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And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion towards them, and Pie healed their sick. And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals, etc.
Q. WHAT do you here understand by Jesus going forth, and seeing a great multitude?
A. According to the letter of the history, by Jesus going forth, and seeing a great multitude, is to be understood His going forth as to His personal or bodily presence, and His taking a view of the people who followed Him; but according to the internal or spiritual sense of the history, by Jesus going forth, is to be understood the divine influx of His divine love into His church, thus into the truths and knowledges in which His church was principled; and by seeing a great multitude, is to be further understood the influx of His divine wisdom into those truths and knowledges, to note their several characters and qualities. It therefore follows, that He was moved with compassion towards them, and healed their sick; because to be moved with compassion is an effect of His divine love towards His church or people; and to heal their sick is an effect of His divine wisdom, in removing the false principles and persuasions, which at that time prevailed amongst them.
Q. And what do you further understand by the words which follow, where it is written, that when it was evening, His disciples Game to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals?
A. According to the sense of the letter, the meaning of the above words is so plain, as to require no explanation; but according to the spiritual sense, it may be necessary to explain them. By the evening then here spoken of, is to be understood the last state of the Jewish church, or a state when there was no longer any faith or love prevailing amongst that people; and by the disciples coming to Jesus, saying, This is a desert place, the time is now past, is to be further understood an acknowledgement of that state of the church by those who were principled in the truths of the new or Christian church; for by the disciples are signified those who received the doctrines of this latter church; and by their saying, This is a desert place, the time is now past, is further denoted a perception that there was no longer any desire of heavenly good, or any understanding of heavenly truth remaining; the one being signified by a desert place, and the other by the time is now past. By their adding further, Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals, is further to be understood ignorance on the part of the disciples, who were not as yet fully instructed as to the divine origin of spiritual food, and who therefore supposed that the multitudes might procure it for themselves, in a state of separation from the blessed Jesus ; for by sending the multitudes away, is manifestly denoted such a state of separation; and by their going to the villages to buy themselves victuals, is further to be understood the procuring to themselves spiritual food in that state.
Q. But it is added, that Jesus said to them, They need not depart; give you them to eat — what do you conceive to be the force and meaning of these words?
A. According to the literal sense of the history, these words contain an intimation on the part of the blessed Jesus, that His disciples should provide bodily food forthe multitude; but according to the spiritual sense, they have relation to spiritual food, which is instruction from the holy Word in truth and wisdom, and thus contain an intimation, that that food should be provided by those, who were already instructed in truth and wisdom. For by Jesus saying, according to the spiritual sense, is to be understood a divine dictate; and by saying to them, or to His disciples, is further to be understood a dictate to those of His church, who were already instructed in the goods and truths of His most holy word; and by His adding, they need not depart, is further to be understood the necessity of abiding in the divine presence, in order to receive instruction; and by adding further, give you them to eat, is implied that spiritual food, or spiritual instruction, was to be communicated by the intelligent and wise to those who were in want of intelligence and wisdom.
Q. And how do you understand the words which follow, where it is written, They say to Him, We have here but five loaves and two fishes?
A. According to the sense of the letter, these words imply the impossibility of supplying the bodily wants of the multitude out of so small a store of bodily food; but according to the spiritual sense, in which they relate to the spiritual food of instruction, by saying to Him (Jesus), is to be understood perception of the little good and little truth which then prevailed in the natural man; for by the disciples saying to jesus, is to be understood perception; and by saying, We have here but five loaves and two fishes, is denoted the very small portion of good and of truth, which then prevailed in the natural man or mind; loaves having respect to the principle of good, and fishes to the principle of truth.
Q. But it is added, that He said, Bring them here to me — how do you understand these words?
A. According to the letter of the history, these words mean, that the literal loaves and fishes should be brought to Jesus; but according to the spirit of the history they imply, that what is signified by the loaves and fishes, namely. the goods and truths of the natural man, should be brought to Him; in other words, should be submitted to His divine guidance, government, and blessing. Bring them to me is therefore a divine injunction, ever proceeding from the blessed Jesus, and ever enforcing its weighty obligations on all his children; because it is of the first importance in the great business of regeneration and consequent salvation, that all His children should refer to Him, as the divine giver, every good and every truth of the natural mind or man, that so it may not only receive perpetual increase from his divine benediction, but may also finally be brought to the blessedness of an eternal con, junction with Him.
Q. And what do you understand by the words which follow, where it is written, that He commanded the multitude to sit dozen on the grass, and took the five loaves and two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, and break, and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude?
A. By the multitude, according to the spiritual idea, is to be understood the church, desirous, to be spiritually fed, or to receive instruction; and by Jesus commanding the multitude to sit down on the grass, is to be further understood arrangement according to divine order of the lower principles of the church; for by Jesus commanding is signified divine order; and by sitting down on the grass, is signified arrangement according to that order in the lower principles of the church, as previously necessary to receive instruction, grass denoting those lower principles. It is accordingly written in another place, where this miracle is recorded, that there was much grass in the place, (John 6:10), which is a circumstance too trivial to be mentioned in the Word of the most high god, unless it had involved a spiritual sense and meaning; and what this spiritual sense and meaning is, is manifest in another passage, where the blessed Jesus says, speaking of the growth of spiritual seed in the church, The earth brings forth fruit of herself, first the blade (or grass), then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear, (Mark 4:28), where the blade (or grass) evidently denotes the first reception of truth in the memory, or what may be called scientific truth, which is here the grass on which the multitude were commanded to sit down, since without truth first received in the memory, and rightly arranged there, no spiritual instruction can be received; spiritual instruction, in all cases, having relation to the elevation of scientific truth to its divine source, and to its conjunction with that source.
Q. And what do you understand by Jesus taking the five loaves and the two fishes?
A. By the five loaves and two fishes, it has been already seen, are to be understood the goods and truths of the natural man or mind, about to be initiated into divine truth, and thus to be nourished; and by Jesus therefore taking these loaves and fishes, is to be understood first initiation, when these goods and truths are acknowledged by the understanding to be His and from Him; it is accordingly written in the institution of the sacrament of the holy supper, that Jesus first took bread, and then blessed, and break it; and that when he gave it to His disciples, He said, " Take, eat; this is my body," (Matt. 26:26), denoting that before He can bless the bread, and before His children can eat it, it must first be acknowledged in the understanding to be His, and from Him.
Q. And what do you conceive to be meant by Jesus looking up to heaven?
A. To look up to heaven, according to the sense of the letter, is to direct the eyes of the body upwards towards heaven; but according to the spiritual sense or meaning of the expression, it has reference to the eyes of the mind turned inward into itself, for heaven, we know, is within man, as it is written, The kingdom of god is within you, (Luke 17:21). When this expression, however, is applied to the blessed Jesus, it denotes His looking to the divine principle within Himself, since, as the kingdom of god is in every man, so the Divine Being or Principle was in the blessed Jesus as His inmost life or soul. Moreover, heaven is heaven by virtue of its reception of the divine love and wisdom in close conjunction, and therefore whether we speak of heaven, or of the conjunction of the divine love and wisdom, it is the same thing. Thus, by looking up to heaven, when applied to the blessed Jesus, is represented an internal act of His mind, or of His humanity, elevating itself to a fuller view of, and closer union with the divinity which dwelt in it.
Q. And what do you understand by His blessing and breaking the loaves?
A. By blessing the loaves, is spiritually to be understood the initiation of natural goods into the divine good, and their conjunction with that good, for every thing is called blessed, and is blessed, in proportion as it is so conjoined; and by breaking ike loaves, is again to be understood the conjunction of the natural goods with divine spiritual truth, by virtue whereof natural goods are viewed and distinguished into the particular goods of which they are compounded, and are thus rendered capable of a fuller incorporation into the life and love. For such is the nature of all good, that whilst it is seen in the general only, and not in its particulars, it cannot be so fully admitted into the mind, in like manner as a loaf of bread cannot be admitted into the bodily life for nourishment and support, unless it be first broken into pieces, and afterwards masticated in the mouth of the eater. Hence arises the necessity, in spiritual eating, to conjoin good with truth, or love in the will with wisdom in the understanding, since it is by truth and wisdom alone that any good, or any love, can be properly discriminated and particularized, so as to render it admissible into the spiritual life of man. This, therefore, was the hidden reason why mention is here made of breaking the loaves, and also why the same act is recorded in other passages of the word, as at the institution of the holy supper, (Matt 26:26. Mark 14:22. Luke 22:19). and particularly at the village of Emmaus, where It is written that Jesus was known to the disciples by breaking of bread. (Luke 24:35). For the same reason, the perfume for the use of the Jewish tabernacle, was required to be beaten small or bruised, (Exod. 30:36), bruising having the same signification in regard to perfume, that breaking has in regard to bread. For a similar reason too, the powers and principles of evil are said to be beaten small as the dust before the wind, (Psalm. 18:42), because as good cannot be admitted into the life of man, until it be minutely viewed as to its nature and quality, in like manner evil cannot be expelled from the life of man, until its nature and quality are also distinctly seen, and this by the light of the eternal truth. In the great work, therefore, of man's purification from evil, it is not sufficient for him to confess, in general terms, that he is a sinner, or full of evil, but he ought to enter upon a particular exploration of the distinct marks and characters of evil in himself; in other words, he ought to break and bruise it, otherwise it will remain for ever incorporated in his life's love.
Q. And what instruction do you learn from the words which follow, where it is written, that Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples, and His disciples to the multitude?
A. I am instructed by these words, that the blessed Jesus does not teach truth, or give spiritual food, immediately, but mediately, or by and through His most holy word. For by the disciples are here meant those, who have already admitted into their minds the goods and truths of that word; thus by the disciples are here represented the goods and truths themselves which they have received; whereas, by the multitude are represented those, who are desirous of receiving instruction and the spiritual nourishment which it yields. When therefore it is said, that Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude, it was intended to teach the edifying lesson, that the almighty always employs instruments to effect His saving purposes of instruction and consequent regeneration; and that the instruments which He employs are the goods and truths of His most holy word, and those who teach them; thus that the order still is, for the edification of His church, that He shall give the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude; in other words, that there shall always be mediating instruments, or mediating ministers, between Him and His people.
Q. But it follows, that they did all eat, and were filled; and they took up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets-full — what do you understand by these words?
A. By all eating, is to be understood that all incorporated into their minds and lives the good, which was thus conjoined with the divine good and truth; for by eating, is spiritually signified such incorporation, inasmuch as spiritual eating is nothing else but the reception of the good of heavenly love from Jesus Christ; and this good is received, when natural good, or the good into which man is born, submits itself, and acknowledges its divine parent and nourisher. By being filled, is further signified a full contentment and satisfaction of mind experienced in the reception of the good here spoken of, by virtue of which it is acknowledged, to be enough and all-sufficient to gratify every desire, and supply every want. For such is the nature of the human mind, created for an eternal conjunction of life and love with its heavenly father, that nothing but an infinite good, which is the divine love, can fill and satisfy it; and therefore all finite goods, such as worldly wealth, honours, reputation, pleasure, and the like, however abundant, and however apparently gratifying they may seem, still leave the soul in a state of all that emptiness, of which it is written, He has sent the rich empty away. Nevertheless, these latter and lesser goods have their important uses, and therefore are not to be rejected, whenever they submit themselves to be filled with a higher and an eternal good.
Q. And what do you further understand by taking up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets-full?
A. According to the sense of the letter, by these words is to be understood the miraculous increase of natural food in consequence of the divine presence and blessing; but according to the spiritual idea, the words have relation to spiritual eating, which is instruction in the word of god, and therefore denote the immense increase of spiritual food, when it also receives the divine blessing, and is thus conjoined with its divine source. For in regard to spiritual nourishment, the case is this, that the more a man eats, the more he is made sensible of the infinite stores of divine nourishment provided for him; and thus, contrary to what is true of natural eating, his food grows more abundant, the more he receives. This super-abundance is therefore here represented by the twelve baskets-full of fragments, which are said to be taken up, in other words, to be elevated to conjunction with the divine giver of all food, by the humble and grateful acknowledgment that they are from Him, and His,
Q. And what instruction do you learn from the concluding words, where it is written, And they that had eaten were about five thousand mm, besides women and children?
A. By these words are denoted those of the lord's new church here on earth, who received the truths and goods of His most holy word; men, denoting those who were more principled in truths; women, those who were more in the affection of truth; and children, denoting those who were more principled in innocence. Thus the words taken together have reference to the heavenly marriage of good and of truth, or of love and of wisdom, which constitutes the church. And thus, too, we are further instructed in the important distinction between what are here called men, women, and children; and in the still more important representation of each class of beings, as having reference to the distinct spiritual and celestial principles, which constitute the lord's church and kingdom.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this miracle?
A. I learn, in the first place, to adore the miraculous power of that incarnate god, who, when it pleases Him, can convert spiritual food into natural, as in the case of the manna in the wilderness, and of the loaves and fishes in the present instance. In the next place I learn, from the spiritual sense of the above miracle, many interesting and edifying particulars respecting spiritual food, and its reception in the human mind, being taught:
that all spiritual food is of two kinds, namely. good and truth, or love and wisdom, the one intended for the nourishment of the human will, and the other for the nourishment of the human understanding; the one therefore represented by the loaves, and the other by the fishes.
That before spiritual food can be fully received, there must be a right arrangement in the lower principles of the human mind, signified by the lord commanding the multitude to sit down on the grass.
That before spiritual food can be fully received and incorporated into the life, the divine presence and benediction must be supplicated, and at the same time the understanding must be opened to the light of truth, to enable it to explore and distinguish well the principles of spiritual nourishment, signified by jesus taking the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, and blessing and breaking the loaves,
That spiritual food, which is instruction in the word of god, is not given immediately by Jesus Christ, but mediately, that is to say, by the goods and truths of that word, through the instrumentality of those who teach them, signified by Jesus giving the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
That the food derived from the word of god, is the only food which can fully satisfy an immortal spirit, signified by all eating and being filled.
That in all spiritual eating, there is an immense increase of spiritual food, which increase ought to be devoutly acknowledged to be the result of the divine bounty, signified by taking up the fragments that remained, twelve baskets-full.
That there are three distinct classes of men, who constitute the lord's church and kingdom, and who are therefore carefully to be distinguished from each other, namely, those who receive more of truth in their understandings, those who receive more of the affection of truth in their wills, and those who are in innocence, signified by the five thousand men, besides women and children.
I am resolved, therefore, in reading the word of god, or in receiving spiritual food in any other manner, to attend well to every particular of divine instruction recorded in the history of this miracle; and then may I humbly hope to be fed by my god and saviour, as the multitudes of old were, and thus to find angels' food in every state of life, even the most desolate and desert. And then, too, may I hope further, like the infant church of old, to be filled, in other words, to find a full satisfaction and contentment derived from my food; and also to experience a blessed increase of spiritual nourishment, leading me to a more devout acknowledgement of the divine giver, both of natural and spiritual food, and thus to join in the angelic song, Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing, (Rev. 5:12). amen.
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