<< THE EAGLES AND THE VINE. >>
Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovih : A great eagle, with great wings, long-winged, full of feathers. which had divers colors, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar. He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffic: he set it in a city of merchants. He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field: he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow-tree.
And it grew, and became a spreading vine, of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him : so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs.
There was also another great eagle, with great wings, and many feathers: and behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation. It was planted in a good soil, by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.... Thus saith the Lord Jehovih, Shall it prosper? Shall He not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? It shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power, or many people, to pluck it up by the roots thereof. Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? Shall it not utterly wither when the East wind toucheth it? It shall wither in the furrows where it grew.-EZEKIEL xvii. 2-10.
THE SPIRITUAL CHURCH.
THE text describes, representatively, the establishment and growth of the Spiritual Church, and its subsequent perversion and decline. The Spiritual Church was established by the Lord, by means of the truths of His holy Word. Through these truths, men were regenerated, externally and internally; i.e.., as to the natural mind, and as to the spiritual mind. "Now ye are clean, through the Word which I have spoken unto you." The church became spiritual by means of truths rationally seen and practised. But, by the neglect and abuse of truths, men falsified them, and relapsed into evils of life: and thus the church was corrupted in quality, and finally destroyed.
THE LITERAL SENSE.
The parable of our text is generally supposed to have been spoken in order to prophesy the Lord's judgment upon Zedekiah, for breaking his oath with Nebuchadnezzar, which oath he had made in the name of Jehovah.
The first eagle is supposed to have been Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the second eagle, Pharaoh-hophrah, king of Egypt.
But the Lord always seeks to give spiritual life to men. In the judgment, men suffer by their own evils, not by any Divine wrath. An oath, which binds a man to a certain course of conduct, and in which God is called upon to witness the man's sincerity and faithfulness, represents the inward principle which binds a good man to his duty, and which forms the real obligation. For a spiritual man obeys principles, as principles, and not merely as outward rules of conduct. The text thus prophesies what men will become by the neglect of spiritual principles.
THE REPRESENTATIVE MEANING.
All created forms of life represent the things of man's mental life. Beasts represent human affections; and birds represent our thoughts. The wings, or arms, of birds, represent power, as power is mainly exerted by means of arms, or wings. The use of the wings, in flying, represents the use of the power of thought, or thinking. Thus, flying represents using our thought, to think, to perceive, or to instruct. The feathers are the clothing of the bird, representing literal truths, which clothe our minds in suitable condition.
The eagle, as a bird, represents thought. The eagle is called the" king of birds," from its power, courage, keen, sight, and great swiftness and endurance in flight. In this sense, the eagle represents intelligence in thought, rational thought, which soars high, and has keen and far-sighted vision. Sometimes, the eagle is used to represent spiritual thought, which soars above natural things, and sees things that are beyond the vision of the merely natural mind. The spiritual thought, like the eagle, makes its home in high places. "They that wait upon Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings, as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah xl. 31.)
In the text, the first eagle represents the thought, or intelligence, of the external spiritual church; i.e., of the spiritual church as it is in the natural mind of man ; and the second eagle represents the thought, or intelligence, of the internal spiritual church; i.e., such as it is in the spiritual mind.
The wings of the eagles are the external thoughts, from the letter of the Lord's Word. Great wings, with many feathers, etc., represent the abundance of knowledges of truth, scientifics, or things known as information and doctrine. From these things the natural mind derives its intelligence. The first great eagle, with its wide-spreading wings, and many feathers, flying swiftly through the air, represents the thought of the natural mind, when well instructed in the truths of the Lord's Word, and thinking rationally, upon these things.
The contrast between this majestic eagle and an ordinary domestic fowl, is very marked; and, to the observing mind, the contrast is equally great between the far-reaching rational thought about spiritual principles, and the common-place thought about the ordinary outward things of daily life.
The eagle went to Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the tall cedar. Trees, growing in the earth, represent perceptions of truth, growing in the mind, first as sentiments implanted in the thought, and then as growing shoots, and trees, bearing leaves and fruit. Mount Lebanon, as a high place, represents a high or exalted state of mind, Lebanon represents the spiritual man, or the spiritual good that is in man ; i.e., the love of the neighbor, which is the ruling, characteristic quality of the spiritual man. "The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon."(Psalm xcii. 12.)
A cedar represents spiritual perception of truth. And so a cedar of Lebanon represents the spiritual perception of truth, based on the love of good; i.e., such perception of our duty to our neighbor as we have when we love our neighbor, and when we desire to know all the principles which apply to our relations with our neighbors. "The highest branch of the cedar" is the perception of the most elevated principle of the rational thought; as, for instance, our perception of our duty to our neighbor because he is a child of our Lord. Representatively, things are called high, when they are worthy, and of an exalted character. The Lord is called "the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity." Representatively, the eagle takes the highest branch of the cedar of Lebanon, when we rationally take the knowledges of truth from the Lord's Word, and apply them in thinking upon our relations to our neighbors, as children of our Lord.
The eagle carried the twig to a land of traffic, and set it in a city of merchants; i.e., the mind, in thinking of spiritual truths, carries them down to the plane of natural science, to confirm them in outward things. The "land of traffic" is the natural mind, with its trading, its buying and selling, or its exchange of knowledges, from the mernory. The natural mind, taking things Irom the natural memory, and reasoning about them, is a land of traffic, where there is a city of merchants ; i.e., doctrine that is full of knowledges, things known. A city, built for the uses of men, represents a system of doctrine, constructed as a receptacle for living truths, and a means by which truths may be put to use. For without doctrine we cannot understand truths. To plant trees means to plant truths, to instruct the mind in the knowledge of truth.
The eagle "took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field;" that is, the thought" took the doctrine of the church, and set it in the affections, where it would have good ground for growth, i.e., in the love of the neighbor, where the truth should take root and grow.
The eagle placed the cedar-twig "by great waters," i.e., in the abundance of literal truths, from the Lord's Word. Waters, which cleanse, represent natural truths, literal truths, which cleanse the conduct. And the letter of the Word is the great reservoir, the great waters, whence all truths flow. And the eagle set the cedar-twig as a willow-tree, a water-willow, which grows on the banks of streams, and which represents natural perceptions of truth, from the letter of the Word of God. The cedar, so planted, is said to have grown, and to have become "a spreading vine, of low stature." Of course, this cannot be literal history: a cedar-tree cannot turn into a vine. But that which the cedar represents can turn into that which the vine, or grape-vine, represents; i.e., in the life, the spiritual perceptions of truth can become actual spiritual principles, or grape-vines. At first, these are but the beginnings of spiritual principles; i.e., the vine is of low stature, not reaching very high, and yet spreading widely, or applying to all things of the common daily life. Gradually, as the mind is able to see the principles of spiritual life, these principles take their proper places, in the mind; and they are arranged in the order of heavenly life, and in their application to the uses of daily life.
Thus far, and as to the first eagle, the text refers to the regeneration of the natural mind of the spiritual man. If the mind is rational, and has knowledges of truth, from the Lord's Word, and if the mind delights in the teachings of the Word, as rationally seen, the understanding will grow. The cedar will change into a grape-vine: the perception of a principle will become an actual living principle, bearing its fruit in the daily life. From rational, the man will become spiritual, according to his life. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah; and in His law doth he meditate, day and night. And he shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season: his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Psalm i. 1-3:)
The second eagle represents the thought of the spiritual mind, the interior mind of the spiritual man. Both eagles represent the thought of the spiritual man, that is, the man of the spiritual church, or spiritual degree of life, during his regeneration. But the first eagle represents the thought during the regeneration of the natural mind of the spiritual man, the external mind, which is first taught and trained. And the second eagle represents the thought during the regeneration of the inward, or spiritual part of the mind, which is afterwards opened and trained. Both eagles had great wings and many feathers; i.e., in both the outward and inward parts of the spiritual man's mind, he has abundance of knowledges, facts known, and principles known, by which he exercises his thought, with power and swiftness.
"And behold, this vine did bend her roots towards him, and shot forth her branches towards him, that he might water it," etc. Thus, as the inward, or spiritual mind, opens, and a new degree of thought is developed, all the roots and branches, the beginnings and growths of our knowledges and perceptions, turn themselves towards this new degree of thought, to come into connection with it; or, in other words, when the new and spiritual degree of thought is opened in us, we find that all the things that we have previously known and understood, bend themselves towards our new way of thinking, that. they may be filled with the new and higher kind of hfe. The same knowledges of facts and principles, which, in our natural way of thinking, contributed the means of thinking naturally, now, in our spiritual way of thinking, become helps and means for spiritual thought. Our spiritual thought takes up all these things, and applies them to the new view of life. Thus, the same outward knowledges, which, to the natural thought, afford wisdom in natural things, enable the open spiritual mind to procure wisdom in spiritual things. Thus, the central-principle of the mind will give tone and quality to all things else in the thought. This vine, under the care of the second eagle, could grow, and bear fruit; i.e., the perception of truth could expand, and could be applied to actual uses of life. It could, indeed, be "a goodly vine," by keeping its obligations to the Lord and the neighbor.
But the text asks, "Shall it prosper?" This is a prophecy of the fall and destruction of the spiritual church, or Ancient Church, and of the perversion of the spiritual degree of life, in individuals, who will not keep their obligations to the Lord and the neighbor; i.e., who like Zedekiah, break their oath, made before the Lord. Some persons, when they attain to some small degree of spiritual thought, do not bring the truth to bear against their own tendencies to evil; but, instead, they fall in love with their own intelligence, and become confirmed in self-intelligence. Thus, practically, they forget the Lord, and worship themselves. They pervert their intelligence; and they cannot prosper. Spiritually, they wither and die. They bring forth, not good grapes, but wild grapes.
The East represents the Lord, because the sun rises in the East, bringing life and light. In a good sense, the East-wind is an influx of life from the Lord. But, when the Lord's life flows into those who are opposed to it, it seems to destroy them, as the bright sunlight seems to distress the diseased eye. The Lord's truth comes to men, executing a judgment. Those who love the truth, welcome it; but those who do not love it nor live by it, flee from its presence. It withers them, as the sun withers the lifeless plant.
GOOD AND BAD EAGLES.
In considering the signification of the eagle, we must remember the character of representatives, which may be viewed from different standpoints, and in different aspects. For instance, the eagle, as to its good qualities and capacities, represents good things. As to its keen sight, its lofty and swift and sustained flight, its courage, and its power, it represents rational and spiritual thought, which are far-seeing, clear-seeing, and capable of mounting into the highest realms of truth, and of sustaining themselves there, with power and courage.
But the eagle is a proud, solitary, warlike bird, and a bird of prey. In these unlovely qualities, the eagle represents self-intelligence in men, which is proud and warlike, ready to attack all who stand in the way of its ambition. Such intelligence, while professedly thinking of the living truth, is, as to the actual motives of its life, fixed upon the dead things of falsities and evils. "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together." (Matthew xxiv. 28.) Such self intelligence will be busied about the things of self-love, which are dead to all that is heavenly and happy.
A man may be highly intellectual, capable of soaring high into the realms of thought, and able to sustain a prolonged flight of intelligence as to doctrine: and yet he may be intellectual, only. He may be evil at heart, proud, selfish, arrogant and mean, presuming upon his intelligence, and holding himself aloof from practical spiritual sympathy with human beings. Such a man cannot spiritually prosper. He will wither, in the furrow where he dwells in his self-intelligence, in the pride of his own intellect, perverted to selfish ends.
A GOOD TREE PROMISED.
But the Lord promises to plant a cedar-tree which shall grow and flourish through eternity. "In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing."
The. Lord will establish a spiritual church, through the spiritual truths of the New Jerusalem, now made known, in His Second Coming; a spiritual coming, in a new out-pouring of life and light, by means of the opening of the spiritual sense of His holy Word. And these spiritual truths shall come out into all the particulars of daily life, illuminating the life on earth with the rays of the sun of heaven; enabling men to bring forth the fruits of righteousness, in all the common truths of social and business life.
The Lord is now establishing this spiritual church, among those who are prepared to enter into it. Knowledge of doctrine, and intelligence in the understanding of truth, will both be necessary to the genuine New-Churchman. But, beyond these, the most essential requisite will be a meek and lowly spirit, which regards the Lord, in all things, and which shuns self-intelligence as it shuns the hells.
The humble New-Churchman will be ever under the care of the Divine Providence, learning, growing and rejoicing. "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so Jehovah alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields." (Deuteronomy xxxii. 11 - 1 3. )
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903