from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Topical and Doctrinal Notes

Leading Thought: Baptism

We have seen several times that there is a very close connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Indeed, the one is not complete without the other. The interesting story, which tells us that Naaman was healed of his leprosy by washing seven times in the Jordan pursuant to Elisha's command, represented Baptism, which, as you know, was instituted by the Lord in the New Testament. In studying the details of Naaman's story, we learn to understand what Baptism means.

Leprosy is a very loathsome disease. You will find it described fully in Leviticus, chapters thirteen and fourteen. It corresponds to the falsification and profanation of truth. When a person has learned the truth of the Word and so knows what the Lord requires of her, and believes in the truth, and begins to live according to it, and then afterwards lives a bad life, and twists the truth so as to make it sound as if it favored her evil life, this is called profanation. It is worse, far worse, than doing wrong and never believing in the truth. It is just like treason. There is no citizen worse than he who pretends to love his country and, while pretending to be fighting for it, betrays it to the enemy.

As leprosy represents such a profound evil as profanation, it likewise represents evil and falsity of any and every kind. People can be saved from every evil, and this is represented by Naaman’s being cured of leprosy, and it is also represented by Baptism.

Naaman learned that to be healed he must go to the land of Israel and indeed to the prophet of Jehovah there - Elisha. So, in order to be healed of any evil, we must go to the Church of the Lord, and indeed to the Word, for Elisha represented the Word. Then Naaman had to go to the river Jordan and wash seven times. Now the Jordan was one of the boundaries of the land of Canaan; indeed, it was the first boundary which the children of Israel crossed when they entered the land, and therefore it represented the first boundary of the Church.

What does that mean: “the first boundary of the Church”? What is it that we must first come to and pass through before we can be in the Church? Why, we first come to know about it. The first knowledges that we learn about the Lord, about His Word, about heaven. about how we must live, all these knowledges we first come to and pass through before we can be in the Church. Such knowledges are therefore the first boundary of the Church. Besides, the Jordan was a river of water, and water also represents truth. The truth we learn in the letter of the Word, the truths that we learn at home, in Sunday school, and in church, from the Word of the Lord, all these are represented by the waters of the river Jordan.

The way to become cured of bad habits of thought and will and speech and deed is to apply these truths, just as Naaman washed his body in the Jordan, and just as John the Baptist baptized people in the same river, and just as a baby is baptized with water in Church. The Jordan runs in a low bed - the lowest place, except the Dead Sea, in the land of Canaan. And so we generally have the baptismal font in church in the lowest place in the church building - not high up where the altar is, nor where the pulpit is, but on the floor of the church, and sometimes near the door, to show that Baptism represents the entrance into the Church, and that we enter the Church low down, at “the first boundary” by learning to know the truths that the Lord has given on the lowest plane of His Word, the literal sense, and by living according to them.

Naaman was told to wash seven times because the number seven signifies what is full and complete, and also what is holy. The Divine truths which are to clean and purify our souls are holy, and we must use them over and over again, until we are fully and completely clean.

Getting rid of false ideas and of evil desires by applying the Lord's truths to our thoughts and life is called being reformed and regenerated. Do you know why? Because just as our bodies are fashioned or shaped or formed in such a very wonderful way that they can do numberless ingenious things, so our minds are fashioned and shaped and formed (but of spiritual and not material substances) so that they can think and love in numberless ways. If your body is deformed, if you have a stiff finger, or a crippled leg, you cannot do your work well. Indeed, you may do harm. If you are tongue-tied, or have some other imperfection of the organs of speech, you cannot speak beautifully. Your stiff finger may be healed, so may your crippled leg, so may your tongue, by being put back into the orderly form, by being “re-formed.” Now, when we are deformed spiritually, by having done wrong, in disobedience to the Lord, we can be cured, and this healing consists in reforming us by the truth of the Lord. Regeneration - or “rebirth” - has a similar meaning. The Lord said that we must be born again. When a baby is being born, he or she is being formed by the Lord into a human being. So when a person is reborn, he or she is formed by the Lord into an angel. It is a wonderful process, and the Arcana Coelestia and others of the Writings of the Church tell us a great deal about this wonderful process. The angels take the greatest delight in studying this subject, and I know you will also when you are older. Meanwhile, remember that just as people cannot form themselves and cannot bear themselves (the Lord creates and shapes and forms them), so they cannot regenerate themselves, any more than Naaman could heal himself. But Naaman had to do something; he had to go to the Jordan and wash seven times, and then the Lord healed him. So we must do something; we must learn the truths of the Lord's Word, and live obediently and gladly according to them, and then the Lord reforms and regenerates us.

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