.
Evil men, judging from their own mental conditions, rarely understand the motives of good men. Those who know their own selfish desires and plans, seldom see that others are actuated by totally different motives. And so men of low moral character are always ready to doubt the existence of purer motives in other men.
And the only effective answer to the suspicions and slanders of evil men, is the reply which the Lord, Himself, made to these Pharisees and scribes; i. e., He showed them that it is good to seek and to save that which is lost; and that His Divine Love was doing all that could be done, to save every sinner. The Lord's association with sinners, was not to make Himself like them, but to induce them to become like Him. And so, it is the duty, and it should be the joy, of every good man, to do all the good that he can do to those who need his help.
The two parables, "The Lost Sheep" and "The Lost Piece of Silver," are closely connected, showing the two sides of one phase of our human life. The parable of "The Lost Sheep" relates especially to the condition of the will, or heart, in the repentant man ; and the parable of "The Lost Piece of Silver" relates particularly to the understanding, or intellect, in the same man. Thus, the first parable refers to the good that is in the man's heart and its affections, and the second parable refers to the truth that is in the man's intellect and its thoughts.
THE WOMAN. SILVER.
The woman represents the affectional element. Silver represents truth, as distinguished from gold, which represents good. In the Scriptures, the Church, as to its affection for truth, is often represented as a woman, a virgin, or a wife. Silver represents the things of the spiritual degree of life, the degree characterized by truth, as distinguished from the celestial degree, which is characterized by good. “I am the Lord, thy Saviour and thy Redeemer..... For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver;” i. e., in the regeneration, the Lord gives us internal, celestial good, instead of natural good; and spiritual truth instead of hard natural truth.
SILVER PIECES. TEN.
The" pieces of silver," in the parable, were Greek coins; drachmae, each drachma being worth about fifteen cents. They were small coins, in daily use for common necessities of life. There were ten pieces. Ten, as a representative number, denotes all. The ten pieces of silver represent all the truths necessary for practical life, truths of life from the Lord's Word. To have these ten pieces of silver in possession of the woman, is to have our affection holding possession of abundance of truths from the Divine Word.
LOSING ONE PIECE.
And, when the woman lost one. piece of silver, she represented our affection losing its hold upon one important truth of life, by neglecting to practise that truth. For instance: suppose we have set our affection upon the truths of the New-Church, which we know in abundance; i. e., with sufficient fulness for all practical purposes. But, suppose we allow ourselves to fall into some evil feelings, or false thoughts, or bad habits, by whose influence our mind becomes neglectful of the truth; and some important truth becomes obscured to our mental vision.
Suppose, for instance, that we lose sight of the grand truth that all our knowledge of spiritual truth is from the Lord, by revelation, and not from any ability in ourselves, to discover truth, apart from the Lord's revelation. In this case, we should lose one piece of silver. And, if we were making an effort to be regenerated, such a loss would soon be discovered and felt; and it would occasion great spiritual distress. We would soon realize that, in some way, and in some wrong state of feeling or thought, we had lost the actual use of the great truth of the dependence of all things upon the Lord. We might theoretically believe this doctrine, and yet we might fail to see its practical operation upon our own states of life.
Now, suppose we begin to realize that we have suffered some such loss, mentally ; that the truth of the Divine Providence, for instance, is not as clear to us, in practical matters, as it used to be, and as it should be; what should we do? Like the woman in the parable, we should light a candle, (or lamp.) and search for the missing truth. And, in that search, we should sweep our mental house, and work, diligently, until we should find that truth returning to us, in its clearness and force.
Oriental houses were, intentionally, so constructed as to exclude the glaring light and heat, in a hot climate, They were low, stone buildings, generally having very few windows, and, often having no opening but the door-way. The floor was generally of dry earth. In such a dark house, it would be difficult to see any small object, especially on such a floor; and so it would be necessary to call in the aid of artificial light.
The “candle," in the parable, is, literally, a lamp : and it is so rendered in the New Version of the New Testament. Now, a lamp represents a doctrine, which, as a hollow vessel, receives the warm oil of love, from which comes the light of intelligence in truth. Mental light is truth. And truth is from the Word of the Lord. " Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." And the man who does not look to the Lord, but relapses into evil, loses his mental light, or truth.
The woman, lighting a candle, or lamp, to search for the lost piece of silver, is a symbolic figure, representing our affection for truth, going to the Lord's Word, carrying the doctrine of the Church, that the Lord's Word may light up the doctrine, to aid our affection in returning to a realization, of some important truth, which has become obscured to us, by our neglect to practise it.
Take, for instance, the truth of the Lord's constant providence, in all details of our daily life. Sometimes, we lose sight of this great truth, and it becomes obscured to us. We suffer the practical loss of it, until, taking the doctrine of the Church as a lamp, we go to the Lord's Word, that our lamp may be lighted up, so that we can confidently carry this doctrine with us, and search for the missing truth, until we recover it. We procure light from the Word of the Lord; especially from the commandments of the Decalogue. We look to our Lord, for help; and we expect to receive help through the doctrine of the Church, enlightened and confirmed from the Divine Word.
SWEEPING THE HOUSE.
But, in order to find the lost coin, the woman not only takes a lamp, and lights it, but also sweeps the house, and seeks diligently till she finds the lost silver. The house, in which a man lives, represents his will, in which he dwells, inwardly. As the ruling-love of his will is, so is the character of the man. To sweep the house, is to cleanse it, and put it in order; to sweep up what is out of place in the house, and to throw out the rubbish. And so, mentally, to sweep our house, with the aid of the light of our lamp, is to examine the condition of our will, or heart, and to gather up what is out of place; and to cast out all things that ought not to be in our minds.
Mental sweeping involves self-examination, to discover what is wrong with us. When we sweep the house, we see all there is in the house, good and bad; and we separate the good from the bad, casting out the latter. And when we sweep out our hearts, we search through them, to see what dust of the sensuous life has settled there, to hide the silver truth that we would love to see again, in its clearness.
In sweeping, we look for the dust and dirt, for the sake of getting rid of them : so, in mental sweeping, we examine ourselves, for the sake of seeing, and getting rid of, the sensuous dust of life, the more worldly trifles that often settle thickly upon our natural affections. In sweeping out our minds, we prepare them for the reception of high and heavenly principles; we set them in order, by removing the evils which appear in the light of our lamp. We examine ourselves, and pay particular attention to each of our affections, and to all our different states of feeling.
DISCOVERING THE CAUSE.
In this self-examination, and in the consequent cleansing and setting in order of our minds, we find out what is the matter with us, and why the lost truth lost its firm hold upon our feelings and thoughts; why we did not clearly see the truthfulness of the truth; why we were not practically satisfied to trust that truth, in our every-day feelings, thoughts and conduct. And, seeing this, we cast out the evil that obscured our mental piece of silver.
Everyone knows the great satisfaction felt by a careful housekeeper, in having her house in a clean and orderly condition. And everyone who loves the truth knows what satisfaction comes to the mind, when his mental house is clean, and in good order, with every good and true principle in its appropriate place, and all the external, sensuous dust and dirt of life cast out. In this condition of mind, the truth is clear, and we have practiical confidence in it.
And, in fact, at any time, we find ourselves losing confidence in any truth, as taught in the doctrines of the New Church, we may rest assured that there is something the matter with our mental house-keeping ; that we have lost a piece of our mental silver; and that our inward house needs to be swept and cleansed, with the aid of the mental lamp of doctrine, lighted from the Word of the Lord. This is the practical way to make the truth clear and satisfactory to our minds ; i. e., to cleanse our hearts of their evils, and to sweep away the dust of sensuous trifles, which are too apt to settle down upon our hearts. "Create, in me, a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
Our mental seeking is the action of our understanding. But the parable declares that the woman will seek "diligently," and seek "till she finds" the lost piece of silver. Diligence is communicated to our intellectual search, according to the real interest felt in the matter, by our will. If we are in real earnest, from the heart, we do not seek in a half-hearted way; nor do we soon become discouraged; but we seek diligently; and we seek till we find.
So we are told, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened to you." We ask with our heart ; we seek with our understanding; and we knock when we put forth an effort, when we carry out our feeling and thought, in the practical activity of conduct. What we love, we are in earnest about. We intend to succeed. The truth comes back to us, and we find it, when we feel the loss of it, and when we intend to return to a clear perception of it. Truth remains with him who keeps himself in condition to retain it, by the daily use of it. Truth, in the mind and life, is like muscle in the body, the regular, daily use of it develops and increases it.
The perception of a truth, as a practical principle, is not given arbitrarily, as a reward for piety; it is the result of a state of mental preparation. Spiritual life comes to him who earnestly seeks it; who makes it the principal object of his activity. And when he attains spirituality of mind, all the outward things of life take their proper places, as servants, and not masters. "Seek ye, first, the kingdom of God, an d His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
Every truth that we cease to practise becomes obscure to us. And, if we see that a truth has lost its hold upon us, we may know that we have not earnestly practised that truth, in our daily life. We have not had full confidence in it. We have allowed some dust of the earth to hide its clearness, and to reduce its force, in our lives. For instance: once, we felt sure of the Divine Providence; and now we are not sure of it. And why? Simply because we have not trusted the Divine Providence, but have tried to have our own way. We need to light our lamp, and sweep our house, and seek diligently, till we recover our lost truth. We need to shake off the dust of the senses, and to elevate our mind more fully into the higher atmosphere of spiritual things.
In fact, there is such a continued drawing towards the dust, (situated as we are, amid sensuous things,) that we need to keep ourselves in the habit of elevating our minds, whenever we fix our affections, our thoughts, and our conduct; thus thinking of things from their inward side, and judging righteous judgment, and not judging by sensuous appearances. We need to make spiritual principles familiar to our every-day thought, and to keep them so. But the spirituality of truth is lost to us, whenever we fall into any corruption of our affection, our thought, or our conduct.
GOOD AND TRUTH.
In the last parable, the shepherd is a man : but the owner of the silver is a woman ; and it is so, because, interiorly, the characteristic love of the man is the love of good, and that of the woman is the love of truth. There are various representative meanings of the terms, man, husband, etc., and woman, wife, virgin, widow, etc., according to the subject treated of and the discrete degree of life illustrated. But, interiorly, the man is a form of love, and exteriorly he is a form of wisdom : while the woman is, interiorly, a form of wisdom, and exteriorly a form of love. And as, in this world, we live in our exteriors, men are here characterized by the intellectual life of wisdom, or truth, and women by the affectional life of love, or good.
But we notice that a man is attracted to a woman, not on account of her intelligence, but on account of her goodness, her love. And a woman is drawn to a man on account of his intelligence, rather than because of his goodness. And, in this, we see the interiors of each drawn towards things that are like them, while the exteriors are drawn to the things that are different.
FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS.
The friends and neighbors of our spiritual qualities, are our good natural qualities, which are also called in to rejoice with us; to feel, and respond to, the joy that is communicated to our spiritual minds, from the heavens, and from our spiritual minds to our natural minds, And even the angels rejoice with us, in the restoration of any good or true principle to our minds and lives, after it has been lost, and found again. Every repentant emotion of our hearts, finds a response in the angels in the heavens.
And if our emotion originates in the determination of our will, to gain, again, the lost good, or the lost truth, (the sheep or the piece of silver,) not only shall our own minds be made happy in renewed life, spiritually and naturally, but also, in renewing our orderly connection with the heavens, we shall cause the angels to renew their rejoicings over the goodness of the Lord, and "His wonderful works to the children of men."
Thus, every good affection, sincerely cherished, and intelligently understood, and diligently practised, will go down the ages, as a blessing to all, a "thing of beauty [that] is a joy forever." And, on the other hand, the loss of every good principle, and every truth, lost from our practical daily life, diminishes the joy of the created universe. In the light of these facts we cannot afford to lose any heavenly principle from our minds and lives, by neglecting to practise it, and by sinking ourselves below the high level of its operation, and nearer to the deadly emanations of the hells.
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887