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relax and the light of love run brightening over every

A tear is a parable, and in its crystal sphere lie sorrows
deeper than the caves of the ocean, and darker and
wilder storms than ever swept in fury over its surface.
What histories of disappointed hopes ! What tragedies
of suffering and slain affections ! What wrestlings with
adverse fortune ! What fears of coming evil ! The
weariness of waiting, the despair of losing, the agony of
death itself are imaged in a tear. It has also a lovelier
office. The tear of penitence holds treasured in its crystal
deeps a life of waywardness and wandering, of evil and
sin, turning back to the Father's house. It is hardness
of heart melting into submission to Divine truth ; it is
sorrow brightening into joy ; it is the first drop from the
unsealed fountains of the heart whose bitterness has been
healed. A tear ! How small it is ! Nothing but a little
water with a savor of salt in it, and yet it means more


than ocean and cloud and storm. It is the parable of a
fallen humanity, of a soul estranged from the Lord, of
a nature which has become a discord in the Divine har-
monies, its fears and its sorrows, its conflicts and its de-
spair. And when the Lord would picture to us the peace
and blessedness of heaven, He finds no more fitting way
of expressing it than in the beautiful words, ' ' And God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."

The face is a parable in which are written all thoughts
and all affections which are possible to the human soul.
The whole body is a parable, but the face is the most
clear and beautiful and the richest in meaning. It speaks
of the innocence of childhood, of the purity and sweet-
ness of angelhood ; and it can express in living and
perfect forms every phase of action and every state of
affection of a soul in its descent from heaven to hell, and
in its ascent from hell to heaven. The material universe
is a parable. How beautiful, how grand, how glorious,
how full of meaning it is ! But all its meaning, all its
beauty, all its grandeur are gathered into the human face,
and are there written in finer lines and lovelier, and with
larger and more delicate shades of meaning. Such are

And without a parable the soul does not and cannot
speak to another soul dwelling in a material body. How
can I express my thought and affection ? How can I
convey it to another soul? It can only be done by
means of the material body and the material world.
Speech is not possible in this world without the aid of
material symbols. Sound is a parable ; light is a para-
ble, and what a beautiful and glorious one it is ! The


written word is only a conventional sign of a material act
or form. No, the only access we have to one another in
this life is by means of parables.

The Lord, therefore, only made special use of a uni-
versal law when He selected and arranged certain mate-
rial things and natural actions to embody and express
Divine truths in a form specially adapted to human con-
ditions. He took some of the most beautiful objects of
nature, and the most significant relations of men, and
with infinite wisdom arranged them in such forms that
they might be to the common speech of nature and of
man as the ruby and emerald and diamond to earth and
common stones ; and therefore, by way of distinction
and pre-eminence, we call these forms of speech which
lie so near to nature parables, though they are not ex-
ceptional methods of communicating spiritual truth in
any other sense than that they are divinely excellent and

Having thus considered the nature of parables, we are
better prepared to understand the Divine purpose in
using them. It was to "utter things which have been
kept secret from the foundation of the world.'' By the
world here we are not to understand the material uni-
verse merely. It is the cosmos^ — the order and harmony
and resulting beauty and use of the Divine truth em-
bodied in spiritual and in material forms. This order
and beauty have their foundation in the Divine truth.
Wherever you see powerful forces moving in harmony
to accomplish beneficent ends, whether in the spiritual
or in the material plane of existence, whether in church
or state, in domestic or industrial life, or in the activities


of nature, creating beauty for the soul or food and cloth-
ing for the body, there you see a parable teaching the
truths of the Divine wisdom, and revealing the secrets
of the Divine love which He at the foundation of all cre-
ated intelligences and forms. It is to reveal these se-
crets, to admit man more fully and interiorly into the
purposes of His love and the methods of His wisdom,
that the Lord opened His mouth in parables.

This is a purpose the Lord has always at heart, an end
for which He is always working. It is to let man into
His secrets, to take him to His infinite heart, to give
Himself to His children, to share His blessings with them,
to teach them, to lead them,^to live for them, and, if
need be, to die for them. The Lord is love itself, and
He wants companionship ; He desires to tell us His se-
crets ; He longs to unbosom Himself to us, and to show
us the hidden and most lovely forms of His wisdom ; and
He adapts His speech to our capacities and to our wants.
He opens His mouth in parables.

To His disciples it is given to know the mystery of the
kingdom. A disciple of the Lord is a learner of His
truth. So far as we become disciples of spiritual truth,
we are introduced into the secrets and understand the
mysteries of the Lord's kingdom. As we learn and live
we pass within the veil of nature and see the truth, and
become quickened with the love, of which the natural
form is the parable and expression.

But to the multitude who stand without, the Lord
speaks in parables, that, seeing, they may not perceive.
Why should He do this when it is His purpose and the
constant effort of His love and wisdom to reveal Himself


to men in forms as interior and as full as possible ? Be-
cause He desires to have us take up into our affections,
and appropriate to our lives, and thus make a part of
ourselves, the goodness and truth He gives us. He does
not desire to make machines of us, mere automatons,
to grind out eifects as the mill grinds corn. He does
not desire to lift us up into a light that would blind us,
and to carry us along struggling against forces which
would destroy us. He desires the free companionship
of love, and not an enforced, unwilling presence. Be-
sides, He knows how much we can bear, and how high
we can ascend and live and feel at home, and remain,
and He never seeks to raise us above that state by any
force. He guards our freedom as the essential human
principle in us, whose loss would be the defeat of His
purpose in creating us.

The Lord knows that there would be no use, but great
harm, in raising us into a state in which we could not be
kept. In that case the good and truth would be pro-
faned, — that is, they would become mixed with evils and
falses. By the good received man would be drawn
towards heaven, and by the evil he would become dis-
tracted, — drawn asunder. He could not live in either
heaven or hell. He would be like a fish in which lungs
had been formed to breathe the air, but whose organism
and nature in other respects were adapted to the water.
If it should return to the water, it would be suffocated ;
if it remained on the land, it could not obtain its food,
or enter into any of its delights.

The Lord seeks to make everything He creates homo-
geneous throughout its whole nature, and to give to all


its faculties unity of form and harmony of action. To
man He has given capacities to rise through all grades
of being, from the lowest to the highest. All His provi-
dences are arranged to raise man to the highest, and
give him the best. But in doing this the Lord seeks to
elevate man's whole nature, not to rend and destroy it.
He does not, therefore, seek to convert one faculty unless
He sees that He can convert them all. He does not
seek to raise either the understanding or the affections
into a state higher than that which the whole nature can
attain, and in which it can permanently remain, while
man acts in perfect freedom. For this reason the Lord
adapts His truth to man's state, giving it in the form of
parables to the multitude, and speaking more plainly to
those who can receive higher truth, but always with the
purpose of revealing Himself to man, and raising him up
to as high a state as possible, and of uttering ' ' things
which have been kept secret from the foundation of the

When truth is given in a plain, didactic, and positive
manner, we must accept or reject it. A square issue is
made, and there is no way of evading it. Not to accept
is to reject ; and when decidedly rejected we are not
Hkely to give it further thought. The Lord, therefore,
presents His Divine truth, as far as possible, in familiar
forms. He adapts it to man's low and weak state. He
does not force the issue upon us, but seeks to prepare
us for it, and to lead us up to it by orderly steps. He
veils it, and holds it before us, and embodies it in forms
that are attractive to us, that appeal to something in our
nature. He bridges the gulf between us and Himself


with natural truths, and makes it pleasant with human
fancies, that He may win us to act in freedom. He
makes the steps short and not too difficult, that we
may not be discouraged and sink down in despair.
Truth is the way : He has built it with histories and
stirring natural events, which attract even the sensuous
nature of childhood ; He has beautified it with symbol
and parable, and made it charming with song, that every
principle in man's nature, even the sensuous, may be
appealed to.

The very defects which the dry and severely rational
and logical mind thinks it detects in the Sacred Scrip-
tures, their simplicity, their pure naturalness in some
parts and wild fancy in others, are among the most
beautiful exhibitions of the Divine tenderness and loving
consideration for man in his lowest states. The Lord
brings Divine and heavenly truth down into the lowest
forms, and conceals its blinding splendors by the shadows
of earth, tinting them with heavenly beauty, to gain rec-
ognition and awaken curiosity and to secure a lodgment
for them in the memory, that He may, when time and
occasion and changing state permit, give more light and
reveal Himself and the grand possibilities of the soul in
clearer and higher forms.

Truth in the form of a parable is peculiarly adapted
to all the wants and conditions of the natural mind, and
to the Lord's purpose of regenerating it. It leaves the
mind in freedom. We see the truth, and we do not see
it. In a purely natural state represented by the "multi-
tude" we may see nothing but the letter, the casket
which contains the jewels. But that is so beautiful that




we preserve it for itself. The child and the simple-
minded can admire a parable as a pretty picture alone.
They do not know that there are the most precious
jewels within. They do not care to know. They can-
not see them, and if the casket were opened and the
diamonds and rubies were put into their hands, they
would throw them away ; they would be nothing but
coarse pebbles to them, because their intrinsic beauty and
worth can be seen only in heavenly light and by the eye
opened to spiritual vision. But they are there, and when
the Lord can cure our natural blindness, we can discover
their heavenly value.

We can see something in a parable, all that we have
eyes to see. We think we see all the meaning it has.
Therefore we reject nothing. A perverted rationality
cannot argue against a parable. We might as well
argue against the glories of an evening cloud or the
loveliness of a flower-garden. Our self-derived intelli-
gence is not aroused. A parable does not ordinarily
oflend us. We can turn it this way and that, place it in
all lights and study it as a picture. It is a picture, and
even the multitude can see enough of meaning and
beauty to make it worth possession. They see the out-
ward form, even if they do not perceive the inward
meaning. They hear the natural sound, though they do
not catch the undertone of heavenly harmony. But by
these natural means they may be led into a spiritual state
in which they can see the other side of the parable,
which the natural represents.

And this is what the Lord designs to eflect by these
natural means. He does not carry us ; He leads us.


He gives us power and then encourages us to use it. He
does not force the Hght upon us, but helps us to grow up
to it, sharpens our sight to see it.

A parable is Divine truth in natural forms. The nat-
ural image is of such a nature and so connected with
spiritual and Divine truth that there is no limit to its
meaning. While it contracts to the capacity of the
smallest minds, it enlarges to the dimensions of the
greatest finite intelligence. It does this in whatever way
we view it, whether as a picture of one state or of many ;
whether we regard it as a whole or in its particulars.
Every fact has its significance and an orderly relation to
all the other parts. You cannot take anything away from
one of our Lord's parables without marring its propor-
tions or dimming its meaning.

As parables are the natural expression of ''things
which have been kept secret from the foundation of the
world," their beauty, fitness, and precision of meaning
increase as we pass within, and rise to the spirit to which
they correspond. They are like the bud which encloses
within it a beautiful blossom, and within that delicious
fruit. Infinite things lie enfolded within them, which we
shall continue to discover as our eyes are opened. And
the truth we see will be the form of some good which we
shall enjoy as our affections become purified and enlarged.
Thus the letter of the parable will undergo a constant
transformation, more heavenly truths blossoming out of
it, and more precious fruits ripening in it. Spiritual
mysteries will be revealed, and the secret purposes of the
Divine love and the secret methods of the Divine wisdom
will be brought to light, and by means of them man will


be brought nearer to the Lord. Every parable is a ladder
like that which Jacob saw. Its foot rests upon the earth,
its top reaches unto heaven, and on its bright rounds the
angels of Divine truth ascend and descend to man, to
instruct and bless him. The whole Bible is such a par-
able, every particular of which is given to embody and
shadow forth some quality of the Divine love and some
form of the Divine wisdom. Its histories, though records
of deeds actually done by men, are parables shadowing
forth the infinite mysteries of the Divine nature. Its
plain precepts, its statutes and commandments, its sub-
lime and lovely songs, its wild and glorious prophetic
visions, and even its dry genealogies, are parables, the
vesture of many colors clothing the splendors of Divine
truth, adapting it to human conditions, and revealing to
man in every state all the truth he can receive and appro-
priate. It is a law of the Divine order, founded in the
nature of man and the Lord, that without a parable He
does not and cannot speak unto us.


^^ One generation passeth away, and another generation
Cometh : but the earth abideth for every — Ecclesiastes i. 4.

'T^HE belief that the material universe is finally to be
destroyed has been and still is almost universal in
the Christian Church. Some have maintained that matter
will be entirely annihilated ; others, that it will only be
burnt up and reduced to its simple elements, and that out
of these elements new heavens and a new earth will be
formed, and that the new earth will be the eternal dwell-
ing-place of the righteous. Their bodies are to be raised
up from the earth, and their souls brought back and re-
instated in them. The Lord is to come down from
heaven and dwell with them and be their King. All
traces of sin and imperfection will be destroyed in the
general conflagration, and the whole earth will become
an Eden, the garden of the Lord, and all those glowing
prophecies concerning the peace and happiness of the
righteous will be fulfilled.

About the time when this great change is to take place
there has been much difference of opinion. There can
be no reasonable doubt but the apostles expected it in
their day, and Christians have been looking for it and
predicting it every century since. Many of us can re-
member the excitement caused by Millerism. Many
persons were so sure that they had discovered the year
w 26* 305


and the day when the end was to come that they had
their ascension robes made, and, clad in them, they as-
sembled on the appointed day, expecting that the Lord
would come in the clouds of heaven, and that they would
be caught up with Him in the air while the earth and the
heavens were being consumed.

Learned commentators and diligent students of proph-
ecy postponed the end to 1866. It is quite safe to say
now, however, that they were mistaken in the time, if
not in the event itself.

There is another important point upon which there is
an equally serious conflict of opinion. Some believe that
the millennium — that is, a period of a thousand years in
which the Lord is to reign personally upon the earth, and
righteousness and peace are to prevail universally — will
take place before the world is burnt up. Others believe
that the world is to be consumed first and that the mil-
lennium will take place afterwards, and among those who
entertain this opinion are many of the most learned
divines in all branches of the church. There is a general
assent to the doctrine that the earth, if not the material
universe, is to be burnt up, and either annihilated or
made over into a new one.

But the doctrines of the New Church teach directly the
reverse of this. They declare that this earth and all the
earths in the material universe were created to be the
birthplace of intelligent spiritual beings, who commence
their existence in a material body, and after a time dis-
card it and pass on into the spiritual world, where they
are to dwell forever. The earths are the seminaries of
the heavens. The material universe was created from the


spiritual universe, and bears the same relation to it that the
body does to the soul, that the husk does to the corn, or
the shell to the fruit. Every human being begins his
existence upon some material earth, and sooner or later
passes on into the spiritual world. Thus the work of
creation is continually going on. New souls are con-
tinually being created and passing on to their eternal
home. Generation after generation commences exist-
ence, passes across the stage of this life and on to eter-
nity, and, as we believe, will continue to do so forever.
I invite your attention to the grounds for this belief.

The doctrine is entirely in accordance with Scripture
when correctly understood. There are some passages
both in the Old and the New Testament which describe
remarkable changes as taking place in the earth and the
heavens. The sun is said to be darkened, the moon
changed into blood, the stars to fall from the heavens,
the foundations of the earth to be shaken, the heavens
to be rolled together as a scroll, when, in the words of
Peter, ' ' the heavens shall pass away with a great noise,
and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ; the earth
also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up."
"The earth is utterly broken down," cries Isaiah, "the
earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.
The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall
be removed like a cottage ; and the transgression thereof
shall be heavy upon it."

Now, it is simply impossible that all these particulars
can be literally true. It is impossible that the stars
should fall to the earth. The earth is a mere grain of
sand compared with the stars. We can see that the sun


might be darkened, but how impossible that the moon
should be turned into blood ; or, if possible, what use
could there be in it? In one place it is said that the
earth shall be burned up, in another that it shall be re-
moved like a cottage ; and again that ' ' every mountain
and island shall be moved out of their places." In one
place it is said the nations are to be gathered together in
the valley of Jehoshaphat. Sometimes this great con-
summation is represented as having taken place, and
again as about to take place in some future time. The
disciples asked the Lord, saying, ' ' Tell us, when shall
these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming,
and of the end of the world ?' ' And the Lord answered,
' ' This generation shall not pass, till all these things be

It is impossible to form any definite conclusion from
attempts to interpret the Scripture literally. No human
ingenuity, no grasp of intellectual power, can reconcile
all this imagery and show its bearing upon one natural
event. But, furthermore, the word translated ''world"
in the phrase "the end of the world," does not mean
world in the sense of a material earth, and never did.
A recent commentator says, "It is very remarkable that
the word which means world in Greek is never used
where what is supposed to be the end of the world is de-
scribed." The Greek word aion means an age or dis-
pensation, or period of the church. In this sense we
speak of past ages. We apply it to a special develop-
ment of life and literature, as when we say the Elizabethan
Age. The apostles, without any doubt, used the word
aion in this sense. Our Lord had just foretold the de-



struction of Jerusalem. He had just told the disciples
that there should not be left one stone upon another of
the temple that should not be thrown down ; and He had
said, "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say,
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Then they asked Him, "When shall these things be?
and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end
of the age, — of the Jewish Church or Dispensation ?"
They supposed He was going to establish a new age or
kingdom in the place of the Jewish Church. The
question is, therefore, natural and pertinent. . But if
they meant the earth there seems to be no reason for
such a question. There was nothing in the preceding
conversation to lead to such a question.

If our Lord's answer also is carefully considered it will
be found to have no special application to such a ques-
tion, and commentators have had the greatest difficulty
in reconciling many things in it with the idea that it re-
fers to the end of the material world. Many things apply
with great pertinence to the destruction of Jerusalem, but
others do not. The apostles, without doubt, found their
questions answered to their satisfaction. They believed
that the end would come in their day, and we find them
frequently referring to it in their epistles. " The time is
short." "The day of the Lord is at hand." They fre-
quently speak of being " in the last days," " in the last
times," "in the ends of the age." That they did not
fully understand what the change would be in all its
breadth and detail is evident from their own language.
Before our Lord's death and resurrection they supposed
the Lord came to establish a political kingdom and re-


store Israel to their former power and splendor. Their
views became more elevated after our Lord's ascension ;
they knew that His kingdom was a spiritual kingdom,
but still they did not fully comprehend its nature, and
probably expected that its establishment would be at-
tended with many signs and portents, with many civil
and physical commotions. There are evidences, how-
ever, that they did not understand the terms literally
which speak of commotions and destruction. At the day
of Pentecost, when the apostles were filled with the Holy
Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the
Spirit gave them utterance, some, mocking, said, ' ' These
men are full of new wine." But Peter said, "This is
that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, And it shall

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Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 21 of 26)