Spiritual Meaning of
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THE LOST PIECE OF SILVER.
Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece does not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents.
The woman here mentioned, as was observed in the explanation of the foregoing parable, denotes the Church, as to the affection of truth, agreeably to which idea the Church is frequently, in the Sacred Scriptures, compared to a virgin, and called a virgin, as the Virgin of Zion, and the Virgin of Jerusalem (Lam. 1:15, Lam. 2:13; Amos 5:2), and also the Lamb's Bride and Wife; and by her having ten pieces of silver, is to be understood, her being in possession of all heavenly truths necessary for her purification and conjunction with her heavenly Bridegroom and Husband.
It may be proved from the Sacred Scriptures, that by ten pieces of silver are meant all heavenly truths; and this, not only from the general consideration that the knowledge of holy truth is frequently, in the Sacred Scriptures, compared to money, and called money, as talents and pounds (Matt. 25:14-32; Luke 19:12-28), but also from the particular consideration that it is frequently compared with and called silver, from which money is coined. Thus it is written in the prophet Isaiah, Your silver is become dross (Is. 1:22), where it is evident that the prophet is speaking not of the metal called silver, but of the knowledge of heavenly truth signified by that metal. So, again, for iron I will bring silver (60:17), where it is again evident, that by silver is to be understood the purer dispensation of holy truth which was given at the manifestation of God in the flesh, for the prophet is here speaking of the blessings to be imparted to mankind by that manifestation. Again, Israel, they are even as the, dross of silver (Ezek. 20:18), by which words is manifestly described the perversion of truth by the Jewish nation, in consequence of which they had lost, all knowledge of genuine or spiritual truth, which is here called silver, and retained only natural or literal truth, which is here called dross. So, again, He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver (Mal. 3:3), speaking of the Lord's first advent in the flesh, and denoting the purification of the understandings of His people from all false and erroneous persuasions, by the manifestation of a pure order of spiritual and genuine truth.
Since by ten pieces of silver are to be understood all the knowledges of heavenly truth which constitute the Church, by losing one piece is evidently meant the loss of one of these knowledges, in consequence of which the state of the Church was become less perfect, pure, and stable, than it otherwise would have been. For the perfection, purity, and stability of the Church will always depend on the integrity of truth; in other words, on the several orders, genera, and species of truth being preserved inviolable and entire.
By a candle is to be understood the light of heavenly truth, derived from the Word of God, and enlightening the understanding of man. For in all truth there is light, but the light varies according to the order of truth from which it is derived. Thus, as in the natural world, there are different degrees of light, namely, the light of the sun, the light of the moon, the light of the stars, and the light of a candle, so also in the spiritual world there are different degrees of spiritual light answering to the same, and being the effect of the reception of different orders and degrees of truth. By the candle, therefore, here spoken of, is to be understood the light of heavenly truth of the lowest order, such as is that which is derived from the literal sense of the word.
That the term candle has a spiritual signification is proved in the first place, from the book of Job, where mention is made of the candle of the wicked being put out (Job. 21:17), by which is to be understood, that the wicked extinguish in themselves the light of heavenly truth by their evil loves. Again, it is written, When His candle shined upon my head (Job. 24:3), by which is to be understood the wisdom which Job received from God. To the same purpose it is written in the book of Psalms, You will light my candle (Psalm 18:28) denoting also the illumination of wisdom from the Most High. Again, it is written in the book of Proverbs, The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord (Prov. 20:27), where it is plain the word candle is applied to express a spiritual idea.
It is said that the woman not only lighted a candle, but swept the house. Sweeping the home is to be understood, according to its spiritual meaning, in like manner as lighting a candle; nor can there be any difficulty in discovering what that meaning is, if it be considered what is to be understood by a house, according to a spiritual idea. For, in agreement with such idea, a house signifies the will-principle of man, because in that principle the love of man dwells, which is the real man; in that principle, too, if the love be purified, the Lord Himself dwells, and makes His everlasting abode. Accordingly, the Church, as consisting of purified human minds, or wills, is called in the Sacred Scriptures, the house of God, or of Jehovah.
The word house is applied according to a spiritual idea, in the Sacred Scriptures, wherever mention is made of the, house of Jehovah, of the house of Judah, of the house of Israel, etc.; for by the house of Jehovah it must of necessity be supposed that something spiritual is intended to be expressed, since it is impossible to conceive that Jehovah can dwell in any material building, therefore it is written, The Most High dwells not in temples made with hands (Acts 7:48); in like manner, by the house of Judah, and the house of Israel, is not to be understood any house of wood or stone in which those nations dwelt, but the spiritual principles of love and wisdom which formed their lives. Jesus Christ also applies the term house according to a spiritual idea, when he speaks of one who both hears and does His word, and compares him to a wise man who built his house upon a rock, since by a house upon a rock is to be understood the good of heavenly love and charity, grounded in the eternal truth; as by a house built on the sand, afterwards spoken of, is to be understood the will-principle of man not grounded in the eternal truth, but in false and erroneous persuasions, which have no coherence or consistency.
According to the above spiritual signification of house, as denoting the will and its love, by sweeping the house is meant the purification of the will from the filthy and unclean loves, such as are those of worldly gain and glory, and also corporeal pleasures, when they are regarded as the ruling ends of life. For the defilement of the will consists entirely in the separation of its loves from the love of God and neighbourly love, and, therefore, the purification of the will consists in regarding the love of God and neighbourly love as the supreme ends of life, and in bringing all other loves into submission to their heavenly influence, whereby other loves also become clean, and the house is thus entirely swept.
There are other passages in Holy Scripture which speak of sweeping according to the above spiritual idea. It is written in the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, sweep you [prepare] the way of Jehovah (Is. 40:3); and, again, "Make level, make level, sweep [prepare] the way, remove the stumbling-block from the way of my people" (Is. 57:14). Again, in Malachi, "Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall sweep [prepare] the way before me" (Mal. 3:1). In which passages, to sweep the way denotes to make themselves ready, and to bring their wills into obedience to the eternal truth.
Mention is made further, of seeking diligently till she find it. The term seeking, when used in the Sacred Scriptures, has relation to the understanding in its search after heavenly truth, according to which sense it is said, Seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33); and, again, Seek and you shall find (Matt. 7:7). But the term, diligently, has relation more to the will, or love, because men are always diligent in the search of what they most love, and in proportion to the degree of their love. The two terms, therefore, when united, denote the conjoint application both of the understanding and the will in their exploration of the eternal truth, since the eternal truth can never be found but by the conjoined energy of both those faculties.
The additional expression, till she find it, denotes perseverance in the search of truth, and was intended to instruct us that the eternal truth can never be found without such perseverance. It was to instruct us, therefore, that the illumination of truth is not instantaneous, but gradual, and that we advance in such illumination in proportion to our sincerity in forming our lives according to the degree of knowledge which we have received. For, in regard to the illumination of truth, the case is this, that in its commencement it is at first faint and obscure, and becomes brighter and brighter in the degree in which it is exalted to rule and pre-eminence in the will and understanding. New truths are thus successively admitted and formed into the life, and in proportion as these are united with their proper loves, they give birth again to other generations of truth, and this in a continued series without end. None, therefore, can be said properly to find the truth, by retaining it only in their memories, or even viewing it by a clear light in their understandings, since the truth is never really found until it affects the will, or love, and is thence formed into the life by influencing man's daily conduct and operation.
We are taught by this parable, that the knowledge of the eternal truth is of the greatest importance to man, and that as this knowledge has been in a great degree lost by the general corruptions of human nature, therefore, it is every one's duty, as well as his happiness, to endeavour to recover it again. With this view it is necessary, in the first place, to explore the pages of the Word of God, and to follow the guidance of the heavenly light therein made manifest, signified in the parable by lighting a candle. It is necessary, in the next place, to cease from doing evil, and for this purpose to explore the secret intentions and thoughts of the heart, to discover towards what end or object they are principally directed, which is signified, further, in the parable, by sweeping the house. And, lastly, it is necessary to exert all our powers of understanding and of will on the occasion, and this with an earnestness suited to the immense value of the pearl of great price which we seek after, and with a perseverance which will never cease until the truth be fully formed and fixed in our lives, as the greatest and most durable of all blessings, all which is further understood in the parable, by seeking diligently till she find it. Let us resolve, therefore, through the divine grace and mercy, now on to regard the acquisition of truth as a possession of infinitely higher estimation and importance than any other, and, accordingly, to seek it with all that never-ceasing application to the Word of God, continual purity of life, and diligent persevering exercise of our best faculties, which may be necessary to conduct us to the attainment of the prize, more to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb (Psalm 19:10).