"For thy Maker is thine husband."
The most intimate relation of the Lord to man is represented in the Sacred Scriptures by marriage. "Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you." The Lord declares that He has been a husband unto His people, and that He will betroth them unto Himself forever. Yea," He says, " I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies." He calls Himself the Bridegroom, and the church His bride and wife. " The marriage of the Lamb is come... Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." Such is the plain teaching of Scripture.
The question to which I invite your attention is, What is the specific relation between the Lord and man which is called marriage? Is this a mere figure of speech, or does there really exist a conjunction between the Lord and man which can fitly and truly be called a marriage? The doctrines of the New Church teach that the union' between the Lord and the church is a real marriage, a marriage such as the Lord Himself declares exists between the husband and wife when they twain become one. There is in an eminent and specific sense a marriage between the Divine and human, between the Lord and man.
The idea that we attach to this relation of the Lord to man will depend upon our idea of marriage. This must be so from the nature of the human mind. The Lord employs all human relations to denote His relations to man. He says, "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." He seeks to reveal Himself to us through all channels, but what we receive will depend upon our understanding of the terms He employs. There is a very prevalent and essential error upon this subject, which tends to weaken the force of Divine truth and divest the terms which the Lord employs to convey it to us of their full and real meaning. When any human event or natural relation is used to communicate a Divine truth to men, it is generally supposed that the relation or event is to be understood in a figurative sense. And even when we acknowledge that there is a real correspondence between the spiritual and the natural, we make the natural the measure of the truth rather than a mere hint or suggestion of it. Thus, when the Lord calls Himself the Husband and the church His bride and wife, it is generally supposed that it is not really and fully so, but that this natural relation is employed to teach the general truth of the Lord's affection for the church; that it does not mean marriage in its reality and fullness. But the truth is directly the reverse. The Divine truth is infinite in its fullness and in the variety of its application. When the Lord applies any human relation to Himself, it ought to be understood in an eminent sense. The human relation is only the shadow, the most general and the lowest form of that which exists in the Lord. It gives us only a glimpse and meager outline of the real truth. The Lord calls Himself our Father, and He is our Father in a higher, fuller, and more specific sense than any merely human being can be. When He represents His relation to the church by the relation of husband and wife, we must understand it in a pre-eminent and specific sense. He is the real and essential Husband of the church, and the union between Him and the church is the real marriage. It is the prototype and infinite fullness of marriage, of what every true marriage is in a finite degree. All marriage has its origin in the Lord, and gets its significance from Him. The union between husband and wife is the finite and imperfect representation of the union that exists in infinite perfection between the Divine love and wisdom in the Lord, and between the Divine love in the Lord and His truth in the minds and lives of men. We must not, therefore, measure and limit the union of the Lord with the church by the union between husband and wife. This human relation gives us a hint and outline of the real truth, which we may expand, exalt, and particularize to the extent of our power. The highest angel cannot rise to a perfect, exhaustive conception of it, but even we who are just beginning to learn what marriage truly is, may get some just idea of the Lord's relation to His church.
Our conception of this truth will, however, necessarily be affected by our knowledge and views of marriage. Marriage exists in various degrees, and there are very low and mercenary, and very high and pure views of it. Some regard it only as a civil relation sanctioned by human law. They think the priest or the magistrate effects the marriage. When the Lord calls Himself the Husband and the church His bride and wife, they suppose it can only be a figure of speech; for they know they cannot hold this merely civil relation. To others marriage is a union of social and worldly interests, - of tastes, habits, culture, and natural affections. Such persons can have only a vague and imperfect idea of what the Divine and human relation is. To others marriage is a union of minds and hearts; these can see that such a union between the Lord and man is possible, and that it must be effected before man can come into true relations to the Lord, and receive life and blessedness from Him in large and perfect measures. It is necessary to a correct knowledge of what the Lord intends to teach us by calling His relation with His church a marriage, that we gain the true, essential, and universal idea of marriage. This is the first point, therefore, that claims our attention. What is the essential principle of marriage?
It is a necessary and universal law of creation or of change in the form or state of any created thing, that two substances or forces must combine to produce any effect. New substances and forms are brought into existence by the combination of those previously existing. There is, even in inanimate nature, an image and suggestion of marriage in the fitness of substances for union with each other, and in the necessity for such union in order that new substances and forms may be produced. In the vegetable kingdom the image of marriage is more complete than in the mineral, and in the animal kingdom still more perfect. This marriage which exists throughout the natural creation has its origin in the Lord Himself. The Lord gives the ability for mutual helpfulness and union. In the lowest and the highest forms of nature, it is He who joins two together into one.
The bond of union in the lowest planes of creation is affinity and attraction; in the animal kingdom it is a form of instinct; between human beings it is in general called love. This love has various names according to its nature and application. When it is the love of the race in general, it is philanthropy; when it is the love of our country, it is patriotism; when it is the love of individual men and women, it is friendship; when it is the love of children, it is parental love; when it is the love of one man and one woman for each other, it is marriage love. That is pre-eminently the conjoining affection. It can exist only between two who hold those specific relations to each other, which make each the complement of the other's being, not only in general but in particular. It is, therefore, the highest, the most interior, the most specific, the purest, and the most powerful form of love. It differs from all others as the specific affinities between two substances which force each to give up its own form and combine in a third differ from that general attraction which the earth exerts upon every object. This most intimate of all unions is made by the Lord the type of His union with us. He calls us friends; He calls us brethren and children; He goes farther, and calls us bride and wife.
Let us inquire into the specific nature of this conjoining or marriage love. It consists essentially in the desire and the continual effort to communicate itself and all that it possesses to others, and to be one with them. It continually seeks for the power to communicate itself. This effort is as constant and as spontaneous and as essentially its own nature as it is the nature of light to shine, or of heat to diffuse itself. It wishes all its own to be another's. It also desires to be loved by others, not so much, however, for the sake of receiving love from others as because it cannot communicate itself fully unless it is received and reciprocated.
When a husband and wife are conjoined by this love, each one desires to give himself and herself wholly to the other, to be the other's self. They twain become one, and they go forth to their daily uses of life as one. Neither desires to invade the sphere and do the duties of the other; each one desires to become perfect in his own sphere, and to do all in his or her power for the other. While, therefore, they grow more entirely one, they become more distinctly individual and personal. The unity is not gained by sameness, or by the merging of the being of the one with the other, but by distinctness. Self-love desires to be served; marriage love to serve. Self-love desires to have every one conform to it; marriage love continually breathes after conformity with the other. Self-love can only love others in itself; marriage love can only love itself in others. Self-love is only happy when receiving; marriage love when giving. Thus they are the opposites of each other in every particular. And as we all know something about self-love, we can form some idea of the nature of marriage love by remembering that it is the opposite in every respect of the love of self.
Now, the Lord's love for man is of the same nature as marriage love, though infinitely above it in strength, in purity, in tenderness, and in every quality which composes it. "There are three things," our doctrines teach us, "which constitute the essence of the Lord's love: 1. The love of others out of or without Himself; 2. The desire to be one with them; and 3. The desire to make them happy from Himself." It is the inmost and infinite desire and constant effort of the Lord to give Himself to men, to give them His own life and blessedness in the highest and fullest degree possible. He desires to give them all His own to be their own in the fullest manner possible. The Lord never had a thought, or put forth an act, that was not intended for human good, and that was not directed to that end by infinite wisdom. There are no exceptions to this truth. Even what appears as the Lord's hostility to man and as punishment from Him; even those sufferings which seem to us to be unmitigated evils, have their root in infinite love; and if we could see them in all their relations, we should see that they could not be prevented or removed without causing greater evils than themselves. Within and above them all is the Lord's infinite desire to communicate Himself, and to give His own life, His own thought, His own power, His own riches, to others in the largest, the fullest, and the most varied manner possible to infinite wisdom and infinite power.
If such is the nature of the Divine love, the Lord must seek conjunction with man. The inmost principle of His being requires such union. The Bridegroom and Husband of the church must be His appropriate name. Marriage must express the Lord's specific relation to the church better than any other human relation. It reveals the same truth so often expressed by our Lord while in the flesh, - His desire that men should be one with Him. " Abide in me, and I in you." " That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us . . I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." This desire to give Himself to humanity, and to dwell in them and to be one with them, caused the Lord to assume a human nature and come among men in the flesh, that He might meet them everywhere, on every plane, and give to them in every form all that they could receive. He came to betroth men unto Him in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.
But this blessed truth may be seen in clearer light by looking at some of the methods which infinite wisdom has provided to carry into effect the purposes of infinite love and give of its own to others.
The Lord could not give Himself to another uncreated and infinite being, for there is no such being, and could be none besides Himself. He could not create such a being. The infinite cannot create the infinite. He could not create a being who should have life in himself. He could only create a being who should receive life from Him. So the Lord created man in His own image and likeness, and breathed into him, and continually breathes into him, the breath of life.
Man when considered in himself is nothing but an organic form, capable of receiving life from the Lord in various degrees. Man is a form to which the Lord can conjoin Himself, a form which can consciously receive and reciprocate the Divine love. If we look at ourselves with a little attention, we shall see that it is so. If we look at the material body, we find that it is a series of organic forms. The eye is an organic form for the reception of light, the ear for the reception of sound, the lungs for the reception of air, the heart for the blood. This power of reception is not inherent in the eye, or any other organ. It is the Lord's gift to the body through the soul, which is its life. The Lord is conjoined to the body by an outward way, through air and light and other material substances, and by an inward way through the soul; and so He gives Himself in all the fullness possible to the material body.
The soul, or spirit, is also an organic form, but spiritual, capable of receiving spiritual life from the Lord. It has no more life in itself than the material body. It has no power to think or love. All mental and spiritual activities are the effect of the Divine love and wisdom flowing into man's spiritual organism and setting it in motion, in the same manner as seeing and hearing are caused by the influx of light into the eye and of air into the ear. The universal relation of man to the Lord, therefore, is that of the receiver to the giver, of the effect to the efficient cause.
While it is absolutely true that man, from the inmost principles of his being to the most external organism of the material body, is a form, and only a form, capable of receiving life, and of being made alive by the forces flowing into him from the Lord, yet the Lord so communicates this life that it seems to be inherent in man, to originate in him, and to be self-derived. Man calls it his own; he uses it as his own, and it is his own to all intents and purposes, though momentarily derived from the Lord.
And the Lord desires to have man use life as his own. This is according to the very nature of His love. He desires to give all His own to others, not as a loan, not to place them under any obligation to Him, not for His glory, but to be their own in the fullest manner possible. He does not wish to make man a slave or a vassal, to cringe and fawn and feel mean and destitute. He wants him to be free, to know and feel that he is free.
Therefore the forces by which man is created and the consciousness of life and freedom are communicated to him come from the Lord by a way of which he has no consciousness. He is created by the Lord and endowed with life by Him, and this life comes to him by such secret paths that he has no perception in himself of its origin, and, therefore, he can use it with the same freedom as he could if it were self-derived.
Having created man and made him capable of loving and knowing, the Lord comes to him in another way and offers him love and truth, and seeks conjunction with him. He seeks to be so united with him that man's will will act in perfect harmony with the Divine will, and his understanding with the Divine wisdom. The Lord seeks conjunction with man as a spiritual being in the same manner that He seeks conjunction with him as a material being. No man creates his own eyes. The Lord creates the eye and then fills it with light. So man has no agency in the first instance in creating his understanding. The Lord creates it and then fills it with light. Man can shut his eyes against the light, and he can destroy them, if he chooses. The Lord does not compel a man to see. He only gives him the power to do it. So man can close his understanding against the truth, or he can so pervert what he receives that his power of receiving the truth is destroyed. The Lord gives man the power to see the truth, but He does not compel him to see it. In the same manner the Lord has given man the power to receive His love, but He does not compel him to do it. He gives him the power to receive it or to reject it in freedom. Man is not, therefore, a passive recipient of the Divine life. There is a mutual approach, a reciprocal relation. The Lord offers man His love, and man can voluntarily receive it and love the Lord in return; and when this is done there is conjunction, union. There is a marriage. The Lord betroths man unto Him in righteousness. The union is of the same nature as that which takes place between husband and wife when the marriage is real, and not merely formal. The Lord gains a real hold upon man. It is not formal. It is not legal, but real. It is as real a hold as the magnet has upon the iron, as the sun has upon the earth, and as the earth itself has upon all the objects upon it. According to the degree of this power the Lord can draw man towards Himself and pour new life into him. He can protect him from the danger of evil and falsity, and fill his mind with light and peace. This is the heavenly marriage.
We must think more closely of the union between the Lord and the soul of man, to see what elements in the Lord and in man make possible this intimate relation, and why it is truly called a marriage.
The two essential elements of the Divine nature are love and wisdom, and they are the two essential elements of man's nature. In the Lord these two are perfectly united. They are one mutually and reciprocally. There is no excess of one element over the other, and they go forth hand in hand in the creation and become embodied in it. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, that he might receive love and wisdom from Him, with their blessedness. Man's will was formed to receive the Divine love, and his understanding the Divine wisdom. When they were received in true order, there was the same union between man's will and understanding that there is between the Divine love and wisdom in the Lord. There was no excess of one over the other. They were married. Man could not think of anything which he did not love; whatever he loved, his love caused him to perceive and understand. As this love and wisdom came from the Lord and were received by man in their true form and order, they conjoined man to the Lord at the same time that they conjoined the will to the understanding in man. Truth or wisdom is the form of love, and they have a mutual affinity for each other. So long, therefore, as man received the Divine love and wisdom in their unperverted forms from the Lord, he was drawn by them to the Lord. Everything in man's nature responded to the Divine nature. He was drawn to the Lord by the love he received from Him. He was conjoined to Him; he was one with Him. There were no points of disagreement or opposition or difference in kind. Man was indeed finite and the Lord was infinite. But so far as man had any life, any affection or thought, so far as he was capable of any action, he was in perfect union with the Lord. The Divine life flowed into him, and every organic form in his will and in his understanding, from the highest to the lowest, vibrated in harmony with the inflowing life. There was no jar or discord in his whole nature. Every thought was the form of an affection, and every affection embodied itself in some perfect form. The Divine love and wisdom reached every faculty in man, penetrated it, enfolded it within and without, filled the intellect with light and the affections with love, and bound them together in heavenly union. Man's whole nature was a married land. Man was at one with the Lord. He was united to Him as the branch to the vine, and the Lord filled his whole being from center to circumference with ineffable peace and blessedness. When the Bridegroom came, and in every form and state in which He came, man was ready, and went in with Him to the marriage.
But man fell from this state of perfection and union, and became divorced from the Lord. This conjoining love was lost, and his only connection with the Lord was by lower, more general, and circuitous paths. The higher planes of his being which were the seat of this specific conjoining love were closed. There was no conscious life in them, that reciprocated the Divine life. The Lord did not change. He did not turn away or withdraw from man. Man changed. He turned away from the Lord, and closed his mind against Him, as he closes his eyes to the light. Then, also, his will became divorced from his understanding, and the elements of his nature rose in conflict with each other. He lost this perception of truth; his whole nature became perverted and darkened. He became spiritually blind, lame, deaf, and dumb, and every spiritual faculty was paralytic. This was the condition of humanity when our Lord came into the world, and to a great extent it is the condition of humanity to-day.
. The Lord came to restore these severed relations with man, that He might give His own to man, and again live in him and be conjoined to him. He came to make an atonement, an atonement, the nature of which has been strangely mistaken by man. He came to make man again at one with Him by reopening his disused and paralyzed faculties. He came to renew the marriage bond. For this reason the kingdom of heaven is compared to a marriage. The Lord sends out His servants everywhere to invite men to the wedding, that it may be furnished with guests. He came into the world that men might have life, that they might dwell in Him, and He in them.
This marriage is effected according to the laws of the Divine order. Let us see how this is. Marriage in the Lord takes place between the Divine love and the Divine wisdom. The true marriage in man takes place between the will and the understanding; and, universally, spiritual marriage is effected between love and wisdom, or goodness and truth. Marriage between the Lord and man must be a union of truth with love. If there is no truth in the understanding, there is nothing in man to receive the Divine love and to be conjoined with it. There is nothing for the Divine love to grasp. The Lord can no more be conjoined to man while he is in evil and falsity than He can be united to a dead body or to a stone in the street. There is nothing to react to His love. There must be something inserted into man's mind or nature with which the Divine love can be united, and that is the Divine truth. Truth is the form of love, as thought is the form of affection. When, therefore, the Divine truth has been received into the understanding and become a part of man's being, there is something in him that can receive the Lord's love and reciprocate it. So the Lord finds a lodgment in the human soul by the truth implanted there, and the reunion between man and the Lord begins to be effected. It is feeble at first. The soul is bound to the Lord only by a single thread. It will bear but a little strain, and the Lord adjusts His power to its strength. But when the communication is opened the Lord increases and enlarges it. He sends His messages of love and life along the electric chain of the Divine truths, and excites man to learn more truths, and so the bond grows. We discern evils and falsities in our nature which hinder the reception of the Divine love, and we put them away, just as we put away those habits of thought and life which impede our union with those we love. As we put them away we make room for larger measures of the Lord's love, and we begin to reciprocate it more fully. We begin to love the Lord, to lift up our thoughts and affections to Him. Our love may be feeble, and our light dim, and our thought vague. But they increase in power and scope. We become united with the Lord as His love becomes united with His truth in our lives. This is what the Lord has always desired and labored for. The Lord always says to us, "All mine are thine," to the extent of our ability to receive. And we begin to say, feebly, hesitatingly, and with many lingering looks, perhaps, to the flesh-pots of Egypt, " Some of mine are thine," and as the marriage bond grows, " More of mine are thine;" and finally we can say, "All mine are thine." Then the marriage is consummated. The bride hath made herself ready.
Every genuine marriage between man and woman is a gradual process. The husband and wife grow towards each other. The woman becomes more and more a wife, and the man more and more a husband. Obstructions to their more interior and complete union are being continually put away, and new bonds are forming, and old ones are strengthening, and each desires to become more fully and unreservedly the other's. This is a beautiful and perfect picture of the soul's marriage with the Lord; the processes are the same, for all marriage love is a finite form of the Lord's infinite love.
We may now be able to see why the church is the Lord's bride; for only those can receive the Lord's love who have some true knowledge of the Lord, and who try to live according to the truth which they possess. These are guests who wear the wedding garment; they are wise virgins with oil in their vessels, and enter in with the Lord to the heavenly marriage. By the church, which is the bride, we are not to understand all who belong to the visible communion, but all who have that knowledge of the Lord, and that love for Him, of whatever name or creed, which constitute the true marriage bond. This bond is not formed by a creed, though a true creed may assist in its formation. It is not formed by excitement or passion. It can be formed only by learning what the Lord is, and loving Him for what He is; by loving holiness, purity, innocence, and by trying in a finite degree to become perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. It is formed by learning the Lord's truth and doing it, till the Lord's love flows in and becomes our very life.
As we continue faithfully in this. way of life, learning the truth and doing it till we love to do it, the conjoining bond between us and the Lord grows stronger. The Lord draws nearer to us and we draw nearer to Him. He communicates His life more fully, and in more interior streams, and we reciprocate that life more ardently. As we draw nearer to Him we see more of the infinite glory and beauty of the Divine truth, and our whole being glows with an intenser and more blessed life. And this approximation will go on to eternity. Every obstruction will be removed, every intellectual faculty will glow with Divine light, and our whole soul will beat as with a thousand hearts.
It is no figure of speech, therefore, to be explained away and understood in some vague and remote sense, that the bond of union between the soul and the Lord is a marriage. On the contrary, it is the highest form of marriage. It is more real, substantial, intimate, and fruitful in blessedness than any union between man and woman can be. Exalt your conceptions of the innocence, the purity, the perfection, the blessedness of marriage between the most exalted beings who are the complements of each other, and you still can form no adequate idea of what the union may be, nay, must be, in the coming eternity, between the man of the church and the Lord.
There is something in every human soul which leads it to
aspire after communion and union with some other soul. How fortunate the
man and the woman who find, in each other those qualities which satisfy
the wants of the soul ! How many terrible mistakes are constantly made !
How many natures are brought together by some illusion, which are utterly
repellent ! How many obstructions there are to the union of concordant
minds ! But there is a marriage which we can all attain, in which there
can be no failure and no mistake; a marriage whose bonds will be as
enduring as the eternal Lord; a marriage in which the soul will find every
want satisfied, every aspiration attained. We can all find a Husband to
whom we can pour out our inmost souls; we can find perfect understanding,
perfect sympathy, perfect patience, and an excellence, a strength, a
beauty, a glory, a majesty, and an infinite love which we can respect,
reverence, and adore. We can throw ourselves into His arms, rest upon His
strength, and forever grow closer and closer to His infinite heart. That
Husband is the Lord Jesus Christ.