Topical and Doctrinal Notes
Thought: The Ten Blessings
Do you notice any similarity between the giving of the Ten Blessings, as we have come to call them, and the giving of the Ten Commandments? Where were the Commandments given? On a mountain, Mount Sinai or Horeb, in the wilderness. And while Moses was on the top of the mountain, receiving the Commandments from the Lord, the twelve tribes of Israel were below around the foot of the mountain, Moses afterward telling the people what the Lord had commanded. The Ten Blessings were also given on a mountain, a beautiful one in the fertile land of Canaan. The Lord was on this mountain, and He called His disciples close to Him, while the multitudes of the people were farther down. The giving of the Ten Commandments was followed by the giving of many other commandments and laws and statutes. So the Ten Blessings were followed by many other beautiful teachings of the Lord, all of which together we call the Sermon on the Mount, and we find it written in the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the Gospel according to Matthew. In the Ten Commandments and the other laws given to Moses, people were told for the most part what they should observe outwardly in their conduct. But in the Ten Blessings and the whole Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ led people to think more of the spirit, or soul: what they ought to be in spirit.
Take the first Blessing, for example. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." That means to be humble. Now, a person may think that he is humble if he behaves in a humble way, by not showing himself proud and vain and conceited, but being respectful to other people, and especially bowing low before the Lord, and kneeling to Him on the ground. But the words that the Lord used are "poor in spirit," which make us think at once of what our spirit should be, rather than of what our body acts out.
But how can we be poor in spirit? Perhaps you can understand this, if I remind you of a story or parable which the Lord told. It was about a rich man who went away and left sums of money with his servants. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third, one. He gave this money to them not to be theirs, but to trade with for him. Now, they were to use the money in trading just as if it belonged to them, and two of them did so. Yet they always remembered that the money belonged to their master, and were glad that they could earn more money for him. You may read the whole parable for yourself in Matthew 25:24-30 and Luke 19:20-26.
These two servants knew that they were poor; they knew that the money would not have been in their possession to trade with, if their master had not let them have it. And yet they were really rich, for they had the confidence and love of their master, and could dispose of the money just as if it were their own.
Now, let me ask you a question. Has your spirit any wealth? Yes, you are rich when you know much, when you have many knowledges about the Lord and heaven, and the church, or the Lord's kingdom. But where do you get your knowledge from? From the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master. And where do you get the power to see with your eyes, and so to read the Word, and to hear with your ears, and so to hear the Word and the Doctrines? And the power to learn and keep things in your mind? It is all from the Lord, is it not? And if He should stop for one instant giving you the power to see, you could not see; or the power to hear, you could not hear; or the power to learn and keep in your mind, you could not do it. So you are really like the poor servants. All you have in your spirit is the Lord's; all your spiritual wealth is His. And yet you are rich, for you can use your eyes and ears and mind and use the knowledges you learn as if they were all absolutely your own.
Are not, then, all men poor, compared with the Lord?
Why, then, does the Lord speak as if there were only some people who are "poor in spirit"?
Because, not all realize that they can know things only from the Lord's power. Many think that they know things from themselves. They think that they are rich, that their knowledges are their very own and that they can do with their knowledges anything, good or bad, and so they do not try to learn what the Lord wishes them to do, and do not make a good use of their knowledges, their riches.
But those who realize that they do not know anything from themselves are those who are meant by the "poor in spirit." They are truly humble as to their spirit. But what they have is never taken away from them: more is all the time added, because they are the Lord's servants and there is no end to the knowledge and wisdom He has and gives to His servants. Indeed, they have all "the kingdom of the heavens." But those who think that they know things from themselves, after death lose the knowledge they had had here. Swedenborg tells us that some who were the most learned people in the world in their day, after death knew nothing at all.
This will help you to understand how the Blessings teach us about the life of the spirit, or the spiritual or inner life, and we will barely touch on the rest.
People mourn when they have lost a friend, or when they do not have something they would like. So those who "mourn" or feel very badly because they have lost truth, or cannot get hold of the truth of something in the Word, are comforted by the Lord, by His giving them the truth, and explaining the Word, for by their mourning they show that they really want the truth and love it.
To be "meek" means to be good and gentle, and to love the neighbor. To "possess the earth" means heaven and the happiness of heaven, for the earth or land of Canaan represented heaven.
You remember what the Lord said to Satan in the last lesson, about man not living by bread alone, but by every "Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." That helps us to understand that to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" means to have a strong desire or wish to learn what is right and to be right, and so to do what is right.
It is not necessary for me to tell you what it is to be merciful. The more merciful we are, the more mercy the Lord implants in our hearts.
Notice how the Lord teaches us not merely to wash our bodies, as the Jews were careful to do, but we must be clean of heart.
"Peacemakers" means not only to make peace between others, but especially to love peace ourselves, and keep all angry thoughts and feelings out of our hearts.
It is not only evil-minded men and children who "persecute" those who believe in God and say mean things to them or about them, but it is also evil spirits who try to make us ashamed for trying to be good. This is the "persecution" meant in the Blessings. We shall read in Acts later on how the Apostles were persecuted for their belief in the Lord, and were even killed. But they became angels, of whom we read great things in the Writings of the New Church.