III The Application To The Writings Of The Teachings Concerning The Word
In what has preceded I have sought to show what is involved in the belief that the Writings are the Word—the Word for the New Church. I shall now endeavor to show that what the Writings say concerning the Word applies also to themselves— which must certainly be the case if the Writings are indeed the Word. Yet, to the rational mind, it is clear that in this inquiry, discrimination must be made, the faculty of discriminating being one of the supreme traits of the rational mind. I have shown that there are different kinds of correspondences, different kinds of ultimate clothing which may be taken on by the Divine Truth. It is with these differences in mind that, in approaching this new field of study, I observe a certain discrimination and reserve in applying to the Writings their own teachings concerning the Word. Where those teachings concern the Word in general as Divine Revelation, as the Lord's message to the human race, they must be applied to the Writings. But not so when the teaching is concerned specifically and only with the Ancient, the Jewish, or the Christian Word.
For the purpose of my inquiry, I shall take the chapter headings set forth in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, having in view also what is said in the earlier work De Verbo, and in the later work, the True Christian Religion.1
The Sacred Scripture or the Word is Divine Truth itself (S.S. 1-4)
Here the direct meaning of " Sacred Scripture or the Word " is undoubtedly the Old and New Testaments. This cannot be disputed any more than it can be disputed that by " Scripture " in the Gospels is meant the Old Testament. It is not, however, a question of what is the direct meaning, but of what is involved. The whole Christian Church has come to see that while the New Testament quotes " Scripture " as its authority, yet what is true of that Scripture, as for instance, when the Lord says " Search the Scriptures," is equally true of the New Testament itself. Therefore all Christians acknowledge that the New Testament also is " Scripture." So with the Writings. When they speak of " the Word " or " Sacred Scripture," the direct and immediate meaning is undoubtedly the Old and New Testaments; but this does not exclude the idea that they themselves are also the Scripture or the Word of the Lord. They are certainly a Divine Revelation equally as are the Old and New Testaments; indeed, they are a more excellent revelation inasmuch as they are the fulfillment of the Lord's words to his disciples: " I have many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit, when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16: 12, 13).
1 The chapter on the Sacred Scripture in T. C. R. is transcribed with slight alterations from the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture. De Verbo is a first sketch of the latter work.
It may be objected that the Christians were able to see that the New Testament is the Word of God because its authority rests not only on the testimony of the " Scriptures," that is, of the Old Testament, but on the direct teachings of the Lord himself who " taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes" (Matt. 7: 29). But is not the same also true, and even more evidently true, of the Writings ? The Writings do indeed quote an abundance of confirmatory passages from the Old and New Testaments, for without these there would be no means whereby the Christian could judge the Writings whether they be of God; yet this is not the essential source of their authority. So the New Testament appeals to the Old to bear witness that " this day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears " (Luke 4: 21). Yet the real authority of the New Testament is that it was revealed by God. Therefore when once this was acknowledged the Christian looked to this Testament as his own peculiar Word, the source of his faith and doctrine. So with the Writings. The real source of their authority is the fact that they are a Divine Revelation.
While Swedenborg quotes abundantly from the Old and New Testaments, yet, unlike Christian commentators, he does not appeal to those Testaments as the authority for his writings. His authority is the Lord alone. " The Lord alone has taught me," is his declaration (D. P. 133) ; the works " are not my works but the Lord's " (5". D. 6102). The Old and New Testaments do indeed confirm the doctrines, and necessarily so since they also are the Word. But could any man have drawn from those Testaments the truths now revealed? Manifestly not. " The Apocalypse (says Swedenborg) could never be explained save by the Lord alone " (A. R. Pref.; see also S. S. 25).
The Writings rest on no other authority than the fact that they are an " immediate Revelation " from the Lord (H. H. 1). On what other basis can the New Church rest? on what other authority can it justify a new baptism? a new holy supper? a new priesthood ? What proof do we need that the Writings are the Word other than the fact that the Lord has revealed them? To be sure they were revealed through Swedenborg, but this does not detract from their being the Word of God; the Old and New Testaments also were revealed through men.
And now in the light of the above, let me quote from the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture in confirmation of the thesis that the Sacred Scripture or the Word is the Divine Truth itself. " Jehovah spoke the Word through Moses and the Prophets, and that which Jehovah himself speaks can be nothing else (than Divine Truth). The Lord who is the same as Jehovah spake the Word written by the Evangelists, many things from his own mouth and the rest from the spirit of his mouth which is the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that He says that in His words there is life, and that He himself is the light which enlightens" (n. 2). So must all New Churchmen say that it is the Lord himself who spoke the Divine Truth now revealed through Swedenborg.
In further comment, the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture adds: " The Word conjoins man with the Lord and opens heaven; therefore it fills the man who reads it from the Lord, and not from himself alone, with the good of love and the truths of wisdom. Hence man has life through the Word" (n. 3). Is not this eminently true of the Writings? Therefore, the passage continues, " Lest man should be in doubt whether the Word is such, its internal sense has been revealed to me by the Lord. That sense is the spirit which gives life to the letter."
In the Word there is a Spiritual Sense Hitherto Unknown(n. 5-26)
The word " hitherto" in this heading shows plainly that by " the Word " here is meant solely the Old and New Testaments. Two things, however, may be noted in the treatment of this heading.
First: That for the most part, the passages from the Word that are here adduced as illustrations, are passages which, apart from the spiritual sense, have little or no meaning, and certainly no meaning that could serve for forming a genuine doctrine; passages in which the spiritual sense in no way appears in the sense of the letter (S. S. 13, 15, 16) and which could not be unfolded except by Divine Revelation (S. S. 25).
Second: That in the explanation of this heading, an indication is given that the Writings also have an internal sense. I refer to the statement " that hereafter the spiritual sense of the Word will not be given to any one who is not in genuine truths from the Lord," and this " because no one can see the spiritual sense except from the Lord alone and unless he is in genuine truths from Him " (n. 26). The Writings again and again declare themselves to be the revelation of the spiritual or internal sense of the Word; but clearly they are not the naked spiritual sense, otherwise it would not be said that hereafter this sense will be given only to those who are in genuine truths from the Lord. Clearly the Writings are a revelation clothed in a letter consisting of natural language and natural ideas; a revelation in which the Divine Truth itself is seen as Divine Truth in the natural. This revelation, however, differs from former revelations, in that, while in former revelations the Divine Truth was more or less veiled and could not be seen by the men of the church save here and there when it appeared in the sense of the letter, the revelation now given is written in language where the spiritual sense, that is, the interior truths of heaven, is everywhere apparent in the sense of the letter; yet not apparent save to those who are in genuine truths from the Lord, that is to say, who are in the love of truth for its own sake. I shall revert to this matter later in connection with what is taught in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture n. 57. For the present I wish merely to show that the Writings are couched in an ultimate letter, as must necessarily be the case with all revelation; and that the difference between them and the New Testament, like the difference between the New Testament and the Old, consists in the nature of that letter.
The Sense of the Letter of the Word is the Basis, the Containant, and the Firmament of the Spiritual and Celestial Senses(n. 27-36)
We note here that it is not said that the Letter of the Word is the basis, etc., of the spiritual and celestial senses, but " the sense of the Letter." What is meant by this term will perhaps become clearer if for " sense " we read " meaning," this being the exact English equivalent for the Latin word sensus. By " the meaning of the Letter " is meant its real meaning; not a meaning twisted or perverted to favor men's desires, but the meaning that was intended for the leading of men to the acknowledgment and worship of God. This is indicated in n. 31 of the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, where, speaking of the three senses of the Word, it is said: " Its ultimate sense which is natural and is the sense of the letter of the Word, is the container." What is here referred to by the " sense of the Letter of the Word " is therefore not the merely historical sense, or the poetic and literary sense, but the Divine Truth as it appears to the natural man in the sense or meaning of the written words. " The interior things of the Word (we read) are those which are contained in its internal or spiritual sense and which are genuine truths; to these correspond the exterior truths of the Word which are those in the external or natural sense called the sense of the letter" (A. E. 618). Essentially this sense of the letter is the genuine sense of the letter, but it includes also all appearances of truth such as the statement, in the Old Testament, that the Lord is angry, or, in the New Testament, that He leads into temptation. Every Christian who reads these words holily perceives in them something of the genuine sense of the letter; and it is this genuine sense and this alone that is the basis, the containant, and the firmament of spiritual and celestial truths; it is this alone wherein the Divine Truth is in its fullness, its holiness, and its power. If the reader sees nothing in the Word save mere historical narrative; if like the Scribes he sees only vain traditions, or, like many of the critics, nothing but grammatical forms and material ideas; then with him, the internal sense has no basis, no containant, and no firmament or support.
That this is what is meant by the " Sense of the Letter of the Word," is clearly involved in the teaching of the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture, n. 6. There we read: " The Divine which descends from the Lord to human beings descends through these three degrees, and when it has descended, it contains those three degrees within itself. Such is the case with everything Divine. Therefore, when it is in its ultimate degree it is in its fullness. Such is the Word. In its ultimate sense this is natural, in its interior sense it is spiritual, in the inmost, it is celestial, and in every sense it is Divine."
That this " ultimate degree " or " ultimate sense " wherein Divine Truth is in its fullness, and which is itself Divine, being the Divine Word in lasts, is the same as " the Sense of the Letter " which is the basis, containant, and firmament of the spiritual and celestial senses, is specifically stated in the chapter we are considering (n. 31) where, after referring the reader to n. 6 just cited, it is said that " its ultimate sense which is natural, is the sense of the letter of the Word." Clearly this ultimate sense or meaning which is " Divine," and which, moreover, is called "divine doctrine" (A. C. 3712), cannot be the merely historical, Jewish, grammatical or literary meaning; these are not divine. Nor can it be the mere meaning of the letter, except where that letter plainly expresses spiritual-moral truths. The reading of the letter of the Word with nothing else in view save the history and laws of the Jews, or the increase of one's learning and fame, will not in itself bring the presence of the Lord in ultimates, that is to say, His presence as Divine Truth in the natural; for while the " Letter of the Word " is indeed read, yet there is no entering into the " sense " or meaning for the imparting of which that Letter was given, and which alone is the basis, containant, and firmament of Divine Truth. In itself (we read) the Letter is dead, " the holiness of the Word is in its sense of the Letter " (De Verbo 15).
It is for this reason that we are so often told, that in order that there may be communication with heaven, that is to say, in order that the Lord may be present with man, the Word must be read " holily." It must be read as the Word of God given for man's spiritual guidance and reformation. When man so reads it, he is truly in the sense of the letter, in that Divine natural sense which is the basis, containant, and firmament of the interior senses. Even when reading parts that are obscure to him, he is yet brought into the sphere of angelic spirits, and something of the love of God and the love of obedience is insinuated into his mind. Even if in his simplicity he interprets what he reads in a sense apparently contrary to the truth, as that God is angry and persecutes the wicked, etc., yet these ultimate appearances are the actual appearances of the Divine Truth in ultimates and are the Lord's presence with him; and so something of the genuine truth is insinuated.
By means of the correspondences of spiritual things with natural (we are told) " the man who reads the Word holily is closely conjoined with heaven and by heaven with the Lord, even though the man is only in thought concerning such things in the Word as are in its sense of the letter. The holiness which is then with the man is from the influx of the celestial and spiritual thoughts and affections which are such with the angels " (A. C. 3735). And again we read: " The internal of the Word flows in and is conjoined with good, when man reads the Word holily; and he holds it holy when he is in good "(ibid. 6789).
It is not my intention to assert that whenever the Writings use the term " Sense of the Letter " they mean the genuine sense of the letter.2 The term may be used in various senses, and its meaning must be determined by the context. What I wish to establish is that this is the meaning of the term when that term is used to signify the basis, containant, and firmament of Divine Truth.
2 It may here be noted that in many of the English translations of the Writings, sensus litcrae (sense of the letter) is frequently translated literal sense.
This is fully confirmed by a multitude of passages, of which the following may be adduced:
(ibid. 43, 45); and it is added that " the truths and goods of the sense of the letter of the Word are what are meant by the Urim and Thummim " (ibid. 44).
" The Word in ultimates is like a man clothed in a garment, who is bare as to his face and hands . . . and therefore the doctrine of genuine good and truth can be seen from the sense of the letter by those who are enlightened by the Lord, and can be confirmed by those not enlightened. The Word is such in the sense of the letter that it may be a basis for the spiritual sense. . . . Divine Truths in the sense of the letter are mostly appearances of truth " (A. E. 778).
" Divine Truth on earth is such as is the Word in the sense of the letter, wherein are few genuine truths such as are in heaven, but wherein are appearances of truth " (A. E. 950).
It is true, of course, that the whole of the Word is the ultimate on which heaven rests. But that portion where the heavy veiling of Jewish garments conceals the Divine Truth was not and could not be the basis, containant, and support of the Divine Truth for the establishment of a genuine church on earth, any more than the Apocalypse could be such a basis for the establishment of the Christian Church. These dark portions of the Word were the means of establishing a representative of a church; like the Apocalypse, they also provided an ultimate on earth wherein angels could see the future coming of the Lord and his work of redemption. But it is by the sense of the letter of the Word that the Divine Truth is actually present on earth for the establishment of a genuine church. In itself the letter of the Word is dead, but this is not true of the sense of the letter (De Verbo 15; see 5". 5. 77).
This is clearly indicated in a noteworthy passage in De Verbo. There we learn that without the sense of the letter the spiritual sense would be like a body without its skins whereby communication with its interiors is maintained; or like wine without a containing vessel. The passage goes on to say that the same would be true of the heaven of angels and of their wisdom, without the human race and the church there " and its intelligence from the sense of the letter. It is the sense of the letter of the Word with man that makes this connection and conjunction. This, moreover, was the reason why the Lord came into the world; for every sense [or meaning] of the letter had been so falsified by the Jews that there was no longer an ultimate in man. Wherefore the Lord came into the world and put on the human that He might become the Word also in the sense of the letter, that is, the Divine Truth in ultimates " (De Verbo 54).
It is the " sense of the letter of the Word " that establishes a church on earth and effects consociation with heaven. Therefore by His coming on earth, the Lord " became the Word also in the sense of the letter," that is to say, He revealed himself in the spoken and written Word, as Divine Truth in the natural, whereby was established a genuine church. A genuine church might have been established even among the Jews had they not by vain traditions falsified " the sense of the letter " of their Word. Among Christians the Divine Truth in the sense of the letter of the New Testament was so revealed that by it they were able to see the genuine sense of the letter of the Old Testament also.
Clearly the same reasoning applies to the Lord in his Second Coming. True He has come to reveal the interiors of the Word, but this was also the Divine end in the First Coming. Then, however, there were few or no vessels to receive save those moral truths which are the face and presentation of interior truths. But in Swedenborg, by means of his study of the sense of the letter of the Word, and also by means of his study of nature as the theatre of Divine Love and Wisdom, there was provided a body of rational truths whereby the Divine could clothe itself to be seen in the glory of His Second Coming.
It is frequently said that the Writings are the spiritual sense of the Word. This is true, but only in the sense that essentially, the same statement is true also of those portions of the Old and New Testaments which are compared to the bare face and hands, and in which consequently the spiritual sense shines forth. That sense shone forth here and there in the Old Testament; it shone forth almost everywhere in the Gospels, so much so indeed that the Christian Church might have been a genuine church advancing in the knowledge and perception of spiritual truths; in the Writings it shines forth everywhere in clear light. In all these revelations the spiritual sense " shines forth "; it does not and cannot appear without a body or clothing through which it can shine forth. It cannot appear as bare spiritual truth without a natural clothing. This is taught in so many places in the Writings that it would be superfluous to quote. However, I shall adduce a single passage: " That the Word may be Divine and at the same time may be the Word for heaven and the Church, it must be wholly natural in the letter; for unless it were natural in the letter there would be no conjunction of heaven with the Church by its means, for it would be as a house without a foundation, and as a soul without a body, since ultimates enclose all things interior and are their foundations. Man also is in ultimates, and upon the Church with him is founded heaven. Hence then it is that the style in the Word is of such a nature. Wherefore when man thinks spiritually from things natural which are in the sense of the letter of the Word, he is conjoined with heaven—with which he could not otherwise be conjoined " (A. E. 71 fin.).
This and similar teachings have usually been assumed as referring solely to the Old and New Testaments, and there can be no doubt that this is the immediate reference, just as the Old Testament was the immediate reference when the Lord said " Search the Scriptures." But it is manifest that there is here no limitation of the term the Word to the Old and New Testaments. The New Church also is in ultimates, and it is for this New Church that the Writings are revealed. Can it be doubted then that " the Word" here also includes the Writings ? This, moreover, is confirmed by the words: " Man is in ultimates and heaven has its foundations upon the church in him . . . wherefore, when he thinks spiritually from things natural which are in the sense of the letter of the Word, he is conjoined with heaven, which could not otherwise have been the case." Where is man afforded so full an opportunity of thinking spiritually, as in " the natural things which are in the sense of the letter " of the Writings? that is to say, which are the genuine meaning of what is there written. What is it that conjoins him so closely to heaven as the genuine sense or meaning of those Writings? It is not the mere reading of the letter that conjoins to heaven but the seeing of the spiritual things there set forth. Shall we say that the sincere Christian is more closely conjoined to heaven when he reads, for instance, in the Old Testament the laws concerning leprosy, than when he reads in that same Testament the words " Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself " ? Or that he is more closely associated with angels when he reads these words in the Old Testament, or, the words in the New Testament, "If ye love me keep my commandments," than when he reads the words of the Writings with a mind opened to perceive their genuine meaning?
Yet so accustomed is the Christian to think of the Old and New Testaments as alone being the letter of the Word, so firmly has this been impressed on the mind for almost two thousand years, that the New Churchman finds it hard to extend his idea of the Word beyond the limits of the past; hard to include in that term even a revelation which is more excellent than all previous revelations (Inv. 44). May he not profitably ask himself whether this clinging to the Old and New Testaments as the sole letter of revelation has its origin in a genuine perception of the holiness of the Word, or in a traditional and historical faith; whether his love and affection attaches itself to the mere form of revelation, rather than to the Divine Truth which speaks by means of the form.
How can revelation, even of the most sublime arcana, be given to man save in a letter? I do not refer merely to alphabetic letters, nor to mere words. The letter to which I refer is the letter of natural ideas, ideas which, however abstracted, rest more or less consciously on what has been derived from the world through the senses. Unless clothed in such ideas, Divine Truth cannot come to man (A. C. 2553); and, this being the case, it necessarily follows that men can read the letter, can see the clothing, and yet see nothing of its genuine meaning, still less of the spiritual arcana more deeply involved therein.
The reader may ask, Are then the Writings written in correspondences? I answer that, being in the language of natural ideas, they must necessarily be written in correspondences. But this word correspondence must not be confined to correspondences such as are found in the historical events, the Israelitish statutes, the dark utterances of the Prophets as recorded in the Old Testament. I have already dealt with this subject, but wish now to add somewhat to what has gone before.
Correspondence is the relation between spiritual cause and natural effect. Hence the whole of nature is a theatre in which are set forth in correspondential forms the Divine Love and Wisdom of the Creator. Indeed, if we could read this book of Nature, as did the Most Ancients, then Nature herself would be to us a letter of the Word revealing internal arcana.
But we are not thus able. Therefore it devolves upon us to study nature, and learn her laws, that these laws may form a body or letter in our mind with which spiritual causes can be clothed. It was such a study that engaged Swedenborg during his years of preparation,—essentially a study of correspondences, an effort to behold nature as the theatre of higher forces. The study of nature, and also the accumulation of experience in human relationships, forms in our mind a great body of natural ideas— ideas of government, ideas of cause and effect, and so forth; and this body of ideas is the source of the rich language which distinguishes civilized peoples. Now, just as nature can speak to us only through the senses; just as we can convey ideas to a child only through sensual images; so the Divine can teach us spiritual arcana only by clothing them in natural words and natural ideas, words and ideas drawn from the theatre of nature and therefore fitted aptly to clothe in correspondential form the arcana of the spiritual causes of nature. Thus the spiritual idea of God as a Man, is presented in the natural idea of a man; the doctrine of the Grand Man in the uses of the organs of the human body; the government of heaven and the laws of association both among the angels, and between angels and men, is presented to us clothed in our ideas concerning human government and human relationships; the spiritual idea of love comes to us clothed in natural and moral ideas concerning our duty to our fellow men; and the heavenly truths concerning Conjugial Love in moral truths concerning the duties of husband and wife; and so in other cases.
That the relation here is one of correspondences is specifically declared in the Writings. There we read: " Man is aware of his evils and falses by means of the truths of faith in the natural, that is, in the external man, but not in the internal. The reason is, because the ideas of thought in the internal man are spiritual, and spiritual ideas, being intellectual ideas which are without objects such as are in the material world, cannot be comprehended in the natural. Still these spiritual ideas, which are proper to the intellectual man, flow into natural ideas which are proper to the external man, and produce and make them—which is done by means of correspondences " (A. C. 10237).
Such is the correspondential language which occurs here and there in the Old Testament, more frequently in the Gospels, and everywhere in the Writings of the New Church. And, therefore, as I have already observed, men can read those Writings and yet see nothing spiritual within them; see merely natural ideas, sometimes clear and rational, sometimes obscure. So men can read those parts of the Old and New Testaments where the spiritual sense shines through, and while seeing much that is admirable therein, see nothing Divine. They read the letter and more or less comprehend the natural or rational ideas, but are blind to the real sense or meaning of that letter as the ultimate appearance of the Divine Truth.
There is a universal reason why revelation can come to man only in a letter of correspondential natural ideas. This reason is indicated in the following passage: " Naked goods and truths cannot flow in, for these are not received, but truths clothed, as they are in the sense of the letter of the Word; moreover, the Lord always operates from inmosts through ultimates, that is to say, in fullness " (A. R. 672).
We shall refer to this law later. Suffice it for the present to see that the Writings in their letter, in their natural and rational presentations, are the basis, the containant, and the support of the spiritual and celestial arcana contained more deeply within; for they are an ultimate Divine Revelation to man, and " every Divine work in the ultimate is complete and perfect. Moreover, that which is in the ultimate is the all, because in it are at the same time things prior" (T. C. R. 210, S. S. 28).
Divine Truth in the Sense of the Letter of the Word is in its Fullness, in its Holiness, and in its Power(S. S. 37- 49)
Two things should be noted in this doctrinal statement : (1) That Divine Truth is in its fullness, holiness, and power not in the letter of the Word but in the sense of the letter. (2) That the fullness, holiness, and power do not come from the sense of the letter but reside in it.
As to the first point, I need add nothing to what I have already written. It is the second point that I would now discuss. It is an important point, and is emphasized in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture in the very beginning of the comment on the above heading. " The Word in its sense of the letter is in its fullness, holiness, and power because the two prior or interior senses . . . are together in the natural sense which is the sense of the letter " (S. S. 37). I suppose that all New Churchmen would at once assent to this as a self-evident truth. Yet there are abundant indications that many, while acknowledging the truth, fail to see its implications. Much that has been written in the Church concerning the Letter of the Word, meaning the Old and New Testaments, really implies that the holiness and power are from the letter itself. Though the Writings are given to us as an ultimate Divine Revelation teaching the truths of heaven, yet, because this ultimate is not like the ultimate of the Old and New Testaments, they are too often regarded as inferior to " the Word itself." Sometimes this view is held in a clear and definite way and is plainly the result of a disbelief in the Divinity of the Writings save in a more or less restricted sense. But there are some who, while accepting the Divinity of the Writings, while acknowledging them as the Lord's teaching to the New Church, yet are reluctant to acknowledge them as the Word. Some also there are who, while acknowledging that the Writings are the Word, yet hesitate to ascribe to them the full properties of " the Word," feeling almost instinctively that the Word, meaning the Old and New Testaments, is in some way more holy, more Divine, more effective in conjoining man to heaven. This hesitation is a fact which cannot be ignored; nor can we be surprised at it, for it is fortified by the belief of generations of Christians for two thousand years back. Yet if the Writings are not so holy as the Old and New Testaments, if they are not so effective in conjoining man to heaven, or in bringing to him the power of Divine Truth, then they are not the most excellent of all revelations.
Let us then examine what it is that makes the Old Testament the Word, and also the New Testament; what it is that makes the essential characteristic of " the Word."
It cannot be the Hebrew language, for the New Testament is written in Greek. It cannot be the ritual of the Israelitish people, for this is entirely absent from the New Testament, and also from parts of the Old. It cannot be obscurity of language such as we find in many portions of the Prophets and in the Apocalypse, for then we would exclude not only most of the Gospels but also many parts of the Old Testament. It cannot be its suitability for children, and the simple, for this would exclude many parts of the Old and New Testaments. It cannot be that it is written in the form of story or historical narrative; for this would exclude the Psalms and many portions of the Prophets. We have but one characteristic left, namely, because it is Divine Revelation. The Word is " the Word" because it is Divine teaching given in ultimate form for the instruction of man; for the opening of his mind to the influx of heaven; for the conjoining of man to the Lord.
It is this and this alone that makes " the Word of God," whether it be clothed in Hebrew letters, or in Greek or in Latin; whether it put on the language of Jewish history, of Hebrew poetry, of dark sayings, of moral truths, of spiritual relations, or of rational thought. The Writings then are clearly the Word, and being ultimate they are the Word in ultimates. Indeed, in the Writings the Lord appears in greater glory, and teaches in clearer language than in former revelations, this being in accordance with His statement to the disciples, that He had many things to teach men which they could not then bear, and that therefore He would send them the Spirit of Truth which would guide them into all truth (John, 16: 7-14). At the same time, the Writings are so written as to be adapted to the comprehension of all manner of men, young and old, simple and wise. And lastly they are so clothed that they convey nothing of the Divine save to one who reads them as a Divine Revelation; reads them not for fame and glory, not for the procuring of arguments wherewith to refute opponents; but for the edification of his spiritual life; in a word, who reads them holily. When man thus reads the Word, whether it be the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the Writings, the Lord is present in his fullness, his holiness, and his power. Yet it must be acknowledged that this presence is more clearly evident in the Gospels than in the Old Testament, and in the Writings than in the Gospels; not that the one is less the Word than the other, but the clothing is more suitable for the appearing of the truth within. The matter can be illustrated in the human body. The whole of the soul is present in fullness and power in the hands equally as in the eye. Yet, in the eye its affections and thoughts are more clearly discernible.
The clothing in which Divine Truth reveals itself is frequently expressed in the Word, and particularly in the New Testament, by " clouds," and " clouds of heaven." Indeed, every form of the revealed Word is a cloud. The Writings, however, are a translucent cloud in which the Lord appears " in power and great glory." The Writings cannot be that glory itself any more than the actions and speech of the body can be the soul, howsoever fully they may reveal the soul. In the Writings, the Lord comes in the clouds of heaven; in translucent clouds drawn not from the minds of Jewish scribes or of simple disciples, but from the mind of a man prepared from his youth by the study of natural philosophy to become the medium for the revelation of spiritual philosophy (Influx 20). Where else does the Lord appear "with power and great glory" if not in the Revelation now given to the New Church ?
That the Writings in their external form are the clouds of heaven appears moreover to be indicated in the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture. There we read: " The Word in its glory was represented by the Lord when he was transfigured . . . when His face shone like the sun; and His raiment became as the light; and Moses and Elias were seen talking with Him; and a bright cloud overshadowed the disciples; and a voice was heard out of the cloud saying, This is my beloved Son, hear ye him. I have been instructed (the passage continues) that the Lord then represented the Word. By his face which shone like the sun was represented his Divine Good; by his raiment which became like the light, his Divine Truth; ... by Moses . . . the historical Word in general, and by Elias, all the prophetical Word; by the bright cloud which overshadowed the disciples, the Word in the sense of the letter; wherefore from it a voice was heard saying, This is my beloved Son, hear ye him; for no enunciations and answers from heaven are ever made except by ultimates, such as are in the sense of the letter of the Word, for they are made by the Lord in fullness " (S. S. 48).
By the " historical and prophetical Word " in this passage is clearly meant the Old and New Testaments, for the latter also is historical and prophetical. By " the Word in the sense of the letter " is meant the Divine Truth shining forth in and as the sense of the letter. This eminently includes the Writings; for it is in the Writings alone that the Son of Man appears with power and great glory.
The Lord's coming in clouds is frequently explained in the Writings, where it is shown that by clouds is meant " the Divine Truth in ultimates such as is the Word in the sense of the letter " (A. E. 906, A. R. 24, etc.). New Churchmen have invariably understood that by these clouds is meant solely the Old and New Testaments. Yet a little reflection will show that if this were the case then the Lord himself has not come, but has merely used Swedenborg to point out where alone He is to be seen, namely, in the Old and New Testaments; that it is to these we must go if we would approach the Lord, and be enlightened in spiritual truth, and not to the Writings. Such a position is manifestly absurd. It is the Lord himself who has come; and He has come as " the Divine Truth in ultimates such as is the Word in the sense of the letter."
That the Writings themselves are a cloud, bright and luminous to those who are enlightened by the Lord, and dark to others, is clearly indicated in the little work entitled Sketch of an Ecclesiastical History. There we read: " The books are to be enumerated which were written from the beginning to the present day by the Lord through me. The writing there is such that it shines brightly before those who believe in the Lord and in the new revelation; but it appears dark and of no consequence to those who deny them, and who are not in favor of them on account of various external reasons" (n. 3-4).
Many have felt that the power of the Divine Truth is peculiarly present in the Old and New Testaments, comforting and sustaining; and that this is not the case in the Writings. I am not aware that any such distinction has ever been made between the Old Testament and the New; yet if the power of Divine Truth in ultimates is dependent on the obscurity of the ultimates, then logically, special emphasis ought to be laid on the Old Testament as the revelation where Divine Truth is in its greatest power to comfort and sustain man. Yet if anything, the opposite is generally the case in the Christian world. And naturally so, since the power is not in the letter of the Word but in the sense of the letter, that is to say, in the Divine Truth thus appearing; and this Divine Truth appears or shines forth only in parts of the Old Testament, while in the Gospels it is apparent almost everywhere.
Any one can readily confirm this from his own experience. Let him ask himself what are the passages in the Word that give him heavenly strength and comfort, and he will see that they are not the dark and obscure passages of the Word, the Jewish statutes, the tables of genealogies, but passages where the spiritual sense shines forth, passages where the Lord's presence is felt as the Teacher, the Comforter, the Sustainer.
Can we then deny this power to the Writings, where the Lord more interiorly presents himself? Men come into different states and are affected by the Word in different ways. Thus states of despair may overcome a man, in which his greatest strength and comfort is found in the contemplation of such words as " The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." In other states he finds his refuge in the stern command " Thou shalt not "; in others again in the Lord's words " come unto me all ye that labor "; and so in other cases. But when it becomes a question of more nearly beholding the Lord, of receiving strength to combat and overcome the assaults of doubts inspired by sensual and materialistic spheres, it is in the Writings of the New Church that the Lord gives of his power, and imparts interior strength and comfort; it is there that the Divine Truth is in its fullness, its holiness, and its power to combat the evils and falses that have destroyed the Christian Church, and, despite the low state into which men have sunk, to lift them up and establish a New Church as the kingdom of heaven on earth.
The teaching that in the sense of the letter of the Word, Divine Truth is in its fullness, its holiness, and its power, is but a phase of a universal law applicable to all Revelation; the law namely, that the Lord never operates on man from within unless at the same time from without. This law is revealed to us as " an arcanum of angelic wisdom," and it is shown that it was from this law that the Lord came into the world that He might be in firsts and in ultimates at the same time (D. P. 124). The reason is because only in ultimates is man free to cooperate with the Lord. He would not have this freedom were truth poured in through the soul. Hence all revelation is made in ultimates. " Nothing is ever wrought by the Lord except in fullness (we read), and the Word is in its fullness in the sense of the letter; hence doctrine is to be drawn from the sense of the letter" (S. S. 53). "The Lord does not speak with man except in fullness, and the Word in the sense of the letter is Divine Truth in fullness " (S. S. 97). Moreover, the sense of the letter is a guard for the genuine truths which are latent within, and this to the end " that the Lord, heaven, and Divine Truth, such as it is interiorly in the Word, may not be approached immediately but mediately through ultimates" (ibid.). We further read that " the power of Divine Truth is in the sense of the letter, nay, the Lord's omnipotence in saving man; for when the Lord operates, He does not operate from primes through mediates into ultimates, but from primes through ultimates and thus into intermediates " (A. E. 1086-7).
So universal is this law that it applies also to the spiritual world. The devils are held in order by the Lord operating in ultimates, the angels are enlightened by means of the Word on earth. In a word, it is by means of the Divine Truth in ultimates with man that the Lord exercises his omnipotence. New Church students are familiar with the teaching as to the dependence of the angelic heaven on the Church on earth (L. J. 9; Cor. 19); and that unless the Lord had come on earth, the heavens themselves could not have remained in a state of integrity (T. 118-19); but let me quote a single passage which applies this universal teaching to the written Word. We read: "The sense of the letter of our Word is the basis, support, and firmament of the wisdom of the angels of heaven. For the heavens subsist upon the human race as a house upon its foundations. Hence the wisdom of the angels of heaven, in like manner, subsists upon the knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom of men from the sense of the letter of the Word, for through the sense of the letter of the Word is effected communication and conjunction with the heavens" (A. E. 1085). Let the reader ask himself the question, Whence is to come " the knowledge, intelligence and wisdom " of the men of the New Church?