Benjamin Fiske Barrett.

The church's one foundation: and other sermons online

. (page 19 of 25)
Online LibraryBenjamin Fiske BarrettThe church's one foundation: and other sermons → online text (page 19 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


things of this world, be it little or much ; all looking
upward and reverently asking to be led by Him, and
seeking their neighbor's welfare even more earnestly
than their own ; all just and kind and tender and gen-
tle and industrious and patient like the Lord Himself.
This would be the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ ex-
emplified. This would be heaven come down to earth.
This would be the fulfilment of the petition, " Thy
will be done on earth as it is done in heaven." And to-
ward this glorious consummation the Lord is perpetu-
ally working. Through cloud and storm as through
sunshine and calm, through trial and sorrow and loss
and bereavement, through the conflict of ideas and
the shock of contending armies, through the over-
throw of dynasties and the wreck of empires. He is
forever seeking to usher in His own blessed kingdom
of love and peace; forever working toward the fulfil-
ment of the petition, " Thy kingdom come. Thy will
be done on earth as it is done in heaven."

Are we working with Him ? Do we mean what we
say when we repeat this Divine petition ? Does this ex-
press the sincere desire of our hearts? We may know,
if we will look at ourselves away from church — alone.



Digitized



by Google



AS IN HEAVEN, SO ON EARTH. 269



in our ordinary week-day dress — at our accustomed
calling. Then and there is where the heart's real peti-
tions leak out. If in the parlor, in the kitchen, in the
shop, in the school-room, in the bank, in the counting-
house, on the street, at the bench, the last, the anvil,
or the printing-press, whatever post has been assigned
us through the providence of the Lord, — we are daily
and hourly striving to practise the laws of the heavenly
kingdom as we understand them ; to do justly, to love
mercy, and to walk humbly with the all-wise One who
seeth in secret, then are we really praying the prayer
in our text. We are daily "and hourly weaving its
Divine threads into the fabric of our spiritual being.
We are ultimating its essential spirit in our outward
lives. We are letting it shine out in our looks and
tones and words and deeds of justice, kindness, and of
love. We are praying it both inwardly and outwardly,
praying it within our hearts and with our hands — yea,
at the very tips of our fingers. And while thus we pray,
the petition cannot fail to find its fulfilment in our own
souls, however it may fail of its fulfilment elsewhere.
To the world within us, if not in the world without. His
kingdom will come — has come already ; and His will as
revealed to our consciousness is being daily ultimated
in our outward lives ; done in the external or earth as
it is done in the internal or heaven of our minds.
For to every mind there is both an internal and an ex-
ternal; the internal is the heaven and the external
is the earth.



Digitized



by Google



xxni.

THE TEN VIRGINS.

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins,
which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the Bridegroom,
etc. - Matt xxv, 1-14

In the Sacred Scripture the Lord is often called the
Bridegroom and Husband; while heaven and the
church are called his wife and bride. As in Isaiah :
" Thy Maker is thy Husband ; the Lord of hosts is His
name." And in Jeremiah : " I was a husband unto
them, saith the Lord." And in the Revelations, the
New Jerusalem, by which is meant the Lord's church
on earth and in heaven, is repeatedly called "the
Bride, the Lamb's Wife." And on one occasion this
church was represented before the spiritual vision of
John " as a bride adorned for her husband." When
the selfishness of the natural heart is subdued and
our wills are brought into complete subjection to the
will of the Lord, so that in spirit, in purpose, in
endeavor, we are united to Him, having no desire for
anything contrary to His will, loving Him supremely,
and therefore delighting to be led by Him in all things,
then we are spiritually conjoined or married to the
Lord. We have reached the heavenly state. We have
attained to that internal marriage union with our
Maker which is the purest and sweetest bliss the human
soul can know.

270



Digitized



by Google



THE TEN VIBQ1N8. 271

And all are gifted with a capacity for this marriage;
for all are gifted with the capacity of knowing and lov-
ing the Lord and of becoming conjoined to Him,
therefore, by a life conformable to His precepts — just as
every virgin or young woman is gifted with the capac-
ity of loving, and therefore of becoming united in
marriage with some man. Hence it is that the king-
dom of heaven is said to be like unto ten virgins, who,
taking their lamps, went forth to meet the Bridegroom.

Spiritually regarded, then, we are all of us virgins —
doing, or getting ready to do, the very things recorded
of the virgins in this parable. We are taking our
lamps and going forth, or preparing to go forth, to meet
the Bridegroom. For we are learning truths from the
Word, and have been learning them as far back as we
can remember ; and by lamps are denoted truths.

But the virgins in the parable were not all alike.
They were not all equally sensible or prudent. They
did not all make the same careful preparation for meet-
ing the Bridegroom. " Five of them were wise, and five
were foolish." The number ten means all ; and five
signifies some or a portion. We, all of us, belong to one
or the other of these classes — to the five wise or the five
foolish virgins ; and to w^hich is a pretty important
question for each one to determine so far as he is him-
self concerned. In what consisted the wisdom of the
one class and the foolishness of the other is plain from
what follows : —

" They that were foolish took their lamps but took no
oil with them." Lamps are for holding oil ; and they
are of little use for any other purpose. Without oil



Digitized



by Google



272 THE TEN VIRGINS.



the lamps will give no light ; and we might as well be
without them as with them, so far as any real service
they may be to us. So is it with truths (to which
lamps correspond) when destitute of the good of charity,
which is what is signified by oil. Truths in the under-
standing, which have never been vitalized, which have
never been religiously applied to life, and thus united
to or filled with the oil of charity, are mere empty ves-
sels. Those who have them, and who expect with these
alone to attain to the heavenly state, are relying for
salvation on faith alone. They belong to the. class of
foolish virgins mentioned in the parable, " who took
their lamps, and took no oil with them.'' While those
who are careful to apply to life the truths they under-
stand, whereby they receive into their hearts the good of
love or charity, whereof truths are the containing vessels,
they are the wise virgins of whom it is said : " But the
wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps." Their,
taking of oil, or filling and vitalizing the truths in their
understanding through a religious obedience to their
requirements, is the evidence of their wisdom. For
truth alone makes no one wise. True wisdom consists
of goodness united to truth, or charity united to faith.
All, therefore, who obey the truths they know, and who
in that way fill and vitalize them with the good of

i charity, are taking oil in their vessels with their lamps.

\They are the wise virgins.

■ " While the Bridegroom tarried they all slumbered
and slept." That full union of the souls of the right-
eous with the Lord, which is meant by the heavenly
marriage, and from which results the happiness of



Digitized



by Google



THE TEN VIRGINS. 273

heaven, does not and cannot take place until after our
term of life on earth is ended. Nor does that complete
disjunction or alienation of the unrighteous from Him,
which is meant by their judgment or their resurrection
unto damnation, take place till after death. It is then
that the heavenly Bridegroom comes to the souls of all
in an eminent sense — conjoining the good more closely
to Himself, and separating the evil more thoroughly
from Him. And till that time He is said to tarry.
And while He tarries, L 6., during our life on earth,
both the good and the evil are in a state of comparative
obscurity in regard to their internal quality. Neither
class can see themselves, or judge of their own spiritual
condition, as well as they will be able to after their
entrance into the other world. Here all are in more
or less obscurity, in a state of comparative slumber.
And at death they awake from that slumber. They
are ushered into a realm of clearer light or deeper
darkness, according to their own interior characters.
Therefore the herald of the New Church says : —

''The senses of those in heaven are far more exquisite than they
were in the world ; that is, they see and hear more perfectly and
also think more wisely ; for they see by the light of heaven, which
exceeds by many degrees the light of the world ; and they hear by
a spiritual atmosphere, which also surpasses by many degrees the
atmosphere of the earth. The difference between these external
senses is like the difference between a clear sky and a dark mist, or
between the light of noon- day and the shade of evening. For since
the light of heaven is divine truth, it enables the sight of the angels
to perceive and discriminate the minutest objects. Their external
sight also corresponds to their internal sight, or their understand-
ing ; for with the angels one sight flows into the other and they act
19



Digitized



by Google



274 THE TEN VIRGINS,

as one. Hence their wonderful acuteness of vision. In like manner
also their hearing corresponds to their perception, which is both of
the understanding and the will ; hence in the tone and the words of
the speaker they perceive the minutest particulars of his affection
and thought, — in his tone, the things which belong to his affection,
and in his words, the things which belong to his thought. . . .
The state of those who are in hell is also widely different from their
state in the world ; for in the degree that the external and internal
senses with the angels in heaven are excellent and perfect, in like
degree are they imperfect with those in hell." (H. H. 462; see
also 506.)

Thus we may see what is meant by this part of the
parable, which says : " While the Bridegroom tarried,
they all slumbered and slept."

" And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the
Bridegroom cometh." Midnight is the point qf time
where one day closes and a new day begins. It there-
fore denotes the close of one state and the commence-
ment of another, for day denotes state. And the close
of our term of existence here on earth, and our en-
trance upon a new stage of being in the other world, is
pre-eminently, therefore, the midnight. And as by the
death of the body all are introduced into a more in-
terior realm of being, into a realm nearer to the Lord,
the great central Sun of the spiritual world, whose
beams reveal more clearly than ever before the internal
and real character of each one, therefore at death, or
immediately after, the Lord comes to every soul in an
eminent sense. He comes with His great revealing
light, to disclose to each one his real character, to
make manifest his ruling love, to show him what he is
spiritually, and where in the spiritual world he prop-



Digitized



by Google



THE TEN VIRGINS. 275



erly belongs. Hence the cry at midnight, according to
the parable, was : " Behold, the Bridegroom cometh."
And with this cry comes also the command : " Gro ye
forth to meet Him."

This command is a law — a law as fixed and unalter-
able as death itself. At death every one goes forth from
his clay tenement — his earthly tabernacle — into the
spiritual world, a living, thinking, reasoning being in
human form ; and soon after death his inmost thoughts
and feelings go forth and reveal themselves in words
and actions with a freedom that they had never known
before. His life's love, his ruling purpose, goes forth.
All disguises are laid off, all shaps, all simulations of
righteousness, all mere pretense of piety or charity;
and the spirit goes forth from underneath all the spe-
cious coverings which self-love may have cunningly
woven around him on earth and reveals himself as he
really is. It is the coming of the Bridegroom that strips
off all deceptive appearances, penetrates all disguises,
and compels every soul to come forth as he really is
and show himself in his true character. And this
coming takes place at the close of our earthly exist-
ence, or when we enter the spiritual world. Then is
the midnight when the cry is heard — for such is the
unalterable law of Divine order — " Behold, the Bride-
groom Cometh ; go ye forth to meet Him."

"Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their
lamps." All made ready to meet the Bridegroom. All
expected to go in with Him to the marriage. It is
among the teachings of the New Church that all who
are principled in the doctrine of salvation by faith



Digitized



by Google



276 THE TEN nSOINSL



alone, and all who have. truth in the understanding,
but are without the good of charity, confidently expect
that they will be received into heaven. And this ex-
pectation often becomes very strong at the hour of
death ; their hope of heaven is elevated as they enter
the other world, so that they are very confident they
shall be admitted. This expectation, or this elevation
of their hope and confidence, is signified by the words
of the parable : " Then all those virgins arose and
trimmed their lamps."

But where the truth understood has not been relig-
iously obeyed, where there is no true charity or neigh-
borly love, there is no genuine faith. The truths which
have been apprehended by the intellect, or merely stored
up in the memory, are but empty vessels, lamps with-
out oil. And this every one discovers soon after he
enters the other world, if not before. Agreeably to
this, therefore, we read in the next verse : " And the
foolish said unto the wise. Give us of your oil ; for our
lamps are gone out.'' There is no interior illumination
of the soul — there can be none— where there is nothing
of the life of charity, no genuine love of the neighbor.
This is the oil which feeds the lamp of faith and keeps
it brightly burning. Without any of this oil, without
any love of truth, justice, sincerity, rectitude, for their
own sake, without any religious obedience to the truths
of heaven which we have learned, whereby alone they
can be made of our life, these truths gradually lose for
us all their brilliancy, even in this world. They fade
out from the memory. Their brightness becomes
dimmed by the smoke of selfish and evil loves, the



Digitized



by Google



THE TEN VIBQIN8, 277

smoke of the abyss. They cease' to shine as they did
when first they dawned upon our vision. And at last
we see in them no brightness or beauty to admire, so
that even here on earth the lamps of all the foolish
virgins are steadily goiTig out And after death the truth
bursts upon them in all its dreadful solemnity — the
truth expressed in the words of the parable, " for our
lamps are gone out."

" But the wise answered, saying, Not so, lest there be
not enough for us and you ; but go ye rather to them
that sell and buy for yourselves." Not so, not accord-
ing to the desire of the foolish virgins. The good of
charity cannot be communicated after death to those
who have hoped to be saved by faith alone, who have
nothing but empty truths. Each one has and can
have only so much of the good of love as he has pro-
cured to himself by obedience to the laws of love.
The good of one class cannot then be communicated
or conjoined to the truths of another. Each can have
only so much good as he has made his own by actual
life, by shunning evils as sins against God. And the
wise perceive this. Hence their answer to the foolish
virgins, who importuned them for oil. They could
not give it them ; each must go and buy for himself.
Boundless as is the Lord's love, and intensely as He
desires to communicate it to the children of men, He
can only give it in the measure that we are prepared
to receive. And so is it with the angels, who are like-
nesses of Himself. Therefore the wise are represented
as saying to the foolish virgins that they must go and
buy oil for themselves.



Digitized



by Google



278 THE TEN VIBQIN8.

And they did so. But what was their idea of going
and buying for themselves? It was the idea of self-
merit. They went in thought over all the outwardly
good acts they had ever performed, on account of which
they then thought they had earned an admittance into
heaven. They thought of how they had relieved the
needy, fed the poor, clothed the naked, attended church,
read the Word, prayed, contributed to philanthropic
institutions, and the like. And by these good outward
acts they thought they had merited heaven. This was
the oil they went to buy for themselves, not the oil
that feeds the lamp of faith and keeps it burning with
undimmed luster, not the good of true neighborly
love, which comes only from shunning evils as sins
against God, but the good of self-merit, a mere outward
good, but inwardly defiled with the love of self. And
when the Lord comes, or when the light of genuine truth,
which is Himself, falls upon such good, immediately
its true quality is revealed. Nay, in the very act of
recounting their meritorious deeds their internal,
selfish, anti-heavenly quality is revealed; agreeable
to the words : " And while they went to buy, the Bride-
groom came."

" And they that were ready went in with Him to the
marriage." And these were they who had oil in their
lamps ; who had, by a life according to the truth, i, 6.,
by shunning as a sin whatever the truth condemns,
filled and vitalized their truths with the good of charity.
All such are internally conjoined to the Lord while
they live in this world. And after they enter the* other
world, and come, as all do, into the state of their inte-



Digitized



by Google



THE TEN VIRGINS, 279

riors, they are more closely conjoined to Him than ever
before. They love Him more intensely, and serve Him
more faithfully, and experience more fully the ineflfable
sweetness and delights of His love and of their own
souls' union therewith. But none others are ready.
None, save those who have oil in their lamps, can go
in to the marriage with the heavenly Bridegroom.
Against all others the door is shut; not any outward
door, but the inner door of the soul ; the door that
communicates between the heavens and the earth of
the mind, or between its internal and external, or its
spiritual and natural degrees. This door remains open
while we live on earth ; but it is shut in the evil after
death. And it is in mercy to them that it is shut. If
the interior degrees of their minds were opened, and a
free influx of the light and warmth, or the wisdom and
love, of heaven thereby maintained, they would suffer
unutterable tortures. (Read H. H. 54,400.)

And so it was in mercy to the foolish virgins that
" the door was shut.^' It is in mercy to all who have
never applied truth to the renovation of their hearts
and lives, and so conjoined or filled it with the good of
love, that the heavens of their minds are completely
closed in the great Hereafter. We can understand,
therefore, why, when the other virgins afterward came,
"saying. Lord, Lord, open to us," "He answered and
said. Verily I say unto you, I know you not." The
Lord is said not to know those who have not, through
obedience co His commandments, come into a state of
spiritual and vital union with Himself. They do not
know Him, for only those really know the Lord who



Digitized



by Google



280 THE TEN VIRGINS.

are the free and voluntary recipients of His unselfish
love. They know Him from having received and had
experience of a spark of His own Divine life. And the
more they receive and diflfuse of this life the better will
they know Him. But others, whose souls have not
been brought into such vital union with the Lord, He
is said not to know, for they do not know Him.

But as none of us know the time or state when our
earthly existence will end and we shall be called to
the final judgment, therefore it is the part of wisdom to
examine ourselves ; to see what is the prevailing temper
of our minds, what the ruling purpose of our lives ;. to
see whether we love the right for its own sake, and
would do it even to the prejudice of our own temporal
interests. Otherwise we are not prepared, we have not
oil in our lamps. Hence the injunction in the last
verse of the parable : " Watch, therefore ; for ye know
neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man
Cometh."



Digitized



by Google



XXIV.

PREACHING THE GOSPEL.

And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, andpreaxh the
Gospel to every creature. He that hdieveth and is baptized shaU he
saved; Imt he that hdieveth not shaU he damned, — Mark xvi,
15, 16.



These are among the words which our Lord spake to
His disciples after His resurrection, when He appeared
to them *' as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with
their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they
believed not them which had seen Him after He was
risen." He had been seen by the women who came
early on Sunday morning to the sepulcher, bringing
sweet spices to anoint the body of their crucified Mas-
ter. He had also appeared to two others "as they
walked and went into the country." .And they who
saw Him told the other disciples, but their words
seemed to them like idle tales. They could not believe
that He whose departure they mourned — whose body
hung in agony on the cross but two days ago, and was
yesterday laid in the sepulcher — was still alive, and
had been seen of those who mourned and loved Him
most. They had not yet comprehended His nature.
They did not know that He was immortal as the truth
itself. To their carnal conceptions, as to the conceptions
of all natural men, this world seemed the only real

281



Digitized



by Google



282 PBEACHINQ THE GOSPEL.

world, and bodily life the only real life. They were
faithless in regard to any world or any life beyond the
present.

While they were in this unbelieving state, their
Master " appeared to them as they sat at meat, and
upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of
heart." As if He had said : " You have seen my
miracles ; you have listened to my teachings ; you have
been witnesses of my wondrous power ; you have felt the
breath of my love. Did you suppose that siich wisdom, .
love, and power as have been displayed by me before
your eyes could perish ? Did you think that I was
destroyed, when that body that wrapped me around and
veiled my glory hung upon the cross? How could
you be so faithless? This unbelief must spring from
lack of true lite within you, from hardness of heart."

And then He told them to " go into all the world and
preach the Gospel to every creature." And the disciples
whom the Lord addressed on this as on other occasions
represented all His humble followers throughout the
world and throughout the ages. All Christians now,
of whatever name or creed, who look to the Lord Jesus
Christ as their great exemplar and guide, and who are
humbly striving to learn of Him, and day by day to
follow after Him, are His disciples; for a disciple is
simply a pupil or learner. And all such are mission-
aries — God -appointed and God- ordained priests. They
all have a gospel to preach. Yea, they all preach agospel ;
for they are mediums to those around them of so much
of the Lord's truth and love as they have themselves
received. They may not preach the Gospel oflScially,



Digitized



by Google



PBEACHINQ THE GOSPEL. 283

orally, with their lips ; most of them do not. But they
preach it by their pure example and righteous lives,
which is -the most eloquent and powerful kind of
preaching. When the spirit of the Lord Jesus is ex-
hibited by us in our common duties and daily inter-
course with our fellow-men, when something of His
gentleness, meekness, forbea|*ance, and forgiveness. His
love of justice and hatred of wrong. His sympathy with
the afflicted, and His compassion for the weak and
lowly. His devotion to high and holy uses. His self-
forgetfulness and self-denial and self-sacrifice for the
good of others — when something of this shines forth in
our daily lives, then are we, each one in his degree,
preachers of the Gospel. We proclaim far more elo-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23 24 25

Online LibraryBenjamin Fiske BarrettThe church's one foundation: and other sermons → online text (page 19 of 25)