FISHING ON THE RIGHT SIDE

FISHING ON THE RIGHT SIDE

An Easter Sermon by Rev. Frederick M. ChapinApril 16, 1995

 

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ And He said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some [fish].’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. (JN 21:5&6)

The Lord’s resurrection ushered in a new way of worshipping God. We have more freedom to express our love and devotion to the Lord. No longer are we restricted to comply with specific external laws and rituals. There are now a variety of expressions that can show our inmost appreciation towards the Lord. We now have the opportunity to have an internal relationship with the Lord. Our union with the Lord will not be centered exclusively upon performing a certain set of rituals. Now, our association with the Lord is determined by the quality of our love towards Him. The Lord described the genuine worship that He was establishing when He told the Samaritan woman at the well:

 

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (JN 4:23&24)

Worship of the Lord is now established according to our willingness to comply with His instructions regarding what our loves, thoughts, and delights should be.

Just as the Lord’s resurrection introduced a more sincere worship of God for the human race, so too do the events that surrounded the Lord’s resurrection picture a personal renewal that can happen continually in our lives. We can perpetually recognize the Lord’s love and mercy in greater light that will increase throughout eternity. This ever increasing light can give us an elevated sense of freedom and a greater assurance that we can make a significant contribution towards the Lord’s creation. The more we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of Heaven and Earth, and recognize the steps that we must take to have a closer bond with Him, the more fulfilling our lives will be. This is the beauty of the Lord’s resurrection that can be personally experienced within us over and over again.

The teaching of having a greater sense of fulfillment can be especially seen in the incident of the disciples gathering a large number of fish. This wonderful story can illustrate how we can emerge from a period of confusion to one where we can have a clear direction which our lives should take and how we can have a positive influence upon other people. The more we can see this taking place in our lives, the more we are sensing the Lord making a personal resurrection within us. This sense will make our lives more satisfying and effective.

The incident begins with Peter and some other disciples fishing at night and catching nothing. This depicts our striving for a sense of achievement from self. Without the Lord directing our lives, the contentment we want will be illusive. We actually seek fulfillment from self when we do not have a complete and heartfelt recognition of our need for the Lord. We may confess our reliance upon the Lord with our lips, but our innermost attitude could be one of believing that it is possible for us alone to determine, from our own instincts and judgements, what should be applied to our lives. There is an element of believing that we can act somewhat independently of the Lord and still provide good things for ourselves and for others. So long as this is the case, our lives will not be as rewarding.

However, in the morning, when the sun was rising for a new day, the disciples saw the Lord on the shore. This pictures a new perspective of looking at our lives and what we really require. This new acknowledgment enables us to truly recognize that from ourselves, we will not find the fulfillment that can endure for ever. Within this sincere awareness, there is the recognition of our dependency upon the Lord to give us a genuine sense of purpose and satisfaction for what we are able to do.

Yet, the disciples did not know that it was the Lord on the shore. There is still the desire to determine for ourselves how we should live. We may recognize and confess our need for the Lord’s presence in our lives, but deep within us, we would rather it be different. We would still desire that we make the determinations of what we can indulge in. Acting strictly from self is a subtle desire we all must face, regardless of how strong we may believe our devotion towards the Lord is. However, even though this recognition is not entirely pure, it still is the beginning of a new attitude of living. We see the Lord at a distance, but inwardly we do not want to recognize Him. Only when we truly delight in the Lord’s leading will we genuinely find a Christian life stimulating and fulfilling.

But to reach this point, we must be willing to undergo major changes in our lives. To grow there must be a willingness to accept some form of change. If there is no willingness to change, there will be no growth. This is true for both our natural lives and our spiritual lives. We advance towards a closer bond with the Lord only when we are willing to make the necessary changes in our attitudes and in our manner of living. All growth has some element of change. The disciples were told that for them to catch fish, they had to change from fishing on the left side of the boat to the right side. Likewise, we must be willing to make fundamental changes in our lives to be able to receive the Lord’s guidance. The Lord simply will not be recognized so long as we are unwilling to alter our perspectives and delights where necessary. However, it is wonderful that the Word teaches us how we can prepare ourselves to be willing to undergo and endure changes. The more we are conjoined with the Lord, the more we will embrace the necessary changes that leads to an even closer bond with Him.

Furthermore, there was a significant reason why the Lord told His disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat. It was far more pivotal than just catching fish. This change pictures going from an attitude of simply obeying the Lord from compulsion to one of obeying the Lord from love. When we begin to make the necessary adjustments to spiritually grow in the Lord, they will be uncomfortable at first. But the Lord desires that we change so the love we have towards Him will grow. It is only when we find delight in what the Lord requires of us that a conjunction with the Lord will take place. The right side of the boat pictures learning truths from a love towards the Lord. The motivation will not be on self-advantage or to avoid bad things from happening to us, but from a simple desire to learn what the Lord wants us to do, because we want to be closer to Him.

When this perspective in life develops within us, our spiritual degree of life will rule our natural degree. This means that our sensual pleasures will be under the dictate of complying with the Lord’s commandments. When this happens, our moral principles will not wander, like the fish in the open waters. Instead, they will be orderly contained within the doctrine of life we draw from the Word. Our personal doctrine of life is the net with the multitude of fish. The net is our basic and most fundamental philosophy of life. When our doctrine is directed from the Lord, it will have a multitude of knowledge of knowing how good affections and thoughts can be established in our lives. This is the multitude of fish that was in the net when they cast it from the right side of the boat.

It is interesting that despite the great number of fish, the net did not break. This is far different than what happened at an earlier time, when a similar incident took place, which we read of in our lesson from the Gospel of Luke. At that time the net did break. However, this time, the net was stronger. The same was true regarding the disciple’s inward attitudes and thoughts towards the Lord. There was a stronger devotion to follow Him and a stronger understanding of what the Lord wanted them to do. As a result, their doctrine of life could contain a more in-depth understanding about the Lord and the quality of life they were to live. This subtle comparison is displayed by the net not breaking. Our basic principles of life can also contain more wisdom and appreciation of the Lord’s teachings, as we proceed closer to Him. It is interesting to note that when the disciples saw the tremendous number of fish, they were seized with a fear. Peter especially showed this when he plunged into the water because he was naked. We are reminded of Adam, when he hid himself from God, because of his nakedness, after he ate of the forbidden fruit. However, there is a difference between Peter and Adam. Adam hid from the Lord because of a direct disobedience to the Lord’s command. He was afraid of the wrath of God punishing him. Peter’s reaction was more positive. Peter was appalled that the Lord, Who is infinitely good and pure, should see his nakedness. Peter was afraid, not so much from what might happen to him, but from a perceived unworthiness to be in the Lord’s presence in such a condition. Nakedness pictures our inner most secrets and desires becoming exposed. When we are sensing the Lord’s presence, the disorders of our innermost thoughts are plainly seen. This can lead to a fear. Yet, this is a holy fear. It is a fear that our failures and shortcomings will impede our bond with the Lord. It is not a fear primarily based upon avoiding the punishments that can be afflicted upon us. Instead, this fear is that harm will be done to our reception of the Lord. This holy fear provides the basis of removing the hidden impurities from our lives. Only when we want them removed will we be able to come before the Lord.

And when they did come to shore, the Lord already had some fish laid out over coals for them to eat. It is significant to note that in the story, the Lord invited the disciples to place their fish with His. This is a beautiful picture of the Lord inviting our heavenly affections and light, which are appropriated to us, to be conjoined with His Divine love and wisdom. This is the reason for the Lord’s coming to the earth and is the very core for our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. It was at the Lord’s resurrection that such an internal conjunction between the Lord and ourselves was established and made possible.

The Lord’s resurrection brought in a new approach which has allowed our worship to be more genuine. The more we can take advantage of the opportunity that the Lord has provided for us, the more we will value His resurrection. And at the same time, we will find the Lord providing a life before us that is established in His peace and joy. There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than to do what the Lord has created us for. The Lord has enabled all of us to sincerely worship Him and to express genuine charity towards others. This is the foundation of the joy we celebrate today. It is by the Lord’s resurrection that He fully accomplished these blessed words, “I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.” (REF)

Affirmative and Negative States of Mind

Affirmative and Negative States of Mind

There are two principles, one of which leads to all folly and madness, the other to all intelligence and wisdom. The former principle is to deny all things, or to say in one’s heart that he cannot believe them, until he is convinced by what he can com­prehend or be sensible of this principle is what leads to all folly and madness, and may be called the negative principle.

The other principle is to affirm the things which are of doctrine from the Word, or to think and believe within one’s self that they are true, because the Lord has said it; this principle is what leads to all intelligence and wisdom, and may be called the affirmative principle. Those who think from the negative principle, the more they take counsel of matters of reason, of knowledge, and of philosophy, the more they plunge themselves into darkness, until at length they come to deny all things. The reason is that from things inferior no one comprehends things superior, that is things spiritual and celestial,—still less things Divine, because they transcend all understanding; and besides, everything is then involved in negatives from the beginning. But on the contrary they who think from the affirmative principle may confirm themselves in things spiritual and celestial by whatever rational considerations, by whatever matters of knowledge, yea, and of philosophy, they are able; for all such things were given them for confirmation, and afford them a fuller idea of a subject. Moreover there are some who are in doubt before they deny; and others who are in doubt before they affirm. They who are in doubt before they deny are those that incline to a life of evil, and in so far as this life carries them away, as often as they think of things spiritual and celestial they deny. But they who are in doubt before they affirm are those that incline to a life of good, and in so far as they suffer them­selves to be turned to this life by the Lord, as often as they think of these things they affirm them. (AC n. 2568)

But let this be illustrated by examples: According to the doctrine of the Word, the first and principal thing of doctrine is love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbour. They who are in the affirmative in respect to this, may enter into whatever considerations of reason and knowledge, yea, and of sense they please, every one according to his gift, his knowledge, and his experience; indeed the more they enter the more they are confirmed, for universal nature is full of confirmation. But they who deny this first and chief matter of doctrine, and wish first to be convinced that it is so by matters of knowledge and of reason, never suffer themselves to be convinced, because they deny it in heart, and continually insist on some other principle which they believe essential; at length, by confirmations of their own principle, they so blind themselves that they cannot even know what is love to the Lord and what is love towards the neighbour. And because they confirm themselves in things contrary to them, they at length confirm themselves also in the belief that there is no other love attended with delight but the love of self and of the world; and this to such a degree that, if not in doctrine yet in life, they embrace infernal love instead of heavenly love. Take also another example: it is one of the primary points of the doctrine of faith that all good is from the Lord, and all evil from man or from self. They who are in the affirmative respect­ing this may confirm themselves by many considerations both of reason and knowledge; as that no good can flow into man from any other source than from Good itself, that is from the fountain of good and therefore from the Lord; and that there can be no beginning of good from elsewhere they may illustrate to themselves by what is truly good in themselves, in others, in the community, yea, in the created universe. But those who are in the negative principle confirm themselves in the contrary con­clusion by all things that ever come under their consideration; insomuch that at length they do not know what is good, but dispute with each other as to what is the highest good,—in profound ignorance of the truth that celestial and spiritual good, which is from the Lord, is that good; by which every lower good is vivified, and that from this delight is truly delightful. Some even conceive that good cannot be from any other source than themselves. Again, take for example the truth that they who are in love to the Lord and in charity towards the neighbour can receive the truths of doctrine, and have faith from the Word, and not those that are in the life of self-love and of the love of the world; or what is the same, that they who are in good can believe, but not those who are in evil. They who are in the affirmative principle can confirm this by innumerable evidences both of reason and of knowledge; of reason by the consideration that truth and good agree together, but not truth and evil; and that as in evil so also from evil everything is false, and that if in some there be yet truth, it is upon the lips and not in the heart; of knowledge, by many things, as that truths shun evils, and that evils spew out truths. But they who are in the negative principle confirm themselves in the belief that every one, of whatever character, even though he live in continual hatred, in the delights of revenge, and in deceits, is capable of believing like others; and this until they entirely reject from doctrine the good of life, which being rejected they believe nothing. To make it still more plain, take another example, re­specting the Word. They who are in the affirmative, that the Word was so written that it has an internal sense, which does not appear in the letter, may confirm themselves by many rational considerations; as that by the Word man has connection with heaven; that there are correspondences of natural things with spiritual, and that these latter do not so much appear; that the ideas of interior thought are entirely different from material ideas which fall into expressions of speech; that during his abode in the world man may also be in heaven (inasmuch as he was born to live in both), by means of the Word which is for both; that with some a certain Divine light flows in into their intellectual operations and into their affections while the Word is being read; that it was necessary that something which de­scended from heaven should be written, and that in its origin it could not be such as it is in the letter; that nothing can be holy but by virtue of a holiness which is within. They may also confirm themselves by things known; as that in old time men were in representatives, and that the writings of the ancient church were of such a character; that therefore the writings of many even among the Gentiles w ere also of a similar character; and that for this reason the style was venerated in the churches as holy, and among the Gentiles as learned; several books may likewise be mentioned (as instances of this kind of writing). But they who are in the negative principle, if they do not deny all this, yet do not believe it; and they persuade themselves that the Word is such as it is in the letter, appearing indeed worldly, but yet that it is spiritual,—but where the spiritual is concealed does not concern them, though for manifold reasons they are willing to assert it,—and this they can confirm by many arguments. In order that this subject may be presented even to the appre­hension of the simple, it may be expedient to illustrate it scientifically by the following example. They who are in the affirmative in respect to the truth that sight is not of the eye but is of the spirit, which by the eye as by an organ of its body sees things that are in the world, may confirm themselves by many things; as from speech, in that when it is heard it reports itself to a cer­tain interior sight and is transmuted into it,—which could not be the case if there did not exist an interior sight or vision; also that whatever is thought of is seen by an interior sight, by some more clearly, by others more obscurely; moreover that things of the imagination present themselves in a manner not unlike the objects of sight; and further, that unless the spirit which is in the body saw that which the eye as an organ takes in, the spirit in the other life could see nothing; when yet it must needs be that it will there see numberless astonishing things which the eye of the body can never see. They may likewise reflect on dreams, especially those of the Prophets, in which many things were equally well seen and yet not by the eyes; lastly, if they have a taste for philosophical contemplations, they may confirm themselves by the consideration that exterior things cannot enter into interior; as things compound cannot enter into things simple, so the things of the body cannot enter into those which are of the spirit, but the reverse;—besides very many other considera­tions; till at length they are persuaded that sight belongs to the spirit, and not to the eye except from the spirit. But they who are in the negative either call these things all natural, or fantasies; and when they are told that a spirit exercises and enjoys a more perfect sight than a man does in the body, they ridicule and make light of it,—believing that they shall live in darkness when they are deprived of the sight of the eye; when exactly the contrary is true, that they will then be in light. From these examples it may be seen what it is to enter from truths into reasonings and knowledges, and what to enter from reasonings and knowledges into truths; namely, that the former is according to order, but the latter contrary to order; and that when it is done according to order man is enlightened, but when contrary to order he is made blind. It is clear then of how much concern it is that truths should be known and believed; for by truths man is enlightened, while by falsities he is blinded. By truths an immense and almost unbounded plain is opened to the rational faculty; but by falsities almost none comparatively, although it appears otherwise. Hence the angels have so great wisdom, because they are in truths; for truth is the very light of heaven…. Those who have blinded themselves by their unwillingness to believe anything that they do not comprehend by the senses, in the other life are readily distinguished from other spirits by this,—that concerning everything that relates to faith they reason whether it be so; and though it be shown them a thousand and a thousand times that it is so, they still raise negative doubts against every confirming proof; and this they would do to eternity, They are consequently blinded to such a degree that they have not common sense; that is, they cannot comprehend what is good and true. And yet every one of them supposes that he is wise beyond all in the universe; placing their wisdom in this,—the conceit that they are able to make null that which is Divine, and deduce it from the natural. Many who have been accounted wise in the world are of this character beyond others; for in proportion as any one excels in the gift of talent and in knowledge, if at the same time he is in the negative principle, he is more insane than others; but in proportion as he excels in the gift of talent and in knowledge, and is in the affirmative principle, he is capable of becoming more wise than others. To cultivate the rational by knowledge is in nowise forbidden; but it is forbidden to fortify one’s self against the truths of faith, which are of the Word. (AC n. 2588)

The Profound Wickedness and Nefarious Arts of Infernal Spirits

The Profound Wickedness and Nefarious Arts of Infernal Spirits

In the same degree that there is wisdom and intelligence among the angels, there is also wickedness and cunning among infernal spirits…. In the life of the body the evil in the spirit of a man was under the restraints which are imposed upon every man by the law, by his love of gain, of honour, and the fear of losing them; and therefore the evil of the spirit could not then break forth and manifest itself, as it was in itself. Besides, the evil in the spirit of a man then also lay wrapped up and veiled in the outward probity, sincerity, justice, and affection for truth and good, which such a man manifested and feigned for the sake of the world. The evil lay so concealed and in such obscurity under these semblances, that he scarcely knew himself that his spirit contained so much wickedness and craft, and that therefore in himself he was such a devil as he becomes after death, when his spirit comes into itself and into his own nature. Such wickedness then manifests itself as exceeds all belief. There are thousands of evils which then burst forth from evil itself; among which are even such as no words of any language can express. It has been given me to know and also to apperceive their nature by much experience for it has been granted me by the Lord to be in the spiritual world as to the spirit, and at the same time in the natural world as to the body. This I can testify, that their wickedness is so great that it is scarcely possible to describe even a thousandth part of it; and also that if the Lord did not protect man he could never be rescued from hell.

The worst of all are those who have been in evils from self-love, and who at the same time, in their interior selves, have acted from deceit; for deceit enters more deeply than any other evil into the thoughts and intentions, and infects them with poison, and so destroys all the spiritual life of a man. Most of these are in the hells behind, and are called genii; and their delight there is to make themselves invisible and flit about others like phantoms, secretly infusing evils into them, which they spread around like the charms of the viper. These are more direfully tormented than others. And those who were not deceitful, and not so eaten up with malignant cunning, and yet were in evils from self-love, are also in the hells behind, but not in so deep hells. But those who have been in evils from the love of the world are in the hells in front, and are called spirits. They are not in such evils, that is not in such hatreds and vindictiveness, as those who are in evils from the love of self; consequently they have not such profound wickedness and cunning. Their hells are therefore more mild. (HH n. 577, 578)

The nature of the wickedness of infernal spirits is evident from their nefarious arts, which are so many that to enumerate them would fill a volume, and to describe them, many volumes. These arts are almost all unknown in the world. One kind relates to the abuse of correspondences; another, to abuses of the ultimates of Divine order; a third, to the communication and influx of thoughts and affections, by conversions, by searching looks, and by other spirits distant from themselves, and by emissaries from themselves; a fourth relate to operations by means of fantasies; a fifth, to a certain casting themselves out beyond themselves, and consequent presence elsewhere than where they are in the body: a sixth, to pretences, persuasions, and lies. Into these arts the spirit of a wicked man comes of itself, when released from the body; for they are inherent in the nature of its evil, in which it then is. By these arts they torment each other in the hells. But as all of these arts, except those that are effected by pretences, persuasions, and lies, are unknown in the world, I will not here describe them specifically, both because they would not be comprehended, and because they are abominable. (ibid. n. 580)