(AC) - A Disclosure of the Hidden Treasures of Heaven Contained in the Holy Scripture or Word of the Lord, Together with Amazing Things Seen in the World of Spirits and in the Heaven of Angels

AC 10177

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10177. And thou shalt make an altar for the burning of incense. That this signifies a representative of the grateful hearing and reception by the Lord of all things of worship from love and charity, is evident from the signification of the "altar for burning incense," as being a representative of such things of worship as are uplifted to the Lord; that these are from love and charity will be plain in what follows. By the "altar" is signified the same as by that which is upon it, because the altar is the containant, and that which is upon it is the thing contained; and the containant and the thing contained make a one; as do a table and the bread which is upon it; and a cup and the wine which is in it.
[2] The reason why an altar was made for burning incense, and not a table, was because among the Israelitish nation altars were the principal representatives of worship from love, for there was fire upon them, and by "fire" is signified love and charity, from which is the worship. (That altars were the principal representatives of worship, see n. 4192, 4541, 8623, 8935, 8940, 9714.)
[3] That the altar of incense represented the hearing and reception of all things of the worship which is from love and charity, was because by smoke, and consequently by fumigation, was signified that which is lifted on high; and by the odor of the smoke was signified that which is grateful, consequently that which is heard and received by the Lord; and that alone is grateful, and is received by the Lord, which is from love and charity; and for this reason that altar was covered over with gold, and was called "the golden altar," because "gold" signifies the good of love and of charity (see the places cited in n. 9874, 9881).
[4] The reason why that alone is grateful, and is therefore heard and received by the Lord, which is from love and charity, is because love makes the whole man, for every man is such as is his love. From this it is that the angels in the heavens are loves and charities in form; the very form they have is from this the human form, because in respect to the Divine Human, the Lord, who is in them and forms them, is the Divine love itself. From this it is that their quality in respect to love is clearly perceived from their faces, their speech, their gestures, and especially from the spheres of the affections which flow forth from them to a distance.
[5] And because love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor are from the Lord, and because love is spiritual conjunction, therefore whatever proceeds from this source is heard and received by the Lord. Whereas the holiness and piety that are not from this source are indeed heard, but are not gratefully received, for they are a hypocritical holiness and piety, because they are a mere external without an internal; and a holy external without an internal penetrates no further than to the first threshold of heaven, and is there dispersed. Whereas a holy external from a holy internal penetrates even into heaven, according to the quality of the internal, thus to the Lord. For a holy external without an internal is merely from the mouth and the gestures, whereas a holy external from an internal is at the same time from the heart. (Concerning the latter and the former holiness, see what was said and shown in n. 8252-8257.)
[6] In the Tent without the veil was the table on which were the breads of faces, also the lampstand with the lamps, and the altar of incense; by the breads of faces was represented love to the Lord; by the lamps of the lampstand, charity and faith; and by the incense upon the altar, the worship from these, and therefore it was burned every morning and every evening when the lamps were prepared. From this also it is evident that by "burning incense" was represented the worship of the Lord from love and charity; and by the Tent itself in which it took place, was represented heaven, where all worship is of this nature. (That the breads represented celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord, see n. 9545; that the lampstand represented spiritual good, which is the good of charity toward the neighbor and the good of faith, n. 9548-9561; and that the Tent represented heaven, n. 9457, 9481, 9485, 9784, 9963.)
[7] When worship is spoken of, that holiness is meant which is effected by means of prayers, adorations, confessions, and the like, that proceed from the internals which are of love and charity. These are the acts of worship which are meant by "burning incense," as can be seen from the following passages:
Accepted are my prayers as incense before Thee (Ps. 141:2).
The four animals, and the twenty-four elders, fell down before the Lamb, having everyone harps, and golden vials full of incensings, which are the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8).
An angel came having a golden censer, and there were given unto him many incensings, that he should offer them with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar that was before the throne. And the smoke of the incensings went up from the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:3, 4).
[8] As by "incense" was signified worship and its elevation, thus hearing and reception by the Lord, therefore it was commanded by Moses that "they should take incense boxes with frankincense and burn it before Jehovah, that from this they might know whom Jehovah would choose, thus whom He would hear" (Num. 16:1, and following verses); and when the people murmured, "Aaron ran into the midst of the congregation with incense, when the plague had begun, and thus stayed it" (Num. 16:44-49). In Malachi:
From the rising of the sun even unto its going down, the name of Jehovah shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a clean meat-offering (Mal. 1:11);
"a clean meat-offering" is added, because by it is signified the good of love (n. 10137). In Moses:
The sons of Levi shall teach Jacob Thy judgments, and Israel Thy law; they shall put incense in Thy nose, and a burnt-offering upon Thine altar (Deut. 33:10);
it is said, "shall put incense in Thy nose" because by the "nostrils" is signified perception (n. 4624-4634); a "burnt-offering" is here added because by it also is signified that which is from the good of love.
[9] But in the opposite sense by "burning incense" is signified worship from contrary loves, which are the loves of self and of the world; as by "burning incense to other gods" (Jer. 1:16; 44:3, 5); by "burning incense to idols" (Ezek. 8:11; 16:18); and by "burning incense to the baals" (Hosea 2:13).
[10] As the "burnings of incense" signified such things as are raised upward and are accepted by the Divine, therefore they were employed by the Gentiles also in their religious ceremonials. That frankincense, censers, and incense boxes were in use among the Romans and among other nations is known from history. A religious ceremonial of this kind was derived from the Ancient Church, which was spread through many regions of Asia; as through Syria, Arabia, Babylon, Egypt, and Canaan. This church had been a representative church, thus consisting in external things that represented internal ones, which are celestial and spiritual; and from this church many religious ceremonials were carried over to the nations round about, and among these the burning of incense, and from them through Greece into Italy; and in like manner the perpetual fires, for guarding which chaste virgins were appointed, whom they called vestals.
[11] The offerings of incense in the Ancient Church, and from this in the Israelitish, were prepared from fragrant substances, such as stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense; for the reason that odor signified perception, and a fragrant odor a grateful perception (n. 925, 1514, 1517-1519, 3577, 4624-4634, 4748, 10054). But frankincense in particular signifies the truth of faith, and therefore when "frankincense" is mentioned in the Word, there is joined with it "oil," "bread," a "meat-offering," or "gold," by all of which is signified the good of love; as in Isaiah:
All they from Sheba shall come, they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah (Isa. 60:6).
In like manner those who came from the east, of whom it is written in Matthew,
There came wise men from the east, seeking the Lord just then born, and opening their treasures they offered gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:1, 2, 11).
(That those who were from the east and were called "sons of the east," in the Word signify those who were in the knowledges of good and truth, see n. 3249, 3762; in like manner "Sheba," n. 1171, 3240; that "gold" signifies the good of love, see the places cited in n. 9874, 9881.)
[12] In Jeremiah:
They shall bring a burnt-offering and sacrifice, and a meat-offering and frankincense (Jer. 17:26).
By "a meat-offering" is likewise signified the good of love (n. 9992, 10137). From this it is evident that by "frankincense" in the Word is signified the truth which is of faith; for in the Word, where good is spoken of, truth also is spoken of, on account of the heavenly marriage which is that of good and truth in every detail therein (see the places cited in n. 9263, 9314). For this reason also "upon the meat-offering there was oil, and also frankincense" (Lev. 2:1, 2, 15); but not upon the meat-offering which was for sin (Lev. 5:11); nor upon the meat-offering of jealousy (Num. 5:15). The reason why there was no oil or frankincense on these meat-offerings, was because they were given as an expiation from evils, and so long as a man is in expiation he cannot receive the good of love and the truth of faith, because the evils stand in the way; but it is otherwise after expiation, or the removal of the evils.
[13] As the good of love is not possible except together with the truth of faith (for good produces truth, and in truth procures for itself its quality, and forms itself), therefore it was that "upon every meat-offering there was frankincense," and also "upon the breads of faces" which were upon the table in the Tent of meeting (Lev. 24:7); for "breads" signified the good of love (n. 3478, 3813, 4211, 4217, 4735, 4976, 8410, 9323, 9545, 10040, 10137).


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