THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD AND THE WICKED VINEDRESSERS

THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD AND THE WICKED VINEDRESSERS
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida September 1992

“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country” (Matthew 21:33).

The Lord, while on earth, customarily presented His teaching in the form of parables. The characters, situations and imagery in the parables were selected to appeal to His audience. They were things with which the people He was addressing were well acquainted. They were able to draw conclusions and make judgments concerning the conduct of the characters in the parables because they were familiar with the situations presented in the parable from living experience. By means of the parable they were led to see that the same judgment which they rendered, in regard to the people in the parable, applied to a situation in which they were personally involved but which they had not recognized, or else refused to acknowledge.

The parables which the Lord spoke during His last week on earth were especially directed against the corrupt leaders of the Jewish Church. By means of His parables, He enabled the simple to see the state of the church and the quality of its leadership. In this way the Lord set free those who had been in simple good but who had been blind to the corruption of the church and its leaders. Having been freed, they could then be formed into the nucleus of the new church which the Lord came on earth to establish the Christian Church. Simultaneously, the leaders of the church were induced to pronounce a judgment on themselves.

The parable of the vineyard and the wicked vinedressers is clearly a case in point. The Jews were thoroughly familiar with the setting which the Lord outlined. The growing of grapes and the making of wine was one of the chief industries of that region. According to the parable, a landowner planted a vineyard. Around it he planted a hedge to protect it from wild animals or anyone bent on destruction. He built a winepress to process the fruit of the vineyard, and a tower for a watchman to warn of approaching danger. When everything was fully established, he hired vinedressers to work it and care for it in his absence.

But, because the owner of the vineyard was not present, the vinedressers began to think of the vineyard as their own. Because they worked it and cared for it, they credited its success to their own endeavors and thought of it as their own. So when the owner sent servants to receive the fruit, they beat some, killed others and stoned yet others. When the son of the owner came to collect, they killed him, confident that now the vineyard would be theirs.

The Lord then showed them that the church which had been established with their forefathers was the vineyard, and they, the leaders of the church, were the vinedressers in the parable. The prophets who had been periodically sent to turn them from their evil ways, ending with John the Baptist, were the servants in the parable who had been beaten, stoned, and killed. In the light of this parable, the righteous among the Jews were able to see the true quality of the church and its leaders, and so were freed from their domination. At the same time the wicked leaders were induced to pronounce a judgment on themselves.

Let us realize that the Lord’s parables, being Divine, are timeless. They are not limited in their application to specific times and circumstances. They are universal. Certainly, the fact that this parable was included in the New Testament the revelation to the Christian Church is a clear indication that it was given to serve as a warning to that church not to fall into the same grievous error.

It is a matter of spiritual history, revealed in the Word of the Second Advent, that despite this warning, that church did, like the one preceding it, fall away from the true worship of the Lord. The love of rule springing from the love of self perverted the leaders; the loves of the world its riches and its pleasures corrupted the people, and the church failed.

First the sole divinity of the Lord was called into question and finally denied. Thus the cornerstone of the Christian Church was rejected. The saving power of God was claimed by fallible men the priesthood of the church. The sole and absolute authority of the Divine Word was denied; the church’s interpretation of the Word called the living Word was acknowledged in its stead. Man-made doctrines superseded the Word as the source of the church’s inspiration, faith and life. They made the commandments of God of no effect through their traditions. Once again the vinedressers tried to seize control of the vineyard. So the Lord had to come again to establish a church which would render to Him the fruits of the vineyard in season.

As we have said, the truth of the Lord’s Word is timeless. This parable is also intended to serve as a warning to the New Church which the Lord is now establishing. The selfish, worldly loves and ambitions which caused the two former churches to betray their trust are the common heredity of all mankind. It would be a grievous error for us to look on this parable merely as a matter of history. Rather we must, periodically, examine the New Church in its light both the organized church and the church as it exists in each one of us individually. Because the Lord has revealed the internal sense of the Word given us new light from heaven this is now possible as it never was before.

We have seen that the vineyard is the church: historically, the Jewish Church, but in the spiritual sense, apart from time, it means the church where the Word is, by which the Lord is known (see AE 992:7; AR 650). Thus, at the present day, the New Church is the Lord’s vineyard. The hedge around the vineyard is the exterior truths which are easily apparent in the literal sense of the Word, which serves to protect the church from false ideas, philosophies, ideologies and disorders, which come from outside the church (see AE 922:7); for example: humanism, situation ethics and the social gospel.

By the tower in the vineyard is meant the interior truths of the Word which serve for the conservation and protection of the things of the church interior truths which look to heavenly life (see AC 4599:2, 1306:3; AE 922:7).

The hedge has reference to exterior truths because it was round about the outside of the vineyard, and its purpose was to prevent invasion of the vineyard from those without who would do it harm. The tower refers to interior truths looking to heavenly life and the conservation and protection of the church because the tower was within the vineyard and it ascended upward. Thus it directs the eyes upward toward heaven. But it was a watchtower. From its height anything amiss, either within or outside the vineyard could be observed and the alarm sounded. In this connection I would commend to your attention the series of articles in New Church Life on common misconceptions, in the New Church, concerning conjugial love.

The winepress stands for the things that belong to worship (see AC 1306:3), those pertaining to formal worship and also to internal worship, which is of the life the goods of charity and spiritual good (see AR 651; AE 922:7). When one is in spiritual good, that person is in genuine worship the worship of life. Such a person is given a perception of truth from the good in which he is. This truth serves to sustain and refresh the human spirit, just as the product of the winepress refreshes and restores the spirits and bodies of people.

The landowner who planted the vineyard is, of course, the Lord. It is he who establishes the church and provides it with all that is necessary for its growth, protection and maintenance. But the vineyard must have workers vinedressers to care for it, in order that what has been established may bear fruit: the good of life which comes from love to the Lord and charity to the neighbor, expressed in a life of use (see AR 934).

When a church is first established, the presence of the Lord is keenly felt by those with whom the church is being established. This is true with individuals as well and with organizations of the church. They are vitally aware that the church is the Lord’s. They have been outside the church where the goods and truths of the church were lacking, along with the protection it affords against what is false and evil. But, as time passes, it is as if the Lord has withdrawn from the church the owner goes to a far country. The Lord is as it were withdrawn into heaven and the church is left with the vinedressers.

There is a tendency, with those born within the church, to think of the church as “their” church. Instead of laboring for the Lord the owner of the vineyard they labor for the church as “their” church. The goods which they do the fruits which they produce they tend to think of as theirs, not the Lord’s. The Lord is aware of this human tendency, so he sends his servants to remind them that the vineyard and the fruits thereof are the Lord’s. By the servants are meant those who teach truths, and, in a sense abstract from person, the truths of doctrine taught in the church (see AE 122:3).

We are the vinedressers of the Lord’s vineyard! The Writings teach that the “wicked” vinedressers of the parable are those within the church who have destroyed interior goods and truths, although outwardly they appear to have them (AC 4314: 2-5). They are those who acknowledge the church as being important; they serve it, but as theirs. They do not interiorly assent to those truths from the Word which conflict with their life or their ideas.

When truths are taught which conflict with their loves or the ideas which they hold, they reason against them, twisting them so as to make them appear false, or they reject them some they beat, some they stone, and others they kill. They develop hostile feelings toward teachings from the Word as well as toward those who do the teaching (AC 9256). They want to prevent from being taught those truths which make them uncomfortable. It’s their church and they have a right to control and influence what is being taught in the church.

This attitude inevitably arises when people think of the church as “theirs” and not the Lord’s. They do not interiorly acknowledge that the truths of the Word are the sole authority as to what is to be believed and thought, and as to what should be done, and how one conducts one’s life. If this rejection is carried to the point where the Word itself is repudiated – not just specific teachings one doesn’t like – then the Son Himself is killed, and the church perishes in that individual.

Reluctant as we may be to admit it, all of us have been guilty, at one time or another, of trying to explain away a teaching of the Word or interpret it in such a way that we do not have to give up some pre-conceived idea or opinion which we hold, or make a change in the way we are living. We have rejected truths which would convict us of false thinking or evil doing.

For example, last week we preached a sermon on the importance, yea necessity, of regularly reading the Lord’s Word in order to be directly led and taught by the Lord. What was your reaction? “That’s an overstatement of the case.” Or, “The Lord leaves us in freedom to do what we want.” Or, “Reading the Word is, of course, good, who can deny it, but we can get to heaven without it.” Or, “That is the truth!” And if the latter was your reaction, has it changed anything in your life, that is, if a change was indicated? Examples could be multiplied, but every one of us, if we examine our hearts, knows of specific instances in our own lives when we have either not accepted a truth or have not acted upon it. But this is true: if the church is to survive in us individually and survive as an organization; if we are to remain vinedressers of the vineyard, true to our trust then we must interiorly acknowledge that the church is the Lord’s, and that we do not have the right to formulate its doctrines, policies and practices on the basis of human intelligence and worldly experience. These must come from the Lord of the vineyard directly from the teaching of His Word.

There should be, in the church as a whole and in each one of us individually, an unconditional acceptance of the Word as the only authority as to what we believe, how we are to live, and how the church is to be governed. The Writings make the powerful statement that the people of the church “should acknowledge the Word, and found the church upon it” (AR 749). The Lord has established His vineyard and called us to dress it and keep it. Let us fulfill the responsibility given us and live up to the trust placed in us. Amen.

Lessons: Deut. 8:1-3, 10-20; Matt. 2:33-46; AE 922:7

Apocalypse Explained 922:7

In Matthew: “A man, a householder, planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husband-men, who slew the servants sent to them, and finally the son” (21:33). The “vineyard” which the householder planted signifies the church that was instituted with the sons of Jacob; the “hedge” which he set about it signifies protection from the falsities of evil, which are from hell; “and digged a wine-press in it” signifies that it had spiritual good; “and built a tower” signifies interior truths from that good which looked to heaven; “and let it out to husbandmen” signifies to that people; “they slew the servants that were sent to them” signifies that they slew the prophets; “and finally the son” signifies the Lord.

THINKING SPIRITUALLY

THINKING SPIRITUALLY
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida February 9, 1992

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

The Lord claimed to be the promised Messiah. The leaders of the Jews the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees disputed His claim. We would note that those who denied His claim and rejected Him based their case on an erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures. They claimed repeatedly that His teaching was contrary to the law given through Moses. Time and again the Lord showed them that His doctrine was not contrary to the law, but its fulfillment gave it deeper meaning a spiritual meaning to the law. But because the Lord refused to be bound by the rigid, self- serving interpretations which the scribes and Pharisees placed on the law, they branded Him an imposter, and continually attempted to discredit Him.

Because their minds were so warped by their sensualism they totally failed to see the true nature of the Lord’s teaching. What were their primary concerns? Ceremonial washings, the observance of feast days and sacrificial offerings. They were utterly blind to the weightier matters of the law: judgment and mercy (see Matt. 23: 23). Therefore the Lord advised them: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (text).

The Lord has revealed that everyone during infancy and childhood is sensuous. One’s thoughts during that period of development are formed solely from bodily and worldly sensations entering through the five senses (see AC 5126:2, 5497). These physical sensations are stored up and form a physical plane in the mind called the corporeal memory, or the memory of material ideas. As the child grows up and begins to reflect on the things in this plane of the memory and forms conclusions from them, a reorganization takes place and a new plane is established called the natural memory, or the memory of immaterial ideas. If one matures and cultivates the rational faculty, he then reflects on the things in this plane of the mind and so is able to perceive the truth which is in that which has been learned (see AC 5497).

The things of sense are one thing, knowledges in the memory another, and truths another. They are formed successively, the higher from the lower. These planes of the mind are distinct in their formation and they remain distinct. A person can be thinking at one time in one plane and at another time in another (see AC 5774:2). Thought from the lowest plane is called sensual thought, from the middle plane, natural thought, and from the third plane, rational thought. There are thus three distinct degrees or types of thought: sensual, natural and rational. Every thought that we have emanates from one of these planes and derives its quality from it.

Like the Jews referred to in our text, all of us are prone to think from the lowest or sensual plane of our minds. Since it is the first plane formed it requires no effort of the will or intellect to think in this manner; it is, as it were, spontaneous. Yet if we are to perceive and understand truth we must rise above both sensual and natural thought to rational and spiritual thought.

Truth is above nature. Because it is from God, it is in its essence spiritual. In its descent from God the Divine truth is successively clothed, or finited, and in this manner creation took place. That creation took place by a successive finition of Divine truth is clear from the first chapter of John’s gospel. There God is identified with the Word, or Divine truth, and it is declared that the world is made by Him, that is, by the Word or Divine truth proceeding from Him. Thus the objects of nature are appearances of truth on the material plane. The laws of nature which govern the objects are appearances of truth on the plane of nature and are thus called natural appearances of truth.

With this in mind we can see that when we think from the two planes of the mind based on, and formed from, the realms of matter and nature, we are not thinking from truth, but from appearances of truth sensual and natural appearances of truth. Such thought tends to obscure and obliterate a perception of spiritual truth. It drags the mind down.

The Writings state: “Unless man’s thought can be elevated above sensuous things so that these are seen as below him, he cannot understand any interior thing in the Word, still less such things as are of heaven … for sensuous things absorb and suffocate them” (AC 5089:2). For this reason, we are told, those who abound in worldly learning alone have greater difficulty than the simple in understanding spiritual truths, for their minds are immersed in material concepts to such a degree that the mind cannot be elevated to perceive spiritual realities (ibid.).

To illustrate the truth of this, Swedenborg relates the following experience: “It has sometimes happened that I was earnestly thinking about worldly things, and about such things that give great concern to most persons, namely, about possessions, the acquisition of riches, about pleasures, and the like. At these times I noticed that I was sinking down into what is sensuous, and that in proportion as my thought was immersed in such things, I was removed from the company of angels. By this means it was also made plain to me that they who are deeply immersed in such cares cannot have association with those who are in the other life. For when such thoughts possess the whole of the mind, they carry the lower mind downward, and are like weights which drag it down; and when they are regarded as the end, they remove the man from heaven, to which he cannot be elevated except by means of the good of love and of faith. This was made still more manifest to me from the fact that once when I was led through the abodes of heaven, and was at the same time in a spiritual idea, it happened that I suddenly began to sink into thought about worldly things, and then all that spiritual idea was dissipated and became nothing” (AC 6210).

That reliance on, or trust in, sensual appearances obscures truth is apparent even on the natural plane. The record of history bears witness to this fact. Basing their conclusions on the evidence of the senses, people believed for centuries that the world was flat. Until very recent times matter was believed to be solid. These are appearances which, on the evidence of the senses, are very convincing. However, when the mind is elevated to the realm of causes to a consideration of immaterial ideas and the operation of laws then these appearances are seen to be fallacious, and as a hindrance to a true understanding of the natural world in which we live.

If there must be an elevation of thought in order to rightly understand the truth behind, or within, natural phenomena, how much more must this be the case if we are to understand the truth about spiritual things. For this reason the Writings continually urge us to raise our minds above the senses and think spiritually if we wish to understand spiritual truths. In the words of our text we are not to “judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment”(John 7:24). That is, we are not to think from the appearance of the senses but from revealed Divine truth, for judgment is predicated of Divine truth and the thought derived from it (see AC 9857).

We are privileged, as was no former church, with a revelation in which spiritual truths in abundance are laid open to the sight of the understanding in clear rational language. As a church and as individuals associated with that church, we have the opportunity, if we will, to think spiritually.

What do we mean by thinking spiritually? Many people associate the word “spiritual” with what is vague and incomprehensible. This is not the kind of thought which we have in mind. The Writings apply the term “spiritual” to that which is living and eternal, to that which is real and substantial though not material. To think “spiritually,” therefore, is to think from that which is real, living, substantial and eternal; that is, from Divinely revealed truth.

We would note here an important distinction one that is frequently overlooked. It is one thing to think about spiritual truth and quite another to think from it. All of us do the former when we listen to sermons or doctrinal classes and read the Lord’s Word. This is not spiritual thought. We do not wish to belittle it, for it is a very important means. The fact is, we cannot arrive at the end except through the means. We must first learn the truth before we can think from it. All too often we go no further.

Because of our hereditary nature, there is a strong tendency for us to think of religion and life as being two separate, distinct things. On Sundays, and on other occasions when we are engaged in worship, we focus our attention on spiritual matters. When this is over, we tend to recede from thought about spiritual things. In our day-to-day living we are apt to allow ourselves to a great extent to be predominantly influenced by the attitudes and thought of the world around us.

We might ask ourselves: How many of the decisions we make are arrived at after a careful consideration of Divinely revealed principles of truth? Some might suggest that this is carrying religion too far! If we think like this, then we too are thinking from worldly appearances.

All religion is of life. That is, the truths of religion are applicable to all phases of life. Indeed they were given for no other purpose than that they may be applied to our lives every aspect of our lives. In the minds of some the question may arise: “How can we be expected to know what truths or principles apply to a given situation?” The answer to this question is simple: If we seek to be enlightened by regular reading of the Lord’s Word, and avail ourselves of all the means provided by Him for our instruction, both public and private, we will learn those truths which apply directly to our lives. And if we pray to the Lord, He will enlighten us to see those truths we need to know in order to live well.

The truths revealed by the Lord in the Writings especially should be the principles from which we think about all things. As New Church people we should always be willing to examine the attitudes and opinions we hold to see if they are in agreement with the principles of truth which the Lord has revealed. And let us remember: a thing is not true or right merely because many people believe it, nor is it true and right because we have always believed it. It is true and right only if it is in agreement with what the Lord teaches. We would also note that because of our hereditary nature, we are inclined to favor those ideas which are in agreement with our own ideas, ideas which further our own selfish interests. It is therefore of great importance that we always be willing to re-examine our thoughts and attitudes.

The truths which the Lord reveals should, little by little, become the fabric of our thought. When we approach the problems of daily living, we should ask ourselves questions such as these: In what way does the thing I am considering contribute to the Lord’s end in creation? How does the doctrine of use apply to the situation under consideration? What relation has this problem to the degrees of the neighbor? Does the course of action I am considering come under the laws of Divine providence or under the laws of permission? What laws of Divine providence are applicable to the problem I am wrestling with?

If we are serious about living the life that leads to heaven we will seek to formulate our opinions, thoughts and attitudes from the truths of Divine revelation. We will cultivate the habit and practice of thinking from spiritual principles about all things. We are told that when what is spiritual reigns in a person, it affects and as it were tinges all that the person thinks, wills and does, and causes the thoughts and the actions of one’s will to partake of the spiritual, until at last these become spiritual in him (see AC 5639:2).

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3). Amen.

Lessons: I Samuel 16:1-13, John 7:14-31, DLW 248, 249

Divine Love and Wisdom 248, 249

UNLESS THE HIGHER DEGREE WHICH IS THE SPIRITUAL IS OPENED IN MAN, HE BECOMES NATURAL AND SENSUAL.

It was shown above that there are three degrees of the human mind, called natural, spiritual, and celestial, and that these degrees may be opened successively in man; also that the natural degree is first opened; afterwards, if man flees from evil as sins and looks to the Lord, the spiritual degree is opened; and lastly, the celestial. Since these degrees are opened successively according to man’s life, it follows that the two higher degrees may remain unopened, and man then continues in the natural degree, which is the outmost. Moreover, it is known in the world that there is a natural and a spiritual man, or an external and an internal man; but it is not known that a natural man becomes spiritual by the opening of some higher degree in him, and that such opening is effected by a spiritual life, which is a life conformed to the Divine precepts; and that without a life conformed to these man remains natural.

There are three kinds of natural men; the first consists of those who know nothing of the Divine precepts; the second, of those who know that there are such precepts but give no thought to a life according to them; and the third, of those who despise and deny these precepts. In respect to the first class, which consist of those who know nothing of the Divine precepts, since they cannot be taught by themselves they must needs remain natural. Every man is taught respecting the Divine precepts, not by immediate revelations but by others who know them from religion, on which subject see The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Concerning the Sacred Scriptures (n. 114-118). Those of the second class, who know that there are Divine precepts but give no thought to a life according to them, also remain natural, and care about no other concerns than those of the world and the body. These after death become mere menials and servants, according to the uses which they are able to perform for those who are spiritual; for the natural man is menial and servant, and the spiritual man is a master and lord. Those of the third class, who despise and deny the Divine precepts, not only remain natural but also become sensual in the measure of their contempt and denial. Sensual men are the lowest natural men, who are incapable of thinking above the appearances and fallacies of the bodily senses. After death they are in hell.

THE UNRIGHTEOUS MAMMON

THE UNRIGHTEOUS MAMMON

A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs

Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, October 13, 1991

“I say to you, make friends for yourselves of the unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. If … you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:9,11)

Divine revelation has, through all ages, been accommodated to the state of the people to whom it was given. The Writings reveal that the Jews of the Lord’s time were not capable of receiving interior truths, so the Lord told them parables which served as examples which they could follow. An example of this is the parable of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer asked the Lord who his neighbor was. In answer to this query the Lord told this parable, and concluded by asking him: “Which of these three, do you think, was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?” The lawyer answered: “He who showed mercy on him.” To this the Lord replied: “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36,37).

Parables, in the letter, appear to be little more than example stories, but they contain Divine truths within them in every particular, for the Lord spoke in correspondences. They contain an internal sense that treats, inmostly, of the Lord’s glorification, next of the progressive states of man’s regeneration, and finally of the successive states of the Lord’s church on earth. In our sermon this morning we shall consider this parable as it relates to man’s regeneration.

The Writings tell us that everyone derives from parents the tendency to love self and the world above everything else. Because this nature is impressed on us from birth, we tend to lapse into the evils which come naturally to us from our heredity. To the extent that we indulge these evil affections, the evil becomes, as it were, ingrafted in our nature. Such evils are altogether contrary to spiritual life and are destructive of it.

Everyone has an internal and external mind, and it is in the external that these hereditary tendencies reside. The internal mind, on the other hand, is created according to order. Thus “man’s external things have been formed according to the image of the world, and his internal things according to the image of heaven” (AC 9279:2).

Because the internal mind is created according to order, we have influx from the Lord through the internal into the external, and therefore the internal can have a perception of the state of the external, “for that which is in the external can be seen from the internal” (AC 10468). It is this relationship between the internal and external minds that makes self-examination possible, and therefore also regeneration. For unless we were able to see from the internal the evils residing in the external, we could have no desire to turn away from, resist, or fight against these evils. Regeneration, then, would be impossible.

In the parable it is said that a certain rich man had a steward who had been accused “of wasting his goods.” He called him, and said to him: “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you may no longer be steward.”

The Writings tell us that by a “steward” in the Word is meant the unregenerate external of man. This is called a steward because it has nothing that is really its own; it merely administers the things of the internal of man (see AC 1795). We note that the steward was accused of wasting his master’s goods. That is, the unregenerate external of man wastes the goods which the internal receives by influx from the Lord, who is represented in the parable by the rich man. He is called a “rich man” because spiritual riches are goods and truths, and all goods and truths are the Lord’s.

We see from this that the internal, which is created in the order of heaven and abounds in goods and truths, perceives that the external, born into the loves and pleasures of the world and the cupidities of the body, has been squandering, that is, misusing the goods and truths which inflow from the Lord. The rich man then demands of the steward an account of his stewardship. Since the rich man represents what is the Lord’s in the internal of man, and the steward the external, this indicates self-examination from interior truth, which is from the Lord in the internal. We read: “The interior man can see, as from a higher position, what is going on in the exterior, . . . and . . . the interior . . . has the capacity and ability of chastening the exterior” (AC 5127:2). Note that the master threatens his steward with banishment for having squandered his wealth.

When interior truths from the Word, which reside in the interiors, shed their light on the external, they reveal corrupt loves there. A person then becomes aware of evil lovesthe inordinate love of pleasure, selfish ambition, contempt for others, the evils of deceit and self-justification; and perceiving his unworthiness, and fearful of impending damnation, the person seeks for ways to avert spiritual disaster. The steward said within himself: “What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me; I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg.”

The phrase “I cannot dig” means that the external, in this state of perception, realizes that of himself he is incapable of acquiring truths. The phrase “I am ashamed to beg” means that although he realizes that he cannot acquire truths of himself, still he cannot rely on receiving truths without doing something to acquire them. He must acquire them as of himself.

The steward then devised a plan whereby to assure himself of future employment. He called his master’s debtors to him and inquired as to the amount of their debts to his master. We note that there were two debtors, one owing a hundred measures of oil and the other a hundred measures of wheat.

The two debtors represent the human will and understanding, which owe their existence to the Lord. It is from influx from the Lord through the interiors that man has the faculties of willing and understanding. The Writings tell us that oil corresponds to the good of love to the Lord and to the neighbor. Wheat corresponds to the truths of the church and the wisdom derived from them. A hundred corresponds to what is full and complete. The one debtor’s owing a hundred measures of oil and the other of wheat mean that the hereditary will is totally lacking in good of its own, and the understanding is totally lacking in truth of its own. What they have they owe to the Lord (see AC 977). They are debtors.

The steward then told the debtor who owed the oil to write out a bill for fifty. Fifty in the internal sense also signifies what is full. We read: “In the Lord’s parable of the steward, who said to him who owed the oil . . . ‘Take the bond and sit down quickly, and write fifty’; ‘fifty’ denotes full payment” (AC 2252:5).

Since both a hundred and also fifty signify what is full and complete, we see that even though the will is lacking in anything of the good of love, still the Lord, in His mercy, will accept as full payment any sincere effort that the will may make to do good. The Lord does not demand full payment because we can never return to the Lord all that we receive from Himthe will can never become perfect.

This is evident from the teaching that man “can never be so regenerated that he can in any way be said to be perfect; for there are things to be regenerated that are innumerable” (AC 5122:3). Since this is the case, the Lord accepts as full payment any effort that we make to regenerate.

But the debtor who owed the wheat was told to write his bill for eighty. The number eighty, which is a multiple of forty, signifies temptation (see AC 1936, 4617). The reason the debtor representing the understanding was told to write his bill for eighty measures of wheat is that the understanding cannot be regenerated without undergoing spiritual trials. The Writings teach that “temptations take place to the end that man may be confirmed in truths against falsities” (AC 2272). When a person is undergoing spiritual trials, the delights of evil come to a cessation. The effect of this on the person who is enduring the trial is that he has new thoughtsthoughts of a nature contrary to what he had beforethoughts to which one may afterwards be bent by the Lord.

The master of the steward then commended him on his cunning action, that is, the internal of man perceives that the external acted prudently when it saw its impending ruin. Therefore the Lord said: “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Here, “the children of this world” mean the things of the external mind of man. They are referred to as “children of this world” because the external is, by birth, an image of the world. Its being wiser than the children of light means that, motivated by self-love, the external of man in an unregenerate state acts more prudently than it would if it was motivated by genuine love for the neighbor.

More interiorly, this means that the Lord uses our love of selfour love of honor and self-advancement, with its accompanying prudenceto lead us from what is lower to what is higher. Therefore, the Lord said: “If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?”

Considered only as to its literal sense, this parable is perplexing. It seems that the Lord is not only condoning evil, but even commending it by encouraging us to follow the example of the unjust and crafty steward. But when we see its interior meaning, then we see the Lord’s mercy in regenerating us. We see how, in providence, He leads us from evil to good, step by step, providing us with delights in every stage of our progress. We must make use of these external delights even though they are not genuinely good if we are to prepare ourselves for the reception of genuine good and truth.

The unrighteous mammon are the knowledges of truth and good which exist with evil and external people. With such they become falsities, because applied to evil, “but as they continue to be knowledges . . . they are serviceable to use with the good by application to what is good” (AE 700:17).

These knowledges, called the unrighteous mammon, are referred to in the Writings as “mediate goods,” which are said to be absolutely essential as a means in the regenerative process. This process involves a complete reversal of man’s nature.

We read: “Seeing . . . that man’s state of life has to be so greatly changed, it must need be that he is kept in a kind of mediate good, that is, in a good which partakes both of the affections of the world and of the affection of heaven; and unless he is kept in this mediate good, he in no wise admits heavenly goods and truths” (AC 4063:3, emphasis added).

The truths which we first learn are not genuine truths but appear as truths, and serve to introduce us into genuine goods and truths. When genuine goods and truths have been insinuated by means of these, they are separated or dismissed, and the genuine goods and truths are retained (see AC 3974).

In the process of regeneration there is always a gradual progression from what is lower to what is higher, or from what is outmost to what is inmost. If our lives were suddenly changed, so that from being evil we became good, we would be deprived of all our delights. We would be as if dead, for it is in delights our lives consist.

For example: Parents and teachers must frequently appeal to a child’s pride or love of reputation in order to induce the child to do better work. They cannot, realistically, appeal to the child’s love of use, for as yet it does not exist. An employer appeals to a young employee’s ambition and love of self-advancement to encourage greater effort. Again he cannot appeal to the person’s love of use and of the neighbor, for as yet the person has very little of such love, and so it would not prove a sufficiently strong motive to produce the kind of effort desired. The delights which are appealed to are not good in themselves, but by means of them a person may be led to greater effort, and eventually may be led by the Lord to feel delight in that which is genuinely good, true and useful.

Although “mediate goods,” or unrighteous mammon, in the Lord’s merciful providence, serve as a means of regeneration, we must be careful only to make friends of them, that is, use them. We must not become slaves to such delights. The Lord solemnly warns us against this, saying: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).

If we make use of natural appetites, affections and delights as a means of attaining genuine delights from the Lord, that is to say, if we are faithful in the unrighteous mammon, we will be entrusted with the true riches, that when we leave this world, we will be received into everlasting habitations. Amen.

Lessons: Matt. 25:14-30, Luke 16:1-13, AC 4063:2-5

Arcana Coelestia 4063:2-5

How the case is with the good signified by “Laban” relatively to the good of truth represented by Jacob may be seen from what has been stated and shown in the foregoing chapter. This may be further illustrated by the states of man’s regeneration, which in the representative sense is also here treated of. When a man is being regenerated, he is kept by the Lord in a kind of mediate good. This good serves for introducing genuine goods and truths, but after these have been introduced, it is separated from them. Everyone who has learned anything about regeneration and about the new man can understand that the new man is altogether different from the old; for the new man is in the affection of spiritual and heavenly things, and these produce its delights and pleasantnesses, whereas the old man is in the affections of worldly and earthly things, and these produce its delights and pleasantnesses; consequently the new man has regard to ends in heaven, but the old man to ends in the world. From this it is manifest that the new man is altogether different and diverse from the old.

In order that a man may be brought from the state of the old man into that of the new, the concupiscences of the world must be put off, and the affections of heaven must be put on. This is effected by innumerable means, which are known to the Lord alone, and many of which have also been made known by the Lord to angels, but few if any to man. Nevertheless, all of them both in general and particular have been made manifest in the internal sense of the Word. When therefore a man from being the old man is made a new one (that is, when he is being regenerated), it is not done in a moment as some believe, but through a course of years; nay, during the man’s whole life, even to its end; for his concupiscences have to be extirpated and heavenly affections have to be insinuated; and the man has to be gifted with a life which he had not before, and of which indeed he knew scarcely anything. Seeing therefore that the man’s states of life have to be so greatly changed, it must needs be that he is long kept in a kind of mediate good, that is, in a good which partakes both of the affections of the world and of the affections of heaven; and unless he is kept in this mediate good, he in no wise admits heavenly goods and truths.

This mediate or middle good is what is signified by “Laban and his flock.” But man is kept in this middle good no longer than until it has served this use; but this having been served, it is separated. This separation is treated of in this chapter. That there is an intermediate good, and that it is separated after it has subserved its use, may be illustrated by the changes of state which every man undergoes from infancy even to old age. It is known that a man’s state is of one kind in infancy, of another in childhood, another in youth, another in adult age, and another in old age. It is also known that a man puts off his state of infancy with its toys when he passes into the state of youth; that he puts off his state of youth when he passes into the state of young manhood; and this again when he passes into the state of mature age; and at last this state when he passes into that of old age. And if one will consider, he may also know that every age has its delights, and that by these he is introduced by successive steps into those of the age next following; and that these delights had served the purpose of bringing him thereto; and finally to the delight of intelligence and wisdom in old age.

From all this it is manifest that former things are always left behind when a new state of life is put on. But this comparison can serve only to show that delights are means, and that these are left behind when the man enters into the state next following; whereas during man’s regeneration his state becomes altogether different from his former one, and he is led to it, not in any natural manner but by the Lord in a supernatural manner; nor does anyone arrive at this state except by the means or media of regeneration, which are provided by the Lord alone, and thus by the mediate good of which we have been speaking. And when the man has been brought to that state in which be has no longer worldly, earthly, and corporeal things as his end but those which are of heaven, then this mediate good is separated. To have anything as the end is to love it more than anything else.

The Cycles of Regeneration are one with the Cycles of Man’s Life

The Cycles of Regeneration are one with the Cycles of Man’s Life

It is known that the things seen by the eyes and heard by the ears are apperceived by man inwardly, and as it were pass from the world through the eyes or through the ears into the thought, and so into the understanding; for thought is of the understanding. And if they are such things as are loved they pass thence into the will; and afterwards from the will by an intellectual way into the speech of the mouth, and also into the act of the body. Such is the cycle of things from the world through the natural man into his spiritual, and from this again into the world. But it should be known that this cycle is set in operation from the will, which is the inmost of man’s life; and that it begins there, and from thence is carried to completion. And the will of the man who is in good is governed from heaven by the Lord, although it appears otherwise. For there is an influx from the spiritual world into the natural, thus through the internal man into his external, but not the reverse; for the internal man is in heaven, and the external in the world. As this cycle is the cycle of man’s life, therefore while man is being regenerated he is regenerated along the same cycle; and when he is regenerated, through the same he lives and acts. For this reason, during man’s regeneration the truths which will become truths of faith are insinuated through the hearing and sight; and they are implanted in the memory of his natural man. From this memory they are elevated into the thought, which is of the understanding; and those that are loved become of the -will. And so far as they become of the will they become of the life; for the will of man is his very life. And so far as they become of the life they become of his affection, thus of charity in the will, and of faith in the understanding. Afterwards the man speaks and acts from that life, which is the life of charity and faith; from charity which is of the will goes forth the speech of the mouth and also the acts of the body, each by an intellectual way, that is by the way of faith. From these things it is evident that the cycle of man’s regeneration is like the cycle of his life in general; and that in like manner it is begun in the will, by influx out of heaven from the Lord. (AC n. 10,057)

Reformation and Regeneration

Reformation and Regeneration

There are two states into and through which a man must pass while from natural he is becoming spiritual. The first state is. called Reformation; and-the second Regeneration. In the first state man looks from his natural condition to a spiritual, and desires it; in the second state he becomes spiritual-natural. The first state is formed by means of truths,—which will become truths of faith,—through which he looks to charity; the second is formed by means of the goods of charity, and by these he. enters into the truths of faith. Or what is the same, the first is a state of thought from the understanding; and the second of love from the will. When this latter state begins, and while it is progressing, a change takes place in the mind. For a reversal is effected; because now the love of the will flows into the understanding, and actuates and leads it to think in harmony and agreement with its love. Wherefore, so far as the good of love now acts the first part, and the truths of faith the second, man is spiritual and is a new creature. And then he acts from charity and speaks from faith, and feels the good of charity and perceives the truth of faith; and he is then in the Lord, and in peace, and thus is regenerate. A man who in the world has entered the first state, after death can be introduced into the second; but he who in the world has not entered into the first state cannot be introduced into the second after death, thus cannot be regenerated. (TCR n..571)

Reformation is ascribed to the understanding, and regeneration to the will…. The evils into which man is born are generated in the will of the natural man; and it has been shown that the will brings the understanding to favour itself by thinking in agreement with it. Therefore, in order that man may be regenerated, it is necessary that it be done by means of the understanding as a mediate cause; and this is done through information which the understanding receives, first from parents and masters, afterwards from the reading of the Word, from preaching, books, and conversation. The things that the understanding receives from these sources are called truths; it is the same therefore whether it be said that reformation is effected by means of the understanding, or that it is effected by means of the truths which the understanding receives. For truths teach man in whom and what he should believe, and what he should do, and therefore what he should purpose; for whatever any one does he does from his will according to his understanding. Since therefore the will itself of man is evil by birth, and since the understanding teaches what evil and good are, and he is able to purpose the one and not purpose the other, it follows that man is to be reformed by the understanding. And so long as any one sees and acknowledges in his mind that evil is evil and good is good, and thinks that good is to be chosen, so long he is in the state that is called reformation; but when he wills to shun evil and do good the state of regeneration begins. (ibid. n. 587)

But yet no one can be said to be reformed by the mere cognition of truths; for a man can apprehend them, and also talk about, teach, and preach them, from the faculty of elevating the understanding above the love of the will. But he is reformed who is in the affection of truth for the sake of truth; for this affection conjoins itself with the will, and if it goes on conjoins the will to the understanding, and then regeneration begins. (ibid. n. 589)

Many of the Learned who were in Truths of Doctrine are in Hell, while others who were in Falsities are in Heaven

Many of the Learned who were in Truths of Doctrine are in Hell, while others who were in Falsities are in Heaven

There are some who are in genuine truths, some who are in truths not genuine, and some who are in falsities; and yet those who are in genuine truths are often damned, and those who are in truths not genuine, and also those who are in falsities, are often saved. This to most will seem a paradox, but still it is a truth; experience itself has confirmed it. For there have been seen in hell those who were more learned than others, in truths from the Word and from the doctrine of their church, dignitaries as well as others; and on the other hand, there have been seen in heaven those who were not in truths, and also those who were in falsities, both Christians and Gentiles. The reason why the former were in hell was indeed because they were in truths as to doctrine, but in evils as to life; and the reason why the latter were in heaven was that though they were not in truths as to doctrine, they were yet in good as to life. Some newly arrived spirits with whom it was granted me to speak expressed their surprise that those who had been distinguished for learning, in the Word and in the doctrine of their church, were among the damned; of whom they had yet believed that they would become luminaries in heaven, according to the words in Daniel: “The intelligent shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that justify many as the stars, for ever and ever” (xii. 3). But they were told that the intelligent are those that are in truth and teach truths, and they that justify are those who are in good and lead to good; and that therefore the Lord said, “The just shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. xiii. 43). They were further told that those that are learned as to doctrine, but evil as to life, are the ones who are meant by the Lord in Matthew: “Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name have done many wonderful works? But then will I confess unto them, I know you not: depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity!” (vii. 22, 23); and in Luke: “Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets; but He shall say, I tell you, I know you not, whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity” (xiii. 26, 27); and that they were also meant by the foolish vir­gins who had no oil in their lamps, of whom it is thus written in Matthew: “Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; but He answering, said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (xxv. 11, 12). To have oil in the lamps is to have good in the truths which are of the faith of the church. And they were told that those who are not in truths, yea, who from ignorance are in falsities, and yet in good and thence in the affection of knowing truth, were meant by the Lord in Matthew: “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the king­dom, of the heavens; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness” (viii. 11,12); and in Luke: “They shall come from, the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and shall recline in the kingdom of God; and behold there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last” (xiii. 29, 30). They who are in evil as to life, although they are in truths as to doctrine, are yet in the falsities of their evil. That this is so clearly manifests itself in the other life; when they are left to themselves they think from evil against the truths which they have known and professed, and so think falsities. They likewise do the same in the world, when being left to themselves they think; for they then either pervert truths or deny truths to defend the evils of their life. But those who are in good and yet not in truths, yea, who from ignorance are in falsities,—as many are within the church, and many also out of the church, who are called Gentiles,—regard their own falsities indeed as truths; but as those falsities come from good they bend them to good; there is therefore nothing of malignity in them, as there is in falsities which are from evil. And as the falsities are on this account mild and flexible they are capable of receiving truths, and also do receive them when instructed by the angels. (AC n. 9192)