Philosopher, Metaphysician, and Theologian.
REV. G. B. PORTEOUS.
Popular Series No. 13.
NEW YORK: PUBLISHED BY E. HAZZARD SWINNEY,
The following Lecture was delivered more than twelve years ago, and the present issue is a third edition. It has been carefully revised by the author, who, although a clergyman of the Church of England, and Rector of All Souls' Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, New York, is an ardent admirer of Emanuel Swedenborg's writings. It ought to be added, that a very large number of the clergy of the Broad Church School in the English Church are in earnest sympathy with the views and theology of the great Swede.
To the American public this Lecture will be a surprise and quite phenomenal, being the production of a clergyman of the Episcopal Church, a Church which in this country has manifested no catholicity towards or joined in co-operation with any religious sect or movement outside its own pale; but, on the contrary, and in this respect very unlike the mother Church in England, has done its best to keep out of its ministry and teachings any one and every kind of teaching savoring of liberalism and catholicism.
The author, since his arrival in this country, has produced a prolonged sensation both by his moral and religious independence and his eloquence as a preacher and teacher. The present Lecture will not detract from, but increase his deserved popularity.
New York. THE PUBLISHER
[FIRST AMERICAN FROM THE SECOND LONDON EDITION.]
PHILOSOPHER, METAPHYSICIAN AND THEOLOGIAN.
REV. DR. G. B. PORTEOUS,
Late of London, now Rector of All Souls' Episcopal Church, Brooklyn.
Delivered in the Guildhall, Bath, December 8th, 1862.
A Noble life, and a philosophy large and sublime in its conception, and fruitful in its results, invite us to a consideration of the claims, philosophy, and theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose name is already familiar to the philosophical world, but whose writings have not been read by the masses; a fact to be accounted for on the grounds that the higher faculties of men have not been hitherto cultured for the reception of the higher ranges of intellectual and philosophic truths; and also to the opposition of religionists, who have partially succeeded in obstructing the expression and ecclesiastical embodiment of what are called his peculiar views. Compared with the renown which lesser men, such as Luther and Wesley, gained so rapidly, so extensively, and held so long undisputed, the claims of Swedenborg are curiously significant; and although the vast capacity, the ponderous contributions to polemic and religious literature, and effective services of these great men will always deserve historic recognition, yet to those who estimate great conceptions at their true or approximate value, Swedenborg will ultimately be considered as a master-expositor in the philosophy and theology of which Luther and Wesley were little more than scholars.
In saying this, I am far from depreciating Luther and Wesley, to exalt or to bring into fuller view a fancied rival. I appreciate too warmly, and value too deeply, the uses these men performed in the world, to indulge for one moment in casting reflections of a depreciatory kind on their history, use, or writings. But in an examination of claims in the realms of philosophy, theology, and general literature, it is useful to institute comparisons, in order to secure legitimate perception of character, truths, and claims.
The three men are, however, essentially different—each grand, admirable, and honored in his sphere; but the sphere and genius of Luther and Wesley are more readily appreciable, because on a lower level. I do not know how it strikes your intelligence, but it appears to me that we have to a great extent overlooked the true standard of appeal in judging the claims of the world's splendid and spacious thinkers. Instead of coming direct to the records of a man's history, and to the expressed principles of his philosophy and theology, so as to determine what place he occupies in the great harvest-field of knowledge and greatness, we fall into the abject and mean custom of permitting our judgment to be clouded, our rationality weakened, and our perception of personal and historic greatness to become uncertain and arbitrary, by committing our reason into the keeping of others, and through them pass proxy verdicts on the claims of gifted and illumined men.
Advanced intelligence is bent upon utterly sapping our reverence for the great names of history, simply because this reverence generally is fostered by the high-priests of partisanship. Obvious as might appear the criminality of publishing willful untruths, and calling those untruths part of a man's history and theology, yet the offence is one which unfortunately is so frequently committed, and committed by persons otherwise honorable and well-intentioned, that it is impossible to regard it in all cases of the same serious nature which undoubtedly belongs to it in some. Public feeling, if not satisfactory, is our safest guide in such matters; and public feeling makes large excuses where it can sympathize with the temptation of the offender. Partisans are permitted to be blind: " We only see what we bring our eyes to see." If clouds rest on our intellect, and prejudice on our judgment, our intellectual estimate of and affectional attraction towards men and philosophy will be dim, uncertain, and cold; and the eye, being undisciplined by truth, will only see phantasms; and the judgment being in the darkness of doubt, will be ready to condemn where it ought to praise—ready to underrate where it ought to crown with merit. No one cap. be surprised that Protestants and Catholics should misrepresent each other. Their respective advocates set out with a belief of their own side which no evidence can shake; each is intent upon destroying the other's system, and the general issue is, they both leave the prize ring thinking and assuring themselves well fortified, and confident that the fortress of their high faith has not been touched, or their arguments proved fallacious. We are always disposed to forgive the faults into which it is easy to fall through theological skirmishing, and think lightly of the sin of bearing false witness against our religious and theologic neighbor. We readily pardon the fault of the polemical discussionist or a political diplomatist, because we feel how ready the mind is to take up a train of arguments in harmony with its own genius, culture, and notions; we are willing to allow for the prejudices of feeling, and are unwilling to blame what arises out of honorable though misguided sentiment. The misrepresentations circulated concerning Swedenborg are of such a nature as to render it very difficult to forgive his detractors. If their fault be a grave one, yet it is not committed for nothing; and in this, as in all other matters, the degree of fault is measured by the extent of the temptation. The temptation to misrepresent Swedenborg is doubtless very strong and urgent, seeing that the acceptance of his doctrines and philosophy would greatly and gravely undeceive men in the most important and vital matters. It is of this historically-avouched decline of critical honesty in the world of letters and biography that we have most to complain. It would make your ears tingle to hear the thunderous mirth with which certain stories and misrepresentations of Swedenborg are recited in public. I cannot help recognizing in this lecture several of the gross vituperations which have been heaped upon the great philosopher himself, and upon those who, in intelligence and in heart, have adopted his sublime and practical theosophy.
Permit me to place before you my estimate of Swedenborg in a threefold manner—as a Philosopher, a Metaphysician, and a Theologian.
The term Philosopher includes much more than we generally associate with it. It means not merely the man who has on- sight regarding the organic laws of nature, or a thorough insight of the mechanism of this world, or whatever in this world is subject to the laws of geometry, or capable of being apprehended by experience, assisted by reason and culture. By a philosopher we mean a man who, by various processes of culture, experience, and spiritual genius, is able to arrive at the real causes of those effects in the mechanical world which are invisible and remote from the senses; and who, standing on some central platform of perception, is capable of reasoning from the first principles or causes to effects in nature; who can scan the objective universe, and demonstrate that it is the expressed and defined effect of a grand subjective cosmos lying under, around, and above it. A philosopher, in one word, is a man who has his intellect intromitted into the world of causes, and who reasons from spirit to matter, from cause to effect, and who, in the depths of his being, venerates Deity, and loves to trace the operations of divine wisdom in the laws, plans, and phenomena of universe. Philosophy is the comprehensive term for everything which man can know, love, and feel. The whole of philosophy maybe summarily formulated thus:—a knowledge of external bodies or mechanical laws in nature; of mental faculties and possibilities; and of moral obligations and spiritual relationship to Deity. The first embraces all natural and objective philosophy; the second, moral and mental philosophy; and the third, spiritual and subjective philosophy and theosophy.
Swedenborg stands before the world's notice as the illustrious exponent of the state, capacity, and varied power of perception which belong to this threefold realm of thought. He is differenced from great minds by reason of a rare and organic development of brain, whence arise other faculties and uses than those which pertain to the past or present history of philosophic greatness. He had a varied knowledge of nature and her laws; and yet, as will be shown, he is superior to, and essentially different from, our highest scientific philosophers, by translation—or rather intromission—of his intellectual powers into the world of causes, and by his necessary perception of streams from their fountain sources, and of natural phenomena from spiritual realities. Mundane creation was to him the effigy of a superhuman realm. His mind was a Jacob's ladder, by which he rose to the high cause-world, and interpreted the language of earth by the laws of heaven. Other philosophers have been content to rest in the seen and temporal —in the natural and corporeal; but Swedenborg rose to the heights where he discerned with unclouded vision the power which moves the worlds of matter and mind. Men of the old philosophical school thought in one plane, and that the natural and corporeal; the higher spaces and planes of their being were inert. However spacious and broad in the natural degrees of their minds, they narrowed as they rose, like pyramids, and tapered off at last into nothingness and air.
Ordinarily their reason and rationality were only of a natural kind—sane on that side of their nature which was world-ward, but imbecile on that which was spirit-ward. They talked loudly and learnedly on the forms of matter and of things objective and sensual, but of things spiritual and supersensual they were either utterly unconscious, or had but the most dubious conceptions. When they were demanded to interpret the forces of nature, and to tell the secrets of spiritual affinity, they answered in dumbness, or replied in negations; when earnestly solicited to say something about the cause-world, and of unseen forces influencing our destiny and dignity, they were dumb. Mighty Nimrods were they in the natural intellectual realm, fortified with ponderous armies of natural reasonings, arguments, predicates, and propositions, but utterly impotent to lift the curtain of the inner life, or reveal spirit-facts to man. In their thoughts and teaching, they separated the spiritual world from the natural world—they sundered the marriage bond existing between heaven and earth; they did not discriminate between the psychological and the cyclopaedical—between the spiritual and the natural.
And this characteristic is true of all the philosophers, of the past age. John Locke, a hundred years ago, reigned paramount over the English mind in the department of philosophy; but now he faintly glimmers in the twilight that precedes the dawn. How capacious, for example, seemed the culture and capacity of such men as Bacon, Locke, Cudworth, Spinoza, Descartes, and Berkeley; but tried by the spiritual culture of the last twenty years, the giant becomes a dwarf, and their perceptions of the mental and inner life little better than surface glances at profound truths. The majority of reputations in philosophy are of men versed in truths skin-deep, who make an art of their shallowness, and a merit of their incapacity to see the profound things of God. Their philosophy is little else than playing with words; displaying much ingenuity, but of little benefit, save the consecration of the use of terms, and the art and facility of reasoning from false premises with wonderful sophistry. It is otherwise with Swedenborg. Examine all the philosophical systems extant, and take all the religious literature of the past century, and place them in one scale, and take the voluminous works of Swedenborg—those on "God," "Nature," the "Divine Providence," "Regeneration," of a "Future Life," on "Congugiality," on the Government of the World, and kindred subjects of Deity and Destiny—and place these in the other scale, and the philosophy and libraries of the world will kick the beam.
The incomparable depth, splendor, and vastness of Swedenborg's genius are shown in this, that he alone has ever dared to tread the threefold realm of natural, mental, and spiritual philosophy. He alone rises above the mere scientific world into the realm of pure causation. He alone gives to nature, human and spiritual significance, by relating it with its perpetual Sustainer and Recreator.
The fundamental distinction between his insight into nature and that of other great philosophers is, that while they separate the universe from God, and divorce natural forces from antecedent and spiritual forces, and thus construct a gross materialism, he relates the objective world with the spiritual and subjective world, and unites natural forms to spiritual forces, and constructs a philosophy (with its accompanying theology) which places God always within the world as the life-imparting, form- creating, and life and form-sustaining Creator. As it is impossible to comprehend this distinction without a clear perception of Swedenborg's doctrine, I shall make no apology for attempting to familiarize you with the leading principle of his theory of creation, which is, that nature everywhere is pervaded more or less by spiritual forces or motions, more or less perfectly pronounced, according to the form containing the force. Those of you who have read Swedenborg's "Principia," and the "Divine Love and Wisdom," will certify how virtually he rectifies our intellectual methods of viewing creation, by giving us a right and rational apprehension of its forces and forms, and how truly he promotes a real scientific cosmology. There is nothing so arbitrary and irrational in the construction of current philosophy, or past theology, as the cosmology of the orthodox.
The philosophy of past ages has been chiefly of the earth, earthy—busied in the laws, mechanics, and effects of nature; and has viewed all these as final and divorced from God—complete, and independent of unseen forces. To Swedenborg was reserved the high honor of proclaiming, and the splendid art of demonstrating, that this world of nature is not independent and isolated—not the real world any more than our bodies or our apparent self is our real self. He asserts that the world is the effect answering to an efficient cause superior to itself; that the natural world bears the same relation to the spiritual world which the body bears to the soul, the shell to the kernel, viz., the relation of an image to its projecting substance. The body is but an image of its spiritual substance, the soul; so the natural world, the realm of sense, is an image, form, and reflection of the spiritual world. Nature is thus but the stupendous mirror of superior or spiritual modes of existence; and therefore the natural world, which is the world of phenomena, presupposes the spiritual world, as the image in a looking-glass pre-supposes the reality and cause of the image. Of course, so long as we foolishly hold nature to be destitute of this higher significance, and the temple of higher forces, so long as we hold the natural world to be essentially a negative and dead form, as not the mere mirror of the real and substantial, but as the real itself, we shall remain utterly incapacitated to know Swedenborg's doctrine, and continue to be the prey of the dull and stupid despotisms which, under the names of philosophy and theology, drink up the true life of insight and rationality: (Henry James' "Logic of Creation," etc., etc.
Listen to what Swedenborg, in his " Principia," page 36, says: " Nature is only a word which expresses all the motive forces proceeding from the first motion of the Infinite. . . . They, therefore, are mere children who have scarcely reached the first threshold of true philosophy, who ascribe to nature the origin of all things. Nature is only an effect—acauseate, or thing caused—the Infinite being its efficient or cause."
Nature, seen in her own light, is mis-seen. When seen from the glory that excelleth, or from the spiritual world, then arc we seers. Exactly here, in truth, lies the imbecility of all our existing theologies and philosophies. They fail to discern the Divine operation in nature; because, instead of viewing nature as a mirror of the Divine creation, and seeking a knowledge of the image she reflects, by means of a light superior to our exhausted and fashionable philosophy, men rest in the natural, and ignore the spiritual. The service which Swedenborg has done the rational and scientific mind in this direction is incalculable. He constantly protests against the popular habit of regarding time and space as real existences, and declares that they are only the expressed forms of higher life. The natural world is implied in the spiritual world, just as the affection or sensation of pleasure or wit is implied in the smile, or as the foundation of a house is implied in the superstructure, or the shell of a nut is implied in the kernel. Whatever of splendor or deformity, of comfort or of beauty, the natural world exhibits, is from the spiritual world.
Precisely on this point philosophy signalizes its inherent incapacity to furnish us with a true doctrine of nature. Utterly unscientific is the jargon of the school-men on this theme. Our popular philosophers and theologians having denied or disguised that nature is a correspondence of the spirit, and having concluded that the natural world is an independent existence, existing for its own sake, have rushed with dark souls into the wide solitudes of Naturalism. It is otherwise with the dignified and luminous Swedenborg. He declares that this world is married to the spiritual world; that the interior is united with the exterior—the internal spiritual world married to its specific form in the natural world. Everything that has form presupposes some precedent thing or state out of which it grows or by means of which it is made to appear. The various forms of nature and phenomena everywhere observable by our senses, suppose some precedent source by virtue of which they themselves become manifest. They each suppose some sensible background, giving it objective unity and marriage with the subjective substance.
But from this reasoning it follows that the objective things of earth do show forth in some measure the invisible things of the spiritual world. "The invisible things of God are clearly seen in the things that are made." Thus the universe is a pervaded force, or temple of living forces. It is the expressed poem of the spiritual world; the objective and dramatic image of causative and cumulative powers unseen and eternal. I think I hear some of my audience ejaculating a responsive and hasty "Amen" to all this, in order to induce me to proceed to another part of this review; but I feel eagerly disposed to disabuse your excellent understandings of certain fallacies and prejudices engendered by the current theology on this point; and I solicit your indulgence for a moment longer. If we view the world as a mere literal and final effect, it becomes nonsense, since it exhibits the Divine Being as creating mere natural existence. Natural existence is not the real or absolute existence. Nature, as we remarked before, is a pure seeming, wholly phenomenal. The sensible world is purely formal, not essential, it is, and ever will be, the realm of shadow, not of substance— of seeming, not of being. It is not the theatre of God's divine or spiritual creation, but of the effect of divine creation; or, to use Swedenborg's language, "a sphere of effects, not of ends." How magnificently grand does creation become when viewed in this light!
Nature is not an independent existence, as she seems; she is, in fact, the shadow or image of profounder realities projected upon the field of sensuous and objective vision; she is the index of sublimer homes for the spirit, higher thought-worlds for the intellect, vaster play-grounds for the spirit-man within us, and a sublimer university for the spirit when it leaves this phenomenal world, and enters into that higher place and estate of being called spiritual existence. ("Logic of Creation.") If this be sound argument, and truthful logic, and rational reasoning, then our day and night, our summer and autumn, our flowers of earth and stars of heaven, the balmy breaths of orient climes, the sweet music of running streams, the grand melody of anthem and psalm, the soul-stirring scenes of earth and sky, are so many graduated effects from interior spiritual causes, precisely as we regard a blush upon the skin, or a sudden pallor of the face, as an evidence of heightened or depressed vital action.
Here, then, we are invited to believe in a world above and beyond this, which is real and lovely, and of the spirit's holiest play—with its blooming landscapes, and terraced mountain slopes, and verdant meadows, and transcendently gorgeous scenery, and rivers streaming in the brightness of an All-Father's smile, and stately and tail trees, and grand enjoyments and employments for the perfected spiritual body. As this future home and world are more real than this phenomenal world, the body adapted to it must be correspondingly more real and complete in its parts and sensations than that which we inhabit now. Swedenborg affirms—and we believe the affirmation to be philosophically true—that man, as to his interior structure, is more complete and consciously more human after he leaves this natural world than he is in it. He continually endeavors, in his philosophical treatises, to disenchant us from the delusion that we are men solely by possession of bodies. He tells us that the internal is the me, the external body, themine. The spiritual body is the me, the body objective is mine; the body is not the man or conscious me.
The spiritual body has its complete adaptation of parts and passions, its senses and perceptions, admirably adequate to the world in which it is eternally to live; while in terrestrial conditions the powers of this spiritual manhood and womanhood are not consciously seen and felt with the same vividness which belongs to our natural sensations, yet they certainly are as real in fact and active in reality as our fleshly senses and appetites. The spiritual man resides within the natural man, and uses the natural functions and faculties as his servants, while sojourning in the mundane world. The natural eye is the eyeglass of the spiritual eye, by which it sees into the objective world; the natural ear is the sounding gallery for the corresponding spiritual organ to hear the sounds of the natural world; and the whole anatomy of man is an admirably arranged adaptation for the spiritual being within, who inhabits the body as its splendidly-furnished apartment.
Swedenborg crosses, in his culture and insight, the Rubicon between the age of natural science and that of spiritual philosophy. By a more reliable navigation than that of Columbus, he planted the standard of discovery on the spiritual world, and brought spiritual facts, sublime as heaven and terrible as hell, into the open light and common view of man. On the trackless seas of eternity he sailed, but returned to proffer help to those needing directive thought; he beckons to a world of higher beauty, deeper treasures, of flowers and fruits, and wells of living waters. Standing on spiritually elevated ground, and gazing from an internal platform of vision, he saw with more than the natural eye, the essences of matter and the archetypes of mind—of life in first principles, and of its finited presentation in the phenomena of nature. His perceptions of the laws relating to matter and mind are faultlessly free from the perplexing darkness of a past philosophy. A true philosopher was this man; aye, a philosopher not only of time, but of eternity ! In his grand and amazing analysis of the origin and operation of life—a subject so dull and unattractive to the thoughtless mind, but so vivid with every endearing charm of color to the instructed and cultured sense—Swedenborg transcends the philosophy of past ages, and sublimely vindicates the expressed fact of Scripture, that "God alone is life." Swedenborg's philosophy begins where his physics end. He lays down this fundamental principle—that God alone is life in himself, and all things live from Him; that everything in heaven and earth is but the receiving and containing vessel of life, and not life itself; that the creature does not originate or possess life in himself, but derives it solely from God. The whole phenomenal world of time and space, of earth and nature, is a plastic form, subject to spiritual laws—infilled with spiritual life; the things tangible and material are the obedient receptacles of operant principles and volitions of inner life.
" God alone hath life in himself, and with what delight does He clothe the worlds and fill the universe ! Wherever matter is, life is there. The principle of life is uniform and omnipresent, while its expressions and presentations are manifold and variable."
Swedenborg gives us the discriminating testimony that the quality of the life is determined by the receptive form into which it flows. As is the form, such is the quality and genius of the life. The meanest expression of what we call life is in the realm of physics or matter; the next we call physiology, or the life of the Divine in man's body and the animal kingdom; and the highest plane we name psychology, or the life of God in the inmost form of man's affections and thoughts; three different presentations of the divine life—the life of the infinite divine love in and operant through them all.
Secular science has denied life to minerals and metals; but Swedenborg proves that even stones, crystals, and minerals have the property of life, which is more or less perfectly pronounced according to the capacity of the form to receive and pronounce it. Man stands the highest form receptive of life. He possesses an individual element proportionate to all the forms of life below him in the universe; hence man is the universal form. He has in his personality the universal distinctiveness of vegetable, animal, and mineral life. He is thus related to nature—the whole realm of nature—on the one hand, by what he possesses in common with such natural community; and, on the other hand, related to God more immediately by reason of what he possesses over and above the merely natural and animal forms. Life flowing into his organs, or receptive forms, takes the embodiment of thought and affection, and attendant volition.
What appears as affection and thought in the man-form, reappears on the lower planes of existence as instinct in the animal; sensation, vitality, and consequent growth in the vegetable; and as attractive force and gravitation in the mineral. There is in every step downward a decline in power; some energy ceases, some capacity disappears; yet the same divine life runs through the whole.
Doubtless mineral life is very base and inferior compared with the human; but still it is the same life, only more imperfectly pronounced. So the vegetable and animal presentation" of life is vastly inferior to its pronunciation in the human being, because of the inferiority of their forms of reception. However humiliating it may seem to connect the life of the mineral with the life of the soul, it is nevertheless the truth of philosophy, and a fact of nature, that both are one life. The divine life plays through both according to the capacities of each plane. In nature the manifestations of life are various, one thing in the crystal, another in the mineral: revealed now in instinct with the winged creature of the element, and now in fragrance from fields of flowers; ascending into the higher forms of human existence, it variously enriches the human faculties, producing through each form some novel manifestation. Plowing into thought forms, it weaves the many-colored web of thought, as it spins a web of grass or makes a tapestry of blossom upon an earthly ground.
The life alters as the theatre changes. The visible universe, with all its varied forms of reception and reaction, is a revelation of the constructive action of God; and man exhibits in himself a form through which all the divine processes can be continued and extended. Man is the sublime theatre for the creative and re-creative operations of the Infinite Intelligence. The universe is the studio of the Divine Mind; nature is his picture; time, space, and all existences the mere forms and modes through which he communicates his own states of subjective thought and love to the apprehension of intelligent creatures.
God is the sun—not of nature, but of the life superior to nature; the sun of thought, the sun of feeling—the vivifying source of every true and pure affection. He is the everlasting fount of life to all his creatures. His divine beams are perpetually inflowing into the organs of all finite intelligences, and giving energy and beauty to all terrestrial things.
"Of Him, and by Him, and through Him are all things." Without his continual influx, thought would cease—the majestic evolution of ideas end; the sciences would droop as flowers touched by frost; the star like knowledges that deck the firmament of the race, and make resplendent the countenance of history as night with her constellations — all would vanish, shaken from the tree of heaven, as some tree of earth casteth her untimely fruit. Thus the floral families that stand in breathing battalions, waving their banners of beauty, are a joy work of the Divine Florist. And the animal tribes, as they range themselves in gay and variegated processions, are each specimens in structure, instinct and movement of the operation of the Infinite Life-Giver.
The recognition of this universal and momentary influx of the divine life into every object and atom of the creation, is the key to the sublime philosophy of Swedenborg's doctrine of Influx and the Creation. As genuine truth and true philosophy know of no independent life in the universe, both support the Biblical truth that God alone hath life in himself.
A most important question suggests itself here, which our previous reflections have urged upon us, the answer to which will mark an important difference between Swedenborg the philosopher, and Swedenborg the teacher of religion. As we have already observed, Swedenborg attained to the perception of an intelligent First Cause—of the infinite mind, of which the world, with its facts and appearances, finite things and beings, qualities, relations, and laws, is the expression. He goes upward beyond the phenomenal, objective, and relative (not inferentially), to an immediate object of adoration and veneration, to the Infinite Divine Being himself. Behind the phenomenal and objective, is that out of which all phenomena sprang. The events of time, and the epochs of space, and the forms of life, and all observable sequences, leave the mind unsatisfied; and the intellectual instinct still searches for the antecedent cause which transcends them all.
From the created we are ever soaring aloft to find out a creator; our spiritual natures are ever straining the cords that would confine them within the finite, and striving to enter into the realm of the ideal and the infinite. Is it then possible for the mind to realize a sense and perception of the Divine Being? Are our restless longings, and irrepressible aspirations, and yearning thoughts, and undying hopes, but mocking voices and echoes of our wistful cries, sent back upon the winds? Swedenborg has proved that a science of nature is possible and practicable; and he satisfies my mind that a science of God is also possible. True philosophy proceeds upon the supposition that God may be known. Plato somewhere remarks that no man can worthily vindicate the name of philosopher who has not a profound reverence for Deity. But suitably to venerate and love, we must know and understand something of the nature of Him whom we love.
However much men may talk of reverencing a God of virtue and goodness, still virtue and goodness are abstractions apart from a personality. They cannot call out our affections, or induce a healthy reverence upon the mind. But God is a person, and with this admitted truth, all spiritual worship and veneration become possible. Co-existent with the truth that God is a personality, is this other truth, that we can only see God according to our capacity of vision. As it requires something of Shakespeare in us fitly to comprehend the drama, so God must be realized as the divine dramatist of the universe, before the world, through its varied scenery, phenomena, and plans rising above plans, will afford us glimpses of that real world of mind and reality, whose very footlights are the stars.
No man can have healthy conception except from sympathy and affection, and no man can write above his conception. The high truths—the universal truths of nature in its cosmical fullness, and of the world of primordial and essential substances, can never be apprehended until the mind has risen in its plenary forces to a knowledge of God. To know adequately of a revelation, we must know definitely of a revelator; and there must be ideas in the brain, and elements in the soul, in sympathy with the revelator—elements upon which the revealing genius may operate.
The insight which Swedenborg had into the laws of nature and the secrets of spirit, was mainly acquired through intense sympathy in his soul with God. In this respect he is differenced intellectually from the philosophers and theologians of most ages. He venerates a presiding mind in the universe, and has a clear, logical, and satisfactory conception of the Being he adores. Confessedly, on the nature of God, the theologies of ages have taught nothing affirmative and personal, nor the philosophies of the schools anything tangible, spiritual or inspiring. It has of late been said by distinguished thinkers, that a science and knowledge of God are impossible. Of the elaborate and recondite reasonings on which this bold negation is founded, it is of course impossible for me to dwell. But as it is a doctrine which interests our highest being and destiny, I shall indulge for a moment or two in offering a few observations on this point.
If God is the fountain of all goodness, the inspirer of true affection, and the source of all intelligence, there is nothing of so great moment to the race as the conception of his existence; and a true apprehension of his relations to man must constitute the turning point in the progress of the world. The thought of divine unity, or an absolute cause, was familiar to antiquity; but the unanimous verdict of history shows that it took no hold on the popular affections. Philosophers had conceived this divine essence and unity as purest action, unmixed with substance, form, or personality; as fate holding the world in its invincible grasp; as reason going forth to the work of creation; as the primal source of all the ideal archetypes according to which the world was fashioned; as boundless power, careless of boundless existence; as the Infinite One, slumbering unconsciously in the infinite all. He was held as a mere metaphysical abstraction, loveless, lifeless, inane, of whom nothing could be affirmed personally. Nothing of this could take hold of the common mind, or make
"Peor and Baalim Forsake their temples dim,"
or throw down the altars of superstition. The heart cannot feed on sublimities and abstractions; it cannot make a home of cold magnificence; it cannot take immensity by the hand.
For the regeneration of man and the redemption of the world it was requisite that; the Divine Being should be known not only as an abstract cause, but as the infinitely divine personality— the essence and form of all excellence and beauty; not as a distant providence of boundless power, and of uncertain and inactive will, but as God, personally related to the race and the universes. The theologies and philosophies of the age prior to Swedenborg were utterly incapacitated to respond to the longing in men's hearts for a personal God. From the third century, when theology committed suicide on the question of Deity, philosophy ever since has boon its unhappy ghost, disturbing the hopes and souls of men. Swedenborg gives royal testimony to the nature and perfection of God. He indicates a true and personal conception of God, and in such a form as to refute the mighty systems of Spinoza, Naturalism, Fetishism, Pantheism, Fatalism, Optimism, and Tritheism. His doctrine is substantially this: that God is perfect love and perfect wisdom, and the sole, universal, and divine substance; that God is infinite divine love and wisdom in an infinitely divine human form or personality; feminine as to his love, and therefore ever actively creating; masculine as to his wisdom, and therefore perpetually formative and making. He shows how God works in nature, and unfolds the mode of his access to man, by which he clothes with beauty the grass that perishes, and weaves the many-colored robe of space and time; how God's omnipresence is the omnipresence of influx to every created form, and his omnipotence the omnipotence of love to every receptive heart and mind in the universe.
Swedenborg's book on the "Divine Love and Wisdom" is the most wonderful exposition of the nature of the Heavenly Father that I have ever studied.
To those persons now struggling in the chaos and confusion of speculative thought and faith on the question of Deity, we recommend the reasoning and wisdom of Swedenborg. To the common thought, and even to the most philosophical mind, there is something enormously repulsive in the ordinary views of Diety. Swedenborg remarks that God is a "Divine Man," therefore a divine personality. In this divine personality there exist three degrees of infinitude—his love, wisdom, and proceeding—called respectively Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In philosophical terms these three degrees of being are—Esse, Existere, and Procedere; divine good, divine truth, and divine operation; infinite divine love, infinite divine wisdom, and infinite divine effectuality: all these denote the one God in his three hypostases, or meditorial degrees. The Divine Being is, according to this doctrine, seen to be, not an abstract unity, but a divine organism of eternal hypostases, distinct, but mutually one.
The reason for this threefold hypostases is obvious: as it requires to constitute a perfect man, the love principle, and its wisdom counterpart, and the effective embodiment of both, knit together in that thorough oneness which is represented in the nuptial relation, so God, who has fashioned man in his own image and likeness, in himself exists. There is the same distinctness in the divine nature that there is in the faculties of man. There is love in God, first and highest—the creative fountain of his nature; but this must have an intellect or wisdom-form into which it may flow, and run down into the moulds of beauty and beneficence; and the operation of such love and wisdom is the divine effect. There is thus gradation in the divine even as in human nature, from the highest or inmost, which no man can approach, to the outermost, where God comes down into a lower self-consciousness, and accommodates himself to all exigencies and affairs.
As Dionysius says somewhere—"The influx of the mind, which with men is derived from the heart into the tongue, where it becomes another reason differing from that of the heart, and yet do both these mutually exist in each other, they belong to one another, and thus, though being two, are one thing; so are the Father and the Son and the Holy -Spirit one thing, they being said to exist in each other."
This conception of the divine nature utterly emancipates us from the discords and perplexities of Tritheism. Such a conception is mainly redemptive, and it loses nothing of its forcefulness or philosophy by plain affirmation. The doctrine of God as stated by Swedenborg throws the foul and carnal views of God backward to the place whence they originated, and bids us look upon "Our Father in the Heavens," as the purest, noblest, most exalted being, who is ever merciful and always loving, not because we deserve mercy or love, but because these qualities in Him are infinite.
I am free to declare that I find this conception of the Deity superior to any other theological notion of God in the schools or churches, and I shall cherish the most hearty atheism toward every deity and notion of deity which does not sustain the splendid doctrine expressed through Swedenborg. Any less reverent representation of God is treasonable to our manhood, and a flagrant dishonor to the divine name. I verily believe that all atheism and skepticism will inwardly worship and loyally acknowledge such a God as Swedenborg describes, full of love, ever active in wisdom, and perpetually dwelling in redemptive influence with the sons of men. Until we have recovered the metaphysics of the evangelists and apostles and fathers on the nature of God, we are not in a position to dogmatize. The metaphysics of the ancient school, of such men as Plato, Origen, Tertullian, Justin, and Clement of Alexandria, pointedly and clearly set forth the view of God which Swedenborg more philosophically propounds. But this reminds me thatI am to speak of Swedenborg as a metaphysician.
Metaphysicians, since the sixth century, have all agreed that the Divine Being "is without body, parts, or passions," that He is a divine simplicity, divine essence or unity. The assertion that God is without parts, passions, and a form, amounts to the bold and blank declaration that "there is no God." It is this doctrine of the metaphysicians that is the basis of all that extreme imbecility exhibited and generated by the school-men and book-men respecting the nature of God and the faculties of man. The only hopeless mystics have been these metaphysicians. Though they lost the play of wisdom and insight, they endeavored to retain its gravity. They clutched at the reputation of being wise on the subject of Deity, and still they profess to know nothing of Deity! They built upon denials and assertions; and, in the words of the incomparable Droll—
They knew what's what, and that's as high
To every human note of inquiry they answered—"Mum!" To the painful utterances of struggling souls—to the voice wailing after God, "O that I might find Him," these cold men of the schools replied, "The substance of all our knowledge concerning God is the knowing what he is not, rather than what he is," and more modernly expressed by Bishop Beverage, "We cannot so well apprehend what God is, as what he is not."
God is represented on the one hand as a "pure idea," and on the other as a pure divine simplicity; now, as a "luminous abyss, without bottom, without shore, without bank, without height, without depth, without laying hold of, or attaching itself to anything—pure infinity then as a "formative appetency," a "metaphysical ens," an "infinite point," "the great ether of the universe." And solemnly let us repeat it, the framers of these definitions maintain that we cannot do better, when thinking (?) of God, than to think of Him after the fashion indicated above! Think of a luminous abyss, of a bottomless, fathomless, shoreless, bankless, depthless being! Truly this is mockery to the thought.
In striking contrast to this medley of absurdities, Swedenborg comes as a liberating angel, giving us, if not the absolutely true or final views, at least such views of God as redeem the nature of the Divine from the misapprehensions of a dull, scholastic theology, and an imbecile metaphysics, and show how God in himself exists, and what attitude He maintains to man. He clearly demonstrates that a being without body, parts, or passions, is not a being at all. His reasoning on this point, though more profound and less rationalistic and materialistic than John Locke's, is substantially the same. This great and gifted English philosopher has stated that whatever "has no form and parts has no extension, and having no extension, has no duration, and thus no existence." This is the severe logic of material reasoning: but it contains a spiritual application. Apply this reasoning to the doctrines currently taught about God. If God is without body, parts, or passions, He has no existence; for, as before observed, that which has no form, extension, and no duration, has no existence—no being—is not. When we say, " Our Father who art in heaven," we are, according to the stem logic of the preceding argument, addressing a nonentity. Do not mistake us. We are not insinuating for a moment that God has material parts or passions; all we are bent on advocating is, that God is a personality—is the infinite Divine Substance—is the only real substantial Being, with parts, and affections, and form, in ever hallowed and sublime activity. And this is Swedenborg's doctrine; yet without a knowledge of his doctrine of discrete degrees, and the nature of life, influx, and form, it is impossible, in the brief space allotted to a lecture, to give you anything approaching a clear and candid view of his position. Sufficient, however, has been advanced on the nature of God, as stated by Swedenborg, to quicken thought, and suggest volumes for your meditation.
I now proceed to address you on the subject of man, or the metaphysics of the human being. Tomes of almost indefinite expansion have been written on the subject of the human mind, and yet it may be justly questioned whether much has been written to any great or good purpose. Vague classification of its parts, and not by any means clear or accurate definition of terms, can do but little towards unfolding its wonderful and mysterious powers. It is not only indispensable ' that we should make ourselves conversant with the faculties of which the mind is composed, but we ought also to be able to sound its depths, and discover the relation one element or part sustains to another; how each is dependent on the other. No man has ever done so much to clear the vision leading into the soul of man as Swedenborg. He proceeds upon the premise already adverted to, that "man is made in the image of God," and from this fundamental statement argues that man must have two predominant and primal elements in him corresponding to the love and wisdom principles in God. To be an image and likeness of God, a man must have an understanding, and an affection or will. The human mind is composed of these two departments of will and understanding; or, what is the same thing, of the leading functions of the affections and intellect.
Every man possesses, in his primal structure, an understanding-form and a will-form, adapted for the reception of the divine affections and knowledge; so that every human being who lovingly receives and faithfully obeys divine inspirations, becomes at last representative of God in every divine quality. The will comprises the whole series of affections, desires, impulses, sensations, and volitions; the understanding, the whole range of thought, reasonings, fancies, ideas, and intellectual action. In the will reside the great cumulative and causative forces, the primal causes of all thought and consequent reasoning. "Out of it are the issues of life." By the term will is not meant the determinate act, but the seat of all action, either in first principles or in external embodiment. In the will originate all the elements that mirror themselves in the understanding; indeed, the understanding is a plane lower down than the will, upon which are dramatized the forces and affections of the will. The will is the womb of all affectional, mental, and intellectual life; it is the Eve or mother of all the living forces in the being; hence, what the will is as to its quality, the whole man really is.
Love is life; what a man most loves, he thinks of and lives; consequently, as Swedenborg and Fichte assert, man is just what his will makes him. The understanding-form is subordinate, and plays only a secondary part. When the will clasps the ideal good presented to it by God, the understanding, from intimate and intense sympathy, thinks the truth. The intellect is the wardrobe of the will, wherein it clothes its affections. The great fountain-head of true thought is the renovated heart. The doorway to high and true culture is by the moral quickening of the will. ' Hence all genuine regeneration can only be attained by affectional culture and heart goodness.
Swedenborg has most beautifully and metaphysically described the action of the elements of will and understanding. He has proved that the mind is capable of thinking according to a threefold operation; or, in other words, that the mind has its progressive series of planes, known as the outermost, the middle, and the innermost. To each of these divisions is reserved a distinct and novel exercise of the mental faculties, suited to its own peculiar tastes, inclinations, and possibilities. Everyone of us admits the evidence of the senses when we say, a house may have more than one story, and that the topmost windows command a view which from the basement is invisible. So we may comprehend that there are degrees in the mind—stories in the mental house—and different knowledge and activities of thought, according to their quality, upon the higher and lower floors. Some men are content to live in the corporeal plane, and keep converse only with the thoughts inhabiting the basement. This is a state germane to our natural condition. The soul has other rooms. Other men rise higher, through culture and moral growth, into the higher regions of the mind, and sit in the meditative chambers, whence the sun may be seen rising in its glory and setting in its pomp. Swedenborg has explored these various degrees of the mind, and described the action of each with every charm of exact diagnosis and metaphysical accuracy.
But I must endeavor to show you that Swedenborg was more than a natural metaphysician. In the realm of ordinary metaphysics we claim for him nothing very extravagant. In this ocean nearly all swimmers touch ground, and are safe enough. It is when an attempt is made to go into the deeper places of the soul, and to higher altitudes of the being, that so many stumble and fall. Swedenborg, with kindled taper, trod onwards through the dark planes of the soul, and saw that within the human cocoon resided a human Psyche, with mighty faculties and immortal powers. Others before him had said that man was, as to his internal being, a spirit; but Swedenborg declares that he is, as to his internal being, a spirit-man, with a spiritual body, more real and organic than his external covering. Other metaphysicians had said, "Man is a man by reason of his external body, his spirit is a breath, an effluence, an airy phantom." Swedenborg says that man is a man by virtue of his possessing a spiritual body independent of the natural body, and that this spiritual body is an organism, presenting every assemblance of parts, and possessed of every feature, and active in every organic function, which the human body on a lower plane exhibits. Every power, faculty, possibility, capacity, sensation, and perception predicable of the natural body, is predicate of the spiritual body. " There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." The form of the spirit-body is the "human form divine," like the one enveloping it. Similar as we are now in the flesh, we are in the spirit, only that in the latter we are spiritual beings, active in spiritual organs and functions.
It is not difficult to see the just grounds of Swedenborg's doctrine of the Resurrection from this standpoint. The soul being in itself a higher organism than the material and natural body, it must have a world or sphere adapted and commensurate with its spiritual and superior nature. This world or sphere is the spiritual world lying everywhere around us. The records of the ages, and the expressed declarations of the Divine Word, leave us no room to doubt that at times men's spiritual eyes have been opened for vision into the spiritual world. The examples of the prophets and seers, and other Bible worthies, prove this doctrine most indisputably. Only by the admission of this spiritual and psychological truth that there is a spiritual body within the fleshly body, with its powers of vision and action, can we explain the phenomena of spirit-vision, and other equally interesting facts.
A reference to spiritism, I hope, need not be made for confirmation of the truth we are now attempting to set forth. Spiritism is not the highest, or by any means the most interesting, fact of our age. One thing, however, is obvious, that the soul, under given conditions, can transcend (and has transcended) mundane conditions, and may have its spiritual faculties wonderfully excited by visions of the spiritual world. This spirit-world is not far from any one of us; we are in it now, though consciously not alive to the fact.
It is curious to observe that on this subject our theological opinions and our feelings are often at extreme variance. When we are bereft of a beloved child, or a darling wife, or a faithful husband, we dismiss our religious and theological notions of the soul and heaven, and straightway assure ourselves that our loved one is in heaven. Our loved one! Yes, still ours—still a being—still the objective daughter, son, wife, father, husband. Gone to heaven ! What is gone? If they have no spiritual body or form, what is that which we call our loved ones? What is it of which we say, "He is gone to heaven?" Why, our spirit-brother, husband, wife, child.
Manifest and philosophic proof of a spiritual body—to which the external body is simply an appendage—and of a spiritual world everywhere underlying this material world, is quite as plentiful and cogent as that there is a natural body and a material world, if we would only open our eyes to see it, and our hearts to receive it. The great truths of the spiritual body and spiritual world are best demonstrated by consciousness and intuition. We feel them to be true. What to us is a matter of feeling and consciousness, was to Swedenborg a matter of fact, of sight and philosophy. We may, for lack of the possession of exacter terms to express our meaning, call Swedenborg the anatomist and physiologist of the spiritual body. He describes the articulations of its parts—the structure of its fabric, and states the laws by which it grows into virginal beauty and heavenly health, in the ever-increasing fullness of eternal life. He passes inward from the vestibule of the senses, and walks serenely through the chambers of the mind and crypts of the spirit, solemnly intent upon discovery and classification. He is a mental geologist, delightedly labeling favorite specimens of metaphysical and spiritual strata. A mental astronomer, in wrapt vision, standing on the external plane of the mind, and gazing upward into the soul's heaven, and watching the nebulous thoughts in their earliest gyrations, he beholds formations and organizations of which others never dreamed. On the polished disc of his cultured and purified perception, the spiritual realities of the soul and the spiritual world revealed themselves. He has succeeded in transcribing from his intromitted state admirable photographs of those who, though dead to us, are alive in the spiritual world.
His "Memorable Relations" are metaphysical albums of spirit-portraits in an endlessly varied descriptiveness. As he passed down the eternal galleries of the second life, he transferred to the walls of his mental tabernacle the pictures of supernal realities, and heard things lawful to be spoken. His writings are a stage, whereon, in splendid and masterly pictorial grandeur, the glory and pomp, the misery and doom, the health and bloom, the disease and death of the inhabitants of the spiritual world are set forth with metaphysical, spiritual, and dramatic power.
It is difficult to over-estimate the value and peculiarity of this power of insight which Swedenborg had into the spirits' domains. The singular and startling memorabilia of clairvoyance are as nothing, and valueless, in contrast with Swedenborg's narrations of the inner spiritual being. If you will, Swedenborg is the philosophical and metaphysical thought-reader—the perfect and orderly clairvoyant. Whether he acquired this faculty by divine illumination, is not now our subject of inquiry; yet it is not difficult to account for this peculiarity of Swedenborg's mental constitution, by reference to the Scripture testimony of spirit-vision, and to historic data.
There are certain individuals gifted with the faculty of taking on the states—mental, spiritual, and physical—of those with whom they come in contact, ideally, historically, and personally. They enter at once into the peculiarities and the soul-states of others with wonderful familiarity and far-sightedness. Swedenborg was eminently a man of this faculty—plastic and absorptive of the states of every type and degree of mental character andcultus.
There is no phase of spiritual character—diseased or healthy, happy or miserable, elevated or debased, awfully dark or profoundly bright, serenely calm or terrifically disturbed, ascending in virtue or descending in vice—but he presents in his marvelous expositions of the other life. Every picture, he assures us, is taken from life—from the life of the spirit. Herein, at least, he excels all metaphysicians, for he speaks of the spiritual life and of the soul with confidence and clearness, having, as he declares, been permitted of the Divine Mercy, for useful ends, to hear and see the language and life of the inhabitants of the inner and to-come world.
With this hasty glance at Swedenborg as a metaphysician, I hasten to acquaint you with him as a theologian.
Theology is not religion, though often confounded with it. I Theology ought to be in harmony with religion, which is the highest life of God in the soul. It needs no profound vision to see that what men call theology, and what the Bible declares to be religion, are two different things. Religion is alife; theology an opinion about that life. Religion is the unveiling of God—the unveiling of his person and operation in all his relations with man. It is not an argument, but a sentiment; not a dissertation, but an affection.
A genuine religion implies an affection and life, and a sentiment of intelligence. Theology should show man how both may be cultured and expressed. But popular theology is hostile to God and man. It is full of confusion. It has departed from God. It is separated from good, and divorced from truth. It is a deserted shrine, and the glory of the Lord has departed from it. Alas! theology has described man, not by what is proper to him, but by what is arbitrary. It teaches very gravely the doctrine of a divided, distant God; and for all theological purposes He is only an abstraction; it teaches very dimly that man is connected with God; but of the nature of this connection theology has no adequate idea; it teaches that certainthoughts save a man, and certain other thoughts damn him; that the Bible is inspired, and profitable for doc- trine and dogma; but of the nature and extent of its inspiration, and of the spirit and life of its teachings, it knows less than nothing. The theology of the churches is not divine, but dwarfed, spurious, and earthly. We stand in need of a clear, comprehensive, and rational theology—of a practical faith, and a quickened apprehension of the relation existing between God and us. A humane and rational theology is at this moment the world's greatest need. What spiritual poverty in our literature, in our worship, in our politics! The great questions of deity, human nature, the inspiration of the Word, regeneration, and the problem of a future life, theology amiably blinks. Must these vital questions never be solved, and that too from a divine standpoint?
The glory and value of religion, as taught and expressed by Swedenborg's theology, consists in this—that it contains not a solitary principle that is not designed to be understood, and thence out-wrought in human character in all its planes and possibilities. However lofty the ideal which religion presents for man's imitation—the ideal of character and heaven—the theology of the great Swedish philosopher makes it plain "that all religion has relation to life, and the life of religion is to do good."
Swedenborg's doctrines show man how he may attain to excellent heights of piety and peace by the orderly and regenerated development of his nature. The Divine Word points out an ideal good and truth to be loved and thought; Swedenborg's theology reveals the method by which the ideal may become the | actual in thought, word, and work. There is one sentiment or doctrine of Swedenborg's theology to which we may for one moment advert—that is, thatall truth has relation to man in his various conditions, wants, and circumstances; and hence it has to be viewed in its uses. What a wonderful revolution would spring up in all our churches were this an accepted axiom of orthodox belief !
Swedenborg announces his theology with the central truth that Jesus Christ is God. Mark the train of predicate truths which legitimately grow out of this premise. It brings Him into personal nearness; He is the vine, and we are the branches; inspirer of every good thought, and every truly human virtue; He the root from which our real life is unfolded; without Him we can do nothing. There is thus an organic connection existing between Him and us—a connection as real as that by which the branch is connected with the tree by virtue of the sap that flows into it, and which, if interrupted for one moment, would cause it to wither and die. We are human branches, organically inhering in the divine vine; we are supported and nourished by the living forces of love and wisdom from God. The love-forms in our affections, and the thought- forms in our understandings, are the receiving vessels of that life by means of which we become possessors of the Divine Nature. We become good when we open our affections to the love flowing in from God; and true, by openness in our understandings for the influx of truth from the Divine. We are saved by obedience in the will, truth in the intelligence, and charity and virtue in the life. Thus eating the Lord's flesh and drinking his blood, we have life abiding in us.
Swedenborg proceeds to the doctrine of Regeneration from the above premise. Every man has evil forms and diseased tendencies in his humanity. "In us—that is, in our selfhood —dwelleth no good thing." The process of regeneration consists in shutting out the inspiration and influx of evil affection and false thought, and by becoming obedient receptacles of goodness and truth. But this necessarily involves a struggle, prolonged and sanguinary, fierce and fiery.
There is an antagonism between the "new man" and the "old man," which can only be reduced by the soul fighting the good fight of faith, and shunning all evils as sins against God; for the establishment of the man in principles of truth and goodness, and for the perfecting of character in the divine beauty, the Lord has given a written testimony of his will, which makes wise unto salvation, and a chartered programme of our duty, the fulfillment of which is eternal life. " He that keepeth my commandments hath eternal life." The Bible is God's book, written out of his deep heart, and it answers the deep questions in man's heart. "Deep answereth unto deep."
Swedenborg's doctrine of the Holy Scriptures is a splendid and masterly defense of the plenary inspiration of the Word, and of its threefold adaptation to the celestial, spiritual, and natural genius of the regenerated man. The peculiarity of his interpretation consists in his applying to it the doctrine of "Correspondence." Every narrative, history, and fact, recorded in the Divine Word, constitutes a basis for a description of man's spiritual degeneracy from regeneracy, and progress in the divine life. The objective and historic, translated from the realm of mere history and objectivity, are seen to be I facts of metaphysics and realities of the soul. The sentences 1 involved in a maze of mystery in the letter, when interpreted by the spirit, become clear and convincing, for the spirit giveth light.
The Word is divine in every word, and significant of eternal realities. The light of the sun is very old, but the morning very new; so the grand doctrine of correspondence, with which Swedenborg interprets the main portions of the Word, is very ancient, but its application in a theological sense very modern. It is not new. The great Swedenborg was as royally conscious of the nature of truth as any man could be. No man ever affirmed to himself any great truth so loyally, or had such comprehension of its majesty, or ever gave it such earnest allegiance, as he. He knew that truth was not the child of yesterday and finite, but from everlasting and infinite. The perception of it takes place according to well arranged laws in our mental and spiritual constitution. The progress of man consists in this, that he arrives at the perception of truth according to series and degrees. The Divine Mind, which is its source, has left it to be apprehended, appropriated, and developed by human intelligence and human hearts.
By the science of correspondence the earnest student of the Scriptures is enabled to understand the things "hard to be understood to see the Word in its glory and feel its warmth; to feel it more efficient as a light to the feet and a lamp to the path; to have it more surely a guide in all action, and an inspirer of all genuine charity. To him who searcheth with this key, treasures will disclose themselves. The Bible will be seen to be a shield, a sword, a breastplate, and a preparation for the feet. The Word will adapt itself to the man in all his moral, mental, and spiritual phases of character and desire. The true disciple should glean from Revelation things "new and old." So long as a man remains on the surface of a subject, just in that measure is he likely to remain in darkness. All clearness is to be found in depth; obscurity is ever on the surface. The deeper we descend in any science, the more clear does the truth become; so the deeper we search for the hid treasures in the Word, the clearer we shall find them.
The Word of God is, in its natural and literal sense, the pool of Bethesda: lame, impotent, blind, and diseased humanity has lain by this pool, waiting for the stirring of its waters. The angel of spiritual life moveth the waters; the spiritual and internal sense of the divine Word "give life." Would ye be cured? then go down, mentally and spiritually, into this great river of God, which cleanseth from all sin. The Lord sits upon the Jacob's well of his Word, to give to those who come near it with earnest and sincere hearts, the living water. Bring hither your pitchers and water-pots—open ye your vessels of thought, imagination, memory, affection, and desire—He will fill them full. In the holy mount of the Word the Lord is transfigured for our gaze; let us look and be healed. In the Word he always comes to bless and cure.
Swedenborg has expounded the sense of the Scriptures in such a manner that, when it is known and adopted, it will change 'the whole aspect of religious faith. His theology differs from the old theology in this—that it recognizes a perpetual divine unfolding, through literature, through science, through nature in all her provinces, through art in all its solemn glories, and through men, the crowning work of God.
Is it a marvel that men called, and do still call him, a visionary? No. I wonder not that men call him visionistic and rhapsodistic! But Swedenborg was not the visionary who peopled the airy domains of nothingness with the pale, white images of dreams; he was not the rhapsodist—if by this term is meant a mind in whom calm, cool, though common sense has been supplanted by loose and flimsy habits of speculation, till the ability to discern and discriminate between the real and the unreal has been lost; this is not found in the whole tenor of his life, certainly less in the ordered form and established harmony of his mental constitution. What! was this great naturalist, fit mate for Linnaeus—this great physiologist, of vaster scope than Boerhaave—this man of the world, with deep practical knowledge and talent, entitling him to sit in the councils of kings and nobles—was this man a mere speculator in the realms of fancy? O no ! He was no conjuror of weird, unreal phantoms; rather the last man in the world to whom such a charge could apply. Whatever may have been his diseases, madness was not of the number. His philosophy and profound theosophy are awfully ponderous and sternly practical; his doctrine of religion soul-influencing, spirit-stirring, heart-exalting, intellect-illumining; his teaching and example are calculated to make men meek, gentle, and charitable, and his followers catholic, intelligent, and pious. His moral conduct was as genuinely pure as his intellectual stature was gigantic and transparent; his piety was as simplistic as his endowments were marvelously brilliant and exceptional. Few men have approached the hem of his garment in respect of moral purity; fewer still to the majesty and volume of his personal growth in intellectual proportions. There is every element of scientific, philosophic, and theologic culture in this great man. He realizes in his manhood all the ordinary standards in astronomy, anatomy, mathematics, mechanics, metallurgy, metaphysics, physics, poetry, philosophy, and theology. In him are all the elements of a quickened and ripened intellectuality, and the matured fruit of a stalwart and cosmopolitan individuality; splendid analytic order with Plato; vast generalization with Spinoza; Titanic power of argumentative force with Luther; piety and spiritual greatness with Wesley; grand scope and use of correspondence with Bunyan; deeper reasoning than Calvin, Knox, Baxter, Channing, Preistley, Paley; sweeter and more serenely logical than the Westminster divines; warmer in sympathies than the passive and mystical school; reverent and deeper in sight in the exploration of the Cosmos than Humboldt; the leading man of the ages; the central man of many knowledges; the typal man of comprehensive achievements; the man without an equal, a model, or a shadow !
The star-like Galileo swept the mental heavens with a material telescope, and lead the way to those splendid discoveries which have crowned with undying glory the brows of Kepler, Copernicus, and Newton. To these great wanderers among the stars, the material forms of planets unveiled themselves in glorious beauty and spheral harmony. But Swedenborg went upward to the higher heavens of spirit, and, with spiritual telescope in hand, he gazed upon the heavenly and infernal worlds. To him was given the lensic and telescopic power which is in the human soul. He planted himself on the observatory of the subjective spiritual plane, and looked thence to the spiritual and sublime heavens. Greater astronomer than Galileo or Kepler, he was as one great eye set in the collective brain of human thought; and deity and destiny—our spiritual and eternal future—our homes in the blessed heavens, and our possible dens in the awful hells—mapped themselves out upon his plane of vision ! What gladsome and gloomy hours of vision were his ! Earth, sky, and nature were but breathing vestures of deity: and his spirit gave them a tremendous significancy and a terrible reality. Look how he roams and searches for the soul's immortal and final abode ! No false mission was his; his being was wrapped in the secrets of the to-come. Eternity comes to him and unfolds its sublime realities and its solemn beauty. Ages pour along—are scrolled backward; still unruffled eternity and infinitude around and before—unruffled infinitude behind him: but he is calm and balanced. He beholds the verdant plains of heaven; he hears the music of celestials; he speaks with angels; hierarchy above hierarchy, towering in grandeur, with brows resplendent as the rainbow, pass before his vision; he sees the holy homes of sainted hearts, and the congugial joys of wedded breasts, and the noble employ of redeemed intellects, and the glory-work of artistic skill. He beheld the "Divine Man" as the heavenly vesper, shining amid its sunny hopes, and hallowed peace, and tender whisperings, and rapturous glances, and deep inexpressible bliss, and unwavering constancy, and deathless friendship, and fadeless charms, and matchless beauties, and dulcet melodies. He passed his fingers over the cathedral harp of eternity, and sounds issued forth. The hymn of that life to come is immortalized in his "Heaven and Hell," and in his Theories of a Future Life. He climbed to the summit of Parnassus—none above him: he plucked the laurel—its leaf unfading. He felt all the solemn witcheries of the natural creation, and the sublimer witcheries of the spiritual world. He traced the golden links of that chain which binds the universe to God, and God to man. He saw the lovely form that excelleth, and drank in the delicious fragrances of highest heaven. What more? Had he not quaffed the cup of life? What more to complete his knowledge or his power? What but an immortal life itself, and its mild morning sunlight? He had mastered the science and lore of earth—communed with the great and gifted, the noble and princely of the world: what remained to charm his soul, or complete the greatness of his being? He looked up at Vesper twinkling ever brightly in evening's shadowy hemisphere, and lo ! from heaven he heard a voice proclaiming—" He is ripe, even unto the harvest:" and with the angel of tranquility standing by his side, and with words of humble protestation on his lips, Emanuel Swedenborg passed in mystic transition to the eternal world.
NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 22, 1863.
REV. ABIEL SILVER.
"I and my Father are one.*'
THE WORK OF REDEMPTION: WHAT IT IS.
" It is finished."—John xix: 30.
These are the last words of the Lord upon the cross. He assumed our fallen nature and came into the world to perform a certain work. " And when He had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and He bowed his head and gave up the ghost."
What was this work which the Lord declared was finished? It is very important that men have clear and distinct views of this work. This we may know from the fact that the Lord has caused a record of it to be made for our instruction and salvation.
Erroneous views of this work darken the whole Gospel, and remove it away from the affections of men. It is by losing sight of the true nature of this work that the Lord Jesus Christ and his Holy Word have been laid aside by so many people of the present age, as being neither infinite nor divine, regarding: Him as the son of Joseph and Mary, and the Bible as the production of men.
Thus the great Medium or Mediator of light and life to the rational and voluntary faculties of men is, in many instances, being lost sight of; and the mighty Jehovah, in the imaginations of men, cither sinks into materialism, or vanishes out of definite thought.
Under such a state of things, it is our most imperative duty, as we value truth, goodness, happiness and heaven, to be awake to this first and highest of all interests; that we may clearly understand it, and definitely teach it to our children, declare it to our neighbors, and practise it in our lives.
Now, the work, said in the text to be finished, is nothing less than the redemption of the human race from destruction. And to see and receive its truth will bring back the Lord and his Word to the hearts and minds of men. Did men really believe this, would they not be intensely interested and anxious to understand it?
Without that divine work, heaven and all happiness and peace for man were lost forever—bondage, darkness, and death only were before him—the Lord and his Word were beyond his reach. But by means of that work, men are free for heaven, and are blessed with offered privileges and powers to obtain it by means of the truth of the Word and the Spirit of Jesus, brought thereby within the sphere of their mental action.
What, then, was this wonderful work of redemption? Let us not be deceived by mistaking it for what it was not. Now, it was not the making of the human race any better. It was not the remission of any sins from human souls. It was not a satisfaction made for the penalty of any sins. Nor was it the saving of any man in his sins or from his sins. It was not the keeping of the law in man's stead; nor in any way the separation or the freeing of man from the consequences of sin. The law rested upon man with the same force after the work was finished as before; and all his sins were equally against him. What, then, was this work? It was simply the coming of God to man. It was the bringing of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the Holy Word and its power, into the human sphere on earth; or within the reach of man's thoughts and feelings; so that the spirit of truth and love could reach his understanding and his will.
This work was an absolute necessity. For the race had sunk so low in depravity as to be beyond the reach of the Spirit of truth to control man's evils and lead him to good; Not but that the Lord was omnipresent, and, on his part, was with and for men. But men on their part did not know the Lord. They had so perverted the truths of the Word as to lose all true thought of his character or qualities; and everything heavenly they saw in a false light.
Therefore the coming of the Lord to their help was the coming of the Holy Word, or of the truth of the commandments and the golden rules of life to their understandings and wills; so that they could distinguish between right and wrong, and thus, by the power of truth, be enabled rationally and willingly to resist and shun the wrong and do the right.
This was their redemption. They were redeemed to the opportunity of knowing the truth of the Word and of using it for their salvation; a truth which they had lost sight of by losing a love of it through evils of life, and thus perverting its light so that it was no longer truth to them.
Now, the only possible way that this opportunity could be restored to men was by providing some means of again reaching their understandings and wills by the truth, so that they could act rationally and freely with the Lord in the light and power of that truth, for the removal of their evils and the reception of good.
For man must see and desire something of heavenly things, and must work for them, or he cannot have them. And the light by which he sees them will also show him his evils. And in order to obtain the goods, he must repent of and resist his evils. For these must be removed before the others can be received.
Now from all this we may be enabled to see the necessity of the course taken by our Heavenly Father in coming in the flesh to redeem fallen man. But it will be, even then, a matter of great marvel, that the truth could in any way be brought to act favorably upon understandings that could not see it, or upon wills that did not love it. Yet we hope, as we proceed, to see something of this wonderful work.
But how, it may be asked, could the crucifixion of the Lord's body accomplish this redemption? How could that wicked act of the Jews bring the truth down to men, so that they could see it, and see their evils by it, and thus make use of it? It could not. The redemption was not wrought by that wicked event.
The work was only finished at that time. It had been going on through all the Lord's labors and ministrations in the flesh. And many had seen and felt something of redeeming truth and love, and were progressing in the work of regeneration before the time of the crucifixion.
But let us look at the work itself. We have said that the work of redemption was simply the coming of God to man, so that his Word could be rationally received, obeyed, and loved. But what we want further to understand is, how it was that the Lord could thus reach man's mind with the truth by coming in the flesh, when He could not reach it without so coming; and also how the work was accomplished.
In order to understand this, we must first look at the condition of man when the work was commenced; see what was the character of his affections and thoughts, and how they were supplied with mental food; remembering at the same time that the human mind is not a machine, but is constituted in freedom, and cannot be changed either for better or for worse against its will.
Now, the human race on earth, at the time of the Lord's first advent, was in the grossest state of falsities and evils; darkness literally covered the mental earth, and thick darkness the people. Their whole feelings were downward continually. Evil beings were their spiritual companions and advisers, flowing into their hearts and minds, so that the whole surrounding sphere was vile. Nothing could enter their minds without being first polluted by their mental sphere as it entered. For this reason they were called by the Lord stiff-necked, a generation of vipers, whited sepulchres, hypocrites, and the like.
This was the deplorable condition of most of the people of the earth. Here they were ready to perish. The Lord in heaven saw their condition. He knew that they ceased to be influenced for good by Him or his angels; and there was no way to reach their minds favorably until the intercourse between them and the evil spirits should be in some way intercepted; that it must be cut off or controlled.
This, then, was the first work. The hosts of hell must be met. But they, too, were free beings, and could not be controlled against their wills. They were tempting and tormenting the people of the earth, entering into them and possessing their souls, making them mad and miserable.
Now, the only way the Lord could effectually meet them was by assuming a fallen nature, such as they were tempting and destroying, and there meet them on their own ground and in their own sphere of action. That nature, therefore, He assumed, and therein he met the entire hosts of hell. They tempted the assumed nature in every point, as other men were tempted. But they accomplished nothing for themselves but their own defeat.
The assumed nature loved self and the world, and for this reason it could be tempted to the exercise of selfish and worldly propensities. But the divine nature within, to which it looked up and yielded, withheld it from all sin. Herein it conquered and controlled the evil spirits, and purified the assumed nature. For when an evil spirit does not gain the victory in tempting a man to sin, he loses it, and man is thereby strengthened and purified, and the evil spirit is weakened and controlled.
It may be rationally seen that if the nature which the Lord assumed had not been fallen and depraved, He could not have met the hosts of hell. If He had not been connected with a nature somewhat like theirs—a nature which could be reached and tempted—He would have been far above their sphere of action, and they far below his, and men on the earth would have remained below the regenerating reach of the Lord's Spirit.
Herein was the necessity of the assumption of man's fallen nature. The hells must be conquered and controlled, or man must be lost. To be conquered, their wills and understandings must be met by the divine elements. To be so met, the Divine Being must be connected with a fallen human nature.
Look for a moment at the power of the Lord, in those days, over evils and evil spirits, over the sick and the diseased, casting out devils, raising the dead, and healing all manner of diseases. Here He was, the mighty God, in a nature like man's, with a human sphere that could blend with other human spheres, that could sympathize with the afflicted, and, upon certain conditions, could reach, with a divine power, their diversified wants.
The sick had only to look to him confidingly, and give themselves up, like helpless children, to Him, when new life and energy would flew into them, creating new mental and physical action, and thus removing the disease and giving health. This was because their human spheres and the Lord's could unite, which brought them into connection with the Divine Being. Think of a poor leper, a most miserable outcast, loathed by every one, helpless and hopeless: and yet, with a human nature that the Lord's healing spirit could enter, through the medium of his own assumed human nature, provided the leper would only mentally throw himself upon the Lord's mercy for help.
When a sick man, in those days, thus gave himself trustfully into the Lord's hands, his mental sphere was open to the divine influx for the healing of physical diseases. This was because, by giving himself up confidingly to the Lord, his will was rendered receptive. The mind must be willing and trustful, or nothing can be done. Therefore the Lord generally told them their faith had made them whole.
Not that these persons were regenerated—that is a more laborious work. But they were so brought into connection with the Lord as to have their evil spirits controlled, and their physical diseases healed, which placed them in a condition to move in the work of regeneration.
Now, none of these men could have been so reached if the Lord had not been in the flesh, with a nature like theirs. And so, when He cast out devils, his human sphere was connected with that of the afflicted, which was thereby open to a divine influx which the devils cannot withstand.
Thus it is plain that He conquered the hells by meeting them in his assumed, fallen human nature. All his disciples, and those who saw his wonderful works, and were thus convinced of his divine power, and felt sorry for their sins, and looked to Him for help—all such were open to his sphere, which resisted and controlled the evil spirits with which they were tempted. Thus the influence of the hells upon his disciples and followers was constantly checked by his presence, and thereby his disciples were held in freedom to repent and keep the commandments.
This is the way they were redeemed to the opportunity of being regenerated. It was by the Lord's meeting and controlling their spiritual foes, and thereby restoring them to freedom of choice and action between good and evil, right and wrong, through the offered influence of his Spirit.
How plainly, then, we may see that, in order to accomplish this work, the Lord must actually have been here in this world, in the very midst of the devil's works, with a nature by which He could reach and control the powers of darkness, and give to fallen and suffering humanity a helping hand.
The assumed nature, therefore, was the instrument with which the great Jehovah worked for man's redemption. It being an instrument of human thoughts and feelings, with which divine thoughts and feelings were connected, and being clothed with a physical system of flesh and blood, He could bring his sphere to their senses, to their eyes and ears. And through these He could touch their thoughts and feelings with awe and reverence for his wonderful powers. And when He thus had their attention, he had also their evil spirits in check; and thus they were in freedom, so that He could reason with them, instruct and advise them.
The work of redemption was indeed the most sublime and wonderful of the divine works for man's salvation. And the true study of it brings into the human mind a light upon the character and qualities of the divine and human natures nowhere else to be seen.
As the Lord controlled the evil influences which infested the whole human sphere, reaching and tempting even his own assumed humanity, He gradually expelled them from his own sphere, at the same time purifying and glorifying his assumed nature, until it could no longer be tempted.
But in expelling the evil influences, and with them the assumed depraved qualities, He brought down the divine qualities into their place; so that the Lord has now a divine humanity in the natural plane of life, which holds the evil spirits in check, so that they can never again get dominion over the world. Thus the redemption is complete.
This divine humanity is the body of God. It is the mediator between the Father, within it, and mankind. It gives forth the Holy Spirit from the Father. It is God manifest. It is omniscient and omnipresent. It is the spirit and life of the Holy Word. It is divine truth brought down into the natural plane from the Father, in divine substance and human form; taking the place of the depraved finite nature as it was expelled and the material body put off. So that the work was not finished until the natural body was crucified.
When He said "It is finished," there was nothing left in his humanity that could be tempted or touched by evil spirits. The work of redemption was accomplished. The hells were so baffled and controlled in every point that every human being could thereafter be held by the Lord in freedom, so as not to be tempted beyond what he would be able to bear, if he looked to the Lord.
Thus the door of heaven has been mercifully opened to us all. But let us well remember that the opening of the door does not give us heaven. We can pass it only by purification. The Lord's divine humanity is the door of wisdom which leads to heaven. It was opened to our admission by its purification. And to pass that door, we must follow Him in the regeneration. Nothing can possibly enter there that worketh abomination or maketh a lie. Our names must be written in the Lamb's book of life; that is, the qualities of our hearts must be in accordance with the commandments of God. Let us then work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that it is God that worketh in us to will and to do.
* * *
"He who knows what hell is, and what was its height and inundation over all the world of spirits, at the time of the Lord's coming, and also with what power the Lord cast down and dispersed hell, and afterwards reduced it, together with heaven, into order, cannot but be astonished, and exclaim that all those things were a work purely divine. First, as to what hell is: it consists of myriads of myriads, since it consists of all those who, from the creation of the world, by evils of life and falses of faith, have alienated themselves from God.
Secondly, as to the height and inundation of hell over all the world of spirits, at the time of the Lord's coming, something has been said in the preceding articles. What it was at the time of the first coming was not made known to any one, because it is not revealed in the sense of the letter of the Word. But what it was at the time of the second coming, it was given to see with my eyes; from which it may be concluded concerning the former; and this is described in a little treatise concerning the Last Judgment. There also it is described with what power the Lord cast down and dispersed hell.
Thirdly, how the Lord afterwards reduced all things, both in heaven and in hell, into order, has not yet been described by me, since the establishment of order in the heavens and the hells has continued in progress from the day of the last judgment to the present time, and still continues."—Swedenborg T.C.R. 123.
A LETTER OF CONSOLATION
FROM DR. FRANKLIN TO MISS E. HUBBARD.
Philadelphia, February 12, 1756.
Dear Child—I condole with you. We have lost a most dear and valuable relation, but it is the will of God and Nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside when the soul is to enter into real life. 'Tis rather an embryo state—a preparation to living; a man is not completely born until he is dead. Why, then, should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals, a new member added to their society?
We are spirits. That bodies should be lent to us while they can afford us pleasure, assist us in acquiring knowledge, or in doing good to our fellow-creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God. When they become unfit for their purposes, and give us pain instead of pleasure, instead of an aid become an incumbrance, and answer none of the intentions for which they were given, it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. That way is death.
We ourselves, prudently in same cases, choose a partial death. A mangled, painful limb, which cannot be restored, we willingly cut off. He that plucks out a tooth, parts with all the pains and possibility of pains and diseases it was liable to or capable of making him suffer.
Our friend and we are invited abroad on a party of pleasure that is to last forever. His chair was first ready, and he has gone before us. We could not conveniently all start together; and why should you and I be grieved at this, since we are soon to follow, and we know where to find him?
Adieu, my dear good child, and believe that I shall be, in every state, your affectionate papa,