Swedenborg Study.com

Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg


Previous: Contents Up: The Science of Correspondency Next: Chapter First

Author's Preface

We cannot send forth this little book into the world without a few explanatory remarks concerning the principles on which it is written, and which it is designed to illustrate. This is the more necessary, as our religious and philosophical system is but little known, and less understood; and the title of our work, might, without explanation, lead many people to think that we meant nothing more by "spiritual doctrines" than such as usually pass by that name in the Christian world.

Our views of the Holy Scripture are of a peculiar kind. We hold that the spiritual doctrines of Christianity, which we have found to be identical with the highest and the noblest philosophy, are not discoverable in its literal and obvious text, but only in a certain interior, or spiritual sense, which is wholly distinct from that of the letter. The science, which enables us to reach this interior sense, is of a strictly philosophical kind, being founded upon an accurate and intimate acquaintance with the spiritual structure of the human mind, the manner in which its faculties are formed, and are connected with the phenomena of nature.

The Holy Scripture we believe to have been Divinely inspired, and to have been especially and providentially preserved, not because it contains a curious, though no very pleasing, account, of a corrupt and grossly sensual people, who, from their unintellectual character, required a display of outward miracles to keep them to the observance of their religious rites; but because, within the historical relation of events, and Prophecies, and Psalms, truths of a far purer kind lie hidden, which, as they arc wholly abstracted from all natural events, may not improperly be called the spiritual truths of reason. The laws that bring these, which are also the pure truths of religion, to light, have been deduced by their original promulgator, the incomparable Swedenborg, from a profound insight into the connection of all outward objects and events with their first Cause, and into the means by which their development is effected. These laws, comprehended in a science, which the author has called the science of correspondencies, he has applied to the spiritual interpretation of the books of Genesis and Exodus in the Old Testament, and of the Apocalypse in the New, and the result is a philosophical system of religion superior to anything which the Christian world at present possesses.

Our reason for calling the doctrines of this interior sense spiritual, is that they relate in an especial manner to the human spirit or mind, and have nothing whatever to do with the past or present condition of man in nature. So entirely are they abstracted from the historical records of the Old and New Testaments, that there is not the trace of a single circumstance which has happened in this natural world to be found in them, but they reveal instead the various states or conditions of human minds, as they were imaged or represented in those events. The science of correspondencies, therefore, enables us to ascend from the mere relation of facts to the spiritual region of causes and of ends, which are limited neither by space nor time, but are universally applicable to Humanity in its most comprehensive meaning. The doctrines, which are presented to the mind by the unfolding of the Scriptures, are called spiritual, in contradistinction to those which, having been taken from the literal text, and abounding in the fallacies and errors which belong to a natural view of religion, have but little title to that name. For the Old Testament was written for the use of a very barbarous and unenlightened people; its religion was of an earthly, and not of a heavenly kind, and the views which it presents of Jehovah God were only suited to their very sensual conceptions. Their God was a God who partook of the nature of bodies in space, and, though assumed to be almighty, was at times debased by the like infirmities with ourselves. Thus we find Him represented as descending and ascending through the atmosphere, just as if He were a finite being who had the power of traversing free space at pleasure ; He comes down from an atmospheric heaven upon Mount Sinai to deliver the two tables of the covenant to Moses, after having written the ten commandments upon them with His finger; He rides upon cherubs, cr upon clouds, and does a number of other things, which are only compatible with the nature of a finite being. Then with respect to the supposed qualities of the Divine Mind, He is occasionally represented in the Old Testament as instigated to anger and as burning with wrath, as revengeful and as a destroyer. These supposed qualities, which would profane the name of a good man were they to be attributed to him, have been handed down, and form a part even of the ordinary Christian belief; for still Jehovah is represented as the stern avenging God, whose anger could only be appeased by the sacrifice of His Son; that Son who mercifully took upon Himself the curse, and so averted the condemnation with which all mankind was threatened. But when Jehovah God is seen in the spiritual sense of the Word of God, it is neither as descending nor ascending in space, nor as writing with His finger upon stone, not as riding through the atmosphere upon cherubs, nor as flying upon the wings of the wind, but as wholly devoid of all the properties which belong to space and time. In that sense, so far from being wrathful, and requiring a sacrifice to appease His offended justice, He is seen to be the most perfect Love and the most perfect Wisdom, into whose Being nothing can enter of the changes and imperfections which more or less characterize all finite creatures. But not only does the spiritual sense reveal the power and glory, and the unity also of God, but it explains the reason for the clouds by which the splendour of the Divine Truth is dimmed in the literal sense. It accounts, in short, for all the anomalies and contradictions that are to be found in the Scriptures, at the same time that it removes them, and introduces the harmony and connection of purely spiritual truths, instead of the defective theology and philosophy of the letter. The mystery of the Trinity, when rescued from the darkness and confusion of a doctrine which has been taken directly from the natural sense, is a mystery no longer; and therefore the spiritual doctrine of the Trinity, being addressed to the reason of man, is unfitted to be the test of their faith, who make it a merit to believe in that which it is impossible to comprehend.

But the Word of God in its spiritual sense unfolds to us the whole mystery of our being. It lifts up the veil which has until now hidden from us that eternal world of happiness for which we are all created, and that other world of misery, for which we prepare ourselves, by a life opposed to the Divine Laws of wisdom, of innocence, and of love. Both these worlds, as they are usually called, are shown to be not any places, either near to us, or at a distance from us, but to be states or conditions of the human spirit or mind ; and death itself to be nothing more than the immediate transition of the conscious being from one state of life into another, and not, as it is commonly supposed to be, an extinction of consciousness, until the reunion of soul and body at the day of judgment.

These, and a multitude of other subjects, which will be found as inexhaustible as the Divine Fountain of the Word of God from which they all flow, comprehending the principles of true religion and philosophy, and even of science and of art, are to be found in the spiritual sense of the Holy Scripture. When this is opened to our delighted minds, and when we love and practise the exalted truths which are then revealed to us, we may be said really to nter the paths of wisdom and intelligence, and to be spiritually restored to Eden, the garden of God. In that garden we are in the presence of the Lord, and Saviour, and Creator of all; not divided into three Persons, with different characters and offices, but seen intellectually to be one Person, and that one Person the glorified Form which was displayed even to the senses of the three disciples on the Mount of His transfiguration.

Put if it be true that the Holy Scripture contains this interior sense, how is it, it may be asked, that it was not sooner revealed; or, if it was revealed, where are the traces of it to be found in the writings of the Apostles, and of the Fathers of the church? Our answer is, that the Apostles knew that the Holy Scripture had an interior meaning, and they transmitted this knowledge to their disciples: and that the Fathers, in the early ages of Christianity, endeavoured, and in many instances successfully endeavoured to bring it to light. Neither the Apostles, nor their successors, treated the Bible as if it were an ordinary book. The Apostles had learnt from their Lord and Master, that the Old Testament in a peculiar manner referred to Him, so that, when interpreted, they too, as He had done, might begin with Moses and the Prophets, and expound, in all the Scriptures, the truths which related to Him.

They knew from the same Divine Source, that His words were not confined to the dead letter, but were spirit, and were life. Paul, therefore, typifies the passage of the Israelites through the wilderness, when he says to the Corinthians, "I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." And he adds, "Now these things were our ensamples (or types, tipoi), to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." This spiritual mode of interpreting the Scriptures was handed down by the Apostles to their immediate successors, and we have the testimony of Clemens of Alexandria, who lived in the second century, that it was especially derived from the three disciples, Peter, lames, and John, who had beheld the Lord in His glory; and this sight of Him when He was transfigured before them on the mount, he rightly connected with the interior revelation of Him to the three Apostles as the Word or Divine Truth in the glory of its spiritual sense. When to this we add those remarkable declarations which the Lord made to the two disciples while they were at a loss to believe the report, which they had received from the women, of His resurrection, "O fools (or devoid of reason) and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken; ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? and beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself;" and when we find too, that after this, to the Apostles generally, He said, "these are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me:" and then "opened He their understandings that they might understand the Scriptures we might reasonably expect to find from all these declarations, that a spiritual mode of interpretation would be adopted by the early Fathers of the church ; and this is true to such an extent that they actually teem, and labour to bring these mysteries of the kingdom of God to light; and under the impression that a spiritual interpretation was of far greater value to the Christian, than that sense which does not require to have the understanding opened to be rightly understood, they appear at times to treat the letter lightly, and even with disrespect. But we will now prove by passages taken from their writings, that they actually were convinced of the existence of a spiritual sense; that they thought little of the natural sense when compared with it, and that, not unfrequently, they were able to unfold its true spiritual meaning.

Origen says of himself, "I, who believe the words of my Lord Jesus Christ, hold that there is not one jot, nor one tittle of the law and the prophets, which has not its mysteries, and that not one of these can pass away until all be fulfilled."* "They who find fault with the allegorical exposition of the Scripture, and maintain that it has no other sense than that which the text shows, take away the key of knowledge." + Speaking of the rites and ordinances of the Mosaic Law, he observes that "unless they be all of them taken in another sense than the literal, when they are recited in the church, as we have frequently declared, they are a greater stumbling-block, and tend more to the subversion of the Christian religion, than to its advancement and edification.++ In another part of the same commentary on Leviticus, he says, "the laws of the sacrifices, which are given in this book of the Law, are to be fulfilled according to their spiritual meaning; for no man, having a right or sound reason, can admit that rams, and goats, and calves are fit offerings for an immortal and incorporeal God." Ignatius says, "the Law of God is spiritual, and they have not the true Law, who do not take it spiritually."||

* In Exod. cap. i. + In Matth. cap. xxiii. ++ In I.evit. cap. vii. In Levit. cap. iii. || In Psalm, cxviii. sect. 26.

Again Origen says, that "there is an interior sense to the events which are recorded in the Evangelists;"* and that "whatsoever Jesus did in the flesh was, as to every particular, a similitude and type of what he will do hereafter ;"+ and also that "the true miracles of Christ, and the healing of the sick, are of a spiritual kind." ++ To show that he understood well what is meant by the spiritual sense of these outward signs, which manifested the Lord's omnipresent power, the following passage will, to any one acquainted with that sense, appear conclusive. "The works which Jesus then did, were the symbols of those things, which He by His power is always doing." In the eighth book of his work against Celsus, he says, that "the Prophets veiled their secret and sublime truths from vulgar comprehension under obscure figures, enigmas, allegories, proverbs, and parables;" and in the first book of the same work, he declares, that "true Christianity consists in the interpretation and unfolding of prophetical enigmas, and of the parables given in the Prophets, and of the other figures which are contained in the Scriptures, and of the facts therein recorded." Augustine also tells us, that "the five books of Moses preach nothing else but Christ, as He Himself says, 'If ye believe in Moses, believe also in Me, for he wrote of Me.'"||

In Matth. cap. xiv. + In Esaiam, cap. vi. + In Matth. cap. xxv. >$ In Matth. cap. xv. || quaest 64, Diversrae Quaest.

We will now turn to what they say of the literal sense, that we may see in what estimation they held it when compared with the spiritual. Jerome says, " they who follow the obscurity of the letter are wise only in earthly things and Origen, " they who follow the letter of the Law run into errors, superstitions, and infidelity."! In his Commentary on Matthew he observes, that "all those who literally expound the Law (of Moses) are vain preachers; and "they especially are idiots, who understand not the tropologies and analogies of the Scriptures, but are simple enough to believe in the literal sense only, and defend it." In another work he says, "they truly make the Law an Old Testament, who desire to understand it after a carnal manner; but to us, who understand and expound it spiritually, and in its evangelical sense, it is always New."|| "If any one will hear and understand this history according to the letter only, he ought to be accounted a Jew rather than a Christian. But if he would be a Christian and a disciple of Paul, let him hearken to the declaration of Paul, that the Law is spiritual." "Woe unto you, Scribes, is said to every one who knows nothing of any sense but the literal." Again Augustine declares, that " they who take the writings of Moses according to the literal sense, do not desire to be learned in the kingdom of heaven, neither do they pass over to Christ, that He might remove the veil (which is on their hearts);'' and he compares the condition of the merely literal expositor with that of " the unbelieving Jews, who, when they read the books of Moses, have the veil upon their hearts, and as this is not removed, they do not understand the Law." Again Origen observes, "there is a greater and a truer reason in the spiritual understanding of the Holy Scriptures, than is discoverable in the text of the letter."! Irenaeus declares, in speaking of the Lord's miraculous cure of the sick, that "if there had been nothing more than a temporal use to be gained by it, then did He nothing of great importance to those who were healed by Him."} Augustine says of the cursing of the fig tree, that " unless it be taken figuratively, it has no sense in it." Jerome in reference to Mount Zion says, that "it is a foolish thing to call an irrational and insensible mountain holy, or to believe it to be so."|| And Origen goes so far as to assert, that "there are some things inserted in the historical parts of the Scripture,

+ In Lib. Jos. cap. vi. Sermon. 77, sect. 7.

which were never done at all, or which could never have been effected, and other things again, which might by possibility have been done, but which were not." Augustine asks his reader, " Do you believe that the waters of Bethesda were wont to be troubled by the might of an angel, and that there is no mystery signified by it?"f And lastly Jerome declares, that "Christ is the true Stone which is found in the letter of the law, but which is rejected by those who rest in the letter."\

We will next proceed to show that the Fathers gave, in many instances, a correct explanation of the Scriptures in the spiritual sense; and this will be evident, from the following examples, to every one who has been accustomed to interpret them by the laws of correspondency. Eucherius observes of the prophecy concerning the Lord, 'I will open My mouth in parables,' that " it admonishes us that the Holy Scripture of the Old, as well as the New Testament, is to be interpreted in an allegorical sense." Jerome says, that "whatsoever is promised to the Israelites carnally, we show will, at one time or other, be fulfilled. in us spiritually ;"|| and that " whatever denunciations are in the history uttered 'against Jerusalem, relate to the church."* Origen says, that "he is a high priest unto God, who holds the (spiritual) science of the Law, and understands the reasons of every mystery, and who is acquainted with the Law both in its spiritual and its literal sense. They are to be accounted kings and princes (unto God) who can remove the earth of the letter, which covers the well of life, and draw forth the spiritual senses, like living waters, from that interior rock where Christ is." In another work he says, "the names of the kings (of Judah and Israel) are not given historically in the Divine Scripture, but for spiritual causes and things. They do not so much relate to kings, as to vices which bear rule in man." Jerome, giving the meaning of the bitter waters,, says, that " they signify the Law in its literal sense."?! Origen, speaking of the battle between Israel and the Amalekites, observes, " I would here pause a little,, and ask those who are not willing to understand this relation spiritually, but only according to the letter, whether they can possibly think that the Almighty God could have regarded the hands of Moses in giving the victory either to Israel or to Amalek, as they were raised up or let fall ? I would ask such persons whether they think this worthy of

* In Jerem. cap. xxxi. + In I,cvit. cap. xii. ct in Num. cap. xxi.

J In Num. cap. xxxi. In Kzecliiel, cap. xlvii.

having been uttered by the Holy Spirit ?" And Barnabas, in his explanation of the miracles, says, " the lifting up of the hands of Moses signifies the application of the Law in its highest meaning, but the letting down of his hands signifies a low, an earthly, and a-literal exposition."!

Many of their explanations of the New Testament are even still more striking. Augustine looked for another appearance of Elias, and that of an interior or spiritual kind; for he says, that " when Elias shall come to expound the spiritual law, he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children." + Of the two advents of the Lord, Origen observes, " One advent of Christ was fulfilled in humility ; we hope for the second in glory. The first coming was in the flesh, and therefore, by a mystic mode of expression, it is called, in the Holy Scripture, a shadow." Augustine says, that " according to the authority of all the Scriptures, there are two births of Christ (a spiritual and a natural)." || "Do we not see," he asks in another of his discourses, " in the figure of Mary, a type of the holy church, which He (the Lord) found a harlot, and made a virgin ? Mary brought forth, and was a virgin, and thus too does

t De Vita Mosis.. 5; In Jesu Nave. cap. viii.

the church bring forth Christ, and is a virgin."* Again Jerome says, " We interpret the virgin to mean that human heart which has a conscience void of sin, and which produces from itself Immanuel, or God with us, that is, the Word of God, which is present to it, is born of this soul. According to tropology (or spiritual interpretation) the Word of God is conceived of the Holy Spirit in the virginal soul, when it is not spotted with sin." f And Augustine observes, that " to this (virgin church) the Holy Spirit came down, and the Power of the Most High overshadowed it." \ Speaking of the marriages that are mentioned in the Old Testament, Origen says, " Since the Law is a shadow of the good things which are to come, and contains an account of marriages, and of husbands and wives, we are not to understand it as of marriages according to the flesh, but as relating to the spiritual marriage between Christ and His Church. Thus, in the instance of Abraham and his two sons, we ought not to confine our thoughts to carnal marriages, and their offspring, but to extend them to the mysteries which are signified by them. And there arc nearly a thousand other passages in Scripture about marriages, but in every place, by a moral exposition, there is a Divine

* In Serm. 215. + In Jesaiam, cap. viii. J In Append. .Serin. 125, sec. 5.

and mystical sense.. Whosoever therefore, when he reads in the Scriptures about marriages, understands no more by them than carnal marriages, he errs, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God."* Having seen what Origen thought of the general signification of the marriages mentioned in the Old Testament, we will now show what the Fathers thought of the marriage in Cana of Galilee, and of the miracle which the Lord wrought there. "Wine, in many passages," Augustine says, " is put by us for the Holy Scriptures, which contain within them the purest force of heavenly wisdom, by which the understandings of men are warmed and their affections inebriated. While Christ wrought in Cana of Galilee they wanted wine, and wine is produced for them ; that is, the shadows (of the letter) are removed, and the truth is presented to view. The good wine is the Old Testament, but this (good wine) does not appear, unless in the letter it be spiritually understood."f Theophilus of Antioch says, that " by this marriage the conjunction of Christ and His Church is to be understood ; Christ is the bridegroom, Moses is the steward (or governor) of the feast." 1 " Shall we say nothing," Augustine asks, " of the signification of the water pots, of the water turned into wine, of the steward (or governor) of the feast, of the signification of the Bridegroom, and what in the mystery is meant by the mother of Jesus, and by the marriage itself?" And in the same book he adds, " let us knock, and He will open, and give us to drink of the invisible wine until we be inebriated."

* In Matth. Tractat. f Appendix in Serm. xc. J In locum Johan.

With respect to the Lord's miraculous cure of diseases, Origen says, " the different kinds of sickness and disease existing at that time among the people, which the Saviour cured, relate to the spiritual infirmities of human souls."! And Augustine rightly declares, that " He is at this day performing those still greater cures, on account of which He condescended to exhibit those lesser miracles and that "our Lord intended that those cures which He performed bodily should be also understood spiritually."^ Hilary, in his Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, says, "Although these works of Jesus were done at this time, we should consider well what their signification is in relation to future times for "the then present acts (of the Lord) declare the form of the future."|| John of Jerusalem says of the Lord's restoring the blind to sight, " the cures which Jesus wrought upon the blind, were indeed great, but unless He daily do as mighty works, to us

t In Matth. cap. xvii. S Sermonum xcviii. sect. 3.

they are not great." * Chrysostom, struck by the extraordinary means used by the Lord in effecting the cure of the man who was blind from his birth, exclaims, " What a strange mode of cure is this ! But what shall we say is the signification of this mystery? These things were not simply nor inconsiderately done, but describe what will hereafter happen to us, as in an image and by a figure; or else, with all the power of faith, it would give offence to the minds of many people, so incredible and strange is the whole relation!" Cyril, in his commentary on the same passage of John, says, " what could be the reason, it may be asked, for Jesus having used His spittle mixed with clay in the cure of the blind man, when, without any trouble, and by merely speaking the word, He could have cured him ? Certainly the force of this miracle must have a certain mystic reason." Eusebius Gallicanus says, "our Saviour plainly shows that His miracles have an (interior) signification, because, in performing them He does something or other which has no reason in it. In the instance of the blind man, unless it had a (spiritual) signification, where was the necessity, for the restoring of his sight, that the Lord should make clay with His spittle to anoint his eyes, when with a word He could have cured him ? Let us search for the signification of this blind man."* And he adds, in the same book, "that blindness is not a blindness of the body, but of the soul." Augustine says, " that blind man is the human race;"f and Cyril, that the blind man is he who is destitute of the Divine Light." % Last comes John of Jerusalem, who interprets the blind man to mean "one who is blind in the letter (of the Scriptures), and who, so long as he remain in that state, cannot be cured."

+ In loc. Joluui.

Augustine says of the woman " who was cured of the issue of blood, that she is a figure of the church among the Gentiles ;"|| and that the whole human race are, like this woman, bowed down to the earth. The devil and his angels bow the souls of men down to the earth, that being bent to those things which are earthly, they may not seek those things which are above." John of Jerusalem-says, that "it was not the hem of Jesus' garment, but the thought of Him in her mind, which wrought the cure." **

Augustine says, that "the soul may be understood by the sick of the palsy, when there is a loosening of its members, that is, of good works; "ft and Eusebius Gallicanus, with singular sagacity, observes, that "when our Saviour says, Thy sins be forgiven thee, He points to the inner man, and shows that there was a palsy of the spirit. Had He looked only to the infirmity of the body, He would not have so expressed Himself."

* In Homil. Post Quartam Dominic. f In loc. Jolian. X De Adoratione. In Marc. cap. viii. || In Serm. lxxvii. sect. 8. If In Serm. cccxcii. ** In locum Marci. -ft Inter Qurest. Evang.

Augustine says of the withering of the fig-tree, " if this miracle had been only a thing to be admired, and not a prophetic figure, the Lord had more worthily shown His clemency and mercy by causing a withered tree to bud forth and flourish, in like manner as He had healed the sick. But, on the contrary, in this instance He seems to act against the ordinary rule of His mercy : for He finds a green tree, which, at an unwonted time, had no fruit upon it, but not refusing to yield its fruit to the husbandman, and this He causes to wither." f John of Jerusalem says, " it had leaves, but no fruit, the words but not the sense, the Scriptures but not the understanding of the Scriptures ;" I and Hilary explains the fig-tree as signifying the Jewish church. Speaking in reference to the fig-tree, Origen says, " in the righteous, Jesus is always a hungered, being desirous to eat the fruit of the Holy Spirit in them || and in the same treatise, " far be it from us, that when Jesus comes to us, and desires to eat of the fruit of the fig-tree, he find not fruit upon it."

John of Jerusalem, giving the spiritual sense of the Lord's glorification, says " He who follows the letter of the Scripture, and remains exclusively in the valley, cannot see Jesus clothed in white raiment; but he who follows the Word of God up the mountain, that is, he who ascends the sublime sense of the Law, to him Jesus is transfigured. So long as we follow the obscurity of the letter, Moses and Elias do not talk with Jesus ; but if we understand it spiritually, then straightway Moses and Elias, that is, the Law and the Prophets, come and converse with the Gospel."* Origen gives the same spiritual meaning to the Lord's glorification ; for "Moses and Elias," he says, "appeared in glory when they talked with Jesus, and in this fact the Law and the Prophets arc shown to agree with the Gospels, and to be resplendent with the same glory, when spiritually understood." f " He (the Lord) ascended the mountain to teach thee, that thou seek for Him nowhere else but in the mountains of the Law and the Prophets." 1 In the seventeenth chapter of his Commentary on Matthew he says,

* Homil. xxxii. t I" Kpist. ml Romanos, cap. i. + In Cantic. Cnntic. Homil. iii.

" if any one understand how the spiritual law agrees with the discourses of Jesus, and comprehend in the Prophets the wisdom that is hidden in mystery, such a person beholds Moses and Elias in glory with Jesus." In another work he says, " unless thou ascend the mountain of God, and there meet with Moses : unless thou ascend the lofty sense of the Law; unless thou reach the height of spiritual intelligence, thy mouth is not opened by God. If thou abide in the low plain of the letter, and do no more than make Jewish narratives of the historical text, thou hast not met Moses on the mount of God, neither hath God opened thy mouth, nor taught thee what thou oughtest to say:''* and "they are unthankful heretics," he declares, " who do not know how the New Scriptures of the Gospel agree entirely with the Old." t

* In Exod. cap. iv. + In Jos. cap. i.w

Augustine, speaking of our Lord's miracle of raising to life the son of the widow of Nain, observes, " there are some who stand amazed at the bodily miracles of Jesus, who know not how to behold His still greater (spiritual) miracles. Others there are, who hear indeed of His bodily miracles, but have a greater admiration for those which He wrought in human minds. For our Lord Jesus Christ intended that those miracles which He wrought on the bodies of men, should also be understood spiritually; for He did not perform miracles for the sake of miracles, but that those things which He did perform might appear wonderful to those who beheld them, and true to those who understood them. Such ought we to be in the school of Christ, as both to admire His works, and to follow that which is to be understood by them." (In Serm. xcviii.) "The three dead persons," he says in the same discourse, "whom Christ raised to life, are three different kinds of sinners, whom at this day He raises (to spiritual life). First, there are those who have conceived sin in their hearts, but have not brought it forth into act, and these are figured in the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue. The consent to iniquity is condemned, but she is restored to salvation and' righteousness. Though dead in the house of her father, she is raised ; the heart becomes alive in the secret chamber of the thought; the resurrection of the dead soul takes place within the recesses of the conscience, as it were within the house of her father. Another class consists of those who, after consent, pass into actual sin, and these, like the young man, are borne out dead, that that which lay hidden in secret may openly appear. Was it not said to this young man, ' I say unto thee, arise,' and was he not restored to his mother? Such a person, who has so acted, if happily he be admonished by the Word of Truth, rises at the voice of Christ, and is restored to the church alive. But they who commit sin, and moreover bind themselves to it by long habit, such persons, oppressed by malignant custom, are as it were buried, and in such sort buried, that like Lazarus they stink." Theophilus of Antioch observes, that " our resurrection is figured in the resurrection of Lazarus. The cave or sepulchre of Lazarus designates the shadowy letter of the Law ;"*and in commenting on the relation as given in John, he says, that "the stone rolled away from the sepulchre of Lazarus signifies the hardness of unbelief removed from the heart of man."

Pursuing the same mode of spiritually interpreting the condemnation and death of the Lord, John of Jerusalem says, " Do not suppose that it was only in former times Christ was betrayed by the Priests, condemned by them, and by them delivered over to be crucified; but even now He is betrayed, and condemned to death. For Christ is the Word of Truth, and they who falsely interpret the Word of Truth, betray Him to be mocked and crucified."! Andreas Caesariensis says, that "an earthquake, when mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, always signifies a change of things for the better;" Jerome, that "the veil of the temple was rent, and all the sacred mysteries of the Law, which were before covered, were made known, and passed over to the Gentiles." And, prophetically of the second advent, Jerome declares, that "when that shall come which is perfect, then shall the inner veil of the temple be rent asunder, that we may see the mysteries of the house of God, which are now hidden from us."f Lastly, Origen explains the sepulchre of Christ to mean the Divine Scripture, in which the mystery of His Divinity and Humanity is closed .up by the density of the letter, as it were by a stone."}

On the early times of Christianity the mind rests with satisfaction; for then religion flourished, not in dead creeds, but in the brotherly affection, the simple piety, and humility of its members. But that bright scene was quickly changed when the priesthood was invested with temporal power, and Christianity became the religion of the state. From that time, unhappily, the ministers of religion became more distinguished for their worldly-mindedness, bigotry, and intolerance, than, as they had before been, for their charity, their meekness, and humility. A general corruption of life and a deterioration of faith from spiritual to merely natural views of the Holy Scripture spread themselves over the Christian world. Wars, masked under the name of religion, and persecutions for His sake, who had enjoined His disciples to return blessings for curses, and prayers for despiteful usage, were among the bitter fruits of man's disobedience to the gentle and loving spirit of the Gospel.* From the days of Constantine to the present, it has been the endeavour of the rulers of the church generally to keep man's reason in servile obedience to a blind faith ; and having but little to offer him on which an enlightened mind could rest satisfied, to make a merit of necessity, and turn the very fallacies of " the letter, which killeth," to account, by offering them as tests and trials of his faith. But now, happily for the world, a different spirit has arisen. Men are disposed to require a reason for the faith that is in them ; and the time seems to be approaching when " the many things," which the Lord said He had to tell His disciples, but which they were not able then to bear, will be revealed by Him ; for, as it appears to us, the human mind is at length so far emancipated, as to be able both to bear them, and to profit by the instruction. Those " many things " which the disciples at the Lord's first advent were not able to bear, we believe to be contained in the spiritual sense of the Holy Scripture, and we believe also that the opening of the mind to a perception of its interior truths is meant by the second or spiritual advent of the Lord "with power and great glory." If this be true, then is a brighter day about to dawn upon the world. Though possibly not in this age, the living Christianity, which consists in pure intentions, disinterested kindness, and preference of others to ourselves both in thought and action, we feel assured must eventually prevail, and restore man, spiritually as well as naturally, to the paradise of his primeval state.

* Nathan Dymond observes in his " Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of Christianity :" "That during the first 200 years, not a Christian soldier is upon record. In the third century, when Christianity became partially corrupted, Christian soldiers were common."Ed.

All instruction, and especially religious instruction, we should ever remember, ought to minister to the cultivation of mutual kindness and good-will. Without these, speculations, however elevated their character, and worthy of rational beings, present, not the light of true wisdom, but only a false glare, serving no other purpose than to hide our true conditions from ourselves. Experience teaches how easy it is to talk about charity, and humility, and mutual forbearance, and how apt we are to fancy ourselves in possession of these virtues when we are no more than intellectually impressed with their value and importance.

The subjects which we have dealt with in the course of our inquiries, have been, If we may be allowed to say so, of interest and importance ; and having found how useful these investigations were to ourselves, we have thought that they may not prove altogether useless or uninteresting to others.

Previous: Contents Up: The Science of Correspondency Next: Chapter First


Webmaster: IJT@swedenborgstudy.com