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2 Kings 4:21.
That earthly government is the best which secures to those who live under it, not only general protection from enemies without, but particular protection from enemies within; which removes all fear that the rights of private property and the sanctities of private life will be invaded, and which leaves the people in the undisturbed possession of liberty to cultivate the virtues, and enjoy the pleasures, of domestic life. That is the highest condition of national security when the inhabitants, like the subjects of Solomon, "dwell safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree." In the spiritual kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ these two kinds of security are preserved inviolate. The external enemies to the stability and peace of the Lord's kingdom are the powers of darkness. The enemies who consist of the wicked in the world are the instruments by whom these act in the outer circles of the spiritual life. Of these there is no reason to fear, if the inner life can be preserved in connection with Him who is its author and preserver, and if the inward enemies of the heart itself do not obtain power over us. These enemies are our own evil ends, tempers, and lusts. The Lord by His works of redemption and salvation has provided for the security of every one against all the power of the enemy, both from within and from without, and for the enjoyment, by every loyal and virtuous subject of His kingdom, of the blessings of safety and prosperity. In His kingdom "Judah and Israel dwell safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree."
The particular and general, or the internal and external government of the Lord's kingdom are described representatively by those of Solomon in this chapter. Besides princes, priests, and other high officers, there were twelve officers over all Israel, who provided victuals for the king and his household: each man his month in a year. This distinction and subordination among the rulers in the kingdom represent such as exist in the Lord's kingdom, in heaven, in the Church, and in the human mind. In the Lord's kingdom, the principles of charity hold the highest place, and second and subordinate to these are the principles of faith. Among the highest officers of Solomon were the two high priests whose function corresponded to the ministry of love. The twelve lower officers with their monthly service points out their function as analogous to the ministry of faith. In the spiritual sense periods of time signify states of life. A month, originally derived from the duration of the moon, and here expressed by it, is emblematical of a state of faith—the grace of faith being the "lesser light" which God places in the firmament of the inner man; and dependent upon and subordinate to the "greater light" of love and charity.
In accordance with this analogy, the tree of life in the Christian paradise bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields her fruits every month. For the vital principle of religion, which is love or charity, produces fruits according to the states of faith which exist in connection with it. Love is life in its essence and origin, but love has its development through faith, and has a quality according to it. Love in the soul is like heat in nature. Love is the proximate cause of spiritual, as heat is of animal and vegetable, life. Faith in the soul is like light in nature. Faith is the instrumental cause of the manifestation of spiritual life, as light is of natural life, in forms of beauty and fruitfulness.
The daily provision which we are enabled to make by faith working from love is the supply of the spiritual means of supporting the life of the soul. For the soul, not less than the body, requires to be sustained and fed, and to receive a daily supply—more especially in every recurring state of the spiritual life. The life of love in the soul is like the fire that burned upon the altar, which, to prevent its going out, was supplied with wood every morning. So has the love of God in the soul to be fed continually with instruction and practice in righteousness, to prevent its extinction, and to renew its power.
The provision of Solomon for one, or for each day, consisted of thirty measures of fine flour and threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen, twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted bird. So does the provision for the spiritual life, comprehended here under the general name of bread, and all which is expressed by the "daily bread" of the Lord's Prayer, include all the principles of goodness and truth, celestial, spiritual, and natural. The fine and common flour denote celestial truth, derived from good, as flour is from wheat, and from which the good that supports celestial life in the soul is formed, and which good is specifically meant by bread. The animals of the flock and herd are the internal and external goods of the spiritual class, sheep especially denoting principles of charity. The untamed denizens of the field are the various principles of good and truth in the natural mind, or those of the most external character. The numbers, of which three predominates in the first class and ten in the second, are expressive of their quality, as being, like the trine in all things and the decade in many things, perfect in itself, and complete in its development.
While Solomon had his kingdom organized so wisely by these internal arrangements, that everything was preserved in order, his dominion extended over other kingdoms which served him and were tributary to him. "Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river to the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life. For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him." This extensive dominion of Solomon was intended to represent the spiritual dominion of the Lord in His glory, which is indeed described prophetically in almost the same words. In the 72nd Psalm, which literally relates to Solomon, but prophetically, as is evident, to the Saviour God and King, the extent of His kingdom is thus described, at the 8th verse: "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth.... All kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him." These same words occur in the prophecy of Zechariah, in connection with those applied in the Gospel to our Lord: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes to you: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. His dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth" (Zech. 9:9, 10). The extent of Solomon's dominion represented therefore the extent of the dominion of our Lord, specifically under the last best dispensation of His Church on earth, in which His love and wisdom shall be, more perfectly than before, the ruling principles in the minds and lives of men. The dominion of the Lord, as described by that of Solomon, is over the whole land, from east to west, from north to south. From east to west, which was from sea to sea, is the extension of the Lord's dominion over the mind in regard to states of goodness, and from north to south, which was from the river to the ends of the earth, is the extension of dominion over the mind in regard to all states of truth. The particular description of Solomon's dominion extending over all kingdoms, from the river Euphrates, that is, from Assyria, to the land of the Philistines, and to the river of Egypt, is descriptive of the Lord's dominion over the whole mind, from the rational to the scientific, or, from the highest perceptions of reason to the lowest acquisitions of sense. In the human mind there are three things that succeed in order, the rational, the natural, and the corporeal. These three parts of man wonderfully communicate, the corporeal with the natural, the natural with the rational. At birth man is merely corporeal, afterwards he becomes natural, and at length rational. These three constitute man; for humanity begins in the inmost of the rational and terminates in the ultimate- of the sensual. These, in their regenerate state, are the Assyria, Philistia, and Egypt to which the dominion of Solomon extends. But he is said to have reigned over all kingdoms between the Euphrates and the Nile, meaning that, besides being the ruler of his own kingdom, all other kingdoms were subject and tributary to him. We have seen that David subdued the nations bordering on Canaan; and that these represented such hereditary qualities as can be brought under subjection to spiritual principles, and can be made to contribute to the uses of the spiritual life. All these are now said to be in a state of entire submission to Solomon, who reigns over them; and they bring presents, and serve him; and this shall continue all the days of his life.
While all is submission and service without, all is peace, security, and enjoyment within. Judah and Israel are many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry. And Judah and Israel dwell safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.
This is the state of the regenerate mind, when the affections of goodness and truth are multiplied indefinitely, and when they appropriate with delight the goods and truths of the Word as the meat and drink of the soul. This too is the state of peace, when "they dwell safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beersheba;" when they live under the influence of spiritual and natural goodness, from the inmost even to the outermost of their life.
The beautiful imagery here employed to describe the peaceful and happy state of the Lord's spiritual Judah and Israel, is used in the prophets to describe the then future state of the Church, after and consequent on the coming of the Lord. Thus in the prophecy of Micah: "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken it" (Mic 4:3, 4). The end of war is the conclusion of the conflict, in the mind and life of the Christian, which consists in the flesh warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. This spiritual warfare does come to an end in those who suffer themselves to be regenerated; and peace, true spiritual and enduring peace, follows the conquest of the evils of the heart and life. Then it is that the swords are actually beat into ploughshares and the spears into pruning-hooks; for the Divine truths of the Word that had served to defend him against and to destroy the evil and false principles of Ms corrupt nature are capable of being applied, and are applied, to the cultivation of the mind, and its advancement in the life that produces the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The vine and the fig, under the shadow of which the mind reposes, are the productions of the mind itself. Nothing that is without us, or separate from ourselves, can be either a shadow from the heat or a covert from the storm. True it is, the Lord is the vine; we are but the branches; and so far from our having any vitality in ourselves, except we abide in the vine we are cut off as withered branches, fit only to be cast into the fire and burned. But while it is true that we live and grow and bear fruit only while we abide in the vine, it is no less true that the life of the vine is communicated to us, and circulates through us, and produces in us the similitude of itself. The Lord compares His kingdom to a man who planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen. But where does He plant His vineyard but in the minds and hearts of His people? And the vine can be planted, as the seed of the kingdom can be sown, only in the good ground of an honest heart. The vine and fig-tree under which the regenerate dwell safely are first implanted by the Lord, and grow up under His care during their progressive advancement in a life of intelligence and virtue. His is the life which enters into and perfects them; but ours is the power to determine whether or not the Divine life shall be received and manifested in the growth of the mind in truth and love, and of the life in holiness.
If we would enjoy that state of security and peace which this imagery so expressively depicts, we must, like the husbandmen in the parable of the Lord, use the means. We must work in the vineyard and dig about the fig-tree and dung it. We must also use the ploughshare and the pruning-hook, as we have previously used the sword and the spear. We must have broken up the fallow ground, and we must keep the ground in cultivation: we must also, like the Divine Husbandman Himself, prune the tree of withered or exuberant branches, that the fruit-producing power may be preserved and improved. When the labour of combat has ceased, this work of love must continue; and its reward is security and delight.5 previous - next - BM Home - Full Page