Spiritual Meaning of
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THE MAN INVITED TO A WEDDING.
And he put forth a parable to those which were invited, when He marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying to them, When you, are invited by any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room: lest a more honourable man than you be invited by him; and he that asked you and him come and say to you, Give this man place; and you begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that asked you comes, he may say to you, Friend, go up higher: then shall you have worship in the presence of them that sit to eat with you. For whoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. Then said he also to him that asked him, When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbours: lest they also invite you again, and a compensation be made you.
The invited, according to the sense of the letter, are all those invited to a natural feast, or wedding; but, according to the spiritual sense, are all those invited to a spiritual feast, or wedding; and since a spiritual feast, or wedding means conjunction of life and of love with Jesus Christ, and all are invited to such conjunction who receive the truths of God's Holy Word into their understandings, therefore, all such are here denoted by the invited.
Jesus Christ perpetually marks, or notes, the ruling disposition of all His children, and especially of those who, by receiving His Holy Word into their understandings, are invited to the marriage. He sees, therefore, how some are of an aspiring and proud temper, and how, consequently, they choose out the chief rooms; in other words, how they exalt themselves above others, imagining that they merit heaven more than others, and that their virtues have in them some superior excellence, which entitles them to some high and distinguished place in the favour of the Almighty.
The counsel which Jesus Christ gives to all such is this: When you are invited by any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honourable man than you be invited by him. This counsel strikes at the root of all human pride and vanity, by teaching us that we ought not to exalt ourselves in our own fancied esteem above others, but that we should rather delight in exalting others above ourselves, by delighting in their excellencies as much as in our own, and by thus wishing for them as high a place in the favour and kingdom of God as we wish for ourselves. Thus Jesus Christ would lay the axe to the root of our self-love, and, cutting down that infernal tree, would plant in its place the Tree of Life, with all the other plants of Paradise, consisting in the love of Himself, in charity towards our neighbour, and in all the graces and virtues of humility, contentment, patience, forbearance, and well-doing, resulting from that love.
But Jesus Christ adds, lest a more honourable man than you he invited by him. By a more honourable man than you, according to the natural or literal sense of the term, is meant one who is more distinguished by natural dignity, talent, and pre-eminence; but according to the spiritual idea, one who is more principled in the good of charity, thus, in respect of the Jews, it denotes the Gentiles, who, by virtue of the principle of good-will and charity, were accounted more honourable in the sight of Jesus Christ than the Jews, when yet these latter had the advantage over the former, as being in possession of the knowledges of truth derived from the Holy Word. Jesus Christ would teach us, therefore, on this occasion, that the principle of charity is, in all cases, more honourable than the principle of faith; or, in other words, that the principle of good is more honourable than that of truth; for by you are here to be understood those who are called, or invited, to the marriage, and the call, or invitation, to the heavenly marriage is always given by the knowledge of heavenly truth.
Jesus Christ adds these further words of caution, And he that asked you and him come and say to you, Give this man place, and you begin with shame to take the lowest room. By the man here spoken of, is meant the more honourable man, by whom, according to the spiritual idea, is signified the principle of charity in relation to the principle of faith, or the principle of good in relation to that of truth. By giving this man place is, therefore, denoted, that the principle of faith, or truth, ought always to give place to the principle of charity or good; in other words, ought always to exalt the latter principles, so as to give them entire rule and pre-eminence. Jesus Christ, therefore, would teach us, by the above injunction, that the good of charity is the essential principle of His kingdom, and that faith, or truth, are only so far good as they conduct to the good of charity, and confirm it by giving it pre-eminence over themselves and over every other good. Give this man place is, therefore, an eternal law of salvation to all mankind, since salvation cannot possibly be attained until the good of charity is exalted above all the lower principles of what is called faith, or truth, or knowledge; whereas, whenever faith, and truth, and knowledge, submit themselves to the higher rule and government of charity, and thus to the highest rule and government of Jesus Christ, who dwells in charity as its essential life, in this case all the blessings of salvation are secured, because, in this case, man is admitted to the heavenly marriage, which consists in the conjunction of charity and faith in his purified bosom, and thus in his conjunction of life with the Living and Eternal God.
The lowest room in the Kingdom of Heaven, or at the heavenly marriage, is that of those who act from principles of faith, or truth, alone, as the highest place belongs to those who act from principles of charity, or love and goodness, conjoined with faith, or truth.
It is said, And you begin, with shame to take the lowest room. There are two kinds of shame; one originating in the opinions of men, which may be called natural shame; and the other originating in the opinion of God, which may be called spiritual shame. The shame here spoken of is of the latter description, consisting in a consciousness of having acted contrary to the divine opinion, or, what is the same thing, to the genuine truth of God's Most Holy Word, which is the shame of all those who exalt knowledge above the life of knowledge, fancying themselves wiser and better than others, merely because they abound in high speculations, and have their understandings overcharged with doctrines, articles of faith, and religious notions, whilst their hearts and lives are under the influence of worldly and selfish love, and as far from evangelical purity as those who are totally destitute of all knowledge of the eternal truth.
Jesus Christ continues His divine counsel in these words, When you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest room, that when he that asked you comes, he may say to you, Friend, go up higher. We have already seen what is meant by being invited, and sitting down in the lowest room.
By him that asked you, according to the spiritual idea, is to be understood the Almighty Himself, whose name is Jesus Christ, and who bids, or invites, to the heavenly marriage, the whole human race, by the instrumentality of His Holy Word or Spirit enlightening their understandings; and by His coming is meant His approach to man, and further manifestation of Himself in the power of holy love and charity in the will, to make His eternal abode with man. For the presence of Jesus Christ with man is two-fold, in his understanding and in his will; but this presence is never full, thus Jesus Christ is never said fully to come to man until He gains possession of the will, or love, of man, as well as of his understanding and thought.
The words, He may say to you, Friend, go up higher, denote an internal dictate in the mind, instructing man, that when charity is exalted above faith, or goodness above truth, or, what is the same thing, the things of the will above those of the understanding, then man is accepted of his Maker, and admitted into the true order of His heavenly life and kingdom; for by the words, he may say to you, is signified an internal dictate in the mind of him to whom they are addressed; and by the term friend is denoted acceptance with the Almighty; and by going up higher is further denoted, an elevation into the heavenly world, which elevation takes place with all those who become. the friends of God through the conjunction of charity and faith, or of goodness and truth; and since this conjunction is effected principally by keeping the commandments of God, therefore, Jesus Christ says to His disciples, You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.
It is added, as a ground of encouragement on this occasion, Then shall you have worship in the presence of them that sit to eat with you.
By those that sit to eat, when the heavenly marriage is treated of, as in the present instance, are to be understood all those in Heaven and on earth who appropriate to themselves the heavenly principles of charity and faith, or of good and truth, from Jesus Christ, and who thus have living conjunction with that Incarnate God, both in their wills, their understandings, and their lives; and by having worship in the presence of these, is signified acceptance with them, or such a friendly communication as subsists between members of the same family who have the same common Father, and are united with each other in the bonds of fraternal affection and tenderness. For such is the case with all those who are principled in real genuine charity, that they are the favourites of all in Heaven, inasmuch as they breathe the same spirit, eat the same bread, and rejoice in the acknowledgement that they derive life perpetually from the same Divine Source and Fountain.
From the application of this parable, where it is said, Whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted, we learn that pride, and especially the pride of intellectual attainments, originating in the acquirement of knowledge separate from the life of knowledge, is in the most direct opposition to the love of God, and, consequently, most destructive of all spiritual or heavenly life. Such pride, therefore, must be abased, because, according to the spiritual idea, nothing is, or can be, exalted, but in proportion as knowledge submits itself to the life of knowledge; in other words, in proportion as faith bows down to the government of charity, and both to the government of Jesus Christ. We learn, further, that humility, and especially the humility of truth and knowledge, in their submission to the rule of goodness and purity, is a virtue most pleasing in the sight of God, and most beneficial to the eternal interests of its possessor, inasmuch as it is for ever joining in the heavenly song, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be to Him that sits on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever (Rev. 5:13), and is thus perpetually introducing man to association with the ever-blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven. Lot us resolve, therefore, in compliance with the purport of this parable, to guard our souls, through the Divine Grace, against the infernal influence of pride, and especially of that intellectual pride which would lead us to suppose that we are wiser and better than others, for no other reason than because we have much knowledge, and can talk learnedly about the things of God. And let us resolve, further, to cherish in ourselves above all things, through Divine assistance, the grace of humility, especially of that humility which exalts charity above faith, and the life of knowledge above knowledge itself, because we may perceive clearly that such humility opens the gates of Heaven, renders man a friend of God, and introduces him to the societies of the blessed in the Kingdom of God. Amen.