<< THE VINE OF JERUSALEM. >>
What is the vine-tree, more than any tree, the vine-branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to make any work? Or will Inen take a pin of it, to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire hath devoured both ends of it, and the middle of it is burned: is it profitable for any work? Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned, shall it yet be meet for any work!
Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovih ; As the vine-tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will set My face against them ; they shall go forth from the fire, but the fire shall devour them ; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I set My face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have committed a trespass, saith the Lord Jehovih.-EZEKIEL xv. 2-8.
IN the mind which is fixed in evils, there is no longer any good whatever, nor any spiritual church, because these have been destroyed by evil loves.
THE LITERAL SENSE.
Among the trees, the grape-vine is not of much use for its timber, because it is too small, and too crooked. And it is not of use for ordinary lumber, for the various purposes to which wood is put. And it is not even used to make wooden pegs, on which to hang different vessels, because it bends too easily; and' it is too brittle when dry. In the Oriental lands, in ancient times, the common people lived in extreme simplicity. For instance, when building a stone house, many stout, hard-wood pegs, or pins, or naps, were set in between the courses of stones, and so as to stand out into the room. These pegs, or nails, werd used for hanging up different household vessels, kitchen utensils, etc. And, as these pegs were built into the walls, they were firmly set, and secure, and could be relied upon. And they were made of reliable wood, and not of the unreliable grape-vine wood.
And the grape-vine was not even good for general use as common fire wood; for it burned up rapidly, and was very soon consumed. And thus, it was good for kindlings, only. And, often, when a grape-vine was dead, it was thrown upon the fire, merely to dispose of it. When the fire burned the ends of the pieces, these pieces curled up, and caught fire all over, and soon burned out, And if this vine-wood was not useful as wood, when in its strength, certainly it was not good, after the fire had burned it to ashes.
These things were set forth in the text, as a parable, for the people of Jerusalem. What were the Jews, more than other nations? They were not especially good, or great. Other nations were more numerous, and more powerful, and more advanced in military and naval matters. And the Egyptians, Assyrians and others, were more advanced in the arts and sciences.
The Jews, even when good, were no more than the other nations: and, surely, they were not more than others, after they had greatly degenerated in character.
THE CHOSEN PEOPLE.
They boasted greatly that they were "the chosen people of Jehovah," a holy people, favored of God, more than any other people. And yet they turned their hearts, and their thoughts, and their conduct, against the Lord. And this is what is meant, when it is said that the Lord set His face against them. For, when they refused all the good and true things which the Lord gave to them, and preferred evil and falsity and sin, it seemed, to them, that God had turned against them, because He did not prosper them, in their chosen evils.
But, as a fact, the Lord did not choose the Jews to be a holy church, but He chose them to represent the church, symbolically and figuratively. And, in order to have them carry out this representation, the Lord led them through many experiences; and gave them many wonderful proofs of His providential care over them, as a people. And the Lord did everything possible, to help the Jews to become a good and true and noble people. They were as a vine, which He planted in good soil, and of which He took great care. But the vine was a bad one, in itself. It was an unprofitable vine, good for nothing.
Jesus said, "I am the Vine; ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing." But Israel and Judah departed from the Lord, and sank into evil, and into spiritual death. And their land became desolate, because they did not maintain it, in good order. And they thought the Lord had set His face against them, as a people, because He had set His face against their evils and their sins.
THE SPIRITUAL SENSE.
But now turn to the spiritual meaning of these circumstances and conditions. "The face is the index of the mind." And so the expression of the face represents the feelings and thoughts of the mind, which express themselves in the face. The face of the Lord is the expression of His Divine character, His love and His wisdom. And these, by their nature and quality, must be always set against all forms of evil, falsity and sin; because all these things have set their faces against the Lord, i.e., against the qualities of the Lord's character.
Jerusalem represented the church, because that city was the headquarters of the church; and there were the temple, the altar, etc.; and there worship was celebrated by all the people. And there were the annual religious feasts, which every able-bodied adult male in the whole country had to attend. And the conditions of the Jews, in Jerusalem, represented the conditions of the church, in the minds of men, But the people of Jerusalem greatly degenerated in character until they became completely corrupt.
The Hebrews, in their quiet life as farmers and shepherds, could have set an excellent example to the other nations. But the Jews were not living in this world for the good they could do, for others, but rather for what they could get from others. And so, finally, the Divine Providence appeared to leave them, like a dead vine, in the fires of their own evil lusts, which they could not be induced to give up.
The inflow of the Lord's goodness and truth into the mind of a regenerate man, is into his spiritual interiors, which are thus filled with heavenly love, intelligence and peace. But the same Divine love, flowing into the mind of the evil man, whose spiritual interiors are closed, must meet him in the interiors of his natural mind ; and, as these are full of evil and falsity, which are opposed to goodness and truth, the inflow of such good principles would carry a life which would be directly opposed to the whole form and quality of the evil man's own life. And such an inflow would produce terrible torture, if brought directly in contact with the man's own qualities of character.
And thus, the influx of the Divine life, which the good man would describe as full of life and joy, the evil man would describe as a consuming fire. It would be like compelling the owl and the bat to stand in the glare of the sunshine. And, therefore, evil men are permitted to reject the Divine principles, and to live in their chosen evils, when they will not listen to the Divine teaching; as the owls and bats are permitted to avoid the sunlight, and to dwell in the shade. And, in the Scriptures, when the Lord's influence is mentioned as a consuming fire, that expression is given in accordance with the appearance before the mind of the evil man , and to the natural minded man, to whom the letter of the Scriptures is especially addressed.
Every human mind, like the grape-vine, has a capacity to bear good fruit. And the Lord gives to every man every opportunity to bear good fruit. But this bearing involves turning to the Lord as the Divine Sun, in whose spiritual warmth and light the human vine can prosper. But the evil man will not turn to the Lord, for spiritual life. "Israel is an empty vine; he bringeth forth fruit to himself." (Hosea x. 1.) And as, without the Lord, a man call do nothing of good, so the unregenerate natural man remains unfruitful as to goodness.
Those who bear good fruit, spiritually, prosper, not because the Lord rewards them arbitrarily for their faithfulness, but because they are rewarded in their faithfulness, in their use of good principles. As the purpose for which a grape-vine is kept, is to bear good fruit, if a vine does not bear good fruit, it is of no value; and it cumbers the ground, and occupies the place which might support something useful. "Therefore, every tree which beareth not good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire." And this fire is the fire of evil lusts; in the evil man's own mind.
And this is the fate of every truth planted in our minds by our Lord, when we allow it to become unfruitful in us, and to be consumed by the fires of our own evils. And when this is our mental condition, it may be said of us, in representative language, that our vines are destroyed, and our land is desolate; i.e., in us, the truth is turned to falsity, and good is turned to evil.
THE NAILS AND VESSELS.
When we are in unregenerate states of mind, there is nothing in our mind that is reliable. If we have knowledge of a doctrine, we have no place to put it, in our mind, where it can be secure, and ready for use. The vessels used in the Oriental house, being hollow forms, for holding things, represent doctrines, forms of statement, in which truths could be held in the memory, for practical use by the affection and the thought, when needed in preparing the mental food of daily life.
The stout hard-wood nail, or peg, or pin, built into the wall of the house, and standing out into the room, was' used for holding the vessels, where they could be secure, and ready for use. This nail, or peg of wood, represented practical goodness in the daily conduct, which will always serve as a reliable peg, on which to hang such mental vessels, all the doctrines of truth, which we need for our every-day use.
As the wooden nail, or pin, was the means by which the vessels were kept in contact with the house, so the peg represents the conjunction, or mental union, between the doctrines of truth, and the profounder principles of our minds :which conj unction is to be found in practical goodness of conduct, which will always securely hold every doctrine of truth in contact with our inward character, and always ready for active use. And there is nothing else than such goodness, which is reliable.
This representative meaning of a wooden nail was generally recognized among the Jews, as is seen by some of their common sayings. When one of the Jews had secured a position which seemed to be permanent, his friends declared that he was "fastened, like a nail." And so we find similar expressions in the letter of the Scriptures, as in Isaiah (xxii. 23, 24), where the Lord said of Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, " I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; . . . and they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even unto the vessels of flagons."
GOODNESS AND TRUTH.
There is, here, a very interesting and important point, in explaining why, representatively and correspondentially, the wood of the grape-vine does not make good wooden nails. The explanation involves the distinctive difference between the two principles, goodness and truth. A man receives the doctrines of the church, and sees them to be true; and he wills to form his character by the truth taught in the doctrines. But his character has not been formed by such truth. And he will need to pass through many struggles, before he can put down his natural tendencies to evil, whose bad character he now sees in the light of truth. During the process of bringing the truth against his own evil. tendencies, the truth is operating within his mind. He sees the truth, and he recognizes its revelation of his own evils. And he fights for the truth, because it is the truth, and because he knows that he should do what the truth teaches him, And so he works in the love of truth, as his guiding principle. And he has a constant contest, to keep himself up to the requirements of the truth, because he has not yet reached the higher position, of doing good because it is good, and in the love of good. And when he reaches this higher condition, he will be regenerate.
For instance, we know what the truth requires of us, in certain things; and we do what is right, bravely and resolutely. And we conquer a selfish desire to do what is not good. And we think that we have followed the truth. But, secretly we desire to be recognized, to be praised for the good we have done. We would not do the good merely for the praise. And we would not neglect to do it, even if we were misunderstood, and unfairly censured. But, after we have done the good, we are actually not satisfied until we receive the praise. In this, we are not yet actuated by the love of good, but by the love of truth. We are in the process of regeneration" but in its early stages.
Now, we can see how the kind of good which is the outcome of a love of truth, must vary, in quality, according to the quality of the truth which influences us. Different men differ very greatly, as to what they think the truth teaches them to do. When the truth is not clear, in the man's mind, his mind will be obscure, also, as to what is good.
Now, this kind of goodness, the good of truth, the good which is the outworking of a love of truth, is represented by Israel. And it is also represented by the grape-vine.
And we can see why this kind of good, this wood of the grape-vine, does not make a good nail, on which to hang the vessels of doctrine. It bends too easily, in accommodating itself to various changes of thought. It is not firm enough to give stability and security, on which to hang all the vessels of doctrine, in our mind. The household pegs, in our minds, should be made of good hard wood, the love of goodness because it is good; and built into the wall, so that we can have confidence that our practical doctrines will be ready for use, at any moment.
In the clear doctrines of the New Jerusalem, we have most excellent vessels for spiritual use. And, in the practical doings of a daily life by the Ten Commandments, we have strong and reliable nails on which to hang the doctrines for daily use.
"Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities : thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle which shall not be taken down: not one of the pins thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams."
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903