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And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him, etc.
Q. WHAT do you understand here by Jesus entering into a ship, and His disciples following him ?
A. By Jesus entering into a ship, and His disciples following him, is to be understood, according to the literal sense of the history, that He and his disciples entered into a natural ship, such as floats on the natural waters of the sea; but according to the spiritual idea, is to be understood that they entered into what is signified and represented by a ship, and this is nothing else but the knowledge of what is good and true, as derived from the holy word, since what a ship is as to its natural use and service, that the knowledge of what is good and true is as to its spiritual use and service.
Q. Can you prove to me, from the authority of the sacred scriptures, that ships have such a spiritual meaning and signification?
A. Yes; it is said in the prophecy of Balaam, in reference to the gospel dispensation, that ships shall come from the coast of Shittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever, (Num. 24:24). where it must be evident to every considerate person, that by ships are not meant ships, but the knowledges of good and truth derived from the word of god, which were to oppose and overturn the reasonings of the natural man, signified by Asshur and Eber, It is written again in the prophet Isaiah, where he is speaking, in like manner of the Lord's Advent, and of its extraordinary effects, that the day of the Lord should be upon all the ships of Tarshish, (Isa. ii. 16). where it is again manifest that by ships cannot be meant ships, but the knowledges of good and truth, and in the opposite sense the knowledges of what is evil and false, which were to be supplanted at the appearing of the incarnate god. To the same purport it is written in the Revelations concerning the destruction of Babylon, or of the corrupt church signified by Babylon, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea, by reason of her costliness! (Rev. 18:19). from which words it is again plain, that by ships are not meant ships, but the doctrinals taught in that corrupt church.
Q. But it is said on this occasion, that there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves — what do you conceive to be meant by the tempest here spoken of, and by the ship being covered with the waves?
A. According to the sense of the letter, by the tempest is to be understood a natural tempest or storm; and by the ship being covered with waves is to be understood the natural effect of that tempest or storm, in covering the ship with the waters of the sea. But, according to the spiritual idea, by a tempest is to be understood a spiritual tempest, which is no other than the agitation and perturbation of the natural man, occasioned by the knowledges of good and truth derived from the word of god, which are here treated of. For in regard to those knowledges, the case is this, that when they are first communicated to the natural man, they disturb him in his natural loves, and thus cause what is called spiritual trial; trouble, or temptation, here called a tempest: and by the ship being covered with the waves is therefore to be understood, that the knowledges of heavenly good and truth were obscured by the agitation and perturbation of the natural man, signified by the waves.
Q. And what do you understand by the words which follow, where it is written; that he was asleep?
A. The sleep here spoken of, according to the spiritual idea, has reference to the state of the natural man, under the agitation and perturbation which is here described. For when the natural man is in such a state, then Jesus appears to be asleep; in other words, His Divine presence is not noted or attended to, being immersed in the distracted affections and thoughts of the natural mind. Sleep therefore, in such case, is ascribed to the blessed Jesus, in like manner as anger and wrath are ascribed to Him, when yet they are only appearances, arising from the evil and false principles which prevail in the mind of man, leading him to suppose that, because he is against god, therefore God is against him. Thus Jesus is said to be asleep, when in reality the sleep appertains only to man, who is pronounced to be asleep, when he thinks naturally, and not spiritually, that is to say, when his understanding is immersed in the things of nature, and not awake to the perception and enjoyment of things spiritual and eternal.
Q. But it is added, that His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, lord, save us; we perish — what do you understand by these words?
A. By the disciples coming to Him is to be understood that their affections were excited towards Him, because every man comes or goes, according to the state of his ruling affection. If therefore that affection be directed towards Jesus Christ, man is then said to come to that great and holy god, as on the other hand, he goes away from that god, whenever his affection grows cold towards Him, by being fixed on inferior objects. And as by coming to Jesus Christ is thus to be understood a state of the ruling affection, so by awaking Him is to be further understood a state of the ruling thought, or a state of the understanding in its elevation upwards towards things spiritual and eternal, agreeable to what was just now observed concerning Jesus being asleep. This state of elevated affection and elevated thought is further described in these words; which the disciples spoke on the occasion, lord, save us; ice perish: for by the prayer, lord, save us, is evidently described a state of elevated affection; and by the additional words, we perish, is as evidently denoted a state of elevated thought, since without such a state it would have been impossible for them to discern the danger and destruction which threatened them.
Q. And what do you conceive to be meant by the words which next follow, where it is written, He says to them, Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?
A. By the interesting question, Why are you fearful? the blessed Jesus intended to lead His disciples to explore in their own minds the cause and origin of fear, that so they might discover that all fear has its source in mere natural affection and thought separate from spiritual affection and thought; and therefore He adds, O you of little faith, by which words He manifestly points out a defect of those spiritual principles. For all faith, properly so called, is the complex of spiritual affection and spiritual thought, since, if spiritual affection be wanting, it is impossible to suppose that there can be any true faith; and in like manner, if spiritual thought be wanting, the principle of faith cannot be supposed to exist. When therefore the blessed Jesus applied the words of censure, O ye of little faith, He manifestly designed to instruct His disciples, and through them all succeeding generations of mankind, that fear is the constant result of the want or weakness of heavenly principles in the human mind, in consequence of which want or weakness the mind is separated from that Divine strength and omnipotence, in which all true courage originates, and is left a prey to all those fears and alarms, which beset the natural mind in such state of separation, by plunging it into a dreadful association with the powers of darkness, of terror, and of dismay.
Q. But it is added, that then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm——what do you understand by these words?
A. By Jesus arising is to be understood, according to the spiritual idea, His exaltation in the minds of His disciples as the supreme good and the supreme truth, for god can never be said to arise in any other sense than this. When therefore the Psalmist says, Let god arise, and let His enemies be scattered, he manifestly prays for such an exaltation of god, that is to say, of His Divine love and wisdom in his own mind and life, by virtue of which he might experience power over all his spiritual enemies. It is accordingly added in the history of this miracle, that when Jesus arose, He rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm, because to rebuke the winds and the sea denotes the exercise of His omnipotence in subduing the infernal influence signified by the wind, and the evils and errors of the natural man signified by the sea, which exercise is to be considered as the result of His arising, in other words, of His being exalted to the supreme place in the affections and thoughts of His disciples. It is therefore to be well understood, that infernal influence, evil and error, can never be removed in man, until the blessed Jesus is first exalted in his mind and life, but that no sooner does such exaltation take place, than presently the wind and the sea are rebuked, and the agitations and perturbations of the natural man give place to the tranquil and composing principles operative from the great redeemer in the spirit of man. Thus, as it is here recorded, there is a great calm, because the great calm here spoken of has relation to the gentle and pacific rule of heavenly principles and persuasions in the human mind on the removal of the contrary principles and persuasions suggested by the powers of darkness, and it is called a great calm, to denote its Divine origin, as having its source in the operation of the Divine mercy and love, for the term great is always applied to denote that operation.
Q. But it is further written, that the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him? — what particular instruction do you learn, from these words?
A. By the men marvelling, I am taught what is the genuine effect on human minds, resulting from the display of the Divine Omnipotence in removing infernal influence in the natural man, and that this effect is the acknowledgement of that omnipotence, or of a Divine power infinitely exceeding all human agency whatever, for to marvel, according to the spiritual idea, is to recognise such a power. It accordingly follows that they said, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him? by which words it is evident, that they began to regard the blessed Jesus as a being more than human, and even as Divine, since no other than a Divine Being can be supposed to exercise control over the winds and sea, and especially over what is signified and represented by the winds and sea, namely, the tempestuous influences of the powers of darkness operating on the disorderly passions and appetites of the natural man. When therefore the men exclaimed, What manner of man is this? it is the same thing as if they had said. This man can be no other than the great and holy god. Thus the first disciples were convinced by this miracle of the Supreme Divinity of their lord and master, and thus too all future disciples may be convinced of the same divinity, whensoever they observe in themselves the turbulence of unruly passions subdued, and in their place the tranquillity, the peace and gentleness restored, which ever flow from the admission of the meek and mild Spirit of the holy Jesus.
Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this miracle?
A. I learn to adore, in the first place, the Divine Agency, by which the almighty has been pleased to manifest His absolute control over the elements of nature; and in the next place to adore the same Divine Agency, as exercised upon the higher elements of human minds. I learn further to trace up that agency to the incarnate god, so as to behold in His divine humanity all the fullness of deity and of omnipotence. I am instructed yet further, by the spiritual sense of this miracle, to look up to that incarnate god for protection under all my spiritual trials and temptations, and especially for deliverance from the winds and waves of my own boisterous passions excited by the destructive influence of the powers of darkness. Lastly, I am taught that in such perturbation and tempests of the natural mind, the blessed Jesus frequently appears to be asleep, and that He can only be awakened by fervent prayer arising from a mind sensible of its danger and of its inability to be its own deliverer. I am resolved therefore now on, in all my spiritual trials and troubles, to apply to and put my whole trust in the holy Jesus, and then I may humbly hope that he will arise, and rebuke the winds and sea, so as to produce a great calm in my disturbed mind. Then too shall I also be led to marvel at the omnipotence of His operations, and to answer the interesting question, What manner of man is this, by the devout and grateful acknowledgment that he is god over all blessed for ever, the alpha and omega, the beginning and the ending of all spiritual life, power, protection, benediction, and salvation; to whom be ascribed all praise, honour and glory, for ever. amen !
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