Spiritual Meaning of
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A PIECE OF NEW CLOTH ON AN OLD GARMENT, &c.
No man puts a piece of new cloth upon an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up takes from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runs out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
Jesus Christ here speaks by correspondence, and thus represents spiritual things under natural images, agreeably to His usual mode of speaking.
The word new, is, in the original Greek, unwrought; and since cloth, according to its spiritual correspondence, signifies truth, inasmuch as it is applied to cover, defend, and keep warm the body, as truth is applied to cover, defend, and keep warm the spirit of man; therefore, by the un-worked cloth, here spoken of, is signified the truth of the Gospel, or the spiritual truth of the Christian church, as opposed to the old garment, or old truth, of the Jewish or representative church. Jesus Christ, therefore, here teaches, and warns his hearers of, the difficulty and the danger of imbibing the truths of the new Christian church, whilst the truths of the old or Jewish church, which were external and representative truths, were suffered to prevail, and to influence the persuasions and the conduct of their adherents. He says, therefore, that that which is put in to fill it up takes from the garment, because the truths of the new Christian church, which are internal spiritual truths, if mixed with those of the old representative church, rob them of their importance and influence, on which account, He adds, the rent is made worse, since there is no agreement between the precepts and commandments delivered by the Lord himself, and the statutes and judgements of the Jewish church, which were principally concerning sacrifices and representative worship.
By the new wine is again signified the truth of the new Christian church, in like manner as by the unwrought cloth above, but with this difference, that by new wine is signified a more internal order of truth, than by unwrought cloth, because wine is for inward nourishment, whereas cloth is for outward covering; still, however, the sense is the same, as denoting that the internal truths of the new Christian church, do not accord with the external truths of the Jewish church, which external truths are here called old bottles, of which it is said, that if new wine be put into them, the bottles burst, and the wine runs out, and the bottles perish.
By the bottles bursting, if new wine be put into them, is denoted, that the truths of the Jewish church, which principally relate to sacrifices and representative worship, have no coherence with the truths of the Christian church; and by the wine running out, is further to be understood, that interior spiritual truth is dissipated, when representative truth is alone seen and acknowledged; and, lastly, by the bottles perishing, is denoted, that the external laws relating to sacrifices and ordinances are done away as soon as ever the things which they represent are fulfilled.
The new wine, as was shown above, is the internal spiritual truth of the Christian church, which was opened by the manifestation of God in the flesh, on which occasion all the representatives of the Jewish church were fulfilled and realised; and by putting this new wine into new bottles is denoted, that this interior spiritual truth was to be taught, and admitted into human minds, by doctrines which were in agreement with it, and derived from it, thus by doctrines which would tend at once to promote its reception and perpetuity, on which account it is added, that both are preserved, namely both the truth and its doctrine, for doctrine is what contains and conveys truths, and is distinguished from truth as the bottle which contains wine is distinguished from the wine itself. When, therefore, doctrine is in agreement with truth, then both are preserved, because truth gives life and consistency to doctrine, whilst doctrine, in its turn, gives determination and support to truth.
The old garment and old bottles will apply, as apt figures, to the persuasions and sentiments of the old or natural man, in his unconverted state, before he begins to taste the new wine, and to put on the new garments of evangelical truth and righteousness. According to this application, the parable also teaches a lesson of important instruction and caution, by pointing out the extreme danger of mixing the principles of truth with those of error, or of imbibing heavenly knowledge, whilst the life and love of earthly science, and of vain imaginations, remains in its full force, unmortified and unsubdued. In this case, too, the divine declaration, that new wine must be put into new bottles, is full of wisdom and weighty obligation, enforcing on man the eternal law, that the persuasions dictated by the love of evil ought first to be combatted and removed, before the new wine of the everlasting Gospel is received, and that thus, new opinions, new persuasions, new principles, should be formed, capable of admitting and preserving the saving truth communicated from above.
The general instruction we gain from this parable may be thus summed up: we are taught by it, in the first place, that the truths of the Jewish church, which related principally to sacrifices and external ordinances, do not accord with the truths of the Christian church, which inculcate principally the law of love and charity, and thus the observance of internal worship, and that, consequently, the former are not to be mixed with the latter. We learn, in the second place, that the truths of the Christian church, being all of them from Heaven, are internal, spiritual, pure, and holy truths, and therefore require that the persuasions, sentiments, and ruling maxims of mankind should be in some sort of agreement with them, otherwise they will be dissipated, defiled, and destroyed. Let us resolve, therefore, from now on, to form our whole minds and lives according to the wisdom contained in the above parable, and whilst we venerate the law of the Jewish rituals, as being a law of divine revelation, and the best accommodated to the temper of the Jewish people, for whose use it was given; we need not conceive ourselves bound to observe it according to its letter, now that we are favoured with the interior spiritual law of the Christian dispensation. Let us resolve further, now that we have begun to put on the new garment, and to drink the new wine of evangelical truth, to lay aside the old garment, and discard the old bottles of our former mere natural ideas, sentiments, and persuasions, so that no rent may be made in the new garment, and the new wine may not run out. Thus may we hope that the Eternal Wisdom will obtain a safe and undefiled reception in our hearts, and, connecting itself with persuasions which are in agreement with itself, will conduct us to all that security and happiness announced by the Great Redeemer, when He says. They put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. Amen.