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The Tree of Life:


"Giving Light to All That Are in the House"

Chapter 1. "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it: for their wickedness is come up before me." Asshur built Nineveh. Asshur signifies human reason, and Nineveh the falsities that excuse evil practices. Many of us, however, know no better. Our education was neglected, and we accepted the common standard of the world, judging life largely by appearances, and not by the standard of the spiritually minded (Arcana Coelestia #1188). The church has a commission to enlighten and to save the Gentile, not by conversion to a doctrine, but to a new life. And so our preachment must be primarily by a light that shines convincingly in good deeds wrought in God, and only secondarily by word of mouth. To live as we know we ought to live, and as we would have others live, however, makes cowards of us. We endeavor to get as far away from the necessity of facing the facts about ourselves as we can. We complacently refuse to accept responsibility, and silence conscience by thinking that we are no worse than the world we live in. Jonah went to sleep at the bottom of the ship. The storm raged without. Jonah was awakened, and was found to be responsible for the storm. He was therefore tossed into the sea against the wishes of the mariners. An awakened conscience gives us no peace of mind, until we have got to the heart of our troubles, determined to set our house in order. This means that we take the truth home to ourselves first, and make an open confession of offenses which we have carefully guarded, and excused since we were children. Our troubles are in general associated with countless memories—the memory of people, and of things said and done, and of our reaction to them. We sink in the depth of these memories possessed by the desire of seeing where we have been to blame for our present unhappiness, for the disposition that caused us to err long ago is still with us in an augmented degree. Three days and three nights in the belly of the fish! That covers a lifelong succession of hopes and fears as we see wrong on our part, shift the blame on others, and resent interference, or correction.

2. It is hard for us to see wherein we are to blame when our feeling runs high, and an old wound is opened and roughly handled. The song of Jonah appeals to us. It has a definite meaning for us. And when we have reached the point again and again that we frankly admit guilt, and are prepared with the Lord’s help to forgive that we may be forgiven, we experience a wonderful relief. "The Lord spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land," to perform his mission, preach the word.

"The Life Is the Light of Men"

3. The Scribes and Pharisees asked the Lord for a sign to attest his authority as a prophet and teacher, and "he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall be no sign given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here" (Matthew 12:39–41). The life, revealing the presence of God among men, speaks louder than words. So the light shines: and so good deeds enlighten many who have gone astray in ignorance, and lead them back to the way of life, to the glory of the Father in Heaven.

4. But the repentance of the Ninevites "displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry." The Lord did wonderful things for his disciples; yet, when they saw "one casting out devils" in the Lord’s name, they forbad him, "because he followeth not with us." The Lord rebuked his disciples, contending that "he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 9:49). It is a hard lesson to learn, to appreciate the good life wherever we find it, and shut no one out because he is not of our people, our Church, or our mind. Magnanimity demands that our sympathy and help extend to everyone when needed regardless of race or creed. "Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for which thou hast not labored, neither madest it to grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle."


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