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 2

Topical and Doctrinal Notes

Leading Thought: The  Wise Men from the East

You know the story of the wise men from the East. But what perhaps you do not know is where these men came from and how the Lord showed them the star which led them to the place where the Divine Child lay. Indeed no one can answer the question about them unless he has studied the Doctrines of the New Church, for they tell us about this as about everything else in the Holy Word.

Of course you know that the Jews, the people among whom the Lord was born, had been told from time to time, by the prophets, that He would be born, and the name of the place where He would be born. These prophecies were made from time to time during the entire duration of the Jewish Church. Even Moses prophesied about it. Moses was the man through whom the Lord established the Jewish Church, for it was through Moses that the Lord gave the Ten Commandments, and that was the beginning of the writing of the Old Testament.

But before Moses’ time, and even before the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there was a Church, which had a holy Word. We are taught to call that Church "the Ancient Church," and the Word they had, "the Ancient Word." Moses knew about that Ancient Word. He copied the first few chapters of Genesis from it, and also quoted from it elsewhere.

The Ancient Church spread over a number of countries, namely, Syria, Assyria, Arabia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Chaldea, Tyre, Sidon, and elsewhere. The people of that Church loved to study correspondences, that is, they loved to find out what spiritual thing every natural thing corresponded to, and therefore represented. We have occasionally talked about correspondences, and so you will understand what it means.

Of course when we speak of a Church, we mean people who not only know about the Lord and about spiritual things, but who live up to what they know, who really and truly love the Lord and the neighbor, doing what the Lord tells them to do. When people gradually stop loving the neighbor as much as themselves, and stop loving the Lord above all things, then the Church dies. And yet they may continue to know what has been taught in the Church.

This is the way it was with the Ancient Church. It died out. And yet many of the people continued to study correspondences. No doubt a few of these were good, but most of the people in the countries where the Ancient Church had been were no longer spiritually " alive." (Why! We are using correspondential expressions ourselves now, are we not? "Dead" and "alive." You know what these words mean.)

In the Ancient Church they had many laws or statutes that described how worship was to be conducted in a correspondential manner. These laws were like the laws that we have in the books of Moses. They also had prophecies about the Lord's coming into the world. Indeed, very much of their worship was so conducted as to represent the Lord's future coming into the world, and the great work of redemption that He would then perform. When the Ancient Church died out, some of the people, especially those who lived in Syria, continued studying these representatives in their worship and their statutes, and so they knew about the Lord's coming. One of the most interesting stories of the Word tells us about this. You will find it in Numbers 22; 23; 24. What is told in that story happened while the children of Israel, under the leadership of Moses, were marching from Mount Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given, to the land of Canaan, and passed through the land of Moab. The king of Moab called upon a man by the name of Salaam, who lived in Syria, to curse the Israelites. But instead of cursing them, he had to bless them, because he knew representatives, and the great encampment of the children of Israel with the tabernacle in the midst, represented Heaven. While blessing them, he was led by the Spirit to foretell that the Lord was coming into the world, which he did in these words, "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not nigh; a Star shall come out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall arise out of Israel." He saw the Lord, but not then, for the Lord was not born until nearly fifteen hundred years later. He beheld Him, but not near, because the Lord was not born in the land of Moab where the Israelites were then encamped, but in Bethlehem of Judea, a long distance off.

Men who, like Balaam, knew correspondences and representatives - that is, who knew spiritual things - were called "wise " in those days.

Although Balaam lived over fourteen hundred years before the Lord was born, yet the knowledge of representatives continued to be studied in Syria and Arabia down to the time of the Lord's birth, and it was in the same country that the wise men lived who followed the star to Jerusalem and then to the place where Jesus was.

The Lord is the East in heaven. And therefore they saw the star "from the east." Now a "star" signifies knowledge of what is good and true, and especially knowledge about the Lord. And because these wise men had knowledge about the Lord's Advent from the representatives that were among them, therefore they saw the star and it went before them. It went to Jerusalem first, because that holy city represented the Church as to doctrine and as to the Word; and then it went to the place where the infant Lord was.

And because they knew correspondences and representatives, they presented Him with representative gifts, namely, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. For they used these things in their own worship, knowing what they represented, and they brought them to the infant King, because they represented the different kinds of goodness that He was going to raise up in the hearts of men forever after. Gold represents the highest and purest and best kind of goodness, such as the angels of the highest heaven have, and which is therefore called "celestial good." Frankincense represents the kind of good such as the angels of the middle heaven have, and which is called "spiritual good." Myrrh represents such good as the angels of the lowest heaven possess, and this is called "natural good."

We also have the star, the knowledge about the Lord, and we must follow that star and devote to the Lord's service all the good that He gives us. 

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