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And straightway Jesus constrained His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away, etc.
Q. WHAT do you understand here by Jesus constraining His disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him to the other side?
A. According to the sense of the letter, by these words is meant what is literally expressed; but according to the spiritual sense, they imply a requirement of the divine order, that the members of the church should acquire the knowledges of good and of truth, and should thus change their state in regard to spiritual life; for by the disciples, are here meant the members of the church; and by Jesus constraining them, is meant the requirement of divine order; and by getting into a ship, is spiritually to be understood the acquirement of the knowledges of good and truth, such knowledges being signified and represented by a ship, agreeable to what was shown in the explanation of a former miracle, (Matt. 8:23-28); and by going before him to the other side, is to be understood a change of spiritual state, or a passage from knowledge to the life of knowledge.
Q. And what do you understand by the words which immediately follow, where it is written, while He sent the multitudes away?
A. In the original Greek, the term here rendered sent away, is derived from the verb apoluo, which more properly signifies to loosen or to set at liberty; and which therefore, when interpreted according to its spiritual signification, denotes that the blessed Jesus, after feeding the multitudes with the goods and truths of His holy word, left them at liberty to act and live in agreement, or otherwise, with the heavenly instruction they had received: And that the term was intended to suggest such a spiritual idea, is further confirmed by this circumstance, that the Evangelist Saint Mark, in recording this same miracle (Mark 6:45, 46), applies two distinct expressions in the original Greek, which are yet considered as one and the same in the English translation. For in the original Greek, the term apoluo is applied to express the sending away the people, at verse 45, whereas in the next verse 46, the term apotasso is applied, which evidently means, not sending away the people, as it is rendered by the English translation, but arranging them, or putting them in their proper places; thus, according to the spiritual sense, denoting the orderly arrangement of truths, when each takes its proper place in the regenerate mind. This therefore appears to be the reason why this circumstance respecting the multitude is recorded, otherwise it is difficult to conceive, if nothing more was meant than sending away the multitudes, how an event so seemingly insignificant should find a place in the divine history.
Q. But it is further written, that when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain to pray; and when the evening was come, He was there alone — what do you here understand by the blessed Jesus going up into a mountain to pray?
A. These words, like all other parts of the divine history, have both a literal and spiritual signification; and according to the former, they literally mean that Jesus went up into a mountain to pray, etc. but according to the latter, their meaning is, that the blessed Jesus opened His humanity to a fuller and closer communication with the divinity in Himself; for by a mountain is figured and represented the divine love; agreeable to which idea mention is made in the holy word of the mountain of the lord of hosts, denoting the divine love of jehovah, or the eternal father; and it is called also the mountain of the lord's house, which, according to the language of prophecy, was to be established at the top of the mountains, (Isa. 2:2), denoting the exaltation of the divine love over every inferior love, which was to take place under the gospel dispensation. By praying then on this mountain, is to be understood an opening of the interiors of the mind of the blessed Jesus to the reception of the divine love, or what is the same thing, of jehovah in Himself; for prayer properly understood is nothing else but an opening of the interiors; in the case of man, an opening to what is spiritual and celestial; but in the case of the lord, to what is divine, or to the eternal father.
Q. And what do you further understand by the words which follow, that when the evening was come He was there alone?
A. By the evening coming, is to be understood the last state of the church, when there was no longer any good or any truth remaining in it; and by Jesus being alone at this time, was intended to be expressed His union with His father, or the union of the humanity with the divinity from which it came forth, agreeable to His own declaration in another place, where He says, Behold, the hour comes, yea, is now come, that you shall be scattered every one to his own, and shall leave me alone, and yet I am not alone, because the father is with me. (John 16:32).
Q. But it is written that the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was contrary—what do you understand by these words?
A. By the ship here spoken of, it has already been shown, are to be understood the knowledges of what is good and true derived from the word of god; and by the sea is here spiritually signified the scientific principle of the natural man, not yet obedient to those knowledges. By the ship therefore being in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves, is to be further understood the agitation and disturbance excited in the natural man by the knowledges of goodness and truth imparted to the spiritual man, by reason of the contrariety between those knowledges and the affections prevailing in the natural mind. By the wind being contrary, is therefore further signified this opposition between heavenly knowledge and natural love; for by wind, according to the spiritual idea, is to be understood spiritual influence, in the present case infernal influence, because it is said to be contrary to the purposes of those who were principled in heavenly knowledges.
Q. And what do you conceive to be implied in what next follows, where it is said that in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went to them walking on the sea?
A. By the fourth watch of the night is meant the time immediately preceding morning, and by morning is signified, according to the spiritual idea, the time of the lord's Advent, or of a new dispensation of heavenly truth for the restoration of the church. It is therefore said, that at this time Jesus went unto them, that is to say, went to His disciples, denoting His divine presence and influence in His new church; and He is further described as walking on the sea, to denote His absolute rule over, and control of, all the disturbances of the natural man or mind.
Q. But it is said, that when the disciples saw him walking on the seat they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit: and they cried out for fear— how do you understand these words?
A. According to the sense of the letter, they are descriptive of the alarm of the disciples, at seeing their Divine Master walking on the sea; but according to the spiritual sense of the history, they represent the perturbation of mind, which hath place with all those, who are principled in the knowledges of what is good and true, but are not yet in the life of those knowledges, which is the life of love and charity. For when persons of this description begin to be made sensible in their own minds of the nearness of the Divine Presence, and of its omnipotence in controlling the boisterous passions and unruly affections of the natural man, they are immediately struck with a secret awe and terror, at observing the god of heaven and the powers of the world to come, so near at hand, whom they had been accustomed to view as at so great a distance. Under these circumstances therefore, like the disciples in the ship, they are troubled, and say, It is a spirit; and they cry out for fear, not aware that what appears to them as a mere phantom, which has no purpose but to create alarm, is in deed and truth the dawning of eternal life, the manifestation of the kingdom and glory of the incarnate god, thus the rising of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings, to be an everlasting Guide, Comforter, Protector, and Saviour.
Q. What then do you understand by the words which follow, where it is written, Straightway Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid?
A. According to the sense of the letter, these words describe the consolation communicated to the troubled disciples by the audible voice of their Divine Master, assuring them that their fears were groundless, for that it was He Himself; but according to the spiritual sense of the history, as it applies to the regeneration of man, the words are expressive of a divine influx into the minds of those who are principled in the knowledges of what is good and true, but not yet in the life of those knowledges, instructing them that their alarms about the nearness of the Divine Presence and omnipotence are unfounded. By the expression therefore, Be of good cheer, is to be understood an influx of divine confidence; and by the additional expression, It is I, or, as it is written in the original, I am, is to be understood a manifestation of the sole and supreme divinity of the blessed Jesus, and of his divine power over all the turbulence of human passions; and lastly, by the concluding words, Be not afraid, is to be understood a communication of divine strength, dispelling all the fears and disquietudes, to which the natural mind is ever subject, when separated from the spiritual, and thus from the life of heavenly love and charity.
Q. But it is written afterwards, that Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be You, bid me come to You on the water — what instruction do you learn from these words?
A. By Peter, according to the spiritual idea, is here to be understood the faith of the church, and especially that faith which acknowledges the divinity of the great saviour, agreeable to what was shown in treating of the miracle of Peter's wife's mother being cured of her fever, (Matt. viii. 14, 15). By Peter therefore answering, and saying, Lord, if it be You, bid me come to You on the water, is to be further understood a divine impulse imparted to that faith by which it was led to acknowledge, in the first place the divinity of the great saviour, as expressed by the significant appellation, lord; and in the next place was prompted to seek a closer conjunction with the incarnate god, in the exercise of that omnipotence, by which He controlled all the lower principles of the natural mind, together with the infernal powers with which they were connected, signified by the words. If it be You, bid me come to you on the water.
Q. And what do you understand by the words which immediately follow, where it is written, And He said, Come; and when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus; but when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, lord, save me?
A. By the blessed Jesus saying, Come, is to be understood the invitation of the divine love and mercy, not only to Peter, but likewise to all believers, to enter into the closest state of conjunction with the divine omnipotence, especially in its control over the lower principles of the natural man. And by Peter coming down out of the ship, and walking on the water, to go to Jesus, is to be understood compliance with that invitation; and by his further being afraid, and beginning to sink, and crying, lord, save me, when he saw the wind boisterous, is to be understood his weak and wavering faith, together with the weak and wavering faith of all those, who are principled in the knowledge of holy things, but are not yet advanced far in the life of that knowledge, and who consequently feel alarmed when they hear and feel the boisterous wind of strong temptation.
Q. But it immediately follows, that Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased — what instruction do you learn from these words?
A. I learn first, that the blessed Jesus is ever attentive to the prayer of His children, and immediately supplies all their wants. I learn in the second place, that the supply of the wants of His children is always effected by an exertion of His omnipotence, represented and signified by stretching out His hand. In the third place I am instructed, that omnipotence cannot help or save man, unless it operate on the principles of his life, represented and signified by He caught him, or, as it might be better expressed, laid hold of him. I further learn, that the blessed jesus effects His saving and salutary purposes, in many cases, by wholesome reproof, which leads to serious self-examination about the cause of fear and unbelief, and is signified by Jesus saying to Peter, O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt? And lastly I am instructed, that when the blessed Jesus, together with a right faith, are admitted into the knowledges of what is good and true, immediately tranquillity is restored, the wind of infernal influence ceases to blow, and there is a great calm, signified by the concluding words, that when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
Q. And what do you learn from the concluding words in the history of this miracle, where it is written, that they who were in the ship came and worshiped Him, saying, Of a truth You are the Son of God?
A. According to their plain and obvious sense, these words teach that the divinity of Jesus Christ was again acknowledged by His followers, in consequence of His walking on the sea, and manifesting thus His power of control over the elements of nature; for it is said, that they came and worshiped Him, saying, Of a truth You are the Son of God. But according to the more remote or spiritual idea, I learn from the above words, that the divinity and divine humanity of the great saviour were on this occasion acknowledged, and this by reason of the control which He exercised over the passions, the disturbances, the alarms, and the unbelief of the natural man or mind. For by Jesus walking on the sea, and supporting the wavering faith of Peter, this control is figured and represented, whilst by the worship which was paid, and by the confession, Of a truth You are the Son of God, is manifestly described the acknowledgement, not only of His divinity, but also of His divine humanity, according to which latter signification, He was emphatically called the son of god. It is however well to be considered, that this acknowledgment was made by those who were in the ship, to instruct us in the necessity of acquiring knowledges of what is good and true from the word of god, before such acknowledgement can be made; for by a ship, as was shown above, are signified such knowledges.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this miracle?
A. I learn in the first place, from the letter of the history, an additional proof of the divinity of Jesus Christ, confirmed by His walking on the sea, and calming its disturbed waters. I learn further, from the spiritual sense of the history, the great necessity of acquiring the knowledges of what is good and true from the word of god, which necessity is made known by Jesus constraining His disciples to go into a ship. I learn again the usual effect of those knowledges on the impure principles of the natural mind, in exciting disturbance, trial and temptation, ex-pressed in the history by the ship being tossed with waves, for the wind was contrary. But I learn further, to my great consolation, that the blessed Jesus is ever present in the midst of such disturbance, compelling it to make more manifest His fatherly mercy and divine omnipotence. From the example also of the apostle Peter, who, when he saw the wind boisterous, was afraid, I am instructed what the weakness of human faith is, unless supported by and in conjunction with a divine faith; but from the same example also I learn, that all things are possible to him that believes, and that if human faith connect itself with omnipotence, it also can walk on the water, and go to Jesus . Again, I learn that the great redeemer is ever stretching forth the hand of His Divine Omnipotence to succour His children in all their dangers, and to relieve them in all their fears, whilst at the same time He leads them to a diligent exploration of the causes of their alarms, by the friendly expostulation, O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt? Lastly, I observe in the ship, which contained the blessed saviour and His disciples, a figure of the true church, and of every individual of the church, tossed on the boisterous waves of trial and temptation, yet riding in perfect safety and security, under the rule and government of Him, who sits above the water-floods, and remains a King for ever be the earth never so unquiet. I am resolved therefore, through the aid of His divine favour and strength, so to apply myself to the study of the eternal truth, that I may find a place in that figurative ship, and may thus be conveyed, in communion with the blessed Jesus and His disciples, through all the storms and tempests of this lower world, to the haven of eternal rest in that happy world, where there is no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. amen.
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