Spiritual Meaning of
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THE TALENTS, or THE MAN TRAVELLING INTO A FAR COUNTRY.
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several abilities; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained another two. But he that had received one went and dug in the earth, and hid his Lord's money. After a long time the Lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them. And so he that had received the five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His Lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant - you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your Lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His Lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your Lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed: and I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: lo, there you have what is yours. His Lord answered and said to him, You wicked and lazy servant, you know that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not scattered seed: you ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents. For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
By the man is meant the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and by His travelling into a far country, His departure out of the world, and thus His apparent absence, or distance.
By His servants are meant, all who are in the world; and by calling and delivering to them His goods, is to be understood, His communicating to them the knowledges of truth and good from His Word, with the faculty of perceiving them.
It is said, that to one He gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to every man according to his several ability, and straightway took His journey.
By talent is to be understood faculty; and by five, two, and one, are meant the different applications of that faculty by different persons; for there is no inequality in God, and, therefore, He gives to all alike the facility of procuring to themselves eternal life by a right application of the knowledges of truth and good entrusted to their care. The difference, therefore, here spoken of, in respect to the number of talents, is intended to point out the difference in the use of them by men of different characters. Thus, they who greatly improve their talent by a right application of knowledges, are said to have five talents; they, again, who unite faith with charity, are said to have two talents, because the number two signifies such conjunction; and, again, they who have faith alone, with.-out charity, are described as having only one talent. It is, therefore, said, that He gave to every man according to his several ability.
Taking His journey means the same as travelling into a far country, namely, the Lord's departure out of this world, and His apparent absence from His people, whilst they are only in the knowledge of truth and good, before they have gained full possession of those heavenly principles in their own minds.
It is said, that he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made other five talents.
By the same are here meant, the knowledges of truth and good, which are signified by talents; and by trading with the same is understood, the procuring to himself intelligence and wisdom by those knowledges. For the case herein is this, that all heavenly knowledges, by which man's salvation is effected, are first stored up in the memory, and, if he be a thoughtless and impenitent man, never applying those knowledges to the reformation of his life, they remain stored up in the memory only, without ever being exalted, as they were intended to be, to any higher degree of the man's life. On the contrary, if the man be of an opposite character, and applies the knowledges he has received in his memory to the reformation and regulation of his life, they are then exalted to a higher place in the man's mind, being admitted into his understanding and his will, where, they are no longer knowledges, but intelligence and wisdom; intelligence, so far as they are admitted into, and enlighten, the understanding; and wisdom, so far as they are admitted into the will, and produce therein the heavenly fruit of love to God and charity towards the neighbour.
By making other five talents is to be understood, the, immense increase and fruitfulness of truth or knowledge, when it comes to be applied to its proper end - the reformation and regeneration of the life - and is thus brought into conjunction with its divine source. For, in such case, the multiplication and fructification of truth in the human mind, is like that of a grain of corn (to which also it is compared in the Sacred Scriptures), when it is cast into good ground, which, every one knows, is immense, and exceeds all human expectation, so that the product from a single grain of corn might, in a succession of years, replenish the whole earth: yet this increase is not more wonderful nor more true, than the increase of the talents, here spoken of, when they are applied to the blessed purposes for which they are given. A similar increase is signified in the next verse, where it is written, that likewise he that had received two he also gained other two.
But it is said, that he that had received one went and dug in the earth, and hid his Lords money.
His going and digging in the earth means, his Application to mere external things, such as relate to worldly and selfish love; and his hiding his Lord's money means that he so buried the knowledges of heavenly truth and the faculty of using them, in those terrestrial and filthy loves, that he was no longer aware that he possessed any such faculty or such knowledges. Thus his Lord's money was hid both from his own eyes and from the eyes of others; from his own eyes, because he had lost sight of such possessions; and from the eyes of others, because his light did not so shine before men, that they might see his good works, and glorify his Father which is in heaven.
It is next said, that after a long time the Lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them.
A long time expresses delay, until the period was fully arrived of the successful issue of the faithfulness of the wise servants, and of the unsuccessful issue of the unfaithfulness of the unprofitable servants; thus it denotes delay until all the servants were fully tried and proved, as to the ruling principles of their lives.
The Lord, when spoken of in regard to the servants, denotes the principle of heavenly good, in regard to the truths which administer to it, and by which it is to be rendered fruitful. For the end of all truths is, that they may be productive of heavenly good, and afterwards may be conjoined with that good, and thereby, with the Lord Himself. In this, therefore, consists the exploration of all truths, and thus of all those who are principled in truths, which exploration is here called reckoning. For if truths, or they who are principled in truths, are capable of admitting and of being conjoined with heavenly good, which is the love of God and neighbourly love, it is then a plain proof that the truths have been applied in trading according to the design of their Divine Source. On the contrary, if truths have not been so applied, it is then equally certain, that they have not been exercised in trading, according to the original intention of Him who save them.
We next read, that he who had received five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents; behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His Lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your Lord.
By bringing the other five talents to his Lord, is to be understood, the humble and grateful acknowledgement that this increase and fruitfulness was not from himself, or his own exertions, alone, but from his Lord, and the communications of His mercy and truth.
By the Lord's saying to the servant, well done, is to be understood, Divine approbation communicated to the servant's mind, or conscience, which approbation is one and the same thing with the influence of the Divine mercy and truth, willingly and gratefully received; and he is called good and faithful servant, in regard to the two principles, the will and the understanding, in which those heavenly principles of the divine love and truth were admitted and rendered fruitful; the will being the receptacle of the divine mercy, or love, and the understanding being the receptacle of the divine truth, or wisdom.
The Lord further says, You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. These words denote a state of dominion over all evils, to which this good and faithful servant had now attained; for to be faithful over a few things is significative of his first state in the regeneration, when he was under the influence only of the knowledges of truth in his understanding, which state is expressed by faithfulness over a few things; because, whilst man continues to act from truth alone, not fully conjoined with heavenly good, there is little or no fruitfulness of heavenly principles in his mind and life, and, therefore, the things belonging to him are then called a few things. But to be made ruler over many things, is significative of a second state in the regeneration, when heavenly good begins to acquire the ascendancy, and, being conjoined with the knowledge of truth in the understanding, imparts to man sovereignty and dominion over all the lower principles of his mind and life, both good and evil, and this state is expressed by the Lord's words, I will make you ruler over many things.
The words, Enter you into the joy of your Lord, cannot be understood until it be known what is meant by the Lord's joy, and by entering into it. Now, the Lord's joy consists in seeing others happy in and from Himself, that is to say, by conjunction of life with himself. To enter, then, into this joy, is to be made partaker of it; and, therefore, when it is said to the good and faithful servant, enter you into the joy of your Lord, it was intended to give him an assurance, that he should now on be partaker of a happiness similar to that of God Himself, namely, the inconceivable happiness of seeing others happy, and of observing, at the same time, that their happiness is at once full and indestructible, by virtue of its conjunction with the Eternal and the Infinite.
It appears that he who had received two talents was in like manner admitted, on account of his faithfulness, to spiritual dominion and spiritual joy. But it is said, that when he came who had received the one talent, he said, Lord, I knew you that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed; and I was afraid, and went and hid your fulfill: in, the earth; lo, there you have what is yours. By this part of the parable, Jesus Christ meant to instruct us, that His precepts of love and charity always appear hard and severe to the thoughtless and impenitent, which, to the humble and pious Christian, are most easy, and, at the same time, most delightful, agreeably to those words of Jesus Christ, where He says, My yoke is easy, and My harden is light. The reason why it appears otherwise to the thoughtless and impenitent, is, because their wills, or love, are not engaged in the service of their heavenly Master, and where this is the case, all service must of necessity seem burdensome and grievous. For truth without love is the most severe tyrant and taskmaster of all others; as, on the other hand, when truth is received with its love, that is to say, with its delight, no service can be more sweet and alluring. This servant, therefore, who had received one talent, in other words, who was in faith without charity, or in the knowledge of the truth without its life and love, charges his Lord with reaping where he had not sown, and gathering where he had not scattered seed, thus throwing the blame off himself, and fixing it upon his Lord, by endeavouring to prove that his own unfaithfulness and unfruitfulness were.the results, not of any fault of his own, but of a defect in his Lord's bounty, and of an unreasonableness in his Lord's expectations.
From the man's saying, I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth, we are further instructed that fear and dread always accompany unfaithfulness, and are, besides, always attended with unfruitfulness; as, on the other hand, hope and consolation are the constant offspring of dutiful obedience. We learn, therefore, that we ought always to live and act from a principle of love towards God, derived from the mercy and benignity of his character, rather than from a principle of dread and slavish apprehension, grounded in a sense of His majesty and greatness.
The words, Lo, there you have what is yours, teach us that the most unfaithful servants are willing to make a compromise with God, even though they have nothing to present to Him but the truths of their own sad negligence. Thus the unfaithful servant here says to his Lord, Lo, there you have what is yours, as if he was fulfilling an act of justice by returning to his Lord what he had received from him; whereas it was, in reality, an act of injustice, because the talent which he returned was given him for the purpose of being increased, and, consequently, in not increasing it he proved himself unjust.
It follows, that the Lord answered and said to him, You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not scattered seed. You ought, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Every unprofitable servant is both wicked and lazy; wicked, because he remains in natural love, separate from spiritual love, whereby all his affections are turned away from God and Heaven; and lazy, because his understanding, in such case, has no activity to contemplate on heavenly things, but only to employ itself in the lower cares and concerns of this world and the flesh. Moreover, this unprofitable servant was subject to condemnation, even upon his own principles, since, had he acted in. conformity to the knowledge of his Lord, which he himself professes to have received, his conduct would have been more proper and justifiable, because then he would have put his Lord's money to the exchangers, so that his Lord at his coming would have received his own with usury. By which is meant, that by knowledge he would have acquired love and charity, and thus his talent would have been returned to his Lord with the usury, or increase, which it was intended to procure.
But it is said, Take therefore the talent from him and give it to him that has ten talents. For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. By the talent, as was said, are signified the knowledges of truth with which the unprofitable servant had been gifted, and by the command, therefore, to take away this talent, is signified the effect produced by the servant's unprofitableness, in depriving him of those knowledges. For such is the nature of all sin, that, opposing the eternal truth, it destroys in itself the knowledges of that truth, so as to make itself desolate of all heavenly light by plunging into the darkness which favours its own cravings.
The command, Give it to him which has ten talents, signifies the effect produced by a proper and profitable use of the knowledges of truth, which effect is, that they increase by use, and are the exclusive property of those who apply them to the purposes for which they are given to procure by it the good of heavenly love and charity, by applying it to the removal of all contrary loves, that so the supreme good may be exalted and operative in every principle both of mind and body. Lastly, we are instructed, as to the consequences resulting from the right and wrong application of the above inestimable talent committed to every one's care; that the right application leads to dominion over all the powers of evil and darkness, and, at the same time, to a blessed conjunction with Heaven and its God; whereas the wrong application leads to the deprivation of all heavenly knowledge, and, thus, to the grossest degree of spiritual darkness, and, finally, to an intestine hatred against all the goodness and truth of Heaven, thus to a miserable association with wicked spirits in the bottomless pit.