THE PARABLES of JESUS CHRIST EXPLAINED
BY THE REV. J. CLOWES, M.A.
LATE RECTOR OF ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE, MANCHESTER, AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.
Whoso readeth let him understand.—Matt. xxiv. 15.
A NEW EDITION.
PRINTED AT D. BATTEN’S OFFICE, CLAPHAM COMMON.
THE RICH MAN WHOSE GROUND BROUGHT FORTH PLENTIFULLY
And He spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to store my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I store all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him, You fool, this night, your soul shall be required of you: then whose shall those things be, which you have provided? So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. And He said to His disciples, Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on. Luke 12:16-22
According to the letter of this parable, by ground is to be understood ground, and by a rich man one who abounds in worldly property; and in agreement with this sense, of the words, the Lord condemns the spirit of worldly covetousness. But, according to the spiritual sense of the parable, by ground is not to be understood ground, but the human mind, which is as ground intended for the reception of heavenly seeds, or truths; and by a certain rich man is to be understood one whose understanding abounds in the knowledge of those truths, agreeably to which sense his ground is said to bring forth plentifully.
By the expression, he thought within himself, saying, is meant interior reflection and consideration, which is a species of internal speech, and the source from whence all external speech is derived. Interior thought, therefore, is the most real speech, which, though not heard by men on earth, is plainly heard, and fully understood, by the Lord and His holy angels.
According to the letter, the purpose of this internal speech in the present instance has reference to the man’s want of room where to store his worldly fruits; but, according to the spirit, it has reference to the man’s contracted understanding, which was incapable of comprehending and containing all the appearances of good manifested in his will. For the understanding of man is a kind of repository, in which all the apparent goods and delights of the will are stored up for use and enjoyment. In proportion, therefore, to the fruitfulness of the will, in its apparent goods and delights, is the desire of man to extend the limits of his understanding, by virtue whereof those goods and delights may be fully comprehended, and thus become at once both more sensible and more permanent.
It is added in the next verse, that he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns and build greater; and there will I store all my fruits and my goods.
Saying, in the first instance, has reference, as we have seen, to thought in the man’s understanding; but in the second instance, it has reference to purpose in the man’s will, originating in that thought, so that the Lord would teach us, by this mode of expression, of what vast importance our thoughts are, and how they are ever fructifying either in good or evil, since a good thought is always giving birth to a good purpose; whilst an evil thought is, in like manner, ever productive of an evil purpose.
This same mode of expression occurs in the parable of the unjust steward, who, when accused of wasting his master’s goods, first said within himself, What shall I do? And then, presently, replies to himself, I am resolved what to do; where it is evident that the question, What shall I do? has reference to the man’s thought in his understanding; whilst the answer, I am resolved what to do, has reference to the purpose begotten by such thought in the man’s will.
The words, I will pull down my barns, and build greater, were intended to denote the man’s purpose to extend the sphere of his memory and understanding, which are the spiritual barns intended to be the repositories both of real and apparent goods. For in proportion as a good man extends the sphere of his memory and understanding, in the same proportion he extends also the sphere of the enjoyment, of his real goods; and, in like manner, in proportion us a wicked man extends the sphere of his memory and understanding, he extends also the sphere of the enjoyment of his apparent goods. For without memory and understanding no good, whether it be real, or apparent, can be made sensible to man, and of course, in the degree in which memory and understanding are increased and perfected in man, in the same degree will his sensation of good also be increased and perfected.
It is next said, And there will I store all my fruits and my goods. There is here a distinction between fruits and goods, which was not made in the former verse, where fruits alone are mentioned, for the term fruits relates to the apparent truths in the man’s understanding, whilst the term goods relates to the apparent goods in the man’s will; and the distinction between these fruits and goods in now first made, because the two principles of purpose and thought, or of will and understanding, begin now first to be noted. For the case is, that, both with a wicked man and a good man, the above principles are for a long time confounded and undistinguished, so that the man has no clear and precise views in his own mind of the distinct nature of each principle, but in process of time, as man advances towards maturity, whether in the ways of wickedness, or righteousness, the above principles become more and more distinct, so that the powers and offices of each are seen in the most exact discrimination.
It is further written, I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years, take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
To say to the soul is a form of speech expressive of interior thought, and thus it is demonstrated that in man there are two distinct principles of thought, the one interior, and the other exterior, or the one superior, and the other inferior, and that the man may speak from either of these principles, and either of these principles may speak to the other. Accordingly, in the book of Psalms, we find the Psalmist frequently addressing his own soul, by which is to be understood, in respect to man, the discourse of his external man with his internal, and with respect to the Lord, the discourse of His Human, principle, or Humanity, with his Divine principle, or His Divinity. Thus, by the expression, I will say to my soul, the Lord would teach us the important lesson, that there are in us two distinct principles of thought, the one internal, and the other external, and that each can communicate with the other, and does communicate, as occasion requires.
By the much goods laid up for many years, in a natural or literal sense, is to be understood that the man abounded with a sufficiency of worldly wealth, to satisfy all his wants during his continuance here on earth. But in the internal or spiritual sense of the parable, by much goods laid up for many years is to be understood, that the man had acquired a great store of knowledges in his understanding, which he unhappily mistook for real goods, and which he conceived would be his qualification for the enjoyment of eternal happiness. Therefore, he says, further, to his soul, take your ease, denoting that he was fully satisfied with his knowledges and apparent goods, without considering at all whether his life was in agreement with his knowledges, and whether his apparent goods were real as well as apparent. He adds, further, eat, drink, and be merry, to denote that he thought to appropriate to himself real good and truth, with all their joys, merely because he was in possession of the knowledges, which were intended to conduct, him to such a blessed appropriation.
It is lastly said in the parable, But God said to him, You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you: then whose shall those things be which you have provided.
God’s saying to him, denotes the judgement or decision of the eternal truth, for all judgement comes from truth; and God’s saying to him, you fool, denotes that, according to the judgement or decision of the eternal truth, all folly consists in storing up knowledges of what is good and true in the understanding, without applying those knowledges to the purification and reformation of the life, as was the case with this thoughtless man in the parable. By God saying, this night shall your soul be required of you, is to be understood, that whilst the man was not aware of it, he would be deprived of the heavenly faculty of comprehending truth; for by the night, here spoken of, is meant a state of obscurity, by which all are finally overtaken who imbibe knowledges with eagerness, but neglect the life of knowledge; and by the soul being required, is not meant the separation only of the soul from the body, according to the literal idea suggested by the expression, but the separation or extinction of all heavenly intelligence and wisdom, which properly constitutes the inmost soul of every man who is born into the world. Lastly, by the significant question, Whose shall all those things be which you have provided? is intended to be expressed, the awful judgement, that the knowledges which the man had stored up with so much eagerness in his mind, would all be taken away from him, so as no longer to belong to him, this being the eternal law of the divine order, that all knowledge, which is not formed into man’s life, so as to control his evil affections and corrupt appetites, and to conduct him to the love and enjoyment of the Supreme Good and the Supreme Truth, shall finally cease to be his property, and be given to others, and this with a view even to the man’s well-being, since it is better for every one to be deprived entirely of the knowledge of truth, than to possess it and not live according to it.
In the application of this parable, it is written, So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.
The treasure here spoken of, in the sense of the letter, means worldly wealth and property, but in the spiritual sense, spiritual treasure, consisting in the abundance of knowledges of heavenly truth above spoken of. And by a man laying up this treasure for himself, and not being rich toward God, is meant the misapplication of such treasure, by applying it to the gratification of selfish and worldly love, and thus to earthly ends of life, instead of directing it to the glory of God by the removal of such earthly ends, and by rendering it instrumental in effecting his elevation to heavenly and eternal ends, thus to the promotion of eternal happiness, by effecting conjunction with God in life, and love, and blessedness.
According to the literal sense of the parable, we are taught the important and edifying lesson, to beware of worldly covetousness, and for this purpose to be content with that share of worldly property which a merciful Providence has been pleased to store upon us. And, according to the spiritual or internal sense of the parable, we are taught the still more important and instructive lesson to beware of spiritual covetousness: in other words, to take heed how we covet and store up the treasures of truth and knowledge, with no other view than to gratify our vanity and selfish pride, or to gain worldly honours and pre-eminence, when we ought rather to apply those truths and knowledges to the heavenly purposes for which, by a kind Providence, they were bestowed upon us, namely, to effect our purification from our natural evils, to control our passions and appetites, to open our minds upwards towards God and Heaven, to enable us to love God above all things, and our neighbour as ourselves, and thus, finally, to restore in us the life, the order, the peace, the image, and likeness of our Heavenly Father. Amen.