Spiritual Meaning of
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LET YOUR LOINS BE GIRDED ABOUT, AND YOUR LIGHTS BURNING.
Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and you yourselves like men that wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding; that when He comes and knocks, they may open to Him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He comes shall find watching: verily I say to you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to eat, and will come forth and serve them. And if He shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And know this, that if the owner of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken into. Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of Man comes at an hour when you think not.
By the loins are figured and represented the affections of man, thus the things belonging to his will, or love; and by the loins, therefore, being girded, is denoted the gathering up of the affections out of mere natural and external objects, and directing them towards spiritual and eternal ones, agreeably to which sense of the word girding, it is said, concerning the Great Redeemer, Righteousness [or Justice], shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins (Isaiah 11:5), denoting that His affections, which are here figured by loins, were directed towards an eternal object, or the Supreme Good in Himself; and that His thoughts, which are here figured by His Reins, were held in the same direction, thus pointing to the Supreme Truth. Agreeably to the same language of figure and correspondence, by lights are to be understood the thoughts of man, or the things of his intellect; and by these lights burning is further to be understood, that the thoughts, or intellectual things, belonging to man, shall always be kept under the influence of heaven-born love and charity, which is the sacred fire from which all light, properly so called, proceeds, and by which alone it is kept alive.
By Men that wait for the Lord are spiritually to be understood truths derived from good, and directed towards good; for by men are spiritually meant truths; and by the Lord is denoted the Supreme Good. To be like, then, to men that wait for the Lord, denotes conformity to truths derived from, and directed to, good, for one thing becomes like another, when it becomes conformable to it.
The wedding denotes the marriage of Divine good and Divine truth, or of the divinity and humanity in the person of the Great Redeemer, whose High and Holy name is Jesus Christ; and the Lord returning from this wedding further denotes, the operation of the Great Redeemer from His Divine Humanity, when the union of the two natures, the divine and human, was accomplished in His glorified Person. His coming and knocking, therefore, means His approach and access to man in the power of His Holy Spirit, or of His Divine Good and Divine Truth; coming having relation to the operation of His Divine Good, and knocking to the operation of His Divine Truth, whilst both expressions united denote His continual presence with man, to the intent that He may replenish him with the fullness of divine love and wisdom, agreeably to the declaration in an another place, where He says of Himself, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Rev. 3:20). For, in these words, standing at the door and knocking, means the presence and operation of the Divine Good and Divine Truth continually with man; and man's hearing His voice, and opening the door, denotes the reception of that divine good and truth by man in his will and understanding; and, lastly, coming to and supping with him, and he with Me, describes the mutual conjunction of the Lord with man, and of man with the Lord, by virtue of the communication and reception of the divine operation.
Opening evidently means the opening of the door of the mind, at which the Lord knocks, that so admission may be given to Him; in other words, that He may be received in His own divine love and wisdom. For such is the case with every human mind, that it is capable of admitting into itself the blessed influences of heaven and its God, and that it really does admit those influences, whenever it is careful to open the door, that is to say, to remove the impediments which prevent their admission. To open to Him immediately, therefore, evidently means, such a habit of removing the above impediments, arising chiefly from self-love and the love of the world, that the Lord, when He comes, may find a quick and ready entrance, and thus may communicate His divine blessings without either difficulty or delay.
It follows, Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord, when He comes, shall find so watching.
The term blessed, whenever it occurs in the Word of God, is always applied to denote conjunction of life with the Most High, thus to denote the reception of His most holy love and wisdom, since nothing but such reception, and the conjunction to which it leads, can make a man blessed. Blessedness, therefore, implies the possession of an eternal good, and is thus distinguished from that false and short-lived happiness, which is sometimes mistaken for blessedness, and which consists merely in the possession of temporal and worldly goods.
The principles which constitute blessedness are the Divine love and the Divine wisdom, and, therefore, man is blessed according to his reception of those principles. This is what Jesus Christ here declares, when He says, Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He comes, shall find so watching; for by the Lord coming, as was above observed, is meant His continual presence and operation with man by His Holy Spirit of love and wisdom; and by watching is denoted preparation on the part of man to receive the heavenly influence, watching being opposed to sleeping, and being thus expressive of a spiritual state of mind, as sleeping is expressive of a natural state. Man, accordingly, is said to watch when he lives under the influence of heavenly truth; as, on the other hand, he is said to sleep, when he is under the influence of mere natural truth. It is said, so watching, because the term so has relation to what goes before concerning opening immediately, and thus the two words, so watching, have respect to the joint preparation of the human will and understanding to receive divine influence.
It is afterwards written concerning those blessed servants. Verily I say to you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them sit down to eat, and will come forth and serve them. The term verily is here applied to denote both the certainty and importance of what immediately follows concerning the blessedness of the servants here spoken of, which blessedness is described in the words, He shall gird Himself, and make them sit down to eat, and come forth to serve them.
By He is here to be understood the Lord, who was spoken of in the words immediately preceding; and by the Lord girding Himself is further to be understood His intense love, by which He is desirous to enter into conjunction with those who are prepared to receive Him; and by making them to sit down to eat is further denoted, the influx of the divine good of His love into their wills, for by sitting down to eat is signified the reception of that good; and, lastly, by coming forth to serve them, is signified the influx of the divine truth of His wisdom into their understandings; for by coming forth, when predicated of the Lord, is signified His operation of His divine truth; and by serving is denoted the office or use of that truth. Thus the three expressions combined denote the fullness of the divine influx, by virtue of which all recipient subjects are replenished with all the goods and truths of the divine love and wisdom of the Most High.
By the two watches are, denoted states of spiritual or regenerate life; by the second watch a state in which good and truth are fully conjoined; and by the third watch, a state of the full reception of those heavenly principles; for by watches are meant divisions of time, and by times, according to the spiritual idea, are meant states of spiritual or regenerate life. Again, by finding them so, is meant the divine inspection, and the discovery thence resulting, that the above servants were watching; in other words, were prepared to receive divine influx. It, therefore, follows, Blessed are those servants, to denote that the preparation to receive divine influx is the certain qualification to receive it.
When the blessed Jesus says, Know this, He evidently means to fix the attention of his hearers to a subject of great importance; for to know signifies to consider and to understand, and whatsoever the Blessed Jesus calls His hearers to consider and understand, must of necessity be a thing of importance. What this thing of importance is, appears from the words which follow; for by the good man of the house, here spoken of, is to be understood the ruling principle in the human mind; the term hours being expressive, according to the spiritual idea, of the interiors and exteriors of the human mind; whilst the term good man is equally expressive of the ruling principle which guides and governs them. In like manner, by knowing what hour the thief would come, is spiritually to be understood perception or discernment of those false persuasions in the human mind, which, being injected by the powers of darkness, would induce man to believe that his life is his own, independent of God, and thus tempt him to ascribe merit to himself, instead of ascribing it to the Divine Giver of all good. For every such persuasion is called a thief in the language of inspiration, because it robs God of His Glory, and appropriates that to the creature, which belongs properly and solely to the Creator. It is, accordingly, said of the owner of the house, that if he had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken into; because by knowing what hour the thief would come, is to be understood spiritual perception and discernment, that the great enemy of man is ever at hand injecting the above false persuasions, and that there is no effectual security against their poison but watchfulness, or a state of spiritual thought, by which is to be understood, thought influenced by the Eternal Truth, without which thought the exteriors and interiors of the mind must inevitably be overrun and desolated by false and infernal persuasions. This desolation is expressed in the parable by the house being broken into, or, as it is written in the original, dug through, because the term digging is applied to denote the operation of thought, whether it be grounded in good or evil.
Then follow the admonitory words, Be you therefore ready also; for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not. By being ready is to be understood preparation to receive divine influx, which preparation is the effect of watchfulness; and by the Son of man coming is further to be understood the Eternal Truth in its connection with its divine source, the Divine Humanity of Jesus Christ, which is said to come in two respects; first, when a new revelation in made for the establishment of a new church here on earth, in the place of an old one, in which it had been perverted, falsified, and destroyed; and, secondly, when it is imparted by influx to every individual man, for the purpose of making him a church; in other words, of reforming and regenerating him. It is said of this Son of man that He comes at an hour when you think not, to denote that the influx of the Eternal Truth with man is perpetual, thus in all states of life, even in those when man is least aware of, or disposed to believe in any such influx.
It is written, further, Then Peter said to Him, Lord, speak you this parable to us, or even to all? And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when He comes, shall find so doing. By Peter is here to be understood the faith of the Church, or, what amounts to the same, the principle of intelligence in those who are of the Church, inquiring concerning the extent of obligation to obey the truth of revelation, and how far that obligation was intended to be confined to those to whom the revelation is first made, or to reach to future and remote generations. The Lord, accordingly, makes His reply by another question, addressed to the faith, or intelligence, of the Church, because He foresaw that, in the proper answer to His question, the faith, or intelligence, of the Church, would find a full and satisfactory answer to its own question. For when He asks, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? He was well aware that this question would lead to a reply the most edifying and instructive in the mind of every intelligent being, because every intelligent being must of necessity discover in the character of a faithful and wise steward a portrait of every excellence; and that, consequently, to consider this character attentively must have a tendency to conduct to the possession of that excellence. For a steward obviously means one who ministers; and the term is, therefore, here applied by the Blessed Jesus to denote the natural man, or mind, which ministers to the spiritual, and which is called faithful and wise when it stands and operates in conformity to the spiritual; faithful, when it is in conformity to spiritual truth; and wise, when in conformity to spiritual good. Inquiry is further made, in these words, Whom the Lord shall make ruler over His household, to give them their portion of food in due season, because when the natural mind becomes a faithful and wise steward, it becomes qualified to be invested by the Almighty with spiritual power and dominion, communicated through the spiritual mind, by virtue of which it rules over His household, to give them their portion of food in due season; in other words, it controls and regulates all the subordinate affections and thoughts, together with all the bodily senses and appetites, imparting to each its proper nourishment and vigour from the spiritual mind, thus from the God of that mind, according to the necessities and requirements of each. It is, therefore, added, Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when He comes, shall find so doing, to teach the important lesson, that when the natural mind ministers to the spiritual, and thus becomes a faithful and wise steward, it then partakes of the blessedness of the spiritual mind, being brought together with it into conjunction of life with heaven and its God; and it is further added, Of a truth I say to you, that He will make him ruler over all that He has, to teach the additional interesting lesson, that when the natural mind becomes, as above, conformable to the spiritual mind, it is then gifted by its Divine Lord with power over all things, because connecting itself with omnipotence in humility and obedience, it uses all the gifts of God to His glory, and the promotion of that universal happiness which He intends for all His creatures.
It is next said, But if that servant say in his heart, My Lord delays his coming; and shall begin to beat the men-servants and maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken, the Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looks not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him to pieces, and will assign him his place with the unbelievers.
As the preceding words describe the character and blessedness of the natural mind, when it becomes obedient to the spiritual, so these words describe the character and misery of the natural mind, when it becomes disobedient, by separating itself from spiritual control and government. For by that servant saying in his heart, My Lord delays his coming, is to be understood wilful carelessness, on the part of the natural mind, respecting the divine presence and influx; and by beginning to beat the men-servants and maidservants, is further to be. understood the perversion, in such case, of natural scientifics and their affections, by separating them from the light of truth; and by eating and drinking, and being drunken, is, lastly, denoted, the appropriation of what is evil and false, together with insanity derived from erroneous persuasions, in consequence of the above perversion. Such is the terrible character of the natural mind in its state of disobedience to the spiritual; and its misery is further described in the words which immediately follow. For by the Lord of that servant coming in a day when he looked not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, is to be understood judgement unexpectedly exercised upon the above evils and falses of the natural mind; and by cutting him in sunder, and appointing him his portion with the unbelievers, is further to be understood the condemnation into which the natural mind casts itself, by separating itself from the blessed influences of all heavenly good and heavenly truth.
Jesus Christ continues the application of the parable in these concluding words, And that servant, which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not [himself], neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many [blows]. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of blows, shall be beaten with few [blows]. For to whomsoever much, is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
These words teach, in general, the important lesson, that it is better to be ignorant of the truth, than to possess the knowledge of it, if that knowledge be not attended with conformable life and practice. For by the servant which knew his Lord's will, is figured and represented the natural mind enlightened by the knowledges of truth; and by that servant not preparing, neither doing according to His will, is further described the same mind inattentive alike to the requirements of truth, and acquirement of good; and by his being beaten with many [blows], is denoted the greater misery into which such a mind plunges itself, in consequence of its greater knowledge. Again, by him that knew not, and did commit things worthy of blows, being beaten with few, is figured and represented the natural mind in a state of ignorance, and in a state of transgression grounded in ignorance, which state is here described as less miserable than a state of transgression accompanied with knowledge. It is, accordingly, added, For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more; because by much being given is denoted the affection of truth, and by much being committed is denoted the truth itself; and, therefore, the important lesson inculcated in the above words is, that in proportion to the affection of truth with which every one is gifted, and to the truth itself, which is committed to his care, will be the degree of criminality, if he does not profit by what is given and committed to him.
We learn, then, from this parable, that it is of the utmost importance for every one to set a guard over his affections and thoughts, that so his affections may always have respect to an eternal end, and that his thoughts may always be guided by the light of the Eternal Truth. We learn, further, that with this view man ought continually to be attentive to divine influx, or to the operation of the Incarnate God in his own mind, that so he may readily and willingly comply with all its saving purposes of reformation and regeneration. We learn, again, that the blessedness of man consists in thus submitting his natural mind to the government and guidance of the divine love and wisdom in his spiritual mind, because by so doing he conjoins himself with Jesus Christ, whilst Jesus Christ conjoins Himself with him, so that they act together in unity. We learn, lastly, that, by this reciprocal conjunction, the natural mind becomes invested with omnipotence, by virtue of which it exercises dominion over all its affections and thoughts, and likewise over all bodily appetites and the delights of sense; whereas, without such conjunction, the natural mind perverts all goodness and truth, and, at the same time, appropriates to itself all that is evil and false, until it plunges itself into the insanity of every erroneous persuasion, and, finally, into condemnation. Let us resolve, therefore, to profit by the above instruction, and through the divine grace and mercy to watch well over all the motions and tendencies of our affections and thoughts, looking continually to divine influx for government and guidance. Thus may we hope that our natural minds will never be separated from the divine love and wisdom, but, complying willingly and faithfully with those blessed principles, will attain, finally, to that blessed state of dominion of which it is written, Of a truth I say to you, that He will make him ruler over all that he has. Amen.