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Tenth Sermon: Matthew 5:12
"Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven" (Matthew 5: 12.)
In the delight of spiritual affection is all heavenly happiness, because that delight is the activity of spiritual and celestial love, or of love to the neighbor and love to the Lewd. This delight has been expressed from the beginning of the present series by the term Blessed repeated several times; but it now takes on a threefold expression in the words Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven. The corresponding passage in Luke (6:23) is also threefold, as follows, "Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, great is your reward in heaven." By rejoice is signified the delight of the affection of truth, by be exceeding glad, and also by leap for joy, is signified the delight of the affection of good, and by the reward in heaven is signified the delight of the affection of use. First truth, then good, and finally the two together in use; in these three is all the happiness of heaven, coming as the result of spiritual labor and conflict. The idea of the conflict is also expressed in a threefold manner, in the verse preceding the text, where we find the terms revile, persecute, and speaking all manner of evil. First the persecution, which is threefold; and now the triumph or victory in the reward of heaven, which is also threefold.
From the beginning, all through the series, a duality has appeared. Each Blessing is expressed in two distinct sentences or parts, the first of which has relation to truth, or the affection of truth, and the second to good, or the affection of good; and now the third is added,—use, which is the end in all from the beginning, the inmost and the ultimate of all, the first and last of the Word, of tie church, and of heaven,—the very heavenly reward itself.
The reward follows the persecution, but let us note carefully that the reward is not on account of the persecution or temptation, but on account of overcoming in temptation. The reward is for the combat, and not for the pain of the combat. It is not for what we have suffered and endured, but for our resistance in it, that the victory is given. Suffering is a condition, not an end. When the body recovers from disease, it is not because of the pain that health has returned, but because of the resistance of the body to that which has assailed its life. Temptation is to the spirit of man what pain is to his body; it is the anxiety and distress which is felt when man, as a spirit, and from the love of his spirit, resists that which assails its life. As in the body, the pain ceases when health returns, so in the spirit, temptation ceases when the victory is gained; then there is happiness and rejoicing, and the spirit enters into its reward.
The purpose in the combat is that the internal may subdue the external, that what is of heaven in the interiors of man may subdue what is of the world in his exteriors. But an internal must first be formed. Heaven must descend into the interiors of the natural, and form itself there, before it can proceed to the conquest of the external man. Hence the Blessings treat first of the formation of this new internal, or of this new mind, of this new will and new understanding, of this new love and charity, of this new faith, of this new conscience, in the interior of the natural mind.
This, as we are taught, must first be formed, and until it is formed the evils of the external man cannot be subdued, and regeneration take place. The final subjugation of the external, and bringing it into correspondence with the internal, is now effected; and the state of this correspondence, which is the heavenly state, is the subject of this Tenth Blessing, which we are now to consider. Let us now endeavor to enter more fully into the spiritual sense of this final Blessing.
The Lord said to His disciples that they were now to rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great would be their reward in heaven. The words translated exceeding glad are usually translated in the Writings by the word exult, and are expressive of a higher and more intense degree of joy or happiness than the word translated rejoice. We have seen that the ruling affection in the Blessings is the spiritual affection of truth; and it receives various modes of expression in the series throughout. Here the word rejoice is used, the first word of the verse, including in it all that precedes, but having associated with it a term of a higher and more interior signification than itself, expressed by the phrase be exceeding glad, or exult; and the higher thing that is signified is the spiritual affection of good. The affection of truth indeed comes first in the order of regeneration, and afterwards the affection of good, or a new understanding of truth comes first, and by it a new will of good is formed. It is this new understanding formed by the spiritual affection of truth, and the delight of that affection, that is expressed by the word rejoice; and it is this new will formed by the spiritual affection of good, and the delight of that affection, that is expressed by the words be exceeding glad or exult. These two make the internal man; that is, the new understanding, with its affection and delight, which is the affection and delight of truth, and the new will, with its affection and delight, which is the affection and delight of good; and the Lord expressed to His disciples the heavenly happiness there is in this internal state of truth and good in the internal man by the words, "Rejoice and be exceeding glad."
But the new understanding and the new will, now conjoined as one, have now come forth and subdued the external man, removing its lusts and delights, its falsifications of truth, its perverted principles of life. This has not been accomplished except by a long contest or conflict between the internal and external man, in which the external man has resisted the internal; in which, the falsities and evils of the external have fought against the truths and goods of the internal; in which, evil spirits have entrenched themselves, hoping thereby to secure permanently a foothold upon the earth; and in which, men in the world have co-operated with evil spirits, and assisted in the assault upon the truths and goods of the internal man. For the greatest and most grievous temptations of the church, and of the individual, take place when men in the outer world cooperate with evil spirits of the inner world in a combined attack upon the principles of the church stirring and rousing into activity the evils that are in the external man of the members of the church. If anything will destroy the church, it is this combined assault that will accomplish it; and this attack has power because the falsities and evils that are in evil spirits, and in men like unto them, are also in the external natural of the regenerating man. But when these are removed, the united forces of hell, and of the world, have no longer any power; man is at rest in the heavenly state, and the church, as the Lord's heaven on earth, is in the fruition of its life, resting in the happiness and peace of its uses. This is what is meant by the words of the text, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven."
The new understanding now occupies the external man and reigns in its thought, and in the expression of its thought in speech; and the new will also reigns in the external, in all its affection, and in the expression of its affection in the actions of the body; that is, the new understanding and the new will reign in the uses performed by word and deed, and there is happiness and delight in the uses so performed. This is heaven, this is the heavenly state, which to some extent is felt in the natural world, and experienced in fullness in the spiritual world after death, and this is what is meant by the words, "Great is your reward in heaven." For the reward of heaven is freedom and happiness in a life of use.
The word here translated reward (Greek, misthos), signifies pay, wages, salary, rent, profit, income, gift, and so reward; and in a bad sense, paying back, requital, punishment. The corresponding word in the Latin (merces) is similar in meaning, and is derived from a verb (mereo) signifying to deserve, to merit, also to earn, get, obtain, gain, acquire. From the Latin come the English words merchant and merchandise, or that which is acquired by trading. It thus has in it the general idea of what returns to or upon any one, whether good or evil, as the result of work, labor, effort, or output of any kind. The word thus came to be applied in the Christian Church,—and it is so understood according to the appearance in the literal sense of the Word—to the reward after death of heavenly happiness and bliss, coming as a gift to him who has been faithful in the things of a religious life while living in this world; also to the punishment that comes upon him who lives a life of wickedness and sin. The idea of merit came at length to be applied to the idea of reward, and the faithful were taught to believe that heavenly happiness would be given to them as a reward or gift on account of their merit or deserving arising out of life of piety on earth. The evil also would receive the reward which they have merited, in the punishment by the fires of hell always burning, tormenting, and torturing than forever.
We have already indicated, however, that the reward of heaven is not anything that is arbitrarily given in return for works done while on earth, especially the works of piety, but that it is nothing else than the legitimate result, in the life of charity in the will and faith in the understanding, devoid of all idea of merit or self-deserving; that it is nothing else than the delight of use from the love of use, or love appearing as use. It is the delight in doing without thought of self or of what one merits and deserves. It is the delight in giving forth by work or use without reflection or deliberation on what one is to receive in return for what he does. It is like a man who works from the love of his work, and not merely for the pay or wages he is to receive; for it is well known that he who works from the love of his work is delighted with the work itself, and that the salary or income is not the first consideration with him, however desirable such acquisition may be for the support of natural life. It is well known, also, that those who succeed are for the most part those who love their work, who take an interest in the work itself, and who thus do not rebel against work, and feel themselves driven to it merely for the return in money they are to receive for it. In fact, the latter state is more like that in hell, where the evil are driven to labor by the hope of reward or the fear of punishment; and the former state is like that in heaven, where the angels are in the constant activities of use from the love of use itself, where the delight of use is their chief delight, and the only delight that is heaven to them; with the difference, however, that the uses which the angels perform, and in which they have the delight of their life, are the spiritual rather than the natural uses of charity. Natural use has in view natural sustenance in the world, and the natural good of society, the temporal good of men; but spiritual use has for its end the spiritual good of men, the eternal salvation of the human race, since this is the end with the Lord Himself, imparted by Him to the angels of heaven. This end, therefore, reigns in every use in heaven.
The product of natural use is the reward of natural acquisition,—property, land, honors, the wealth of this world. These also are blessings when they are not made the chief end, but are regarded as instrumentalities for higher uses. These blessings come according to needs, as seen by Providence,—the result of work or natural use performed from the love of it. And they may even come where wealth itself is the end; but such wealth is only temporary; it does not last longer than the life of the body, and cannot be taken into the other world. The only wealth that survives natural death is the wealth or riches of the mind, the acquisitions of the spirit.
There is, indeed, a wider view of the reward of natural use than the mere acquisition of material wealth. There are certain mental acquirements that come as a reward in the performance of the uses of the world. There is no physical or material reward without a corresponding mental reward or acquisition; for there is such a thing as natural intelligence, and there are other related qualities of the natural mind and character. These are given to men by means of the use which they perform; and every man who does systematic work with energy and industry is rewarded by certain mental acquisitions, certain mental possessions, the properties of natural reason and intelligence. These are the real rewards of natural use. The man who does not work cannot come into these rewards of use, cannot become an intelligent or rational man of the world. His mind remains dull, stupid, undeveloped. All the work done before actual use begins, such as the work of natural education, is but a preparation for use, and is thus but a preparation for intelligence. For let us repeat that real intelligence comes only by work; let us repeat that natural work is not only for the acquisition of material wealth, but also for the acquisition of intelligence; and indeed one may obtain natural intelligence by work, even if he does not acquire wealth. This is true of a number of men.
Natural education is the stewing of the memory, the training of the faculties, the provision of instrumentalities, preparatory to the performance of use. But these do not bring intelligence, still less wisdom. If a man stops here, he is in a state of arrested development and he will be placed among the herd of the dumb, driven cattle of the world. He will have no real mind, no real human understanding,—not even a natural understanding, except perhaps some faint resemblance of it, so long as he associates with other men. He must proceed to work; he must apply the instrumentalities he has acquired by his early education, or he will be a fool among the workers of the world.
The thing to which we wish to call attention in respect to natural use is this, that it is the delight of work from the love of it that opens and expands the faculties of the mind; and this is the reason that those who work, especially those who love work, and take delight in work, are the men who reach the highest degree of natural intelligence, who receive the real reward of the world, the real acquisitions that are of value among men who reach the highest positions of dignity and eminence.
It is because of this instrumentality of delight,—the delight of work,—in opening the mind and expanding all its faculties, that the delight of use in heaven is called the heavenly reward. It is not because of the delight of use alone that it is called reward, but because it is the means of stimulating all the faculties of the mind, the means by which is all intelligence and wisdom in heaven,—all understanding, all perception, all illustration to the angels, to all who inhabit the kingdom of the Lord. As in the world, men have all real natural intelligence by means of work, by means of the delight of work from the love of it, so it is in heaven,—except that the work or use in heaven is spiritual, and not natural, and thus that the intelligence and wisdom in heaven is spiritual, and not natural. And we see herein the reason why it is said in the Writings that by "reward" in the text,—the "reward in heaven" which will be "great" to those who overcome in temptations, is meant salvation. For it is just this thing we are talking about that is salvation,—this thing of spiritual delight in use, stimulating and opening all the faculties of the angelic mind, bringing to the angels a continual increase of intelligence and wisdom.
This is salvation, because in it a man is saved from the opposite state in hell. There is no delight of use from the love of use in hell. The devils have no love of use; and where there is no love there is no delight, and thus no happiness. And where there is no delight of use from the love of it, there is no opening, but rather a closing of the mind, more and more. Instead of a love of use, the devils have a hatred of use; and where use or work is hated,—as we see dimly represented in the world where men hate work,—there can be no intelligence, no perception, no enlightenment of the mind, naught but dense ignorance, folly, stupidity, and insanity. It is salvation from this state that is called the heavenly reward, a salvation that begins by the gradual formation of a love of use while man still lives in the world of nature. It is well known and often remarked that work keeps a man out of mischief. It saves him from many of the ills of human life. Extend this idea into the other world after death, and we can see what salvation is, the salvation that keeps men from the eternal mischief and misery of hell, by introducing them into the eternal work and use of heaven, and into all the acquisitions of use in heaven. Hence the fulness of meaning in the Lord's words to His disciples, and to all men who would be saved from the mischief of hell, and who are willing to fight to be saved from it, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven."
Now there must be with men not only natural work from the love of it,—for the sake of the acquisitions of natural intelligence,—but there must also be the beginnings of spiritual work, and thus a preparation while in the body for spiritual uses after death. For he who would enter into the kingdom of heaven in the spiritual world must have something of that kingdom in him before he enters that world. Spiritual work while still in the world consists in the acquisition of the truth of doctrine from the Word, and in combat from that doctrine, and for it, against the falsities of evil which rise up from hell,—from the hell of the natural man. This combat from doctrine introduces to spiritual use, when man,—fighting from the Lord in doctrine,—overcomes in the combat of temptation. It introduces him into the delight of spiritual use, and thereby into the sphere of angelic intelligence and wisdom, which will be relatively obscure while in the body, but immensely full and active after death for great shall be your reward in heaven. This is taught throughout the Blessings; this is what is meant by blessing which is so often spoken of and repeated: and finally, it is openly spoken of in the text as the reward in heaven which those are to receive who overcome in the combats of temptation,—the reward of use.
In the explanation of the text given in the Writings, we are told that by the words "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven" is signified, in general, heaven and its joy to those who are in the spiritual affection of truth, for they alone fight and conquer because the Lord is in that affection, who resists and conquers for man in the combats of temptation. (A. E. 695.) This introduces us to the subject of redemption, or the redeeming work which the Lord accomplishes in the regenerating man, and in the church in the process of its growth and development. In fact, the Blessings, which we have been considering, treat in their inmost sense of this redeeming work of the Lord, treat of the Lord's part in the work —the Divine essential work—in the regeneration of man and in the establishment of the church.
When the Lord was in the world, visibly among men, He performed a universal work of judgment and redemption in the spiritual world, subjugating the hells, bringing the heavens into order, and establishing the beginnings of a new spiritual church on the earth; and in order that this new spiritual church might continue to be established, the work of judgment and redemption also continued, and is to continue forever. Every man who is saved must first be redeemed, and the church itself must be continuously redeemed from the power of hell, in order that it may become more and more a spiritual church on the earth. The Blessings, in their inmost sense, treat of this Divine work of judgment and redemption, and of the process by which the Lord successively redeems the church and the man of the church, separating him from hell, and finally introducing him into heaven.
In the Blessings we learn that the Lord redeems man by first instructing him in truths of doctrine from the Word. This is what is meant by the words which introduce the Blessings, "And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying." When the truth is taught, the Teacher Himself is present in the truth which He teaches, inspiring into the truth received by those who are "poor in spirit," who acknowledge their ignorance and are willing to be taught—inspiring into them the spiritual affection of truth. This affection then becomes the inmost of the church, and the Lord is in that affection, imparting the power to resist the assaults of evil spirits; and as there is combat, and in the degree of the combat on the part of man, the Lord overcomes for him, and disperses the evil spirits who infest him, casting them into hell, and thus separating him from them, introducing him into heaven—for redemption is nothing else than the judgment which separates the regenerating men of the church in both worlds from the societies of evil spirits, who are in the world of spirits, dispersing those societies and casting its members into hell. This judgment and redemption is going on continually in the world of spirits—the casting into hell of the evil spirits which environ and threaten the destruction of the church. This final triumph, and the salvation which follows redemption, is what is meant by the words of the text, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven." And indeed there is no rejoicing, no exultation, like that of men when there comes to them after death the realization of a release from the power of evil spirits, and a realization of introduction into heaven; for then, as the affection of truth has been the inmost of the church, the affection of good becomes the inmost of heaven, and they will forever be inspired by the delight of use in heaven, they will forever rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great will be their everlasting reward. Amen.
Lessons: Deuteronomy 10: 6-22. Matthew 10: 16-42. A. C. 9981-9984.
Music: Liturgy, p. 503, 533, 568, 614, 659. Hymnal, p. 144, 147, 151.
Prayers: Liturgy, nos. 150, 151.