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


Lesson 21

Topical and Doctrinal Notes

Leading Thought: Seas

Today's story is about the sea or the lake of Gennesaret. The disciples had sailed ahead of the Lord toward the country of Gennesaret, which is on the western shore of the lake. The Lord remained behind to send away the multitude whom He had fed with loaves and fishes, and then to pray. Then He walked on the sea to overtake the disciples. When Peter saw and heard Who was coming, he started to meet Him on the water, but began to sink because he had not confidence.

We often read about Lake Gennesaret. It was on this lake that the disciples had their boats, and where they fished, both before and after they were called by the Lord. It was here, in a boat belonging to Simon Peter, that the Lord sat and taught the multitudes that had gathered on the shore. It was on this lake that the Lord and His disciples sailed to the eastern shore, to the country of the Gergesenes, when He fell asleep, in the stern of the boat, and a storm came up, and the disciples, afraid of becoming shipwrecked, and drowning, awoke the Lord, and He calmed the sea.

In the Old Testament we often read of seas and the fishes in them. Some of the seas spoken of by the prophets in the Old Testament, and by John in the Revelation, were in the spiritual world.

We must learn about the seas in the spiritual world, for then we shall be better able to understand why we are told so much about seas in the holy Word.

Of course, children, you know that the spiritual world, where angels and spirits are, looks just like the natural world where men are; that is to say, there are mountains, hills, lands and seas there. And these are inhabited. The angels who are in the third or inmost heaven live upon mountains; those who are in the second or middle heaven live upon hills; and those who are in the first or lowest heaven live upon the earth and are under the earth, and in the seas. The air on the mountains is the purest and most refined; the air on the hills is less pure and refined, and the air on and under the earth, least pure. The seas look like seas to those who are above them. In reality it is the heavy watery atmosphere in those parts of the spiritual world, that makes them look like seas; but the water looks very pure and light, with beautiful, gently splashing waves. There are other seas the waters of which are heavy and gross and dark, with heavy billows and a destructive surf. These belong to hell, they being evil-disposed people that live there. These are the seas that become tumultuous and stormy and threaten to destroy ships and people.

The reason why the angels of the lowest heaven live in seas, or in very watery atmosphere, is that, although they are good, they are natural-minded, rather than spiritual-minded. They are such people as, in the world, when they had the chance to learn what the internal sense of the Word teaches, did not understand it, but cared only for such truths as are taught by the literal sense of the Word. The literal sense teaches us very important truths, truths without which no one can go to heaven, but they do not go into particulars. It is just as if in geography we cared to learn only that there are several continents, and these divided into countries with cities big and little, with mountains and plains and rivers, and the like, and as if we were satisfied with that, and did not care to learn about what the people are like, what they raise out of the ground, what grows on the mountains, what is in the mines, what they manufacture, what they say and think, and many, many other details.

So the literal sense of the Word teaches about the Lord God, that He is one, that He created the world, that He came into the world and taught and healed men and performed miracles, and instructed them about the kingdom of God, and the law of love, and about His taking them into heaven to Himself, when they die. But the internal sense tells us many things about the Lord Himself; how He created the world, and why; how He came into the world; what He thought and did when a child, and when growing up, and when a man; what goes on in the minds of men, and how the Lord leads them to think and love during their whole life; what heaven really is like; what the angels do; and many other particulars.

So the literal sense teaches us "general truths." People who like only general truths are called "natural," or "sensual." But those who love the particular truths of the internal sense are called "spiritual" and "celestial."

Swedenborg tells us that there is an immense number of angels in the seas of the spiritual world, because so many are sensual. The watery atmosphere does not appear to them like water, but like the air which they breathed when they were in the natural world.

Such people, because they do not know the particulars about the Lord Jesus Christ and His birth in the world, and His great work of redeeming and saving men, and about the nature of heavenly life, and the work the angels do, are not clear in their religious views. They do not understand the truths of the Word clearly, but are somewhat in the dark.

They are just as we are on days when much water is in the air, and we are surrounded by mists and by fogs, and it gets so dark that we have to light our lamps. Then the trains run more slowly. Motorists and bicyclists are afraid to speed; and even people on foot are uncertain as to their way. People lose confidence. The engineer or motorman is not sure but that he may run into another train. But when people can see the road clearly, then they go ahead with great confidence.

That is the way it is with the angels of the higher heavens. Their atmosphere is so clear that they can see great distances, and so they go very quickly and safely from place to place, and attend to their work with confidence. But those in the lowest heaven, especially those in the seas, are apt to hesitate and waver. They are not quite sure of their ground. They lack confidence.

Now, the Lord walked on the sea to represent and show that He is present with all angels and men, even with those who are in the lower and the lowest heaven. To walk means to live. His walking on the sea shows that His life comes even to those who dwell in the seas in the spiritual world. But the lack of confidence, the dark and obscure and uncertain and wavering faith and belief of those who live there, is represented by Peter's walking on the sea just before daybreak, and beginning to sink; but being saved when the Lord took hold of him.

What a comforting lesson this is! No matter how much men may be in the dark concerning truth, if they will only go to the Lord and take hold of Him, that is, trust absolutely that He will give them the thoughts and affections and life needed, that He watches over them and cares for them, and saves them, then all is well. He is present everywhere and always. Let men pray to Him, have confidence in Him, and strive to do His will.

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