XI Swedenborg, The Theologian
INQUIRER.—At the close of our talk about Swedenborg as a Philosopher, some time ago, you stated that he always had a great veneration for the Sacred Scriptures, the spiritual sense of which he was the means of revealing, after he became a theologian.
MISSIONARY.—And I presume you have thus far not met with anything that gave you cause for doubting the statement.
I.—No; I have found good reasons for believing that it is perfectly true. I have been reading the True Christian Religion since we last met, and it certainly is, as you assured me, a very grand and profound book. There is an immense amount of instruction in it on important subjects. There are wonderful revelations of spiritual things on every page. Surely, the man: must have been inspired, to be able to write as he did.
M.—I am delighted to hear you express yourself in such terms. It is to me exceedingly gratifying, to learn that you have been so decidedly interested in the work. I felt certain that you would like it; and that was the reason why I recommended you to read it.
I.—It is doubtful whether there is a book in existence that would have been better adapted to the state of my mind at the time.
M,—And therefore the Divine Providence furnished that very book for your perusal. The lord knows: infinitely better what we stand in need of than we do ourselves. If we are disposed to "search the Scriptures," that we may learn concerning the way of salvation and eternal life, the lord will surely provide for all our spiritual wants. He does not neglect any of His creatures.
I.—Yes; I am beginning to realize that it is far better to trust in the Divine Providence, than in our own prudence. It is very evident that we cannot provide for our own spiritual wants. The True Christian Religion has taught me more about the character and attributes of our heavenly Father, during the past few months, than I had hoped ever to learn in this world. The lord is indeed merciful and gracious, to furnish us with such means of spiritual instruction, as are given in the volume I have been reading.
M.—Is it not wonderful that an octogenarian could write such a book?
I.—Do you mean to tell me that Swedenborg was eighty years of age when he wrote that book?
M.-—Yes; he was about eighty when he began to write it.
I.—Marvellous! How was it possible?
M.—He did it by the Divine aid and guidance; for Swedenborg as a Theologian was the servant of the lord jesus christ, and this pre-eminently. He did not write these spiritual books from his own ordinary intelligence. When we become familiar with his theological works, and learn how much he wrote; when we consider the nature of his writings, and find out how profound they are, we are led to conclude that it would have been just as impossible for Swedenborg to develop such a system of truth as they contain from his own intelligence, as it would have been to create a universe by his own power.
I.—Your comparison is a strong one; but as you know whereof you speak, I am not disposed to gainsay it. If Swedenborg did not write the books from his own ordinary intelligence, he must have been in some way endowed with an extraordinary measure of spiritual wisdom. And to my mind it is quite evident that such was the case. As I said before, the man must have been inspired to write as he did.
M.—That is the truth of the matter: he wrote under Divine inspiration. He was the chosen instrument through whom the lord revealed the spiritual sense of the Word, and spiritual knowledges concerning all things that come within the scope of human experience, By means of this Divine Revelation the lord effected His Second Coming spiritually; for, in the nature of things, He cannot come again into the world personally, and be actually visible to the bodily eyes of men.
I.—I suppose most people would reject the idea of Swedenborg having been inspired?
M.—Yes; but their rejecting it does not alter the truth of the matter. The beheading of John the Baptist did not prevent the lord from accomplishing the Divine work of Redemption, and then, by means of His Apostles, promulgating the doctrines of Christianity, and establishing the Primitive Church. Nor will the rejection of the fact of Swedenborg's Mission, on the part of some, or even on the part of large numbers of men, prevent the lord from carrying forward the Divine work begun at His Second Advent.. The lord will provide the men and the means necessary for the dissemination of His Everlasting Gospel, and thus for the establishment of His New Church, signified by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse.
I.—You seem to feel confident that the lord on high is mightier than all the adverse influences that can possibly arise; and that the fact that Swedenborg was an inspired and Divinely-chosen Servant of the lord will ever remain.
M.—I do most fully believe that "the lord God Omnipotent reigneth," and that He will, henceforth and even for ever, establish His Divine Kingdom on the earth. This Kingdom is the Church of the New Jerusalem, which, according to His own declaration, He will build upon the Rock of Eternal Truth, that the gates of hell may never prevail against it.
I.—In the prophecy of Daniel the same thing appears to be taught, where (Dan. vii. 13, 14) it is said that the lord's dominion is of an Age that shall not pass away, and His Kingdom that which shall not perish.
M.—As to Swedenborg, it is quite evident that he was inspired. The student of his Writings finds that he never takes any credit to himself, or claims any merit for what he has done. In the Arcana he frequently uses the expression, "by the Divine mercy of the lord,"— such and such things shall be explained. He always ascribes the theological works to the lord, the Divine Teacher, and not to himself. He declares that the books were written by the lord, through him,—in a Sketch of an Ecclesiastical History.
I.—I have noticed in my reading that he keeps himself as much in the background as possible, evidently desiring to be regarded as merely an instrument in the hands of the lord.
M.—In the course of his preparation for his super-eminent mission, Swedenborg passed through many wonderful, and some very severe, experiences. He was enabled to attain a state of absolute self-humiliation before the lord—that is, to regard himself as nothing, and to acknowledge the lord as All in all. The Divine Providence so overruled the circumstances of his life, that he was prepared to be a suitable Human Instrument, through whom the lord could accomplish His most beneficent designs on behalf of the human race. And finally he adopted this motto: "God's will be done; I am Thine and not mine." Thus, by the Divine mercy, he reached a state of such human perfection, that he desired to do the lord's will, and not his own. And therefore he said: "As I have given myself from myself to the lord, He may dispose of me after His own pleasure."
I.—He was surely most highly favoured of mortals.
M.—He was, it is true; but he passed through very dark hours of temptation and mental conflict, in which his sufferings were most intense. But spiritual temptation is the only means of attaining a state of spiritual purification. Our lord Himself could not be glorified without passing through temptations; and man cannot be regenerated, without enduring, in a finite measure, what the lord suffered in an infinite degree in the Human He assumed. In the preparation for his mission as a theologian, therefore, Swedenborg was not exempt of these things. It was necessary for him to pass through the fires of affliction, in the form of direful mental sufferings. These were caused by combats with the evil influences from the regions of darkness, where dwelt the infernal genii that would delight in man's spiritual destruction, if their insane desires could only be accomplished.
I.—So the lord protected him, that he should receive no harm, but that he might pass through the ordeal and come out purified as gold—the dross of sin, selfishness, and all the imperfections of human nature being removed from him.
M.—You have expressed the idea correctly. While Swedenborg's preparation for his mission as a theologian was progressing, he wrote: "I was at last able to see that the Divine Providence governed the acts of my life uninterruptedly from my very youth, and directed them in such a manner, that by means of the knowledge of natural things I was enabled to reach a state of intelligence, and thus, by the Divine mercy of God-Messiah, to serve as an instrument for opening those things which are hidden interiorly in the Word of God-Messiah" (Adv. iii. 839).
I.—These things respecting Swedenborg's preparation for his mission are to me exceedingly interesting. And what has surprised me all along is, that so great a philosopher as Swedenborg was, should become a theologian. I am sure very few of our modern philosophers are disposed to become theologians. It looks as if they were more inclined to confirm themselves in naturalism and materialism, and to reject the Scriptures as a Divine Revelation altogether.
M.—You are quite right; and it is much to be regretted that so many repudiate the sublime truths of the Word, which are now given to the world by the Revelation of the Internal Sense. Swedenborg tells us that, by means of the knowledge of natural things, he was enabled to reach a state of intelligence. But this was not a state of mere natural intelligence. Mere worldly wisdom, without any acknowledgment of the wisdom that is from above, does not amount to much. To receive the wisdom that is from above is to acknowledge the Word as a Divine Revelation from God, who is the Fountain of all Wisdom.
I.—You understand, then, that by means of natural knowledge, Swedenborg was enabled to attain a state of spiritual intelligence?
M.—Yes; and the more that he progressed in a knowledge of natural things, the greater became his devotion to the Supreme Being, and the more perfect his veneration for the Sacred Scriptures. This we learn from his writings of the scientific period of his life in general, and also from his correspondence.
I.—It is very remarkable. The more one learns about the man, the more extraordinary does the character that was developed in him appear to have been.
M.—No man could become such a theologian as Swedenborg became without first being a thorough student, a profound investigator, a genuine philosopher. It was necessary for him to understand scientific and natural truths, in order that the lord could afterwards use him as a Revelator of spiritual and Divine Truth. By means of a knowledge of natural things, his mind became so enlightened,—acquired so comprehensive a grasp of things,—that he understood the laws and principles in general underlying the universal realm of effects, which comprises the entire fabric of the physical creation; for all natural or material existences are effects.
I.—And then he also became acquainted with the realm of causes, which enabled him to understand things immensely better than before.
M.—Yes; he experienced the wonderful state of the opening of his spiritual senses, and the consequent intromission into the spiritual world, which is, as you say, the realm of causes. With regard to this change in his state, he makes use of the beautiful expression: "Heaven was opened to me." And in the same connection he says: "The lord has also granted me to love truths in a spiritual manner—that is, to love them, not for the sake of honour, nor for the sake of gain, but for the sake of the truths themselves; for he who loves truths for the sake of truth sees them from the lord, because the lord is the Way and the Truth."
I.—What a beautiful passage that is! Such sentiments show very plainly that he was a thoroughly good man; that, indeed, he had attained a state of life approaching angelic perfection. His Writings are very different from anything we meet with in the whole range of literature, so far as my knowledge extends.
M.—There are no other works on religious subjects that are so profound, rational, systematic, and comprehensive. They are in harmony with all the Sacred Scriptures, being a Revelation of their internal meaning. And thus they are a Divine Revelation, which illustrates and gives rational interpretations of all preceding Revelations. In these Writings the mysteries of the. kingdom of God are explained. The problems which had been dark and incomprehensible to men for many ages, are solved by that Divine Science of all sciences, that of Correspondence, which shows the relations existing between things material and natural and things spiritual and heavenly.
I.—Your affirmations are somewhat startling; but I am not prepared to offer any objections to them.
M.—If you have objections, I want you to feel in perfect freedom to state them. I do not wish to be dogmatic at all; but as New Churchmen we are generally rather decided in our views, and regard it as our privilege to express them in plain terms. But our doctrines teach us toleration, which is an element in the principle of charity, and therefore we should always be willing to accord to others the same privileges which we claim for ourselves.
I.—A very commendable spirit. In fact, no man can be a genuine Christian without it. However, I like people who have convictions, and are not afraid to express them in a decided way. There is such a definiteness in the truths as taught in Swedenborg's works, that there seems to be a natural tendency to make his readers decided in their views. And I heartily wish there were more people who read these works, so as to get this kind of culture. It would no doubt be a very wholesome thing for the world in general.
M.—Very true; the principles taught in the Writings are precisely what the world stands in need of to-day. The grand, the fundamental, principles of the Christian Religion, of love to God and of charity toward the neighbour, are nowhere expounded in such comprehensive terms, as in the Writings of the New Church. And if these were universally taught and practised, the world would be in a very different state, morally and spiritually,—yes, in every conceivable way,—from what it is at the present moment.
I.—There is not the least doubt of that. In fact, there is a great lack of both love to God and charity toward the neighbour, now-a-days,—of which we have painful evidence, when we observe human society as it is in its various aspects.
M.—The world has made some progress, it is true. The New Jerusalem is descending from God out of heaven. We are living in the early dawning of a New Age, which was prophetically represented in the Apocalyptic visions of John. He that sits upon the Throne will make all things new; and old things are bound to pass away. The old systems are now being shaken, from the circumference to the very centre. There are moral earthquakes as well as mundane ones; spiritual convulsions as well as natural cyclones. It is as certain as the existence of the Omnipotent, that there are mighty spiritual influences at work, which are Divinely directed, and will gradually bring about great changes in the affairs of the nations. Disorder, injustice, and oppression, will slowly but surely disappear, giving place to vastly improved and more desirable conditions of human society.
I.—According to our senses the physical earth stands still, though we know by education that it moves at a tremendous velocity. Perhaps, if we were sufficiently instructed as to the operation of the Divine Providence, to realize it, we should know that the world moves with greater speed, spiritually, than we are apt to imagine. The longer I live the more settled becomes my belief in the wise and merciful overrulings of the Divine Providence. It is an unspeakable comfort, to know—to realize without any misgivings—that the lord reigneth; and that He provides the best things that can be, on behalf of the human race.
M.—Yes; it is a blessed thing to be able to acknowledge the Lord as the Supreme Ruler of the universe, our Father in the heavens, who provides for the highest well-being of all His children, conferring upon them the greatest possible good, in time and in eternity.
I.—I should like to get a little more information about the extraordinary subject of our talk. Judging from the immense quantity, and the superior quality, of Swedenborg's scientific and philosophical writings, he must have been well advanced in years, when he began to write on theological subjects.
M.—He was about fifty-five years of age, when he first experienced the opening of his spiritual senses. This was in the year 1743. He then began to look into theological matters, and in the following two years, that is, in 1744-5, published the last of his philosophical works that were ever published by himself. These were the Animal Kingdom and the Worship and Love of God. Swedenborg then began to apply all his extraordinary powers of mind to the study of the Sacred Scriptures. He read the Bible through several times in the original, thus making himself perfectly familiar with the Hebrew language. He passed through many strange mental and spiritual experiences, to which I have already referred. The diabolical spirits,—or spirits of a similar kind,—that attempted to destroy the Lord our Saviour after He came into the world, also strongly opposed the Lord's Servant, in the insane desire to prevent him, if possible, from performing his mission. But he was Divinely protected from the most direful assaults of his spiritual enemies. The lord was with him continually. Faithfully and well did he serve his Divine lord and Master, in that highest Office which it has ever fallen to the lot of any man to fill. For he was the Human Instrument, chosen and especially prepared, through whom the lord accomplished the most sublime work of making a Revelation of the Internal Sense of the Word, and thus of effecting His Second Advent spiritually.
I.—It is evident that a Human Instrument was necessary to accomplish this work; and a marvellous work it was. You regard Swedenborg's Theological Writings as a Divine Revelation, and I have no reason to doubt that they are. And this involves the idea that he was inspired, to be able to write these Books. Will you now allow me to ask, for the sake of information, how you substantiate the fact of Swedenborg's inspiration? This is a point of great interest to me, and I shall be very thankful if you will make it clear.
M.—I will with the greatest of pleasure try to do so. And in the first place let me say that I have been a reader of Swedenborg's theological works for a period of thirty years; and the more that I have studied them the firmer has become my conviction that they are the lord's own Writings for His New Church. They are true, harmonious, instructive, and elevating,—satisfying to the demands of the intellect, and to the inmost desires and needs of man's spiritual nature. They contain,—or, rather, they are,—a grand, glorious, and stupendous system of Divine Truth. Some men have imagined that they found contradictions in them; but this was simply on account of misapprehension on the part of the reader.
I.—It is evident that the student can only by degrees learn to understand the principles of a system so grand and new and comprehensive.
M.—Yes; the acquirement of genuine truths is necessarily a gradual process. And the teachings in the Writings are so interior and profound, that few in this age are able to fully understand them. There are many things that are beyond our comprehension; but this need not disturb us. We may well be grateful to the lord that we are permitted to receive these Heavenly Doctrines in a measure, according to our ability. Divine Truth is infinite, and we can merely receive it in a finite way. If, for example, we cannot fully comprehend the miraculous process of growth, by which the Creator forms the smallest flower that helps to beautify the face of Nature, and to cheer the world, how can we expect, with our limited knowledge of spiritual things, to understand all the ideas involved in the deep arcana that are revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg? We should be content to understand things, according to the measure of our ability, and also according to our spiritual need for the time being. The experiences of life will open our minds more and more interiorly, if we apply our knowledges to uses for the sake of the well-being of others.
I.—It is true that with all created things there are connected mysteries we cannot fathom. And since it is so with regard to natural things, it must surely also be so as to spiritual things.
M.—Most decidedly. But I must come to the point and try to give a reply to your question as to Swedenborg's inspiration. In the first place, then, I regard the Writings as given to the world by the lord, through the instrumentality of His Servant, Swedenborg. It follows, therefore, that all that is written in the Books is true; and their own internal evidence is quite sufficient to demonstrate this. Thus we are in a position to go to the Writings themselves, and see what they say respecting Swedenborg's inspiration. Because, if we receive the truths they teach about things Divine in general, to be consistent we shall also believe what they say in this particular.
I.—Your position seems to be both logical and reasonable. And I presume you can give us the passages which answer my question?
M.—In the Preface to the Apocalypse Revealed, Swedenborg says: "Any one may see that the Apocalypse could not possibly be explained but by the lord alone. . . . Think not, therefore, that anything there given is from myself, or from any angel, but from the lord alone." In the Apocalypse Explained, No. 1183, he also says that nothing was written in the Books except what came from the lord.
I.—This being true, what he wrote comes to us with the weight of Divine authority. He says he wrote nothing but what was communicated to him from the lord alone. Do you understand that what was communicated to him from the lord, was by inspiration?
M.—Yes; in the True Christian Religion this is plainly stated. We read: "That the Second Coming of the lord is effected by means of a man, before whom He has manifested Himself in Person, and whom he has filled with His Spirit, to teach the doctrines of the New Church from Himself by means of the Word" (T.C.R. 779).
I.—There we have it. That is plain enough. The expression, that the lord filled him with His Spirit, can mean nothing more nor less than inspiration.
M.—That Swedenborg was inspired, no New Churchman doubts or denies. But, of course, we understand that there are different degrees of inspiration. The Prophets and Evangelists wrote as the lord dictated to them through spirits or angels whom He filled with His Holy Spirit. But Swedenborg "received revelation immediately from the lord Himself, who dictated to him what to write by influx into his internal thought."
I.—According to this Swedenborg was inspired in a higher sense than the Prophets.
M.—The Prophets were the means through whom the lord gave the letter of the Word; while through Swedenborg the lord gave a revelation of the Internal Sense of the Word. Swedenborg's state was that of illumination, as well as of inspiration. He understood all that he wrote. He understood rationally the relation of all the truths taught in his Writings, from the lowest to the highest. The spiritual sense of the Word was dictated to him, as he says in the Arcana, AC 6597; but he comprehended it in every particular. The Prophets, on the other hand, did not understand anything of the internal sense. They wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, that is, the Angel of the lord spoke the Word to the Prophets, being filled with the Holy Spirit; and they were inspired to write exactly what the Lord desired should be written.
I.—I must say that you are making out a clear case for Swedenborg's inspiration. And it seems to me that we can read the Writings, and receive the beautiful and profound truths that are in them communicated to us, with far greater confidence when we understand this, than we can when we regard him as writing from his own intelligence like an ordinary commentator. That he was infinitely more than a commentator; that he was, as you claim, a Revelator, is quite evident to my mind; for no other man ever wrote as he did.
M.—The lord, in His Divine mercy, in past ages raised up many faithful servants, whom He filled with a greater or less measure of His Spirit; but no other individual, of whom human history gives us any record, was ever inspired in the degree that Swedenborg was. There have been hosts employed in ministering in heavenly things among men. The lord has provided for His Kingdom on the earth in every age. He has always had servants to do His will on behalf of His children; but those who earnestly study the Word and the Writings learn that Swedenborg was indeed pre-eminently the lord's Servant.
I.—And yet he was, in one sense, not more than any other man in the sight of the lord.
M.—The lord is "no respecter of persons; "and He does not, really, favour some men more highly than others, although it appears so, because some are enabled to perform more eminent uses than others.
I.—I do not see any reason why we should not regard Swedenborg as having been inspired. There are many things in the True Christian Religion which it would, as it seems to me, be quite impossible for a man to write in an ordinary state of mind. There is nothing of the nature of speculation; at least, I have met nothing of the kind. He says it is so—puts everything in a strongly affirmative light. He speaks as one having knowledge, and therefore authority. It is marvellous how he opens up things to one's understanding. There is no such a thing as blind faith with Swedenborg! No such thing as ignoring reason, or keeping it under subjection to any dogma; but every page filled with glorious truths which tend to enlighten the reason, to stimulate thought, and to cultivate all the faculties and powers of the mind.
M,—Swedenborg does not leave his readers to labour under a misapprehension as regards the state in which he was while he wrote. He does not wish any one to think that his own opinions merely are given in the Writings. And therefore he so often mentions the matter, that men may ascribe all things that he was the means of doing, to the lord alone. He says: "No spirit dared, neither would any angel, instruct me about anything in the Word, or any teaching derived from the Word; but the lord alone taught me and illuminated me" (D.P. 135). And more than twenty years after he began writing on theology, he made the following statement to the Royal Librarian in Stockholm: "When I think of what I am to write, and while I am writing, I am gifted with a perfect inspiration; formerly this would have been my own, but now I am certain that what I write is the living truth of God" (Documents concerning Swedenborg , Doc. 251, No. 7).
I.—The subject is becoming plainer. I see that in the Writings we have the lord's own true interpretation of the Divine Word. And what a blessed thing it would be, if the religious teachers of Christendom were to read these Writings, have their minds enlightened by means of them, and then preach the pure Divine Truth which is therein revealed.
M.—If they were to do this, there would be more spiritual enlightenment, it is true. But the fact of the matter is, that the pure Divine Truth is not what is desired by many in this materialistic age. Our lord spoke of people who "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." And there are too many, even at this day, to whom the "darkness" of falsity is more congenial than the "light" of truth; evidently because their ruling loves are not of a heavenly nature.
I.—I should now like to ask whether there are any intimations given, in the literal sense of the Scriptures, that there should be made a revelation of the spiritual sense?
M.—There are many passages that imply this. We read, for example: "The glory of the lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Isa. xl. 5). The glory is the spiritual sense of the Word. To be revealed means to be made known; and to be seen, means its being rationally understood. The expression, "all flesh," means all the qualities of good, with which the principles of truth can be united, in the process of regeneration.
I.—Are there any other passages that have a bearing on the question?
M.—Yes; with reference to His Second Advent, the lord says: "They shall see the Son of Man, coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory" (Matt. xxiv. 30). This does not mean that the: lord will come personally into this natural world, to raise from the graves the dead bodies of men, and to execute a Judgment. But it treats of the Second Coming of the lord in a spiritual manner. The Son of Man is the lord as to the Divine Truth. Coming means revelation from the lord, and concerning Him. The clouds of heaven symbolise the literal sense of the Word; and the power and great glory are the internal and spiritual sense of the Word.
I.—It is a beautiful explanation. But give us, if you please, a few more passages.
M.—There are many things in the Scriptures that are applicable to your question. The lord, when He was in the world, said to His disciples: "I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now." And again in the same chapter it is recorded that He said to them: "These things have I spoken unto you in parables; but the hour cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in parables, but shall show you plainly of the Father" (John xvi. 12, 25).
I.—These significant words of the Divine Teacher evidently had direct reference to further revelations of spiritual things, to be made in a then future age of the world.
M.—There is no doubt of it. The promises made by the lord, in the memorable words just quoted from John, have been fulfilled, and that most abundantly. In the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem, which have been given to the world through the instrumentality of Emanuel Swedenborg, the lord
does say "many things" to His disciples to-day, which at the time He was on earth as the Saviour they could not "bear "—that is, receive intelligently; because they were as yet too natural-minded. And in these Doctrines the lord no more speaks in parables, using the style of language in which the Divine Word is written— the heavenly language of Correspondences; but He shows plainly the real import of the wonderful things written in the sacred Volume.
I.—So you think "the hour," or state of the world, to which the lord alluded has come? and the mysteries of the kingdom of God are more plainly revealed, because some, at least, can receive and appreciate them?
M.—That is precisely the truth of the matter. And the number of those who can and do receive and appreciate them, is continually increasing. There are those who utterly repudiate the irrational dogmas which during past ages were foisted upon the world as pure Gospel Truth. They discover how absurd; and unscriptural are many of the doctrines generally taught. Some grow indifferent to doctrines and creeds of every description. Some "progress in thought" to such an extent as to go into naturalism, agnosticism, infidelity, or atheism. But it is a great comfort to know that there are also some who desire to learn the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, respecting religious subjects.
I.—And if they will go to the Writings, they will find the truth, as I can declare from my own experience of the past few months. A friend said to me the other day: "If these Swedenborgian doctrines are so grand and beautiful as you seem to think, why were they not revealed ages before Swedenborg's time?" And I replied: "The reason is obvious, in my opinion — namely, because the world was not ready for them. And your question can be further answered in a sort of way by asking: Why did not the Reformation take place ages before? Why were not such men as Luther, Melancthon, and Knox raised up sooner? Why were not the 'dark ages' brought to an end until so late a day of the Christian Era? How was it that mankind had to abide in spiritual darkness so long?"
M.—The lord, our heavenly Father, in His own good time, and in His own wise ways, provides for the temporal, spiritual, and eternal well-being of His children; for He is our Father, in the highest and best sense of the word. The greatest blessings He can bestow upon His creatures, come at the earliest moment possible. The lord is the God of earth, as well as of heaven. He therefore provides in natural things, as well as in spiritual things. In the Divine Providence of God, Columbus discovered America, when he did. And Swedenborg was raised up at the most suitable time, and prepared to be a Revelator of the internal sense of the Word; to be the Herald of the Second Advent of the lord, and to be the means of giving to the world spiritual-rational knowledges on all subjects.
I.—According to these considerations it was in the very nature of things, that the new truths were not given to the world sooner than they were. It seems to my mind perfectly reasonable. How could we. regard the matter in any other light?
M.—It would have been of no avail to have made the New Revelations before "the hour" had come, that is, before the world had made sufficient progress, to enable some men to come into a state to receive them intelligently, and to apply them to the practical affairs of life, and also to promulgate them for the moral and spiritual well-being of mankind. Thus there was necessary a state of preparation, for the reception of these genuine principles, on the part of even a few men, at first. And comparatively few are as yet prepared to receive and appreciate them.
I.—Is not the same thing true with regard to our modern discoveries and inventions? Suppose that telegraphic machines, electric lamps, and telephones had been constructed in some other sphere, and had been handed down to people in this world, five -hundred or a thousand years ago: would they have been of any use to anybody? No; they would have been mere useless curiosities. Men would not have possessed the requisite knowledge to utilize such inventions at all. But the progress and developments of the age, naturally brought such things into existence; and now the world could not well get along without them. How could we manage without steam and electricity, now that these agencies are applied in so many different ways?
M.—You have suggested an excellent illustration of the reasons why the New Revelations which we have in the Writings, were not given sooner. The men of the earlier ages could not receive them. The "hour" had not come, when the lord could "speak no more in parables," but could make an immediate Divine Revelation, "showing plainly of the Father." The marvellous forces of steam and electricity were always in Nature; but it remained to "the latter days," at the dawning of the New Age, for these forces to be discovered and applied to uses in a thousand ways. And to make this possible, required the development of natural things up to a certain point. And when this had taken place, the conditions and circumstances brought about, made the modern inventions an actual necessity.
I.—They have certainly become a necessity to us from the extensive uses to which we have applied them. But excuse me for interrupting you.
M.—I was about to add, that in like manner as the forces of steam and electricity were always latent in Nature since the creation of the universe, so the Internal and Spiritual Senses of the Word were always contained in the Literal Sense since it was first given by inspiration. But it remained until "the fullness of time," for the glory of Jehovah to be revealed, that all flesh might see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, that is, spiritually, as already explained. And to make this possible, required the spiritual development of the minds of men to a certain degree. And when this had been accomplished, the spiritual states and conditions, on the part of a portion of mankind, made the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word an imperative necessity. The lord, in His Divine mercy, provided for all these states and conditions. And we shall never be able to fully express our gratitude for the manner in which He has provided for the spiritual needs of His children. Truly, He doeth all things well.
I.—I can realize the force of your remarks, from my own experience. And I can truly say that not for the material wealth of the world, would I be deprived of what I have learned from the Doctrines, and be again shrouded in mental gloom and spiritual darkness. It is not many months since that, from the very depths of my soul, I cried to Heaven for light upon the problems of life and death, the momentous questions of man's free agency and responsibility, of man's immortality and eternal destiny. I experienced unutterable longings for the knowledge that should make things intelligible; the light that should illuminate my mind, and solve the problems that were then so dark to me. In the lord's good time that knowledge was communicated, according to my capacity of reception; that light was given in as great effulgence as I could bear. And although I have just begun to learn; although I have only taken the first feeble steps in the way of wisdom; I rejoice in the cheering light and satisfying knowledges, which are imparted to us by the new and everlasting Gospel. And I shall never (as you say) be able to express my gratitude to the lord for permitting me to become acquainted with the grand system of truth which is vouchsafed to the world in the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem, which were revealed through the instrumentality of that most illustrious theologian and Servant of our lord, Emanuel Swedenborg.
M.—There are many who have passed through similar experiences as yourself. At this day many are disposed to reject the Scriptures as a Divine Revelation. From doubts and perplexities, caused by certain theological fallacies that are based upon the Creeds, and have been taught for ages, men are gradually led into a state of denial of all things of revealed religion. Some men cease to acknowledge the existence of a Personal God, who is the Creator and Preserver of the universe, and become materialists and atheists. But the doctrines of the New Church are of such a nature as to satisfy the mind of the honest sceptic, the sincere doubter, the diligent inquirer. These doctrines do not require the suppression of human reason; but they encourage the exercise of that God-given faculty, in the investigation of religious subjects. In the Writings, and by means of them, the Word is transformed by the revelation of its inner meaning, its genuine sense, its real import. Thus the glory of the lord hath been revealed, showing plainly wherein the Divinity of the Word resides. And to the devout student of spiritual things, there is a new and radiant light beaming from every page of the Sacred Word. His mind is illuminated, his heart is cheered, his thoughts and affections are purified and elevated. He learns to understand what the lord means, when He says: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, are spirit and are life" (John vi. 63). All who are in genuine natural good, shall, in due time, receive spiritual truth, become enlightened Christians, and finally attain the unspeakable felicities of eternal life. All who "thirst," that is, ardently desire knowledges respecting things heavenly and Divine, shall, by the lord's merciful Providence, be led to the inexhaustible Fountain of Truth, the Opened Word, whence they may ever take freely the Water of Life, and be spiritually refreshed and strengthened thereby.