Spiritual Meaning of

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Gen 9:18-23

The Most Ancient, or Adamic Church, was celestial, but the Ancient, or Noetic Church, was spiritual. These two terms, celestial and spiritual, indicate and point out differences and distinctions that are organic and far reaching. The celestial church was in the goodness of love; the spiritual church was in the truths of faith. This means that the man of the Most Ancient Church derived truth from good, and that the man of the Ancient Church derived good from truth. The will and the understanding of the celestial man acted as one faculty, the understanding being formed from the will and thinking always as the will loved. The will and understanding in the spiritual man were separated, they were not one falculty but two; and because of the corruptions of his will, a new will was formed in his intellectual part, in which a distinctly spiritual life was implanted, to be formed and guided by the truth which from revelation entered his understanding from without. Such was the organic difference between the two churches.

The imagry of the Divine Allegory clearly points to this difference. Adam was placed in a garden, Noah planted a vineyard. Adam fell through eating, Noah fell through drinking. Eating is an act which indicates a state of the will; drinking is an act which describes a state of the understanding. The Adamic people, by listening to the pleading of the sense-life, fell away from the purity of love. The Noetic people, by the inflation of self-intelligence, fell away from the purity of truth. Adam's fall took place in a garden; Noah's fall took place in a vineyard. It would be interesting to follow up and dwell upon these correspondences, but enough has been said to indicate and fix the spiritual meaning in our minds.

We have seen that the ark resting on the mountain is the beautiful picture the Lord gives us of the Ancient Church resting in the heights and quiet of the Divine love after its long state of trial and temptation. The waters of temptations have abated. The dry ground appears. And, now, we come to a very remarkable statement, one that, in its spiritual meaning, reveals the first step in the spiritual decline of the Noetic Church. We read: "And Noah began to be an husbandman; and he planted a vineyard." Now the original Hebrew words, ish adamah, which in the Authorized Version of the Bible are translated, husbandman, more literally means a man of the ground. This changes the entire sense and brings out more clearly the spiritual meaning. The ground referred to is the external mind; and the spiritual sense reads as follows: "And the Ancient Church began to be external." that was just the very thing that happened to the Noetic Church. The literal picture of Noah coming down from the summit of the mountain and planting a vineyard in the plain, describes how the people of the Ancient Church began to be external - men of the ground - how they descended from the mountain heights of love to the Lord and their neighbor into the more external things of the church; how they began to cultivate them, to give undue importance to them and finally to prefer and exalt them above the internal and spiritual things of the church. This is what is meant by the words: "And Noah began to be a man of the ground." Here was the beginning of the fall of the Ancient Church. It began to be a church of the ground - to look down and out instead of looking up and within.

There is always danger ahead of any church that begins to do this. Externals of worship, the rituals of religion, are not the church; they are not religion. They have a very important place and serve a very high use in the church, but if they are allowed to absorb the thought, if they are taken out of their subordinate position and given undue prominence, nothing other than a decline of spiritual life can result. I sound this note of warning that the new Church may be kept from an undue regard for the things that merely please the eye and ear. The Church is an internal spiritual life, and its ceremonies and ritual are mere clothing and nothing more.

Beginning to be a man of the ground, the allegory goes on to tell us that Noah planted a vineyard. Of the Garden of Adam, it is said: "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden." The garden in Eden was planted by the Lord, but the vineyard of Ararat was planted by Noah.

Here is brought out an important spiritual teaching. The planting of this vineyard was one more step in the decline of the Noetic Church; for it represents the establishment of a church that partook more of the mere external things of truth and doctrine than of love and the life of charity. This was really the case. For as the Ancient Church declined, it began to give loud utterance to the things of mere faith and to pay less and less attention to the life of chanty. It finally became a church of the ground.

The Lord in the Word uses a vineyard to represent the church, but He is also said to plant it. In the parable, the householder who planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmen is the Lord Himself who plants His church and lets it out to us; but here, Noah plants the vineyard. And Noah having become a man of the ground, could plant nothing more than a church in mere externals - a church in which the mere knowledge of the truth was regarded as the chief virtue and charity of life as an inferior quality. This is the dreadful thing that happens when man attempts to place the essentials of the church in mere faith - things of mere doctrine.

We come now to Noah's intoxication: Wine is the symbol of spiritual truth. For this reason, the Lord used wine in the institution of the Holy Supper. The Lord established the Christian Church as His spiritual vineyard; and the spiritual truths which He reveals to it are the wine of the vineyard. The opening of the minds of men to Christian teaching and instruction is spiritually to drink of the wine of the vineyard of the Lord's planting; but in receiving Christian teaching and in imparting it, we must remember whose vineyard the church is and from whom the wine of spiritual truth is derived. Every movement of self-intelligence must be quelled - all pride of intellect must be shunned as sin against God. If these evils are not shunned, we are sure to fall into errors that will confuse and bewilder our judgment and lead our intellects astray. This state is described in the Bible as spiritual drunkenness.

Here we find the meaning of Noah's intoxication. His sin was not that of natural inebriety. There are other forms of intoxication than the one produced by the excessive use of wine. We often indicate certain states of mind by the term intoxication. We say of an enthusiast that he is intoxicated with an undue zeal for the cause he is advocating. The wordly mind is often intoxicated with the success which attends its efforts and achievements. The Bible frequently speaks of drunkenness to denote a state of spiritual pride. Ariel is said by the prophet Isaiah to be drunk. He says: "They are drunken but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink." Again he says: "The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden down." So we come to see that the story of Noah's drunkenness, considered spiritually, is the description of the state into which the Ancient Church fell when it began to pervert and falsify the truths that were revealed to it. The people of that Church became sottish, intoxicated with the passion for mere truth separate from the life it taught, they laid in a state of spiritual stupor. This is what is meant by Noah being drunken with the wine of his vineyard.

Think now of Noah's exposure. He lay uncovered in his tent. The first consequence which followed Adam's sin was that he discovered he was naked. Here, Noah lies uncovered. Adam seeing his own nakedness is the symbol-way of telling us of the revelation to the consciousness of the Most Ancient Church of the loss of the innocence which it possessed in the beginning of its career. So of Noah. His nakedness was the coming to the surface of the inward guilt into which the Ancient Church had fallen.