The City of God
Karl R. Alden
The General Church Publication Committee Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania
Copyright 1961 by
General Church of the New Jerusalem
Reprinted 3750 copies
Reprinted by General Church Book Center Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania
What Is The Church of the New Jerusalem?
The New Church Idea of the Trinity
Solving Some Perplexities Concerning the Trinity
The Virgin BirthThe Internal Sense of the Word The Law of Correspondences-I The Law of Correspondences-Il The Immortality of Man's Soul Our Life in the Spiritual World Is There Marriage in Heaven? Shunning Evils as Sins New Church Baptism
The Holy SupperThe Inner Meaning of Christmas Easter
The 19th of June and Its Spiritual Background
The author is indebted to inspiration he has received from many authors, but two of the old classics he wishes to mention particularly: The Plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures by Rev. Samuel Noble, and Great Truths on Great Subjects by Rev. Jonathan Bayley, Ph.D.
The Reverend Doctor Hugo Lj. Odhner has acted as his valued consultant and has read the manuscript many times and offered very valuable suggestions. We are deeply grateful to him for his many excellent emendations.
Without the encouragement and assistance given him by Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Pitcairn the work could never have been accomplished and in this connection the faithful and skillful work of Mrs. Edward C. Bostock, III, in typing the manuscript and reading the proof and helping to prepare the index should be mentioned.
The book itself is based upon the author's thirty-four years of teaching Religion to high school boys and girls and in conducting a class for adults who have been interested in the doctrine of the New Church, and this over a period of some twenty-two years.
Cited Works by Emanuel Swedenborg
AC Arcana Coelestia
AE Apocalypse Explained
AR Apocalypse Revealed
Can. Canons of the New Church
Char. Doctrine of Charity
CL Conjugial Love
DLW Divine Love and Wisdom
DP Divine Providence
HD New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine
HH Heaven and Hell
U The Last Judgment
U post. The Last Judgment (posthumous)
Lord The Doctrine Concerning the Lord
SD The Spiritual Diary
SD min. The Spiritual Diary Minor
TCR The True Christian Religion
"What is the Church of the New Jerusalem, and why is it called by that name?" The answer which I shall give in this chapter will be general in character, and will endeavor to explain what the Church of the New Jerusalem is, and why it is called by that name. The name stems directly from the twenty-first chapter of Revelation, where it is recorded that John saw "the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven." (Rev. 21:2) John was on the Isle of Patmos, which is a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. On the Lord's day, he tells us, he received the vision of the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The question is: What did John really see? First he says he saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, and he tells us that this city was prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The description is remarkable! Why should he liken a city to a woman at the most ecstatic moment in her life, the moment when, of all times, she looks most radiantly beautiful? Yet, that is the language of Revelation. These are the very words that must be used to describe this city, New Jerusalem, because what John really saw was neither a city, nor a bride. What he actually saw was the harmony of truth that forms the doctrines of the Church of the New Jerusalem. He saw these doctrines in a condensed form so that they gave the definite picture to his mind of a new holy city; a city of God, so beautiful that it could only be likened to a bride adorned for her husband.
Why was the city called the New Jerusalem? It was because the Old Jerusalem had come to a complete and total end. The Old Jerusalem, years before John's vision, had been completely destroyed by the Roman Emperor Titus. The Lord's words, "Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down," (Mark 13:2) had been literally fulfilled so far as the Old Jerusalem was concerned. Titus had left not one stone standing upon another. Jerusalem was a heap of rubble, and it had perished.
But the Old Jerusalem in its day had stood for a vital truth in the history of the world. Under the Divine Providence the Old Jerusalem had held to the worship of one only God. Of all the cities in the world the Lord had said that He had chosen Jerusalem to put his name in. Jerusalem was a city that was set on an hill. The Psalmist said, "Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord." (Psalm 122:4) The reason that David had thus spoken was that all Israel was commanded to journey to Jerusalem four times each year to renew their vows of monotheism, that is, the worship of one God. It was because Jerusalem stood for the worship of one God in one person that Daniel, in far-off Babylon, opened his window toward Jerusalem and offered his prayer to Jehovah three times a day. This he did in spite of the command of Darius that no one should worship any god but him for thirty days. Daniel believed that the one only God resided in Jerusalem, and that prayers addressed to that ancient city would surely be heard.
It was for the purpose of maintaining on this earth the worship of one God that the ark of the covenant had been the center of Jewish worship for fifteen hundred years before the Lord came into this world. Finally it was placed in Solomon's Temple at Jerusalem. That was the part Jerusalem had played in history, but now, at the time when John wrote on the Isle of Patmos, the Old Jerusalem had perished. It was no more.
Then John saw a vision which prophesied the history and course of the First Christian Church which supplanted the Jewish Church. He was shown in his vision that the Christian Church would one day lose its central idea of one God in one Person. He was shown that the time would come when the Church Fathers would sit down at the Council of Nicea and write a creed which read: "The Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God, yet there be not three Gods but one God . . . and that whereas by Christian verity we are compelled to acknowledge each one separately as God and Lord, we are forbidden by the Holy Catholic Church to say three Gods and three Lords." (Athanasian Creed A.E. 1091)
Only 325 years after the Lord came on earth the vision of monotheism, which the Old Jerusalem had stood for, had again been lost, and a vague and mysterious tripersonal God had been set up as the center of Christian theology. To John in his vision on Patmos it was given to see that the time would come when a new vision of monotheism, of God in one Person, would be given to the world. This new vision of one God was symbolized by a New Jerusalem, a new Jerusalem not built by human hands but coming down from God out of heaven, and beautiful as only a bride can be beautiful when she is adorned for her husband. This spiritual beauty we find in the truths revealed by the Lord to Emanuel Swedenborg during the twenty-seven years when his spiritual eyes were opened and he wrote at the Lord's command many books, which contain the doctrines of the New Church. These books, inspired by the Lord, we call the Writings.
It is a fact that whenever we search for the truth and finally find it, it appears before our minds in exquisite beauty. "Seek and ye shall find" the Lord said in the Gospel (Matt. 7:7), and in the Writings He says, "Follow the light and ye shall find." (C.L. 56)
Well do I remember an old gentleman up in the Canadian Northwest, who has now passed on into the spiritual world, and how he described to me the beauty which suddenly burst forth before his eyes from the pages of the Writings when he saw the truth of One God in One Person, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He had been raised a Mennonite, and as such he had been taught to believe the doctrine of God in three persons. This triune God puzzled him. How could there possibly be unity in the universe if there were three separate persons at the center of the creation? How could three Divine Persons make one God? These discordant ideas tortured him. Night and day he sought for an answer, and while he was in this perplexed state, while he was searching for the truth, there fell into his hands a copy of Swedenborg's True Christian Religion. Before long his eye fell upon the chapter entitled "The Trinity." Eagerly he read it. The light dawned. Not three persons, but one personone Person whose soul was the Father, whose body was the Son, and whose Divine inspiration and work among men was the Holy Spiritwas what it taught.
"Never again," he said to himself, "can I picture God in three persons!" The beautiful expression that spread over his face, as he told me this, is still present with me. He had seen the "New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
A young man whom I met in my travels told me that his talk with me on the Trinity, and his reading of the chapter on the Trinity in the True Christian Religion had so changed his mind that never again could he conceive of God as being three separate Divine Persons, who in some mysterious way make One God. When he saw for the first time the idea of one God in one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, the beautiful light of truth filled his mind. It was the thought that God is just oneone Person! It is the beauty that is meant by John's words: "Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."
The New Jerusalem that John saw was not only beautiful, it was also strong. He saw great walls surrounding it. The walls that protect a spiritual city are the doctrines that make it distinctive, the doctrines which protect it from assault from without.
Perhaps, when I use the word "doctrines" I enter a field of technical theological language which is not too well understood. Let me see if I can make that word quite clear. In the first place, a doctrine is something that you learn. It comes from a Latin word meaning: "The things that we have learned." Usage has made it mean a much more specific thing. Today it denotes a set of principles which govern our actions. Every man has a doctrine that governs his life, whether he knows it or not. What he believes in respect to any particular subject is his doctrine. His doctrine of religion is his belief concerning how the world came into being, and how we should live. An atheist, who denies God, has a doctrine. He believes that there is no God; that the world always was; and that maybe man gradually evolved from chemical particles. Whatever a man believes from conviction, that is his doctrine. In it his mind dwells. It is the city of his refuge. Let us, then, examine the New Jerusalem, which is protected by these great and high walls of doctrine. Some people feel that trying to make a society in this world of people who believe and practice the doctrines of the New Jerusalem will create an exclusive sort of community which uses its walls in order to keep people out instead of using them to protect itself. But the walls of the New Jerusalem are never meant to be used for snobbish purposes. They are walls erected great and high to protect the things that we hold most sacred, and that we most deeply cherish. We call these walls, the walls of distinctiveness, the distinctiveness of the Church of the New Jerusalem. Over the years we have come to believe that we have a bounden duty to give our children a distinctive New Church education based upon the doctrines of the Church of the New Jerusalem. We want our children to learn about geography at the same time that they learn about the God who created geography. We want our children to learn of history from the knowledge that there is a God above history whose Divine Providence continually overrules man's petty desires in order that the Grand Man of Heaven may forever be upbuilded. We want our children to see in their study of mathematics the order, the law, and the firmness of all the truth that emanates from God. And so, in order to give our children these things that we think are so vitally important, we have distinctive New Church education, requiring of all of our teachers and pupils baptism into the faith of the Church of the New Jerusalem. So the walls of the New Jerusalem, great and high, are protective walls; they are erected to preserve our distinctiveness as a New Church.
We likewise strive to maintain distinctive New Church social life that in actual association with each other we may put into practice the ideals that we cherish, that by constant striving we may be able to put away the love of self and be filled with the love of the neighbor, that we may love him as the Lord has loved us. That is our ideal, but we have much regenerating to do.
In order to show you that there is no element of exclusiveness involved in these walls of the New Jerusalem, let me remind you of the fact that in each wall, East, North, South, and West there are three gates, and it is said that these gates are open all day, and that there is no night there. From that statement I take it that the opportunity to enter into the New Jerusalem is universal, and that the door of entrance into the Church is always open.
The meaning of the four walls is the accommodation of the doctrines to various forms of mind. Men view things from different angles. If four of us were to view some beautiful building, and if one of us looked at it from the east, another from the north, another from the south, and the fourth from the west, and if each of us was to describe what he saw, our descriptions would have certain points that would agree, and other points that would be quite different. We find this difference in the account of the story of the Lord's life. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have all told the story from a different angle. Some events they have described almost alike. Thus all four Gospels substantially agree in the particulars of the feeding of the five thousand with five barley loaves and two small fishes. However, if we want to learn of the Lord's discourse before he went to Gethsemane, we must go to John; but if we want to learn of the prayer in Gethsemane, we must go to the synoptic Gospels, for they alone record it. Both Matthew and Luke mention the Lord's Prayer, but slightly differently, while John and Mark are silent on the subject. Luke and Matthew alone record the birth story, while John traces the incarnation to the "Word that was in the beginning with God, and was God, . . . and was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:1 and 14) All of this is to show us why the New Jerusalem has four walls. In a universal sense the four walls represent every possible viewpoint on life. If we could imagine that we were all standing outside of the New Jerusalem, and watching it descend from God out of heaven, each one of us would see a different entrance through which he would want to come into that Holy City.
One thing is very clear; each of us would want to enter through a gate into the city, for the Lord said: "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." (John 10:1) Therefore, no matter from what angle we view the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, we may be sure that there is some gate prepared by the Lord which will just minister to our particular state; a gate through which we may enter into the Holy City, if that is our desire.
In subsequent chapters I am going to take up in detail the meaning of these various gates, but for the present I will just discuss some of them, and speak of some of the people that have entered into the New Jerusalem by them. Of course, the most central, and the most important of all the doctrines is to know the truth about God. This is so important that it enters into each of the twelve gates, for each was made of one pearl, and the pearl of great price is the true knowledge of God. Many people have entered into the New Church by this gate, for the New Church teaching concerning God has made the idea of one God in one Person, who is the Lord Jesus Christ, as clear as crystal to their minds.
There are many things in the letter of the Word, which, when not analyzed carefully, might make one think that perhaps there are three Divine Persons, for surely the letter does speak of the Father, and it speaks of the Son, and it speaks of sending the Holy Spirit, and doesn't that mean that there are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons who in some mysterious way form one God? Certainly, the Old Christian Church has puzzled over that problem until it has drawn out the creed which is held by all the orthodox Christian Churches such as the Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and the like. It is not held, of course, by such sects as the Unitarians, or the Christian Scientists, who deny the Virgin birth and who make the divinity in Christ no different in kind than the spark of life in each one of us. But all of the great sects of the modern Christian Church believe in one God in three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When a person becomes disturbed on the question of a tripersonal God, when it no longer seems logical to him to think of God as existing in three Persons, then it is that he begins the search which in the end will lead him to one or another of the gates of the New Jerusalem. From the doctrines of the New Church, as he studies them, it will become more and more clear that the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ was the Father, just as the soul of each one of us is the father of his body. Just as I have my soul which is the father of my body, so the Lord had His soul which was the Divine Father, and which created His body within the womb of Mary. And as the human soul is always within its body, shaping the destiny of our body, maintaining its health, preserving the faculties of all the senses, so the Divine Father was never withdrawn from the Son, He was always the soul of our Lord.
Our spirit, our influence among people, what we do in the world, this exactly corresponds to the Holy Spirit which some have confused with a third person in the Trinity. After the Lord had risen from the sepulchre, He appeared to his disciples. "Then said Jesus unto them, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit." (John 20:21, 22) His breath! That was the Holy Spirit. Certainly it was not another person. Why should anyone think that His breath should be a third person? Since the Lord is Holy, the spirit that goes forth from Him could only be the Holy Spirit. There. fore, the New Churchman sees that God is just One, and when this One God manifested Himself on earth in bodily form He was the Lord Jesus Christ. The infinite soul of that body was the Father, and the influence among men from that body and soul was the Holy Spirit. Many persons have had the mystery of the trinity solved by entering into this New Church understanding of it, thus they have entered in through the gate into the Holy City.
The understanding of death is another one of these gates into the New Jerusalem. It is particularly vivid before my mind, for only recently I was called upon to speak at the funeral of a boy of twelve who had died very suddenly of polio. He had been sick only one week! The comfort that the doctrines of the New Church gave to the parents in their grief- stricken condition was a beautiful thing to behold, for our doctrines teach us that the Heavenly Father marks even the fall of a sparrow, and the Lord says that the very hairs of our head arc all numbered, and of a God who knows even the number of our hairs, and who marks the fall of a sparrow, it is quite impossible to believe that His Providence permits accidents. We cannot believe that anyone is called to the spiritual world unless it is God's will. 'When we come to study the Writings of Swedenborg, we find that very definite reasons are given why people die when they do, why some people live to be old and enter the spiritual world full of years, while others die in infancy and still others in the full tide of manhood.
The Grand Man of Heaven, that is, heaven looked at as one great society, is not composed of parts that are alike, but of many parts that are different. In this heavenly society men and women, now angels, perform the uses of all the organs and viscera of the human body. There are all the delicate membranes and the fluid which make possible the sight of the eye, and all the subtle tissues that make up the substance of the brain. All of these uses for the Grand Man of Heaven are performed by angels after death.
In this world there are angels who are present with every mother when a child is born, deeply innocent angels. We are taught that children who die in infancy or childhood bring this gift of innocence into the heavens. They have never experienced anything but innocence in this world and so they take with them into the spiritual world none of the smirch and dirt of this life. They go into that world bearing the gift of innocence, and the Lord uses them to perform uses which involve innocence such as being with mothers when their children are born, or with young couples during the first states of marriage wherein the vision of conjugial love is given.
A thousand particulars about the life after death have been revealed to the New Church. We are told how the angels live, what they do, what they wear, how they are governed, and many more interesting things. When someone has lost a friend that is dear to him the New Church is able to give to him in his hour of need a teaching that is soul-satisfying. It seems that frequently people are led into the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, through the gate of the understanding of death.
Let me mention one or two other gates that are very important. The time was when the Bible was revered and honored by all Christians, but that time has passed. Many of you have been born since the time of its real veneration. Many of you have met since youth people who have derided it. I remember reading about one man who later became an American Consul in France. John Bigelow was his name. He was brought up at his mother's knee with a tremendous love for the Bible. Then he went off to Harvard for his university training, and it was just at the time when higher criticism was beginning to come to the fore, and the critics were seeking in every way possible to undermine the common faith in the Bible. They pointed out that the world could
not have been created in six days, more likely six million years and they showed that the Bible had many contradictions in it. For instance, after the Lord created Adam and Eve He told them that if they ate of the forbidden tree they would surely die. Time came when they did eat of it, but they did not die; they were merely expelled from the garden of Eden. After Cain slew Abel he is said to have married a wife and built a city when there was no one else on earth. Again, when the Children of Israel made a golden calf in the wilderness and the Lord would have destroyed them for their wickedness, and Moses prayed for them, we read:
It is said that God repented that He had made man, seeing that his wickedness had proceeded to such an extremity. (Genesis 6:6) It is elsewhere said that He repented at having made Saul king over Israel (I Samuel 15: 11), but in another place it is stated that "The Lord hath sworn and will not repent." (Psalm 110:4) and "I am the Lord, I change not." (Malachi 3:6)
These higher critics said that the Bible was full of contradictions, and this young man of whom I am speaking had the Bible which he loved torn from him because he thought that these professors were right, and they were night as far as the facts upon which they based their conclusions were concerned. Therefore he lost the Bible, and it was not until some years later, under very interesting circumstances, that he found a volume by Swedenborg entitled Arcana Coelestia. This book restored his faith in the Bible. From it he learned that all human freedom would be removed if God revealed scientific truth by revelation. He learned that the discovery of the truth of science is left to the free play of man's rational mind. Nature presents a challenge to his mind to learn her secrets. But revelation has another purpose. It tells man what he cannot learn from his own investigations; that is, it tells him about God, the life after death, and the life of regeneration. These truths man cannot discover for himself.
Revelation must never be so compelling that it forces man to believe it, because then, at once, man would become a slave and not a human being. As Bigelow read further in the Arcana he learned that the seven days of creation did not refer to the creation of the physical world, but they treated of the seven states of man's regeneration, or preparation for heaven. This is a vastly more vital subject to each one of us than is the manner of the creation of the physical world, for who of us is so stupid that he does not see that this physical body which he has, will within a hundred short years have passed from this earth? His body will be disintegrated; it was nothing real; it was just the means which the Lord gave him whereby he might live in this world, and so be able to choose in absolute freedom the type of life he wants to live to eternity. That is what our bodies are for, nothing more. Bigelow found in this Arcana Coelestia words of wisdom that dealt not with the natural body, which is cast off at death, but with the spiritual body which we retain to eternity. Having seen how, in the early chapters of Genesis, this allegory of man's spiritual journey to heaven revolutionized his idea of the Bible, that book which for him had been lost was now found.
Having seen the solution to the problem of creation in seven days, he went on to some other arguments that had been leveled against the Bible. For example: the claim that the Bible teaches that God is a God of wrath. It is not hard to find passages in the literal sense that say that God was angry, but we also find passages that say that He is a God of love. For example: "Let thy wrathful anger take hold of them." (Psalm 69:24) "We are consumed by thine anger." (Psalm 90:7) "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16) He studied passages like these in the light of the new truths which he was reading and he found that if we view God's action to man from man's standpoint, there are times when it does appear that God is angry. Just as a child who is punished by its parent thinks that the parent is angry, and is acting from anger. If a parent has punished a child justly, then frequently that punishment is the dearest sign of love, because the parent who does not correct his child does not really love the child, but loves his own ease. And so our friend began to see harmony among those apparent contradictions. When he viewed them from the standpoint of a man looking at God, then there was the appearance of anger, but whenever God is looking down at man, the Bible is perfectly consistent that He is a God of love; that He is never angry; and that anger can never possibly be predicated of Him. Then there are other difficulties. For instance: the lies that Jacob told, the way he put fur on his hands so as to deceive his blind old father Isaac and make him think that he was Esau. "I am thy first-born Esau," he said. "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau," (Genesis 27:19 & 22) Isaac replied.
The true meaning of this deceit, and this blessing, is all unfolded in the Arcana Coelestia. Esau represents good. He represents the end for which we strive, while Jacob represents the truth. Esau was first born, as good is the end of all living; Jacob was second born, but for a time he had to take first place, just as we have to learn how to do something before we can do it. We have got to teach the child what is right and what is wrong before he can do what is right, but the end which we had in mind in teaching him the truth was that he might learn to do good. In the end of the story Esau was triumphant. Jacob came back from Padan Aram, whither he had fled from the wrath of his brother; he came back after many years and offered a rich present to his brother, and bowed the knee before him, thus showing that truth is always the servant of good, and although it looks as if truth came first, that is a deception which man must not confirm with himself; otherwise, he will be led into faith alone.
The Arcana solved problem after problem for John Bigelow and he entered into the New Jerusalem through the gate which may be called: "The Bible that was lost and is found."
Another gate of entrance is the doctrine concerning salvation. In the New Church we teach that there is no easy way of approach to the throne of God. There is no place for sermons which create great emotional stresses. No one is ever brought into the New Church in a moment by an act of contrition, or by death-bed repentance. The New Church scheme of salvation is, however, Scriptural, and it is logical beyond every other scheme that has been taught or believed. What we hold is: that such as a man is at the moment of his death, such he will be when he enters the spiritual world. The things that he loves when he dies will be the things that he will love when he wakes up in the life hereafter. Here and now is his chance to change those loves while he is still living in this world. If you observe the nature of love you will see that it cannot be changed by the will of another; only by self- compulsion can man's loves be changed. Love can only operate in freedom; therefore, the Lord gives us freedom in this world so that we can learn to love in freedom the things that the angels love.
This precious gift of freedom is manifest to us in a thousand different ways. It can be observed from the fact that all revelation is outside of man. That is, it does not force itself upon us by an internal way against our desire. The Bible, for example, is outside of us; there it is on the table. It may stay there unopened; one may never go near it; one can pass it by every day. The only force that will make one read it is himself. If he wants to, he can go to it. He can read its message, and in perfect freedom he can learn to love it. That is where revelation is put by the Lord, outside of us, so that we can act in freedom if we are to make it a part of ourselves.
We might compare the spiritual progress of a man to a mass of clay which the sculptor moulds. When he goes to bed and leaves his work of art he knows full well, that when he awakens in the morning it will be just where he left it, no better, no worse. It is only as he works on it and fashions it little by little that it becomes a work of beauty. The Writings tell us that that is how man's character is formed, just a little bit at a time, and the fundamental principle in the formation of character is to pick out some evil and shun it as a sin against God, and when that is done God will give us the opposite virtue. He who shuns hatred learns to love, and he who shuns lying thirsts for the truth, and he who is not covetous develops a generous spirit. Thus little by little we learn to love the things that the angels love, and when we wake up in the spiritual world we will want to associate with those who love the things we love and with no one else. That is our way of salvation. There is no easy way, no climbing up some other way into the sheepfold, but we must enter through the door of character into our eternal place in heaven.
Entrance into the New Jerusalem through the doctrine of Conjugial Love is the final gate about which I would speak. Because the New Church has a different teaching about marriage, we have a new word to express the new ideal. The word is "conjugial". The common word for marriage love is "conjugal", but in Providence Swedenborg was led to use a new word, placing an "i" before the "a" in the last syllable of conjugal, thus making it "conjugial". This word embodies a union of soul, a union of minds, and a union of bodies which transcends any idea of marriage hitherto given to the world.
I remember a man in my first pastorate, when I was a very young minister. He was not baptized into the Church, and sometimes he was drawn to the Church and sometimes he said he could not believe it. We had many long talks together, but he would always end by saying; "I may not be able to see the truth of some of the books, but that book, Conjugial Love, that's a heavenly book; that's Divine Revelation!" This man was very happily married and the pages of Conjugial Love shone before his mind. To him they were like the bride adorned for her husband. In the process of time, gradually, little by little, he came to see the other doctrines of the New Jerusalem as just as beautiful as the doctrine concerning conjugial love, but it was through that gate that he finally entered into the New Jerusalem.
The Writings tell us concerning conjugial love that it is scarcely known that it exists in the world, and not at all what it is, and yet to the New Church a whole book has been written about it. This book describes every particular and gives us principles upon which we can base our married life, and by means of which we can draw success in this most important of human relationships. These principles enrich the marriage covenant. It is a love which has its origin in the marriage of good and truth in heaven, a love which corresponds to the marriage of the Lord and the Church. It does not originate with the love of the sex, but the love of the sex is as a matrix in which is set the precious jewel of conjugial love.
Conjugial love descends from the Lord. He stands at the top of a great triangle. At the bottom, at either vertex, stands the husband and his wife. As they each draw nearer to the Lord they come closer to one another.
So the New Jerusalem has high walls of doctrine about it to protect the life of the church within, but it also has gates that are never shut, gates which afford entrance to every possible variety of disposition of men and women who are sincerely seeking the truth and the heavenly kingdom. But let us just peep into the New Jerusalem through one of these gates. What will we see? 'We will see a river clear as crystal truth, truth that is clear, that is, truth that we can understand.
We will behold streets paved with gold, gold which corresponds to love, streets of love that lead from house to house in heaven even as they do in this world, for it is love that takes one friend to his neighbor's house in this world and so it will be in heaven. There too, we will see the tree of life bearing twelve manner of fruit, and the leaves of that tree will be for the healing of the nations.
That is the New Jerusalem which John saw coming down from God out of heaven, and that is why our church is called the Church of the New Jerusalem, because its endeavor is continually to bring that vision down to earth. These gates of entrance into that city which I have hastily sketched in this first chapter will form the subject for the more detailed study which follows.
The quality that was common to all the gates of the New Jerusalem was that they were each made of a single pearl, the pearl of great price. This pearl of great price is the belief that there is one God in one Person, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. When we say that we believe in one God, we separate ourselves from all atheists who do not believe in any God; and from all heathen nations who believe in a plurality of gods. When we declare that we believe in one God in one Person, we separate ourselves from the whole "orthodox" Christian world that is, from those who say that they believe in one God, who exists in three Divine Persons, as the famous hymn puts it, "God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity! "
But a Jew or Mohammedan could still go along with us this far, for they also claim to believe in one God in one Person. The Jew calls that person Jehovah, the Mohammedan, Allah; therefore, to distinguish our belief from theirs we add that the one Person whom we believe to be the one God is the Lord Jesus Christ.
This, then, makes crystal clear the exact faith of the New Church in regard to its central doctrine concerning the God that we worship. He is one; He manifests Himself in one Person; and that one Person is the Lord Jesus Christ.
My endeavor in this chapter will be to explain this doctrine of one God in one Person, who is the Lord Jesus Christ. I shall strive to show that this idea of God agrees with what the Scripture teaches, and that it is in accord with common sense, and hat it expresses a theology which is completely rational.
Suppose you go back with me a little more than nineteen hundred years. Let us imagine that we are numbered among the Lord's disciples on the night before His passion. The time is Thursday night. We are sitting with Him in a large upper room in Jerusalem, furnished and prepared for the celebration of the Passover.
From various hints that He has dropped, we have a vague foreboding of evil. We fear an impending tragedy. We recall that the Master has often told us that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be scoffed at, and mocked, and spit upon, and crucified, and the third day rise again. Always He had ended with the words, "The third day He shall rise again." (Matt. 16:21; 20:19; 26:32; Mark 9:9 and 14:28.)
Undoubtedly at this stirring Paschal Supper, these utterances by the Lord concerning what the future held in store for Him lay heavily upon the mind of each of his disciples. We know that this must have been the case, because after they had eaten the meal, after He had washed their feet and sat down again with them, He looked upon their anxious faces and said, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me." (John 14:1)
By these opening words He sought to calm the troubled spirits of His disciples. He harked back to the central doctrine of the Jewish Church one God. The doctrine, which in Providence, that Church had been raised up to keep alive. He knew that He could depend on His disciples' implicit belief in God. "Ye believe in God." Every Jew who was religious believed in God, and he believed in one God, as he had been taught from childhood in the words of Deuteronomy, "Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." (6:4) Surely there was not in the mind of a single one of His disciples the thought of worshiping more than one God.
He knew Himself to be that one God. His problem was to teach His disciples that He was that one God. He had to show them the connection between Divinity and humanity, to arouse in them thoughts which should bridge the gap between the infinite and the finite. They had thought of Him as a finite man, the Son of Mary, their Master, their Leader, who perhaps was going to become the ruler of a kingdom in this world. Not even the beloved disciple, John, in the nearness which He felt to the Lord, had perceived that he was in the presence of the Infinite, so to these men who loved Him the Lord said simply, "Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." (John 14:1)
He went on to open up vistas of the future. "In My Father's house are many mansions." The whole purpose of His ministry would be foolish if this weren't the case. "If it were not so, I would have told you." If heavenly mansions did not exist; if this life were all that there was; if that were the case, then there would be no need for prophets or seers, or religious leaders. It was because there are mansions in the Father's kingdom that the Messiahship became pregnant with meaning. "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." (John 14:4) These words were a challenge and Thomas instantly spoke up and said, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?" To which the Lord replied, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." He had opened His discourse with an appeal to their belief in God, and now He said that He Himself was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one can progress to the knowledge of the Father unless he does so by understanding the Lord. He went on to say, "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also; and from henceforth ye know Him and have seen Him." (Ibid. 14:7) He told His disciples that if they had known Him, the great gap between infinity and finition, between God and man, would have been bridged and they would have known a Divine Human Savior; they would have known the Father as He appeared in this world.
Howbeit, that was beyond their comprehension. Mystified, puzzled, Philip now spoke up. He implored the Lord to show them the Father. Philip had been with the Lord from the beginning of His public ministry. He was the fifth of the disciples to be called. His name means a lover of horses," and this spiritually signifies one who is eager to learn from the Word. Philip asked for a clear distinction between the Lord and the Father. His thought was: "Let me see both You and the Father together, and then I will be satisfied."
The Lord's answer to Philip was quite unexpected, and very remarkable. It contains within it much food for thought. Turning to Philip He said, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9) Probably Philip thought that he really knew the Lord. He knew exactly what He looked like. He recognized the clothes He wore. He was familiar with where He went, what His habits were, and the sound of His voice. He must then have been bewildered when the Lord said to him, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." (Ibid. 14:9)
The Writings tell us that, "Thought from the eyes closes the understanding but thought from the understanding opens the eyes." (DLW 46) By this the Writings mean that our natural eyesight is colored by what we know and understand. A dog has the same kind of physical eyes as we have, and if I open the Word and place it before him he sees exactly the same thing on a page that I see, yet because there is no understanding in his sight he sees nothing of the Word of God, which I see.
Sight from the understanding opens the eye. Let me illustrate this by an anecdote connected with the late Professor Fred Finkeldey. He was an ardent biologist and spent long hours in his laboratory searching for the truth. Many times he would make microscope slides of singular beauty that were exceptionally perfect, and I can recall his coming up to my office and saying, "Come down quick, Mr. Alden, and see this wonderful slide." I would follow him to his biological laboratory and I would look through his microscope, and I would see something that looked to me like a splash of jelly. The slide would mean nothing to me because there was no understanding in my eyes. Then he would say enthusiastically, "Don't you see the amoeba?" "No," I would say, "I don't see the amoeba. What's an amoeba?" "well," he would answer, "an amoeba is a microscopic, one-celled animal consisting of a naked mass of protoplasm, constantly changing in shape as it moves and engulfs its food."
That was some help! I looked into the microscope hoping to recognize a naked mass of protoplasm. Still, I could see nothing to be enthusiastic over. After he had drawn diagrams on the blackboard and shown me exactly what I should see, at last I was able to recognize the amoeba, and it was only because thought from the understanding had opened my eyes.
The same truth may be seen in every profession. I merely need to suggest it to you. The doctor deduces many things from the symptoms of his patient that the layman does not see. The astronomer goes out and looks up into the sky, and because he understands the movements of the heavenly bodies, lie actually sees phenomena which will be hidden from the ignorant. The glance of the artist beholds nature, and because he has a trained eye and an informed understanding, he sees all sorts of harmonies of color and beauties of form that escape an untrained eve, for surely thought from the understanding does open the eye. It was similar with Philip. He fancied he had scan the lord. He had looked at Him for three and a half years. He was convinced he had seen Him perfectly, and yet the Lord filled him with tremendous surprise that night before the crucifixion, when He said to him, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Strange as it may seem, Philip had never really seen the Master. The Lord knew that he had never really seen Him, for he was asking to see the Father apart from Him. Philip's sight had never seen the Father in the Lord. He had never seen the Soul of Christ! Philip lacked the thought from the understanding that would have opened his eyes.
Let us try to see what Philip should have seen in the Lord which would have made him see the Father. On one occasion the Master had just come out of the house of Jairus, and He was followed by two blind men, and when He went into another house they followed Him and begged Him to heal their blindness. Philip saw the Lord put His fingers upon the blind men's eyes, and he witnessed the restoring of their sight. In this miracle Philip should have seen the Father. He was witnessing Divine Power in action; this was the manifestation of the Father that dwelt within the Lord. This was a miracle that only the Divine power of God Himself could produce, namely the restoring of sight to the blind. (Matt. 9:27-31)
When the Lord was come down from the Mount where He had spoken His renowned sermon, "Behold there came a leper and worshipped Him saying, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." And Jesus put forth His hand and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed." (Matt. 8:2,3) The leper asked the Lord to cleanse him, and he knew that no human power could effect that cure. Physicians had been impotent to help those held in its awful grip; only the Divine influx could restore health. If Philip had seen what really transpired there, he would have seen the power of the Father, he would have seen Divine power surging forth from the Lord and passing to the leper and cleansing him. If he had really seen the Lord on that occasion, then he would have seen the Father also.
Again, Philip was with Him in a ship on the Sea of Galilee when a great storm arose and threatened to engulf their craft and drown them all. The Lord was asleep in the stern. In terror they awakened Him saying, "Lord save us: we perish. . . . Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." (Matt. 8:25-27) We all know that if there is any one thing that human beings can't do, it's to change the weather, and yet the Lord, standing in the ship, rebuked the wind and the waves and they obeyed Him. Undoubtedly Philip should have seen in that miracle, not the power of the Son of Mary, but the presence of the Father. "Thought from the understanding opens the eye." Philip must have understood that none but the Divine could order a storm to cease! When he saw the Lord give such an order and when he observed that the tempest immediately obeyed the order, at once his mind should have been filled with thoughts of the Divine power that resided within the Lord. He would not have had to be told by the Lord that "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
As Philip accompanied the Master, he witnessed many more miracles.
All four Gospels tell us of feeding the five thousand a stupendous miracle! And then, just about four weeks before His crucifixion and resurrection, the Lord visited Mary and Martha and found their brother Lazarus already dead and laid in the grave four days. Philip must have seen the Lord command that the stone be rolled away from the sepulchre, and he must have heard the Lord say to Lazarus, whose body already stank because it had been buried four days, "Lazarus, Come forth!" (John 11:43) If he had thought, if he had realized from whence came the power to raise the dead, he would have known that it did not come from the Son of Mary, but that it came from the Divine soul within the Lord which was the Father.
Sharing the Lord's life, as Philip must have shared it, seeing a score of miracles in addition to those that we have touched upon; hearing His gracious words, like the Sermon on the Mount, with all this wealth of association, Philip should have seen Him and really known Him. Instead he had merely looked at Him. Because Philip had never intelligently seen the Lord, he said, "Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us." Had Philip actually seen Him, as the trained eye looks through the microscope, as the doctor diagnoses his patient, as the astronomer contemplates the sky, as the artist views the landscape, he would have seen not Jesus of Nazareth, not the Son of Mary, but Jesus the Savior, the complete manifestation of God here on earth. It seems perfectly clear that the Lord meant to convey to Philip the impression that there was absolutely no Father apart or separate from Him. "He that hath seen Me, bath seen the Father." Or, as He said to the Jews, I and My Father are one." (John 10:30) And "Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58) That burden of the New Testament now seems perfectly clear.
Let us contemplate the idea of the Trinity from what is revealed in the Old Testament, from the idea that the Messiah, God Himself, was to come into the world.
Once I had an argument with an Episcopalian minister. It took place during the summer when the Rev. Theodore Pitcairn and I, as theological students, were preaching the New Church doctrines in various towns of Pennsylvania and New York. While thus engaged, we saw an advertisement of a sermon by an Episcopal rector on the text: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that bath seen Me hath seen the Father." (John 14:8,9) When we saw that text advertised we immediately went to the church, but we were sadly disappointed in the sermon. The minister never once mentioned the idea that in seeing the Lord, Philip had seen the Father; instead he spent his whole discourse in showing that the Lord had been with the Christian Church for nearly two thousand years, and they did not know Him yet. Of course, we agreed with him! That night, after we had put the car in the garage we had to pass his church, and to our great pleasure, we found him outside his vestry door smoking a cigar. We immediately engaged him in conversation and soon turned the subject to his morning sermon and the Trinity. We asked him why he did not mention the latter part of his text: "He that hath seen Me bath seen the Father." His reply commenced an argument which lasted past midnight when he said, "This is getting pretty deep. Let's go up to my study."
When we were comfortably seated, he handed me a ponderous volume on the Trinity, and I will never forget the first sentence. It read: "There is very little evidence in the Old Testament for a trinity of Persons." That theologian was correct, for there is no real evidence at all in the Old Testament for a trinity of persons. Search it as you will, the only things you may seize upon to confirm a trinity are the words, "Let us make man in our image" and the three angels that appeared to Abraham to tell him of Isaac's birth. The first one is clearly a plural of majesty, for it goes on to say, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him," (Genesis 1:27) It does not say, "created They him!"
In regard to the occasion when three angels appeared to Abraham, if we argued from this that there were three persons in God, we might just as well argue that God is a multitude, for a multitude of angels appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem on Christmas night. Furthermore, in the next chapter of Genesis only two angels appeared to Lot. If they represented the trinity, who was left out? These were the only shreds of evidence of a trinity of persons that this learned author could find in the Old Testament, and they are weak indeed.
But let us look at the other side of the picture from the Old Testament. What evidence of God in one person does it give? We find it full of statements which declare this truth. "Hear, Oh Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." (Deut. 6:4) This is so definite, so positive, so clear. Or consider Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the Lord; and beside Me there is no Savior." Imagine, if there had been a trinity of persons from eternity the Father looking and seeing no Savior, passing by the Son as if He did not exist. Yet according to the Athanasian Creed, which all Christian orthodoxy swears by, "The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord, yet there be not three Gods and three Lords, but one God and one Lord." (AE 1091)
Let us turn to a positive statement in Isaiah's prophecy concerning the Trinity. "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," (9:6) There has been no doubt in the Christian mind that the Child concerning whom Isaiah prophesied was the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly Handel, in his beautiful oratorio "The Messiah" so interpreted it. He uses that passage to great advantage and he leaves no shadow of doubt but that the Son who was to be born into the world was the babe that was born in Bethlehem on the first Christmas night. "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder." What government? The government of the universe, all government, the laws and order of all creation. "The government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called - . ." Whose name? The Lord Jesus Christ's name. He actually was called "Jesus", but the prophet said that in addition He should be called "Wonderful." He was the Wonder-Child, the child born without human father the mystery of the ages. His name shall be called "Counsellor." He was to give man the truth that should guide him and make him free. But He should also be called "The Mighty God", and furthermore He was to be called "The Everlasting Father." I do not know whether you ever thought about it before, or noticed it, but here in the Old Testament, when it is being foretold that the God of heaven would come upon the earth, in the same sentence He is called Son and Father, "a Son shall be given us" who "shall be called the Everlasting Father." That Sari was the Lord Jesus Christ, and He was called by Isaiah "the Everlasting Father." What could more clearly indicate that there is one Person in God, and that the Everlasting Father is the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ? Therefore, we find this great harmony between the Old and the New Testaments, for in each the one Person who is God is called both Son and Father.
There is not the least shadow of a doubt that there is a trinity in God. That is not the point. The point is: Is God a trinity of Persons, or is God one Person in whom dwelleth a trinity of attributes? The New Church believes that He is not a trinity of persons. A belief in a trinity of persons must lead inevitably, although perhaps not explicitly, to a belief in three separate Divine Beings, which amounts to a belief in three Gods, because to each Person in the Trinity is assigned a different office or function to perform, as that the Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. The New Church believes in a trinity, but it believes that it is a trinity of functions that cluster about one Personality who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is impossible to maintain the trinity of persons from Scripture. In the first place, there is no mention of a trinity of three persons. The Father is mentioned, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but they are never called separate persons. They represent real relationships. If we were inclined to specious reasonings, we might even note that every man has many aspects. For example: to my father I was a son, to my son I am father. Thus I am both father and son according to the relationship in which I find myself, but I am never two persons. In respect to the Divine from eternity, the Divine born in time as Jesus was certainly its Son, but not a separate person, because the Divine dwelt in Him and was His soul; thus it is easy to see the Oneness of God when we think of Christ's soul as the Father, His body as the Son, and His influence among men as the Holy Spirit, but how can one who believes in three Divine persons explain such passages as "I and My Father are one", (John 10:30) "He that bath seen Me hath seen the Father", (John 14:9) "Before Abraham was, I am", (John 8:58) "Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." (John 14:11) A true religion will be able to understand and explain all of these passages.
In the first part of this chapter, I have endeavored to show that if Philip had really seen the Lord, he would have seen the Father in the Divine and mighty acts which the Lord did. I then endeavored to show that in the Old Testament there is a solidarity of teaching to the effect that there is one God in one Person, and that when His advent into the world was foretold by Isaiah he leaves no shadow of a doubt but that the Son and the Father were one in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is still another approach to the understanding of the Trinity. God created man in His own image and likeness. (Genesis 1:26,27) If, then, there is a trinity in God there is a trinity in man. This we find to be the fact. For in man we discover the trinity of soul, body, and use; the finite image and likeness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let us look at this trinity in man. What is it that is the architect of the child that is growing in the womb of the mother? Our Writings say that it is the invisible soul given by the father, which, after it has produced conception, orders the destiny of the multiplying cells, giving to some the office of neural canal, to some the formation of a primitive heart, causing some to form bones, and others skin. The soul of man directs all this. Thus the soul builds for itself a body, a palace to dwell in, a temple into every minutest part of which it is able to enter.
The soul is always on a higher plane than the body. It can never be seen by the natural eye any more than the Lord could show Philip's natural eye the Father. "No man bath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." (John 1:18) Dissect the body as cleverly as you can, you will never find the soul; weigh the body immediately before and after death, you cannot find the weight of the soul; yet the soul is there and we may know of it by the work that it does in the body. The soul in each one of us, invisible though it be, governs all of our organs, all of those things that go on unconsciously the beating of the heart, the respiration, the digestion of our food, the circulation of our blood, the thousands of muscular contractions that are necessary to perform any movement all of these are ruled by the soul, the invisible soul of man.
The Writings tell us that this invisible soul is to the trinity in man, what the Father is to the trinity in the Lord. The infinite Divine Father is invisible in His universe. Only by taking on a body from Mary did He become visible on earth. So we say the Lord Jesus Christ reveals the Divine, just as we say our body reveals our soul.
When Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, "Blessed art thou among women" (Luke 1:28) and told her that she was to become the mother of the Messiah, Mary was the first to doubt the virgin birth. She said, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34) Gabriel answered, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)
The Divine flowed into Mary without any finite, limiting, separating vessel so that the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ, which caused the growth of His body, just as our soul has caused the growth of our body, that soul of His was Father to His body in that relationship, just as truly as our soul has been father to our body. But our soul has been cut off from the human father from whom we sprung, whereas the Divine Substance is continuous and cannot be separated. The Lord's soul, therefore, flowed in and was never cut off from the Divine Soul which still governed the universe. That Divine Jehovah from eternity was always present as the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ. So the Father always dwelt in Him, and the Son more and more manifested the Father, so that at the end of His life in this world He could say to Philip, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
The Lord said, "No man bath seen God at any time." The Father, the Infinite Divine within all nature, is above man's poor power to comprehend. "No man hath seen God at any time." The God that Abraham spoke with was an angel filled with the spirit of Jehovah. The God that Gideon saw, and the God that called to and spoke with Moses was also an angel filled with God's spirit. "No man," the Lord said, "bath seen God at any time." The "Only Begotten", because when the Lord came down into the world through the instrumentality of the Virgin Mary, that was the only vessel that had been prepared to receive the Divine, and to manifest the Divine on earth. "The Only Begotten Son hath declared Him." That is, the Babe, the Lord Jesus Christ alone has declared the Father and through His many deeds and words manifested Him in this world.
When we first meet somebody, and see only his body, we see little of the real person. But as we get to know him and live with him and see how he reacts to sorrow and in the presence of joy; and how he meets adversity and how the various vicissitudes of life affect him, more and more we forget the body, and more and more we see the soul through the body, so at length we can say to our friends and quite truly: "You have never seen my soul, but all of my soul that you ever will see you will observe in the actions of my body." We can never see the soul of anyone apart from the character manifested by the deeds of his body. Think of a man like Lincoln, for example. If we knew nothing of his character and his life, and we saw a picture of him we might say, "What an ugly man!" But when you and I look at a picture of Lincoln we do not say that because we know the soul of the man through his deeds and these we see shining through the features of his face. His mighty spirit irradiates his body.
What about the Holy Spirit, which has also been called a separate person? It is truly difficult to understand how men could have thought of that as a separate person! After the Lord had risen from the dead, He appeared unto ten of His disciples and said, "Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit." (John 20:21,22) His breath, His Divine majestic magnetism which has swept down through the ages, and has made men change their lives because of His teachings. He breathed on them and so He gave them His spirit, which, because He was holy, was the Holy Spirit.
What about the trinity in man? What is there in him that corresponds to this breath of the Lord? It is what we do; it is the use we perform; it is our influence among the people with whom we live, our effect on other men; it is the spirit that goes forth from each one of us. We can often see the effect of man's spirit when we contemplate the lives of the great men of the earth.
The story of Napoleon comes to mind. He had been exiled to the Island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. After a hundred days he conspired to come back to France and land in the southern portion with a handful of men. Louis XVIII sent an army to capture him. When this army met Napoleon he stepped out before it and said, "Capture me, or fall in behind me." So great was his magnetic personality that they fell in behind him. This happened four times on his way north to Paris and by the time that he got there all of Louis' soldiers were Napoleon's. Such was the spirit that went forth from that man!
We are in the image and likeness of God. As He has the Father within Him, so we have our soul. As He had the body from Mary to manifest that Father, so we have our bodies by which we show to the world the quality of our character. And as the Lord's presence with us is called the Holy Spirit, because it is His spirit, so we, by our spirit, exert an influence among the men with whom we live.
But we can see the Trinity in an even simpler way than this. Because the Lord is the Creator of all, He has left an image of Himself in all things of creation. There is nothing that exists that does not have an invisible soul, a visible body, and a use. Take for example a watch: the invisible soul is the idea of it in the mind of its inventor. Its body is the materials that have embodied the inventor's idea. Its use is indicating time. As long as someone's idea is not embodied it remains invisible. We cannot see it. But when it is worked out and given a body, we can say of it, Now I see what its inventor had in mind."
The Father, like the idea, is invisible, but if you have really seen the Son you have seen the Father, just as when you have seen the finished object you have seen the idea which was in the mind of its inventor. The Lord came on earth that men might see Him, and through Him see the Divine Spirit that moves the universe, and having seen Him, that they might be inspired to receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit or inspiration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thus, if Philip had really seen the Lord, he would have seen the Father also. Had the Jews understood the Old Testament, they would have seen the Father, their God, in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we understand the trinity of soul, body, and use in ourselves we will understand the Trinity in God, and we will come to see that there is not a created thing in the universe which does not declare the trinity of an invisible idea, a material body, and a continuing use. The all pervading likeness of the Creator can be seen everywhere, by those who have eyes to see.
In our last chapter we endeavored to show that there is one God in one person who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the testimony of the Old Testament, the testimony of the New Testament, and the testimony of reason all join together to establish the fact of the oneness of God, and the fact that that one God is in one Person who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Now and then there occur certain passages of Scripture which seem to indicate the existence of more than one person in the Trinity, passages which have perplexed the minds of earnest seekers after the truth. First let us consider the passage which describes the Lord's baptism in the River Jordan. We read in Matthew: "Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him . . And Jesus when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon Him: and lo, a voice from heaven saying, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'." (3:13,16,17)
Some have read into this description a trinity of persons,. whereas all that is actually mentioned is a trinity of a Son, a dove, and a voice. We should not understand from this a trinity of a Son, a Holy Spirit, and God the Father speaking out of heaven and saying that He was pleased with His Son. f it had been the intention of the Gospel to teach us that there are three Divine persons in the Godhead, it would have been easy to have written that, as Jesus came up Out of the water, the person of the Holy Spirit was seen descending upon Him, and that God the Father spoke from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son in Whom l am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; John 1:32) But the facts of the case are that there was only one person seen, and that was the person of the Son; the Spirit was not a dove, but was seen descending "like a dove"; and a voice was heard out of heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son." In order to understand this we must have some comprehension of what was taking place with the Lord, and the manner of His incarnation, that is, His coming down to dwell among men in the flesh, and how that incarnation led to His glorification.
At birth the Lord had a soul which was continuous with the Divine. He had a body which was purely material, which He had assumed from the Virgin Mary, so that the Christ-Child that the shepherds adored on Christmas night had a human body and a Divine soul. He was the Son of Mary as to His body, but was also the Son of God because He had a Divine soul which was continuous with the Father, that is, with the Infinite God of the universe. It is true that the God of heaven and earth was just as present in Bethlehem the night before He was manifest to the shepherds as He was the night that He became manifest. But before Christmas night His presence was invisible. However, when He was born in Bethlehem He took on a body visible in this world which should more and more clearly reveal the Divine soul within it. The babe, Jesus, gradually grew up, and as He matured the process of glorification was taking place. Therefore, the Lord said in prayer to the Father, "Glorify Thou Me with Thine ownself with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." (John 17:5) Every man was created into the image of God, and man is human because God is Divinely human; and God was Divinely human before any man was ever created. In the process of His glorification the Lord gradually, little by little, put off the human which He had taken purely from His mother Mary, and in its place put on the Divine Human which He had with the Father. This was the Divine Human quality into whose image and likeness man was originally created.
Let me illustrate this principle with sight. When the Lord was born in Bethlehem as a babe, He could see only as far as His natural sight extended. This human sight He derived from His mother Mary. But as the Lord was glorified He put off the limited sight from Mary, and in its place He put on unlimited sight from the Father, that is, omniscience, the ability to see everywhere. To give an example of what I mean: On the occasion when He sat at the table of Simon the Pharisee and a woman came in and anointed His head with precious ointment and washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head, the Lord saw not merely Simon, but He saw into Simon's heart as well, and disclosed what Simon had said within himself: "This man if He were a prophet would have known who and what manner of woman this is that touched Him for she is a sinner." (Luke 7:39) By reading Simon's thoughts the Lord showed that He had put off the human limited sight from Mary, and had put on the Divine Human sight from the Father.
The teaching about our Lord's glorification is profound, but it can be comprehended rationally. Permit me to recall for you Samuel Noble's comparison: Suppose that a linen handkerchief represents the natural body that the Lord took on from Mary. If we pull out a thread of linen, and in its place weave in a thread of gold, and if we do this for every thread of the warp, and then for every thread of the woof, in the end we will have a handkerchief that is the same shape, and the same size as the original, but it is all transformed into gold. The point of the illustration is this: The Lord came into the world primarily to give us an image of God that we can know, see, worship, and love; and, if, when He departed out of the world He had left no image of Himself, the work of the incarnation would have been in vain. But He did leave such an image because, although He gradually glorified the body taken from Mary, and put off everything human and finite from her, nevertheless, He has given to our minds the picture of His earthly personality, in that although He is now glorified, we can still see Him as the Lord Jesus Christ.
This process of glorification with Him was gradual. It did not happen suddenly. When He was twelve years of age, He began to realize that the temple was His Father's house. He became conscious that He was not Joseph's son. He therefore said to Mary and Joseph, when they found Him in the temple, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" (Luke 2:49) He was beginning to perceive that God's temple was His Father's temple, and that the worship of God was His Father's business, and so from those words we know that there was commencing to come into His consciousness the idea of His Messiahship. But this realization took place gradually in Him.
At the time that He was baptized in the River Jordan He was thirty years of age. In the letter of the Word we have no hint except for His appearance in the temple at twelve years of age as to the states which He passed through, but in Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia where the spiritual sense of the Word is given we have many, many details as to the progressive states that He underwent as He gradually glorified the human taken from Mary by putting it off and replacing it with the Divine Human from the Father.
At His baptism, which took place at the beginning of His public ministry, there is recorded a further revelation to His own consciousness of the meaning of His Messianic mission. The voice from heaven which said, "Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased", was the voice of the Divine soul within Him, giving Him a clearer perception as to His calling. It was not the voice of a second person sounding from heaven. For that matter, we know that heaven is not up in the clouds, but heaven is the perception of good ends, the perception of the real purpose of life. "The kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)
As to the dove, surely we cannot think that the Holy Spirit is a dove, even if Luke states that it "descended in bodily appearance like a dove." What could it be but a symbol, a representative appearance? Now, if we study a dove, as it is used in the Word of God, we will understand its true meaning. When Noah sent out a dove to make sure that the earth was dry, it first came back empty; it then brought back an olive leaf and finally it went forth and returned no more. Here the dove is the symbol of the truth of faith from good. We further learn that the dove is a bird which is peculiar for its monogamic mating instincts, and because of that has become a symbol of conjugial love; and in the deeper sense the dove is a symbol of the marriage of good and truth, which is the very fruit of regeneration, for when man tries to do the things he knows how to do, and turns the knowledge he has into the deeds of life, then good and truth with him are married, that is, the "desire" is wedded to the "know-how." The end product is a state of regeneration. The dove which descended upon the Lord represented the communication between the Divine soul and the body which was being glorified a communication which, as He progressed toward glorification, would end in a complete oneness; for, after the resurrection on Easter morning, we no longer find any mention of the Father and the Son, but He is always as Thomas expressed it, "My Lord and My God." (John 20:28)
Let me leave one thought for you to ponder before turning from the scene of the baptism. If we dwell on the letter only, there is mention made of one person only, for a dove can hardly be thought to be another person, and certainly a voice cannot. In close connection with this, in the fourth chapter of the book of Revelation, the same type of symbolism is used. John said that in his vision he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne. Before Him he saw seven golden candlesticks. Those seven golden candlesticks were said to be the spirit of the churches, the Holy Spirit. If we are inclined to take things literally, we cannot be satisfied with having one spirit, but now we have seven Holy Spirits. If we go on to the fifth chapter, again we have God upon the throne, and we have the Lamb mentioned; and the Lamb that had been slain and was alive again very obviously refers to the Lord's life in this world. In order scrupulously to avoid any appearance of two persons, the symbolism, the innocence of the Lamb, is used so that there can be no shadow of a doubt but that there is only one person, the person sitting on the throne. And the chapter says that the Lamb that was before the throne, and which represents the Lord dwelling in this world, this Lamb had seven eyes, and the seven eyes again were the spirit, the Holy Spirit, that went out through the church. Are there seven spirits? is the Lord a Lamb? Of course the Lord is not a Lamb, hut the Lamb represents the innocence of the Lord, the innocence by means of which He takes away the sins of the world, by bringing people into a state of innocence similar to the innocence which He Himself had.
Another passage that presents some difficulty is one which occurs in one of the Lord's discourses. "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, hut shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto Him, Thou bearest record of Thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of Myself, My record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me. It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me. Then said they unto Him, Where is Thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me nor My Father: if ye had known Me ye should have known My Father also." (John 8:12-19)
It has been argued that the Lord spoke of two persons when He said, "It is written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true," and added, "I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me He beareth witness of Me." But let us look at the language itself. If this is rightly understood, it not only testifies that the Lord and the Father are not two persons, but it testifies to their complete and perfect oneness. "I am not alone" "I and My Father that sent Me." The Divine Soul within Him and the body that manifested Him were inseparably one, and consequently, wherever He was, the Father that sent Him was also present. Note that this is often misquoted as if it had meant, "I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father is another that beareth witness of Me." But there is no such word as "another" in the text. The text reads, "I am one that beareth witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me."
A falsity can usually be reduced to an absurdity. Suppose you apply the Mosaic law literally to the passage, with the idea that the Lord was using this means to prove to the Jews that He and the Father were two persons, and consequently, being two persons, they could bear a true witness. What would this imply? Would you not have to interpret it in one of two ways? Either the testimony of two men establishes the truth, or the testimony of two gods; either the Lord and the Father are two finite men that bear witness, or they are two Gods that bear witness; because otherwise you do not have the two men, in the mouths of whom an act is to be established. 'I am one man, and My Father is another man', or 'I am one God and My Father is another God'. Both of these ideas are repugnant to our thought.
The Jews believed that the Lord was quite a different person than God. They did not believe that they were one person. Jesus had to convince them that the Father was in Him, and He was in the Father, and so He went on to say, "Ye neither know Me, nor My Father", and they said, "Where is Thy Father?" And Jesus replied, "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also." These words are an exact parallel to the words He spoke to Philip His own disciple and to the Lord's answer to this wondering disciple. But the Jews were trying to corner Him, trying to prove that He was not the light of the world, that He had no right to say that He was the light of the world, and no right to claim any Messiahship; so that when they said, "Where is Thy Father?" it was asked from malice and skepticism. When Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father", it was asked from love and from a real desire to be instructed; and yet the Lord's answer to the two questions was so very similar. To Philip He said, "He that bath seen Me hath seen the Father"; and to the Jews He said, "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also."
To the New Churchman it is revealed that the whole of the Word is written to inspire man in his spiritual journey. It is not written for the purpose of teaching scientific facts, or merely as a guide for his life in this world. It is written to teach him about the world of spiritual life. So let us see what the subject of two witnesses yields when we take up Deuteronomy, the seventeenth chapter, where it says, "At the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death." (v. 6) It does not take very much imagination to understand that as soon as you interpret the Hebrew law in a broader way than the letter you come to see spiritual values which apply to Christians, but which were never recognized by the Jews. For example: we do not enforce the rite of circumcision, but we do plead for purification of the heart, (Jer. 9:25) the reformation of baptism which it represented. All of the Jewish laws are part of the Word of God and contain a spiritual sense that relates to man's regeneration in every age and nation.
The beautiful words of the Lord, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20) means that where a man has truths and goods wedded in his mind this makes possible the Lord's presence with him. The two witnesses are the will and the understanding, which, if they are united in falsity and evil, condemn a man to hell, but if they are united in good and truth invite the presence of the Lord.
Returning to the text under consideration: the Lord says that He is one witness, and the Father is the other witness. This fits the parallel exactly. The Father is the Divine Love or Will, and the Son who manifested Him in this world is the Divine Wisdom, the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us, and makes the Divine Love visible. When the Lord said that He was the light of the world, and said that He was not alone, but was one that bore witness, and the Father bore witness of Him, the spiritual meaning is that the Divine Wisdom, of which He, as the Word made flesh, was the embodiment and the Divine Love dwelling within Him both bore witness and testified to the fact that He was the light of the world.
If the Jews had really known Him, they would have known the Father also, just as, if Philip had really seen the Lord, he too would have seen the Father, because the Father was present in Divine power and majesty in all the deeds which the Lord did: the feeding of the five thousand, the giving of sight to the blind, and the like. All of these acts were done through the power of His divine soul. Therefore, if we rightly understand this passage it not only does not teach that there are two persons in God, but it shows the unity between the Divine Soul and the Son who was born to manifest that Soul, and who, through glorification was ever progressing toward unity with that Soul.
But what is meant by the Hebrew law that no one should be condemned except from the mouth of two or three witnesses? This is very interesting and very important. We cannot imagine that when a man, shortly after death, is to be judged either to heaven or to hell, the Lord would have to call witnesses from among the angels who have known that person, and that if two or more be found that agree together, he would be condemned. Rather does the Lord judge each man from the man's own book of life the book of life that is written on man's internal memory. That book of life is composed of the affections of his will, which is one witness, and of the things inscribed on his understanding, which is the other witness. The two witnesses that go with man into the spiritual world are thus thoughts of his understanding, and the deeds of his will.
No man is condemned to hell either from the will alone, or from the understanding alone. A man, through no fault of his own, may be brought up in many falsities for which he is not responsible. His understanding may need a great deal of instruction after he comes into the spiritual world, but if he has lived according to the conscience that he has, he will be taught the truth after death, and his understanding will be reformed and brought into a true marriage with his good will; so that the witness of man's understanding alone, without witness of the will, would never condemn him to hell. Similarly we are taught that all who die as infants go to heaven, although no one has a regenerate will until it has been slowly and gradually formed by shunning evils as sins against God. No one is sent to hell unless intelligently, knowingly, he gave the consent of his understanding to the evil desire of his will. Only when the witnesses confirm each other, or when the will and the understanding are mated in the evil deed from set purpose, is he condemned. For then there are two witnesses to condemn him.
Another passage that has given some difficulty, when it was not rightly understood, concerns the Lord's outcry on the cross, "Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27:46) Some have supposed that because He cried out to God that this is evidence that God was somewhere else, and that the God to whom He cried was another person, supposedly the Father. But isn't it strange that if there really were a trinity of persons that He did not call from the cross, "My Father, My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
Orthodox Christianity believes that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. When He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" did He then cry out to the God who was the Father, the God who was the Holy Spirit, or the God who He Himself was? Christianity is based firmly on the belief that Christ was God; why, then, should we suppose that He cried out to any other Divinity beside the Divinity that was within Himself? Since He is God, is it not most natural to suppose that He felt in the torture of the cross that His Divine Soul was slipping from Him? It seems most logical that, if the Father had been a Being apart from the Son, and He was appealing to the Father for help, crying in lamentation that He had been abandoned, He would have said, "My Father, My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" But he did not. Comparison with human experience will show us why.
Each one of us has his ideals, and we all know that from time to time we fall short of living up to our ideals. Sometimes we do things that are contrary to our ideals, and looking back and reflecting on those deeds we wonder why we abandoned our ideals. David voices the same sentiment in the psalm, when he says, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me?" (Ps. 42:5) David was not talking to some one else; he was talking to his better self, to his higher nature, to the things that he really believed and strove for, for these things seemed to have deserted him.
So with the Lord on the cross. He had no evils to regret, but this was the last and final temptation by which He completely purified the body taken from Mary, and hence, there was, as it were, a last cry of despair of the human body from Mary which was now being put off by the Divine and seemed to be separated from it. It was not a prayer to a third person to intercede, nor a despairing cry to a third person because He had abandoned Him. This whole episode is another instance of how a knowledge that the Father was the Divine Soul within our Lord makes clear what might otherwise be construed as an evidence of more than one person in God. If we once gain the concept that the Divine was ever working in and through the human, these passages yield more and more light.
In this chapter 1 have endeavored to point out how the voice, the dove, and the Son at the baptism can be regarded as a foreshadowing of the process of the glorification, preparatory to the Lord's entrance into His public ministry. I have shown how the two witnesses, when rightly understood, represent the witness of the soul within, or the Divine good as manifested in the Divine wisdom, which was the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, the two witnesses being love and wisdom, or good and truth. Lastly, I explained that when the Lord cried out on the cross, He did not cry out to the Father, but to the God within Himself, which, during this last and most grievous of all His temptations seemed to have forsaken Him.
The only evidence that we have of the virgin birth of our Lord is contained in the two Gospel stories of Matthew and Luke. In those Gospels we read as follows:
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her first born son: and he called his name Jesus." (Matt. 1:18-25)
"And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city in Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David: and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore, also, that Holy Thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." (Luke 1:26-38)
Mary, at the time that this happened, was espoused to Joseph. The old Jewish custom of espousal was very close to what we call engagement. Naturally, when Joseph found that Mary was expecting a baby, he was minded to put her away, but he did not want to make a public example of her. And the import of the Matthew account is that Joseph was completely satisfied by the evidence which the angel gave to him, satisfied that Mary's child was of Divine conception.
The historical birth of the Lord in Bethlehem more than nineteen centuries ago is the turning point of history, and absolutely essential to the salvation of the world, but it is His entrance into our own lives that is essential to us. How the Lord is born into the heart of each one of us is tremendously vital, for the history of the individual repeats the history of the race, and as the Lord was born in time into the world, so also, at some time or other, He must be born into our hearts if we are to be saved.
The manner of that birth into our hearts is described by the virgin birth of our Lord, and it has a peculiar signification to those who believe in the doctrines of the New Church. The Writings of Swedenborg, from which we derive these doctrines, are in no way the product of the human mind of Swedenborg. They are not the result of his long and brilliant career as scientist, engineer, anatomist and philosopher. They are not the combination of great human skill and deep penetration and perception. We look at the Writings as a God-given revelation, which completes the trine of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings. This trine of revelation was foreshadowed in the words which Pilate put above the cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." (John 19:19) And it was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin; the Hebrew representing the Old Testament, the Greek the New, and the Latin the Writings.
It is quite significant that, although Swedenborg was a Swede, every one of the Writings was written in Latin, a language that had been dead many years at the time that Swedenborg used it. Now there is a very clear reason why revelation is written in a "dead" language. A dead language does not change in meaning, but all living spoken languages change from generation to generation. For example, look at Psalm 119, where we read, "I prevented the dawning of the morning." (v. 147) Unless we see what has happened to the word "prevented" during the three hundred years since the King James version was made, we would get the wrong idea. From the common meaning of the word "prevent" today we would suppose that David kept the dawn from coming, but the original meaning of the word "prevent" was to go ahead of. So the Psalm really means that he went before the dawning of the morning. Because those who went before frequently blocked those coming after them, the word "prevent" came to mean to stop or to hinder.
English is changing all the time because it is being spoken, and each generation is giving it a living meaning of its own which former generations did not have. But dead languages are the same today as they were when they ceased to be spoken by a people. The Hebrew of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New Testament, and the Latin of the Writings have not changed their meaning.
When we compare the virgin birth of the Lord's first coming with the manner of His second coming, we note this similarity, that as Mary furnished the human instrumentality through which the Christ-child was born, so the mind of Swedenborg furnished the human vessels into which Divine Revelation could flow. Therefore, we can say that Swedenborg's mind was like the virgin mother into which the Divine truth of revelation flowed. En other words, as Mary furnished her body, her life, everything that she had, to the bringing forth of the Lord as a babe in Bethlehem on the first Christmas, so the Writings are a new revelation, conceived by God, but born through the patient industry and zeal of Swedenborg.
So we can see that if the Lord is to be born into our hearts as a conviction in a living God, He cannot be born of a human father. We cannot have a religion that is founded on something human. There must be the incarnation: there must be the virgin birth. We must receive Divine truths as coming from God and not as coming from man.
The word "Mary" means "bitter." It is the same Hebrew word as is translated "Miriam." The root meaning is "bitterness," and you may think it strange that the Lord should be born into the world of a woman whose name means "bitterness"; and yet, when we consider how He is born into our own lives, we see that He is never born without a struggle. He is never born without giving up other things; He is never born without a conviction that certain things that we once held to be true can no longer satisfy our growing understanding, and it is always with bitterness that we give up things that we once held, in order to accept new truths.
In addition to the Virgin Mary, there are two other Marys. One was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who had an interesting part to play in the Lord's life. When He came to their quiet house at Bethany, while Martha was out preparing the meal, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His word; and in our lives this Mary represents the willingness to put aside the things of this world and to sit at the Master's feet, that is, the willingness to read the revelation that God has given to us. The bitterness there involved is that we have to put aside other things, such as reading magazines and novels, and find the time and the leisure to read the Word of God. The bitterness comes from giving up something else that we really love.
The other was Mary Magdalene. It is generally supposed that she was that woman, who, when the Lord sat in the house of Simon the Pharisee, came in and anointed His head, and washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. She was a sinner, and it is said that out of her the Lord had cast seven devil~, and that He forgave her her sins because she loved much. She represented the third basic principle of our religion, the willingness to give up evil that the Lord may fill our hearts with good. It is not enough to believe that the Word which we receive is Divine; it is not enough to read and study it; we must also live by it. These three phases of our religion are represented by the three Marys, Mary, the virgin, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary Magdalene. All three acts require sacrifice, hence the name "Mary." It is interesting to note that on Easter morning, of all the human beings who loved Him and to whom He might have appeared first, He chose to appear first to Mary Magdalene out of whom He had cast seven devils.
The stories of the three Marys give us a complete picture of the life of regeneration. If we desire religion to play a real part in our lives, we must first of all see that it has a Divine origin. Then we must take the time to fill our minds with it. But most important of all, if we hope to change the character of our lives from avarice to generosity, from interest in self to interest in others, we must see to it that our convictions change the very mode of our lives, causing us to shun evils as sins against God.
The Writings say that the higher angels regard the happiness of others before their own. They say that this can be seen even in this world when a mother starves herself for her child, or a husband lays down his life for his wife, or a wife for her husband- In these deeds we see an image of heavenly love, a love which springs from that affection which Mary Magdalene represents, that is the willingness to shun evils as sins against God.
Having seen the spiritual significance of the virgin birth, let us consider the actual occurrence from the standpoint of Mary and the position of Joseph and see if we can come to understand it. Of course, in our day and age, the day of the science of biology much of the world scoffs at the idea of the virgin birth. Yet we cannot possibly accept anything of the New Church in our hearts and in our minds if we deny the virgin birth, so it is tremendously important to us to contemplate the subject, and to see just exactly what is involved in it, and upon what our faith rests.
I have quoted the two simple accounts upon which our faith in the virgin birth rests. The arguments against the virgin birth are simply that it never happened before or since. All of those arguments we grant. We also admit that there is no illustration in nature of parthenogenesis. It is true that the green plant lice will reproduce for three generations, but it is simply a carry-over of the male element in the female for three generations. It is not a genuine virgin birth or parthenogenesis. There is no illustration in nature of this, and no illustrations among human beings, so it is a unique thing, and men find it difficult to believe things that occur only once.
It has been argued by some that Hindu traditions had their weight and influence with Matthew and Luke, and in order to enhance the standing of the Lord and make Him a more important character, they invented the story of the virgin birth.
Let us examine that argument. The disciples who wrote the Gospels were simple men, not highly educated, especially Matthew who had been a politician and a tax collector, sitting at the receipt of customs. He was probably a very ordinary sort of person, as far as his external life went, and certainly he was not highly educated, and it would stretch one's imagination a great deal to believe that he had any contact with the literary ideas of India. And he had no particular purpose in inventing the story of a virgin birth because he had been with the Lord, he had seen his miracles and needed no further proof. He had heard the Lord's words, he had felt the Divine fire of love when the Lord said "Follow Me" and he had left all to come with the Master. Matthew dropped everything at once. He felt that attraction, that love, that marvelous compelling force to follow the Lord. He was a simple person, and it would have taken quite a complex mind to build up the idea that by claiming that the Lord had no human father people would be in awe of Him. On the contrary, Matthew probably knew as well as you and I that to claim that the Lord had no earthly father would raise a host of questions and start a thousand doubts circulating in men's minds. There would be nothing to gain by it.
But notice the simple way that the story of the virgin birth is told. Here was Joseph, and he was about to marry Mary, and then he thought that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Being a just man he was going to put her away privately so that it would not create a scandal. It was at this juncture that the angel of the Lord appeared to him and completely satisfied him. That is the point that I would stress, namely that Joseph, who was the most interested person in the virgin birth, was completely convinced, and that he took Mary to him, and that he acted as guardian for the child who was born, taking Him into his household, raising Him exactly as though He had been his own child. At the moment when the Lord was born Joseph was with Mary in Bethlehem, but they were not actually married until after the Lord had been born. Later they had a family of their own. The brothers and sisters are mentioned in the Gospel story. (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3)
Thus, Joseph, the person who was most deeply concerned, and who was nearest to the situation, and who undoubtedly knew the most about it, was fully convinced that that which was born of Mary was indeed conceived of the Holy Spirit.
And now let us look at the virgin birth from Mary's standpoint. The first person to doubt the possibility of the virgin birth was Mary herself. Mary was alone somewhere when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. We are taught in the Writings that the angel Gabriel represented a whole society of angels, and was what Swedenborg calls the "subject spirit" of that society of angels. That is not a hard thing to understand. We have ambassadors to the various countries of the world. Each one is a representative in that country of the whole United States. We might say that they are subject spirits of the United States. It was the same with the society that was represented by Gabriel. He represented those in heaven who looked forward eagerly to the fulfillment of the prophecies that the Lord would come into the world, prophecies like the one in Isaiah 9:6, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Whole societies that looked forward to the fulfillment of this and similar prophecies were represented by Gabriel, who was sent by the Lord to Mary to announce to her that she should be the blessed woman through whom these prophecies should be accomplished.
"And the angel came in unto her and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou has found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. . . . Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be seeing I know not a man? And the angel said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:2835)
After the angel's reply Mary no longer questioned the virgin birth, but replied in these beautiful words: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Ibid. 38) Utter humility was hers. She made herself completely receptive of the idea that indeed the Lord could bow the heavens and come down.
And now let us see, if we cannot understand very, very clearly, how this is possible. It is certainly clear, if you believe the Writings of Swedenborg. It is clear, from the comparison of the birth of the Lord with the birth of every other child that has been born into the world, and I shall try to explain it as I understand it from my study of the Writings. The Writings teach us that men and women are not equal in the sense that they are the same. We cannot compare men and women and say that man is superior to woman, or that woman is superior to man. We can contrast them and say that together a man and a woman are meant to make one angel, so much so that a conjugial pair in the celestial heaven, when viewed from afar, appears as one person. They are made to complement one another; each can perform uses that the other cannot possibly perform. They are so made that when they are conjoined God can give through them the greatest of all gifts to mankind, He can give new life; He can send new life into the world. But man is not so conceited as to think that the wonderful gift of life is his or that he originates it, or that it comes from him. In attempting to create new life in the laboratory, for instance, man has not succeeded in producing even the simplest possible living protoplasm. The best that man can do is to keep alive something living which the Lord has already created. The miracle of new life coming into this world is the miracle of creating receiving vessels, and by receiving vessels I mean something which is so built by the Lord that it can receive and hold life. Just as a storage battery can receive and hold electricity, because it has been built into a receiving form, so man has been designed and created by the Lord to receive and hold the gift of life from Him.
Electricity is a marvelous force. We have never seen it. We can sometimes feel it in the form of a shock. We can see the motion of a motor that is run by it; we can see the light of a lamp that is lit by it; we can see the effect of it in a hundred different ways, but the thing itself we cannot see. Yet a storage battery is a form so built that it is able to hold this invisible force. Again the steam boiler is a vessel so formed that it can hold the power and pressure of steam, and make that steam available to perform uses. Similarly the Lord has fashioned the soul of man so that it is a vessel capable of receiving and holding life, and He has fashioned man's mind into a vessel capable of receiving and holding love, and receiving and holding wisdom.
The Writings tell us that the inmost of the male is the love of growing wise. That is the inmost essence of the man and therefore he is the aggressive partner. He goes out and is seen in the world. In general, it is the man that goes out and earns the living; he goes after things; he goes after knowledge and he goes after wisdom. The husband earns the living, brings home wages, is interested in the competition of life, the struggle with other men. For all that is typically masculine. But the wife is typically the home-maker. She takes the money that her husband earns and converts it into all the comforts of a home. The Writings say that a woman is inmostly in the love of her husband's wisdom. That is why men love women, because men are in the love of growing wise, and women provide the form that clothes that love, being relatively passive, while the man is active.
According to the Writings, the inmost vessel of life which is to be passed on to the next generation is conceived in the mind of the man. The mind of man is capable of being animated by life from the Divine, and, through man's love of growing wise, there are formed and provided vessels which can actually receive and hold the gift of life from God. So that the inmost, and first vessel that holds life from God is to be found in the mind of the husband. Through fluids produced in the brain, coverings from the finest things of nature are given to these first forms of life, which then proceed into the body to form the soul of the masculine sperm.
When the sperm enters the ovum of the female there at once begins a devolution, and all the coverings that have been given to life in the male are one by one removed until in the last analysis the naked soul that is, the spiritual which has been contributed by the father, stands ready to serve as the architect that is about to direct all the marvellous growth of the embryo. The True Christian Religion states that everything that the father actually contributes to the child is spiritual, and that all of the material of the body with which it is born into the world is taken from the mother. (TCR 92) No scientist can answer the question: "What directs the growth of the child in the womb?" They can say, of course, that Nature does it, but that is only begging the question. We can all see that there is an architect that orders the growth of the babe in the womb. There is no doubt about it. When the ovum has been fecundated the cells begin to divide and thus to multiply. Some of them form the neural canal. Some form the primitive heart and brain, other cells go to form all the manifold organs of the body, together with the muscles, the skin, and the bones. What is the mysterious force which directs all this? If we saw piles of wood, stone, cement, sand, and other building materials lying around we would not expect them to turn into a beautiful house unless there was the direction of an architect. No more could the cells form a perfect body unless there was an architect. This something, which is the architect, the Writings tell us, is the soul from the father. This soul is a spiritual substance, above the plane of matter, and it weaves for itself an immortal covering from the purest things of nature, and through these elements it constructs the body of the child from the nutritive spheres which are offered in the mother's womb.
From this description we are able to understand how the virgin birth was physically possible. In the beginning of Genesis we read that God created man in His own image and likeness. Man is man because the Creator was Divine Man before the creature was ever created. That Divine Human, the Writings tell us, is the soul of what is called the Grand Man of heaven. This is the organized society of all the men and women who have ever lived in this or any other world, and who have died and gone to heaven. The angelic heavens are organized into a human form; not a human shape, but a form of human uses; and the force that organizes them into that human form is the Lord's Divine Human.
Just as the soul from the father, in the birth of an ordinary child, is the architect which builds the body for itself out of natural substances contributed entirely by the mother, so the Lord bowed the heavens when He came down and, as it were, formed a Divine seed of good clothed with truth taken from the very Divine Human which makes the heavens and holds them in this perfect truth which contains within it the Divine Love itself. He bowed the heavens, and there in the heavens took on sufficient finite coverings to enter Mary's womb, just as life is clothed in the brain of the father, and then puts on covering after covering until it is given to the mother. So in passing through the heavens, though the Lord did not take on anything of the proprium of the angels, this Divine seed, or life, was tempered until it could effect that unique and miraculous conception which Gabriel had predicted. In that case the soul as the architect had no human heredity taken from a human father, but it had the Divine heredity taken on from the Divine of the Lord which makes the heavens; and when she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word", Mary made herself completely receptive to that Divine Influx which should cause the birth of God Himself into this world.
The soul of the new-born Lord Jesus Christ was therefore the Infinite Divine Itself the Supreme Jehovah from eternity, of whom Solomon said, "The heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have builded?" When the Child Jesus lay as a helpless, innocent, ignorant babe in His cradle, the Divine Soul was the ruler not only of that earthly body but of the entire universe, as before. The Divine, the Writings tell us, is in all space apart from space. The concept is quite difficult. God is everywhere, yet we cannot think of Him as a giant whose head is in one part of His universe and His feet in another. The Lord is in all space, but space is not in Him; so, ever since He created the universe there has never been a space where He was not. He is omnipresent; He is everywhere. When the Holy Babe was born in Bethlehem, no human father interposed and caught the life from the Divine, but since it was the life of the Divine Itself that created that baby, therefore the Lord's soul had no partitioning wall cutting it off from the Infinite, which was already in Bethlehem, and had been since the world was created.
God cannot be divided. We cannot cut the Infinite and say: "Here is a part and there is a part." The Infinite is a continuous substance, and since it descended into Mary's womb, the Infinite Itself, the whole Infinite, was the soul of the body which was born of her. That does not mean that the Infinite was withdrawn from the universe, but it does mean that the inmost of that child was God Himself, the Father of eternity dwelling in a body of its own creation. As the Lord grew up, He put off the human taken from Mary little by little; put it off, with the tendencies to evil and its infirmities, put it away, never to take it on again. He glorified Himself, as He said, "Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine Ownself, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." (John 17:5) What could He have meant by that? He meant that the Divine Wisdom, the Word which was in the beginning and became flesh and dwelt among us, and whose glory we beheld. should in the end contain nothing of merely human inheritance through Mary. It is amazing that the Catholic Church in our day should teach just the opposite, saying that Mary was born without sin so that the Lord might be born without hereditary evil, and that Mary rose as to her whole body just as the Lord did!
The New Church doctrine is that the Lord was born of Mary that He might take on through Mary all of the hereditary evils of the world, and that they should form the basis for the infestation of the hells, so that He the Savior might meet the hells on this plane of human life, and by conquering them reduce them into order and obedience to Himself. Without such hereditary evil, the whole incarnation would have been fruitless. But gradually, as He met evil and conquered the hells, FIe put off one human state after another until, when He rose from the tomb on Easter morn, He was all Divine, and there was nothing at all from Mary clinging to Him.
There is a beautiful passage in The True Christian Religion, No. 102, which reads, "To the above I will add this, which is new: Once it was granted me to speak with Mary the mother. On a certain occasion she passed by and appeared in heaven above my head in white raiment like silk; and then pausing a little she said that she had been the mother of the Lord, who was born of her; but that He, having become God, had put off everything human that He had derived from her, and that she therefore worshipped Him as her God, and was unwilling that anyone should acknowledge Him as her son, because in Him, all is Divine." I would like to close with the words of Mary when she met the expectant Elisabeth. Mary and Elisabeth were cousins. Elisabeth was old and well-stricken in years and had never had a child. Now she was to be granted in her old age this greatest gift to mana child. You recall that Mary went to see her, and when she entered Elisabeth said:
"Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" And Mary replied: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things and holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with His arm. He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich He hath sent away empty. He bath helped His servant Israel in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His seed forever." (Luke 1:46-55)
The expectation that the Lord Jesus Christ was to make a second advent is based on the following statements in the Gospels: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . ."
"Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Matthew 24:29-31 & 34) "And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say lo here, or lo there, for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20, 21)
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself- but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father bath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine and shall show it unto you." (John 16:12-15) The final passage that I will quote is from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter II, verses 14-20, where we read:
"But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken unto my words:
For these are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on My servants, and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come." Thus Peter believed that the prophecy of Joel had then been fulfilled in what transpired on the day of Pentecost.
To comprehend what was meant by the second advent of the Lord it is essential to understand what actually happened at the time of His first coming. We all believe that God is omnipresent, that is, that He is everywhere; that there is no place in the universe from which God is absent, that there is not a planet nor a star nor any place whatsoever that does not contain within it the Divine Spirit. "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." (Psalm 139:7-12) If the Lord, then, is present everywhere, it is quite impossible to say that He came anywhere. The very act of coming to a place involves that you were not in that place before you came to it.
All of us, being finite, occupy a certain place in space, and we can move from place to place. If we visit a place where we were not present, we say that we have come there. But strictly speaking, it cannot be said of the Divine that He comes to a place, because there is no place where He is not already present. Our minds turn to Bethlehem at Christmas time, and we think of the Lord as having been born there; as having begun His first coming on earth there. But is it not inaccurate to say that God came to Bethlehem Christmas night? The Lord was in Bethlehem when Benjamin was born there nearly two thousand years before. The Lord was present in Bethlehem when King David was born there almost a thousand years before, and He was present there the year before, and the month before and the day before He was born there as a babe. I stress this because we cannot possibly understand the real significance of the Second Coming of the Lord unless we see that the first coming was not a coming of God to a place where He had not been before, but it was a manifestation of God to men in a new form.
On that first Christmas, what happened was that the Divine which had been present in Bethlehem since the beginning of time, took to itself a means whereby it could be seen as it had never been seen before; for, although the Lord was present in Bethlehem when Benjamin and David were born there, He was not seen, nor was His voice heard, nor was His hand touched; but when He was born there on Christmas night, then He took to Himself a body from the Virgin Mary, into which the Divine Spirit as a soul could flow, and through which as a manifesting agency, the Divine could more and more reveal itself.
The Greek word for "reveal" means to unveil. An example of its use is this: If I should have a heap of diamonds covered over by six or seven veils, and then if I should take one veil off, then another, and if I kept that up, finally the diamonds themselves would be revealed so that men could behold them and appreciate their beauty. Similarly the body which the Lord took on from the virgin Mary was a means whereby the Divine could come into the world and be manifest to men in a way that He had never before, in all past ages, appeared to their sight. Prior to that time He had spoken His word through the prophets. He had inspired the men of old Moses, Isaiah, Elijah and Elisha and all of the other prophets to preach His Word. He had put His Word in their mouths, and they had spoken from His Divine Wisdom. But He had never taken on a material body of His own before, through which the Divine life could be directly manifested.
That coming into the world so many centuries ago marked the time when He took on such a body, when He assumed such a means of showing His Divine Spirit. When He was first born there was nothing between the Divine soul and the material body except a means of communication. But as He grew up a Divine mind was gradually formed as an intermediate between the soul and the body. And this Divine mind more and more glorified His body as the years passed. More and more He put off that of the body which He had taken from Mary, and He put on the Divine Human from the Father; consequently, at the Last Supper, when Philip asked Him to show him the Father the Lord was able to answer without qualification, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9)
One who had seen the babe lying in the manger in Bethlehem had not seen the Father. He had only seen the babe which in the process of time would one day reveal the Father. In discussing any coming of the Lord, we must rid our minds of that spatial idea of coming that the word so strongly conveys to our minds. We must substitute for the word "coming" the word "revealed." When the Lord was born a babe on Bethlehem's plains He revealed Himself for the first time and men have called it "The First Coming of the Lord." At the time of this First Coming He revealed Himself in human form. Now is the time of the Second Coming, and the question is: How has He revealed Himself? The answer is that He has revealed Himself in a new body of truth, which we find in The Writings.
The disciples, those who had heard the Lord's own words, expected Him to come again while some of them were still alive. About two weeks after the Lord had risen from the dead, when seven of His disciples had been fishing on the Sea of Galilee, the Lord talked to Peter privately, warning him that when he should be old others would carry him where he did not wish to go. Asked about John, the Lord answered: "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me."
So the saying went abroad among the brethren that John should never die; but the Evangelist reminds us that the Lord did not say, "He shall not die," but "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21:23) It is quite evident that Peter must have thought that John would remain in this world until the Lord had made His Second Coming, on the "last day." This is confirmed by what is said in Matthew, "This generation shall not pass till all those things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away." (24:34, 35)
The disciples knew well these words, and consequently they looked for His Second Coming in their own lifetime. If we turn to the epistles of the various apostles, we find that James urges the people to whom he is preaching to be ready, for the Lord may come at any moment. Paul indicates to the Thessalonians that in his lifetime, or at least in their lifetime, they may expect the coming of the Lord. The disciples were quite unanimous in their belief that the Second Coming of the Lord would be in their lifetime.
But the Second Coming of the Lord did not occur within their lifetime. Must we then disregard the Lord's words? Will there never be a coming since it did not take place when He literally said that it would? Or can we learn how to interpret prophecy? What is the fair way of interpreting it? We can certainly admit that as a matter of history none of the physical catastrophes took place, such as the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light, and the stars falling from heaven. Those calamities certainly never had any literal fulfillment in the lifetime of the disciples, and so we are compelled to inquire how the prophecy is to be understood.
A wise man has said that a prophecy can never be understood until after the event has taken place. It cannot be understood beforehand, and the reason for this soon appears if we look beyond the surface. If prophecy were so definite that we could say that an event was to happen at such and such a time in such and such a place, then events would be predestined, and there would be no human freedom. But we are taught very clearly that the Lord guards human freedom as the apple of His eye; that He allows nothing in His economy, or in the history or the affairs of men, to destroy spiritual freedom. Therefore, the nature of prophecy is such that it lays down the law whereby certain causes will inevitably have certain effects.
For example: in the realm of chemistry, if I put sulphuric acid and zinc together, the chain of reactions liberating hydrogen is bound to take place, so that I can prophesy for certain that sulphuric acid and zinc will give me hydrogen. I don't know where; I don't know when, but I do know that given the causes the results will follow without the shadow of a doubt. This is not predestination, but the rule of law.
Another example: Judas lived to betray the Lord, but we cannot believe that Judas as a man was predestined to betray the Lord. Certainly not! It would never have been permitted for any individual to have been born into the world with such an evil task to perform; but if Judas had not betrayed the Lord, then, may we say, that a man with the same name would have betrayed Him. I am not being facetious, but mean that the name Judas signifies the sensuous nature in man's character. The thing that betrayed the Lord in His lifetime was the same element in human psychology that betrayed the Lord in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent (which represents somewhat the same thing as the name Judas represents, namely, delight in sensual pleasure apart from use) beguiled Eve, or the will; and Eve persuaded Adam, that is, the understanding, to succumb to temptation. The betrayal was the same, but historically it happened to be Judas that betrayed the Lord; yet, he, as a man, did it of his own free desire.
In order to understand what I am trying to bring out, let us contemplate the nature of the fulfillment of the prophecies of the first coming of the Lord, and let us find out why the Jews could not understand them before they took place. It is written that the wise men came from the East because of a star that indicated that a new king had been born to the Jews. The star had apparently led them to Jerusalem, and then disappeared, but at Jerusalem they had no evidence of what person the star pointed to; so they went to Herod and said that they had seen the star, and they thought, of course, that he could tell them where the child was. But Herod was very much upset because he was an intensely jealous man who feared for his crown and his throne; and so he gathered the learned of the Jews, the priests and the scribes, and demanded of them where Christ should be born. They knew where Christ should be born, but they did not know when. They said that He would be born in Bethlehem, for thus it is written by the prophet.
Bethlehem means the "house of bread", and "the house of bread" means a mind full of spiritual truths and spiritual loves; and that is exactly where the Lord is always born in human lives. It does not make any difference that the prophecy does not state the time that He was to be born. Bethlehem was the only place where He could be born. He was born there. The various causative factors that worked together under human freedom made that birth possible nearly two thousand years ago. The wise men had seen His star, and the learned Jews knew where He was to be born, but they little suspected that Fle would be born in a stable, and probably they never dreamed that He would be born of such humble parents, nor did they know the time. It was impossible to interpret the many different prophecies until after the event.
Another prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord tells that He shall rule the nations with a rod of iron. The Lord while on earth never made any attempt to resist Pilate, or Herod, or the rulers of the Jews. The rod of iron that He set up was the rule of truth in men's hearts, and truth is much stronger than iron; but those words could not be interpreted until after the event. However, after He had come on earth, various things mentioned in the prophecies were seen to have taken place. To illustrate: When the Lord was tried before Herod, the Gospel says that He opened not His mouth, and because He so acted He fulfilled the words of Isaiah, who had written: "As a sheep is dumb before its shearers, He opened not His mouth." (53:7) And all through his Gospel Matthew points out various things in the Lord's life that actually did fulfill the ancient prophecies. But you could not have told it beforehand.
You could not have worked out a predestined plan that would have enabled you to go to Bethlehem at the very time that the Lord actually did make His First Coming. It was only after the event that men were able to interpret the prophecies and see how they were fulfilled. In order to preserve human freedom, the prophecies were necessarily vague, and not determined to individuals, and thus they could not be understood until after the predicted events had taken place.
Having seen this principle applied to the prophecies of the First Coming, let us look more searchingly at the prophecies concerning the Second Coming of the Lord. Beginning with the disciples themselves, and going on down through the Christian Era, there have always been people who have insisted on a literal interpretation of the prophecies. However, there are reasons which seem to me to make it quite impossible to believe in any literal fulfillment of the prophecies concerning His Second Coming.
A literal fulfillment of the prophecies was impossible for physical reasons. Consider, for instance, the "stars falling from heaven" as mentioned in Matthew (24:29). We know that the earth is one of the tiniest of the planets, and that the stars beyond the planets are so much larger than the earth, and there are so many of them, that if they should really start falling toward the earth, when they got within a certain distance of it they would completely interlock. They would form a complete and solid mass, and the gravity from such a huge body would be such as to tear the earth to atoms. The physical concept of the stars falling is simply impossible to believe literally in the face of all that science has taught us about the universe. Furthermore, it is impossible to conceive of any place where the Lord could appear, except in the spiritual world, where every eye could see Him. In this world there is no cloud high enough. The highest mountain is only visible from a comparatively small portion of the earth's surface. The people on the opposite side of the earth would be deprived of the sight of His coming. Because a literal fulfillment involves scientific contradictions, which seem to me to be insuperable, this mode of fulfillment is not satisfying.
Another contradiction appears when we try to interpret the prophecies in a literal manner. Notice the Twenty-fourth chapter in Matthew, where we are told that the Lord would appear in the clouds of heaven after the sun had been darkened, and the moon ceased to give its light, and the stars had fallen from heaven.
Contrast with this the Nineteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation where we have another picture of the Second Coming of the Lord. Here He is described as coming on a white horse followed by the angels of heaven, all of whom are riding on white horses. We have here two very different literal pictures one is of a great horseman on a beautiful white steed followed by a mighty army riding on similar mounts sweeping forth from heaven; the other presents the picture of the Son of Man alone, coming in the clouds of heaven.
Will the Lord come on a white horse, or will He come in the clouds of heaven? Literally it is hard to reconcile these two different forecasts of His Second Advent, but if we seek for a spiritual interpretation, something which is above the letter, we will find a complete reconciliation. Then let us leave the literal for a moment and substitute spiritual values. What is meant by the Lord as a horseman? Remember that He was born in a stable and laid in a manger, because a manger fed horses, and horses signify the understanding of the Word. This correspondence rested on the fact that horses were the chief means of traveling from one place to another. Just so, the understanding of the Word is the means by which we are carried from one spiritual truth to another. When truth is understood spiritual light is shed in the mind. That spiritual light is the Lord riding upon the white horse. "And His name is called, The Word of God." (Rev. 19:13) The clouds of heaven, on the other hand, are made up of small water particles, water which corresponds to truth. The clouds of heaven then represent the gathering together of these truths, especially in the literal sense of the Word. Now a true understanding of the Word reveals the Lord, so the Lord is seen in the clouds of heaven, that is, He is seen in the literal sense of the Word which, as were, opens to our sight. Thus perceived He rides into our hearts on a white horse. Spiritually these two visions of the Second Coming of the Lord are the same. Whether He comes in a new understanding of the Word, or whether He comes in the clouds of heaven, the significance is the same. Nevertheless we have those other passages which seem to indicate an utterly different kind of coming which in the spiritual sense harmonizes with His coming as a horseman or His coming in the clouds. I refer to a passage in Luke which states that the coming of the Lord is a personal thing. It is secret. "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation," he says. (17:20) What could be more contradictory in the letter than the opposing ideas of the Lord's coming in the clouds of heaven, with His coming without observation. What a magnificent coming is portrayed in the words "every eye shall see Him." (Rev. 1:7) He is revealed to the whole spiritual world. Yet how deep is the message that "the Kingdom of God is within you." The Second Coming is universal, but the reception of is intimate and intensely personal.
If we seek to learn the spiritual meaning involved in the Lord's coming in the clouds of heaven, of His riding on a white horse and of His coming not with observation, we will come to a deeper understanding of the Word, which deeper understanding really constitutes the Second Coming of the Lord. When we can see truths in the Word which we never saw before we may say that the Kingdom of God has come to us personally. And really that is the only thing that is vital to us. It is the Lord's Second Coming into our hearts which is the matter of supreme importance. The Kingdom of God cometh not flashinglywith a "Lo here", or "Lo there"but the Kingdom of God is within us. Let us tie this idea of the spiritual interpretation of the prophecies together with our original proposition, that the Lord is everywhere; that He is here in this room; that He was in Bethlehem the night that He was born. What, then, does His Second Coming mean to us as individuals? It means that the Kingdom of God must be within you. I can illustrate what I mean by the example of a radio. The current that flows into it and lights up the tubes may be compared to the Lord's immediate influx into each one of us. The Lord flows into us and keeps us alive, but we have no conscious sensation of that inflowing life. We don't feel it. He gives us the life processes, and that is like the inflowing electricity that lights up the tubes in your radio, but that in-flowing current is not what tunes your set to various stations. Your dial gives you the stations, and when of your own free will you tune in a station, then that particular station can send its signals into your radio. The waves from the station were there all the time, but they were, as it were, around and outside your radio.
The human heart is an instrument on a higher plane. The only person who can receive the Kingdom of God is the person who has the Kingdom of God in his own heart. That means that God gives the faculty to receive, but man must tune in to the type of love and affection which characterizes heaven if he wants the Kingdom of God to be within him. We are taught that when man passes into the spiritual world he can go up into heaven if he so desires, but instead of finding it delightful he may see nothing there. Sometimes a good spirit will walk along beside an evil spirit in heaven, and the good spirit will see paradises, and the evil spirit will see nothing but a desert, because he has nothing of the Kingdom of God within him, and therefore all the impulses that come to him from without are not received by him any more than the waves to which your radio is not tuned can enter and be received by your radio. They just pass it by without affecting it. No more can heavenly spheres affect you unless your heart is attuned to heaven, that is, unless the Kingdom of God be within you.
And that the Lord will not come with observation, but must come within you, harmonizes perfectly with the idea that the Lord becomes present by a greater understanding of the Word which will lead us to the deeper affections and greater wisdom, such as is signified by the Rider on the white horse. And it makes one with the picture of the Lord coming with glory in the clouds of the literal sense of the Word, which are the clouds of heaven.
Let us look at another kind of prophecy, the one that we find in the sixteenth chapter of John, where the Lord is talking with His disciples and says, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak." (12-13) Think for a moment of the disciples, and consider what the Lord meant by those words. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. They probably had had scarcely any education as we understand . As likely as not, they thought that the sun was a ball of fire suspended in the sky, that the moon was a lesser light created to give us some illumination at night, that the stars were tiny lights in the sky, and that the world was flat. Suppose Peter had kicked a piece of coal as he walked along beside the Sea of Galilee; he would have thought that was only a black stone. He would not have known that stored up in what seemed to be a stone there was a wealth of potential heat, of aniline dyes and gases and many more things that we know today as coal products.
These were the men to whom the Lord said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." That is, "Ye cannot understand them yet." Nevertheless, He said, the time would come when the spirit of truth would reveal those things unto the world. Those simple disciples had a task to perform. Their great work was to teach the world that the Lord had risen from the dead, that He had conquered death. That was the supreme message of Christianity, and with it they were to preach the simple Christian principles revealed in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Lord's other discourses, for these were the truths whereby man might conquer the death of sin and come into heaven. That was the task imposed upon the disciples. They were not then prepared to understand the glorification of the Lord, to perceive how He had taken on a body from Mary, and how little by little He had glorified it. They had no concepts of philosophy, nor even of natural science, by means of which they could understand His deeper teaching. Consequently He foretold a further revelation in the words, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." At His first coming the Lord took on a garment of flesh so that we could see Him in a new way feel Him, and hear His voice, and whatever the Divine does He does perfectly. By His incarnation He achieved all that could be accomplished by a life in the flesh, and by the glorification of His body. If, as He indicated, there were other things which He could not accomplish or teach because of the state of men's minds at that time these could not be done by men's vision of Him in the flesh, but only by His revealing His inner spirit the Spirit of Truth.
The history of the individual repeats the history of the race, and the Lord told Nicodemus that man must be twice born to become spiritual. He must first be born of his mother, and then he must be born of water and of the Spirit. (John 3:5) The Lord told him that it was not a rebirth in the flesh, but a rebirth from water and the spirit. In a similar way, it is needful for man to see the Lord not only as to the flesh, but also to see Him as to His Spirit. His second advent reveals His Divine Love and Wisdom. Just as at the first coming He gave men a body of flesh to behold, now at the Second Coming He gives them a body of truth Divine, which answers the questions in men's hearts, which down to the present time the literal sense of the Word has failed to answer. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth." (John 16:12,13)
Of this spirit of truth which He promised to send to His disciples, the Lord says, "he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for he shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you." (Ibid 13,14) We believe that the Lord used a human instrument Emanuel Swedenborgto reveal this new spirit of truth. Swedenborg says that from the time his spiritual eyes were opened when he was fully introduced into the spiritual world, and commenced to write the Arcana Coelestia in 1748, until 1772, when he died, he did not receive anything pertaining to the doctrine of the New Church from any spirit or angel, but from the Lord alone while he read and meditated on the Word. Swedenborg's works must be judged on the basis of what they claim to be, and his claim has to be rejected or accepted from that standpoint. Luther wrote a commentary on the Bible as did Calvin, Melanchthon, Adam Smith, and many others. They are interesting, useful, and valuable studies of the meaning of the letter of the Word, but they do not rise above their fallible authors. They set forth what the man Luther, the man Calvin, the man Melanchthon, the man Adam Smith thought that the words of the sacred text meant. They do not claim to be Divine, nor are they.
But the case with Swedenborg is different. In giving the spiritual sense of the Word, nothing is further from his mind than to claim to be the spirit of truth or the Lord in His Second Coming. The spirit of truth is the rational truth revealed in the Writings; the wisdom which Swedenborg received from the Lord alone as he read and meditated on the Word. And the Lord said that this spirit "shall not speak of himself, but what he shall hear, that shall he speak. That is why Swedenborg says that he did not receive anything from any spirit or angel, but from the Lord alone.
It is of the Lord, and from the Lord that Swedenborg writes, for it is worthy of note that when Swedenborg commenced the Arcana he adopted the term "Dominus" or "Lord" for the God that we worship. In the New Testament He was called "Kurios" which means Lord, and in the Old Testament, wherever the word Jehovah occurred the priests were commanded to read "Adonai" which means "Lord." Therefore in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in the Writings we have the one God denominated by the same term "Lord." So Swedenborg asserts that he did not receive anything from any spirit or angel, but from the Lord alone while he read and meditated on the Word of God. He wrote at the command of that one God, and he testified about that one God, and he explained how that one God is eternally in the one person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In the pages of the Theological Writings of Swedenborg the Lord has come again as He promised. He has unveiled the ~many things" that the disciples of old could not have understood. It is a universal coming. It is a manifestation of the Lord in a new way. That new coming in Divinely revealed truth is the Second Coming of the Lord. It is not a coming in space, but it is a new revelation of Film, a new manifestation of His Wisdom and His Power.
The signs of His Second Coming are these newly revealed truths:
In very truth, now, in His Second Coming, the Lord has revealed Himself anew as the one Divine Man, the Creator, Redeemer, and Savior of mankind, whose kingdom shall exist for ages of ages.
Before contemplating the substance of this chapter, please read the Seventy-eighth Psalm, and the Twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, verses Thirteen to Twenty-seven.
The Seventy-eighth Psalm gives a brief account of the memorable journey of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, and its history up to the time of David. The story is lucidly written in the literal sense, yet the Psalmist introduces it with the words, "I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old." Why then should it be called a parable? Without question the Old and the New Testaments claim to be the Word of God a message of the Divine Mind to mankind. But if so, what kind of inspiration do they claim for themselves? The first five books of the Bible were written by Moses, and in these five books many chapters begin with the words, "And the Lord spake to Moses"; so that you might say that the chapter is a direct quotation of what the Lord said to Moses, and Moses so recorded it. Consequently the books come under the category of Sacred Scriptures or the Word of God. All through the prophetical books we frequently read, "The Word of the Lord came to me, saying". This furnishes abundant evidence in the Old Testament that it claims for itself the title of "The Word of God."
*In preparing this chapter and the two following chapters I have made abundant use of that great New Church classic, The Plenary Inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures. It is a truly inspiring book, and much of my thought has been channeled by my contact with it. I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to its author, the Reverend Samuel Noble.
In the New Testament, the Lord, while on earth as the Word made flesh sets forth the idea that "the Law and the Prophets", that is the books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Kings, the four major Prophets, the twelve minor Prophets, and the Psalms are indeed the Word of God, and, in His own language while He was on earth, He so calls them. It occurred when the Lord was reasoning with the Scribes and Pharisees, and He said that they made the Word of God of none effect through their tradition. He clearly called the laws of Moses the Word of God. (Mark 7:10-13)
Again when the Lord had said, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30) and the Jews had picked up stones to stone Him, He said, If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken; say ye of Him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" (John 10:35, 36)
Note what He said. He is referring to Moses and the prophets, who had received, by Divine inspiration, the word of God. And He notes that the Scripture cannot be broken because it is of Divine authority. In those two passages, the Lord clearly upholds the idea that the Old Testament, as it existed in His day, was the Word of God. The same Divine authority is given to the whole of the law and the whole of the prophets when He says, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:19)
It may be objected that the term "Word of God" can only be applied to such parts of the Old Testament as actually use the term "The Word of God." For example, the chapters in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, and also all the prophets that use that expression; yet Paul says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." (II Timothy 3:16) And he is referring to the Old Testament, because at that time the New Testament as we know it had not yet been compiled. Peter, one of the Lord's own disciples, said that "For the prophecy came not in the old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (II Peter 1:21)
On the basis of all this, I am going to assume that the Word as we have it is a Divine document; that it is in fact what it claims to be; that it is the Word of God. Many other reasons and arguments may be advanced to arrive at this conclusion, but we will rest the case here and see what happens to our thinking if we assume that the Old and New Testament are, in very truth, the Word of God. For if they are the very Word of God they must contain in their bosom infinite truth, infinite wisdom.
God, we say, is infinite and omnipotent. That is, He has all knowledge and all power, and when He speaks He does not speak with any finite limitations such as those with which man speaks. Man speaks with the best knowledge of the past which he has, and the best prognosis of the future that he can muster, but man's mind is very, very limited. His past goes back only a few years, and his knowledge of the future is at best most hazy. In contrast to man, the Lord has infinite wisdom and His knowledge of the past goes back forever, and His knowledge of the future is also a knowledge to eternity, so that what He writes has no limitations of time and space.
It must be possible for the Lord's knowledge to be opened even to infinity, if we could reach back to the very source from which it sprung. When we say that this body of Scriptures is the Word of God, we do not mean merely that it is a holy book, but we assert that it must be infinite; and it will be our task to try to understand as deeply as possible how it can be infinite; wherein the infinity in the Word resides, and the way that it can lead our minds back to God Himself.
Let us glance at the contents of the Old Testament. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are an allegory stories that are written purely for their spiritual meaning. With the twelfth chapter, which begins the story of Abram and his descendants, real history begins. This history is then traced in the inspired books all the way down to the fall of Jerusalem, and the Babylonian captivity about 600 B.C. Interspersed with the history is the account of the prophets, together with their messages to the people, and many beautiful songs which are the Psalms of David and others. This is the contents of the sense of the letter of the Old Testament.*
The letter of the New Testament is made up of the four accounts of the Lord's life Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Book of Revelation.**
The history is clear enough in its direct meaning. The historical parts and most of the Psalms are also clear, but there are many passages in the Prophets which are apparently meaningless in the letter. We can read them over and over again and derive no natural sense from them; and these passages would lead our minds inescapably to believe that if they are the Word of God they must have a deeper sense, otherwise God would not have given them as our means of salvation.
* The Old Testament contains additional books of Jewish history and proverbs, which are usually bound up with the Old Testament without being part of the Divine Word.
** The other books commonly bound up with the New Testament are the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistles which the Apostles wrote to the various groups which they visited in the infant Christian Church
The difference between the Word and human writings must be the difference between the works of God and the works of man; that is, the writings of man have an exhaustible meaning. If we study the works of a human philosopher intently and earnestly, we can plumb them to their depths and understand them completely because they are of human origin; whereas we can never reach the inmost sense of the Word of God. We are taught that even if we study it to eternity we can never reach its inmost meanings which are above the understanding of the highest angel.
So we say that the Word of God must be to the word of man as the works of God are to the works of man. Take a machine, for example. No matter how complicated it is, it can all be taken apart down to its least part. Not so with the creations of God. As we examine them we can see ever more minute things within the smallest dissection that we have made. Viewed from without, the Word of God appears like the word of man, but unlike the word of man, it can be opened up inwardly until we come to infinite wisdom itself.
If we use a bit of philosophy, we might well assume that man has speech even in the spiritual world, when he becomes an angel; but the speech of angels is concerned with the interests and the problems of angels and does not concern itself with the things of this world, and consequently their speech is on a higher plane than our speech in this world, and the spiritual sense of the Word is written for angels. In one of his spiritual experiences Paul was caught up to the third heaven and he said that he "heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (II Cor. 12:4) Swedenborg, on many occasions, had similar experiences. He would come from a higher heaven to a lower heaven and when he would come from the presence of angels into the presence of men, he would be unable to utter in worldly language the things that had been clear to him when he was in the higher state of the angels.
If the words of angels are unspeakable, what must the words of God be as they proceed from the mouth of God Himself? His word could not come down to earth the Lord could not speak directly to man. Infinite wisdom could not be directly intelligible in this world; any more than the Lord could appear in this world without a long process which we call the Incarnation. When the Lord wanted finally to appear in this world, He bowed the heavens and His life descended through the heavens was prepared in heaven to cause conception within Mary. In the same way He comes as the Word on earth. For the Word descends through the heavens in order to come down into the world. Let us conceive of it in this way: The Divine Truth comes from the Lord above the heavens. First it comes to the celestial or highest angels, who perceive it in its inmost sense the highest perception of inmost truth that human beings can have. The Divine Truth proceeds next to the spiritual heaven where it is still further clothed or accommodated; and lastly it descends to the natural heaven. From the natural heaven the Divine truth is breathed into the mind of the inspired writers who wrote the letter of the Word in this world, so that in its bosom, the Word in this world contains a series of truths on different planes. When we read the Word on earth, these inner truths are the perpetual nourishment of the angels, who, through their innate inner senses, are delighted and affected thereby because they are in the understanding of the superior internal degrees of the Word.
To conceive that the holiness of the Word resides solely in its letter would be like believing that the skin of man that encloses all his vital organs is the whole man; whereas, the truth is that it is just a covering of the man. And when we study the organs that are contained within the skin the brain and the heart, the lungs, the organs of digestion, and all the other wonderful viscera we see that the deeper our penetration goes the more complex, subtle, and wonderful creations do we behold, so that in modern medicine we have doctors who spend their whole lives becoming specialists in the study and treatment of just one human organ. So it is with the Word. The literal meaning of the Word is easy to see, but the depths within the letter of the Word are unfathomable and can lead us always back to the infinite, always back to the Divine. I have endeavored to show from philosophical reasoning that if the Word of God is to the word of man as the works of God are to the works of man, then, because it is the Word of God, it can be opened up to the Divine itself.
The next point that I want to establish is that the Word of God exhorts us to seek for an understanding of its deeper meanings, rather than rest content in the mere statement of the letter. The Word of God urges us to look deeply into it. What can the Psalmist mean when he says: "Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law"? (Psalm 119: 18) If he were convinced that in the letter of the law the complete Divine meaning was given, it would not be necessary to pray to the Lord that his eyes be opened so that he could see wondrous things out of the law. But David, from his inspiration, knew that the letter was but the skin, the covering, the outside, into which were gathered all those higher senses. Therefore he said, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."
And now let us turn back to the opening sentence of the Seventy-eighth Psalm, referred to at the opening of this chapter. "Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old." (1,2) With that introduction we could well expect to be regaled by some deep and mysterious parable even some story like the Garden of Eden, or the creation story in Genesis, or the Tower of Babel but instead of a parable or some story that is not at all clear as to its literal meaning, the Psalmist proceeds in the seventy verses that follow to tell us the plain history of Israel, beginning with the plagues on Egypt up to the time of David. Where, then, do the dark sayings of old come in? Why is it a parable? It is a parable because that story of Israel as contained in the Word of God is the outside, it is the skin, it is the containant, first of the story of man's regeneration, and then of the story of how the human of our Lord was glorified.
In the literal sense the Seventy-eighth Psalm is a story. Canaan represents heaven, and the wilderness represents all the trials and temptations that each one of us has to go through in order to get to heaven, in order to regenerate, in order to form a heavenly character. It is our life story, and that is why it is a parable. It is really not about the Israelites at all. It is not about Sinai. It is not about the Red Sea; it is not about thirst for water; but it is about our famishing for truth and it is about the giving of truth through Moses, that is the Divine Law when he struck the rock. The rock represented the Lord the stone which the builders rejected which became the head of the corner. And the manna like the bread of the Holy Supper represents the Divine goodness through which man's character is formed. So, when we enter into the story of that wilderness journey, we see that it is indeed a parable, that it is indeed a dark saying of old, but not in the letter. He could not possibly have meant that it was a dark saying of old in the letter!
There are many other passages in the Old Testament which might be brought forward, but let us hasten to see what the Lord Himself says in the New Testament about seeking for a deeper meaning in the Gospel. In the Sermon on the Mount, when He had called his disciples unto Him overlooking the Sea of Galilee, He said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." (Matt. 5:17)
The word "fulfill" has changed its meaning in the three hundred years since the King James scholars translated it. If I say that I will meet you tomorrow morning at ten o'clock, and I meet you that morning at ten o'clock, I have fulfilled my promise to you. That is what we usually think of when we say the word "fulfill". But the word here that the Lord uses in the Greek, and is translated "fulfill", means to fill it up to the very brim, to fill it as full as possible that is, to fill the letter full of a spiritual sense. The forms of the law and the prophets were hard and unyielding. For example: "Thou shalt not kill", "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", "Thou shalt not commit adultery." These statements had become narrow and inflexible, and they meant just one thing, and that was the literal meaning. The Lord said, "I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill." The ten commandments were not to be abrogated or abolished, but He came to fill them full of a new meaning, a meaning which was in them already from the beginning, but which man no longer could see.
The Lord said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, 'Thou shalt not kill' . . . But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment." He put anger and all hatred, all unfriendliness and unkindness as included in the fuller meaning of the word "murder" or "killing". Again He said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." In this way He makes unchastity to be of the heart, and of the thought. He makes the commandment not just a literal injunction but He fills it full of a spiritual meaning.
Again He says, "Ye have heard that it bath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." (Matt. 5:38-41) Here He fills the old Hebrew concept of crude justice with a loftier meaning, showing with His own words how there is a spiritual sense in the words that He quotes from the Old Testament.
In the Gospel of Luke we read of those two disciples who were walking along the road with Jesus unbeknownst, and thinking that it was strange that this traveler did not know what had happened at Jerusalem, how Christ had been crucified. But as they moved along the road, the Lord, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, unfolded into their wondering ears the things in all the Scriptures concerning Himself. We often wonder why this priceless conversation was not recorded. We would love to have heard it. But I think that in the New Church we can say that it was recorded; because throughout the Arcana Coelestia, in the internal sense in the highest sense, the inmost sense it does tell us all the things in the Word concerning the Lord. And it is told of these disciples after He had left them, that their hearts had burned as He talked to them by the way and opened the Scriptures before their wondering eyes; showing what was contained within the literal sense. He withdrew the veil and let them peer within, just as the veil of the temple had been rent in twain at the time of the crucifixion. For everything from Moses through the Prophets in its inmost sense dealt with His glorification!
Before His crucifixion the Lord had said to His disciples, "Verily I say unto you, many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things that ye see and have not seen them, and to hear those things that ye hear, and have not heard them." (Matt. 13:17) "Why do ye not understand my speech?" He asked the Pharisees, "because ye cannot hear my word." (John 8:43) They heard His words quite clearly, but they did not see anything in them beyond the literal meaning. When He had stood up in the synagogue in Capernaum, after He had fed the five thousand, He said to the Jews, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53) It was just too much for His hearers. They said, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" (John 6:5 2) "This is a hard saying who can hear it?" (John 6:60) And they turned their backs on Him. This great multitude that He had fed in the wilderness the day before, deserted Him when He told them that His flesh was meat indeed, and His blood was drink indeed.
We too are turning our backs if we think that there is nothing but a literal sense to the Word. For the Lord did not and could not give His disciples His Palestine flesh to eat, nor His Palestine blood to drink, but He gave them what was represented by His flesh, which was Divine Goodness, and what was represented by His blood, which was the Divine Truth. The Lord was speaking according to correspondences, and in such a way that His words could not be understood unless the spiritual sense was seen in them.
And the Lord went on to say, "It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63) Here He Himself interprets the real meaning. His "words" were His very blood that they were to drink and they are spirit and they are life. Paul later said, "The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life." (II Corinthians 3:6) There are many passages from Paul's Epistles that show that he insisted to the early Christians that the Scriptures were to be taken spiritually. To give one or two examples, Paul said that Abraham had two sons, one born of a bondwoman, Hagar, namely Ishmael, and the other born of a freewoman, Sarah, namely Isaac. And Paul explained, "Which things are an allegory." (Galatians 4:24) An allegory is a story with an inner meaning. This was an allegory, for the son born of the bondwoman was the Jewish Church and the son born of the freewoman represented the Christian Church. Paul shows also that to be truly a Jew one must have the principles of Christianity, and to be really circumcised was to have the heart circumcised that is to make the sacrifices necessary to a Christian life. Thus, in his own way, he points to the spiritual meaning of those things in the Old Testament.
Let us look now at the last Book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, called the Apocalypse. If it did not have a spiritual sense, it would be quite meaningless. However, if we search the Church fathers beginning in the Second Century of the Christian Era, we find that men often admitted that there was a spiritual sense and searched for it. The famous scholar, Mosheim, was opposed to the idea of a spiritual interpretation, but as a historian he had to admit that many early church fathers and other scholars all the way down the ages to the time of the Reformation by Luther believed in a spiritual interpretation.
In this chapter I have set forth: First, that the Word calls itself the Word of God. Second, that this Word is to the word of man as the works of God are to the works of man, consequently infinite in its inner implications. Third, that both the Old and the New Testament exhort us to look for a deeper sense, and this is followed by the exhortation of the Apostles and later by the early Church fathers to look for an early return of Christ. In the next chapter I shall endeavor to show that there is a Divine law by which the spiritual sense is to be found that the search for it need not be a guessing game or a puzzle. To illustrate: truth corresponds to water. The correspondential meanings are not merely attributes assigned by Swedenborg through clever surmise, but they have been revealed to him through Divine inspiration.
In the chapters which follow I hope to show you that there is a law which emanates from the Lord as the spiritual sun, and which is as fixed, as unchanging, and as dependable as the laws ruling the natural world which emanate from the sun of the natural world. Just as the sun of the natural world with its heat and light are the origin of all the forces of nature, so the sun of the spiritual world with its love and wisdom are the origin of all of the forces of the spiritual world.
If the Word is Divine, it must have a deeper sense than what appears in the letter. If the Word has for its Creator the Divine Mind, then what we see in the external letter must be very superficial compared to what it contains in its bosom, in its deeper meaning. And if it is Divine, we cannot conceive that the Divine Mind would write the apparently trivial things which are found in some portions of the Word. If it is Divine, and if it has an internal meaning, the question is what is to prevent people from being merely capricious and finding an inner meaning to the Word that suits themselves, in which case the inner meaning of the Word, or the spiritual sense, or the internal sense of the Word, would be of no real value.
We must therefore clearly realize that the law which is developed by Swedenborg in his Writings, whereby the spiritual or internal sense of the Word can be drawn out of the Word, is a law that follows with perfect order, just like Newton's laws of gravity which describe the behavior of falling bodies. The law, according to which the Sacred Scripture was written, is Divine. Unless we see the general scheme according to which the world originated, we cannot see how the letter of the Bible that talks about earthly things, about water and turning water into wine, about battles, and about liberation from Egypt, and so forthcan lead the mind, by degrees or steps, up to the contemplation of heaven itself. According to our belief, the Divine that was the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ is Infinite, and in Him the Infinite God that we worship Infinite things are distinctly One. And therefore the first origin of everything that exists is in the Divine Mind before man was created.
There is just one God, one Divine Person, but in that one God are infinite things and they are the infinite prototypes of all things created.
Man was thus created in God's image. Below man there are the animals that reflect all of man's affections, and below the animal is the vegetable kingdom which corresponds to the uses of all things, and finally the mineral kingdom in which we also can see the reflection, although somewhat distantly, of these Divine qualities.
There are two primary attributes in God. There is Divine love, which is the prototype of all human emotions; and there is Divine wisdom, which is the prototype and cause of all human understanding. Because God knows everything, man can know something. From His wisdom we derive our little human bit of wisdom, and because of His vast love, we have all the loves that we have. Therefore, when it says that God created man into His image and into His likeness, we see a first rudiment of the spiritual sense of the Word. Man is the image of God because he has the ability to think and to reason, and we reflect God as in a mirror because we are capable of having wisdom, thoughts, reason, the ability to figure things out. That is what makes us "images" of God. The other great faculty with which man is endowed by God is the ability to love or to will, which is the source of human freedom. If we did not have the ability to love, and the ability to will, we could not have the appearance of self-life. We could not act as though we were independent beings. This is our "likeness" to God. He has all freedom, all power, and we have human freedom because we are created into His likeness. And as He can create on His vast scale, so correspondentially man can in a manner create in his little field. Whatever uses he performs are, as it were, his creations. Man can create in his small sphere because he is in the likeness of God who creates in His great sphere.
From His love and wisdom God is omnipotent, which means that He can do everything that He wants to do. Man can do anything that he wants to do and knows how to do. If I want to play the violin, and know how to play the violin, I can play it; but if I want to play the saxophone and do not know how to play the saxophone, I cannot play the saxophone, no matter how much I want to do so. Take, for example, women who bake cakes. They have to want to bake the cake and they
have to know how to bake the cake, and those two elements have to be joined together before any cake can be made. So it is with absolutely everything that we do, from the making of a locomotive to the writing of a sermon. There has to be the will and the know-how. In God, the "want-to" is the Divine love which knows no limits. There is nothing good that Divine love does not want to do and it operates by means of God's Divine wisdom which knows everything, knows all of the answers. So we say that God is all-powerful because He has total will and total wisdom; that is, He is omnipotent.
Those two faculties in God are reflected in the whole universe and ultimately in the Word. And so, if the Word can be written in such a way that it treats of things that absolutely are stepped up in the logical steps until we get eventually to the love and wisdom of God, we can see that what Swedenborg calls correspondence is not a game, not something where values arbitrarily are assigned to different things, but it is in an outgrowth from God Himself and it began with His creating man in His image and into His likeness.
Swedenborg tells that there is a spiritual world, and the spiritual world has spiritual substance which answers to man's spirit as natural substance answers to his body. We shall take up later the subject of the spiritual world and the life after death, but suffice it to say now that man's spiritual eyes see spiritual things as man's natural eyes see natural things and his spiritual ears hear spiritual sounds as man's natural ears bear natural sounds; in fact, all of the spiritual senses can touch and feel and hear and see spiritual objects in such a similar way. They are not the same but they are so similar that as far as the consciousness of man goes, when he wakes up in the spiritual world, he does not know that he is there because it seems exactly like the natural world at first. But the laws of it are different, as I shall show later. In this spiritual world, the Lord created a sun which is said to be His first proceeding. That sun looks like the natural sun. But the natural sun, as we know, is a ball of fire, while the sun of the spiritual world is the Lord's love. That is what shines before the angels. In the spiritual world the light from the sun of heaven is the light of truth. That is the light that we see in our own minds.
In teaching a boy algebra, I might show him that if x equals 4 and y equals 6 then x plus y equal 10. He does not see it at all at first, and then all of a sudden he says, "I see it," and his face lights up and I can tell from his eyes that he really sees it, that he sees it in his mind, and he sees it in the light of truth. The light of truth is what comes from the sun of heaven and it is what illumines the minds of the angels. A man in this world is a spirit clothed with a body. The real "I" is the internal man, the mind. Here we are spirits clothed with bodies, and the light of truth can also flow down to us and we can think from its light, that is, from the sun of heaven.
Because the spiritual world is the world of causes, the Lord next created a natural sun which should correspond to the sun of the spiritual world, and which should have fire, corresponding to the love of the sun of the spiritual world; and should have light going forth from it, corresponding to the truth which emanates from the sun of the spiritual world.
We will observe that the duality of these two things, love and wisdom in God, which gave birth to the universe, became the cause of a duality in all things of creation. God created man male and female. Why did He do that? He did it because the two should be able to correspondthe woman to love and affection and the man to wisdom; and together they should be able to be the source of new creations, just as love and wisdom in God were the cause of the birth of the universe and just as love and wisdom in the mind of any one man are the cause of any use that he performs. He must love it and he must know how. And so we have woman corresponding to love and man corresponding to wisdom. This correspondence is seen all through the Word. Wherever father or mother are mentioned in the Word, it is not by accident, but because father represents generating wisdom and mother represents generating love. And you have brothers and sisters: brothers being truths born of love and wisdom, and sisters being affections born of love and wisdom and so on.
The relationships of the human family, stepped up one degree to things of the mind, represent that marvelous family life of thoughts and affections that every man has within his own mind; and so it becomes easy for us to see why the Lord said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26) It is a terrible thought to apply that in the literal sense, because the Lord plainly commands, "Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee." (Exodus 20:12) But if we think of the things which are the father and the mother of man's hereditary evils, which man must shun if he is to regenerate, then we can see why man must hate his father and mother (not his literal parents, but the things that are the origin of evil and false things within himself). And so the Lord said of marriage that man must leave father and mother and cleave to his wife alone. This again represents leaving the father and mother of one's selfish worldly life and cleaving to this new love which shall build within his heart the New Jerusalem, the New Church, a new order of things in his own life. This duality may be recognized also with animals. We have the sex element in all the animals. We can even see it in the vegetable kingdom where mother earth provides the great womb wherein the seeds of flowers are received and brought forth.
Even in the realm of the mineral kingdom we behold duality. In chemistry, for instance, we know that all manner of salts are formed from the union of acids with bases. When the two are joined together, an offspring is produced which is like the fruit of a marriage. Likewise in the realm of electricity you have positive and negative poles. Duality is universal and runs through the whole gamut of creation and can be seen in the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom and in human beings, and all of this owes its origin to the great duality in God which is His Divine love, and His Divine wisdom.
If it is true that there is an analogy between God and man created in His image and the animals, created in some resemblance to man, then it is conceivable that the Lord could inspire men to write a book which in the letter talked about nothing but worldly things and yet in its deeper sense contained as a soul a Divine meaning. With this law behind it, the science of correspondences becomes something that is fixed and dependable, which the ministers of the Church can study and can rely upon, and can teach; and it is not something that is fanciful, but is in fact part of the firm foundation of the New Jerusalem. Let me take first the human face. The face is purely natural, but the mind behind the face is spiritual. The Writings say, regarding correspondences, that the natural answers to the spiritual; therefore, the face and all the facial expressions correspond to the mental attitudes behind the facial expressions. A consummate hypocrite, by studying simulations through the years, can of course make his face appear deceptively different from his mind, but the ordinary person, a person who is guileless and not a hypocrite cannot do that, and his face instantly takes on the emotions of the mind. A child has very little difficulty in telling from the face of the parent whether the parent is angry or whether the parent is filled with love.
When man was in a more primitive state the face registered the emotions more clearly. Living in society, we more or less train our faces so that they do not show all of our emotions. If we go out and are entertained, although we might have been bored stiff, we try to put on at least a sickly smile when we say good-night to our hostess. We do not have to effuse too much about what a good time we had, but we are not called on to tell the hostess that we had a perfectly ghastly time. We have to make our faces behave to a certain extent. Nevertheless, it is interesting to watch people's faces when they are unaware of it. The face, the Writings declare, is the index of the mind. We have lots of expressions that have come into the English language which are pure correspondences. We say that a man has a heart of stone, meaning that no amount of pity could move him. But stone is purely a correspondential word he didn't really have a heart of stone. I have heard pupils say of a certain teacher, "Boy, didn't Mr. X get hot under the collar today." He really didn't get hot under the collar, but that was a very correspondential way of expressing it. The same is true of the words "fainthearted", "lion-hearted", "innocence of a lamb." We just naturally talk in correspondences.
The will and the understanding in the mind correspond to the heart and lungs in the body. The emotion of love is really a thing of man's will, but where do we feel it? Because the heart corresponds to the will and love of man, we feel the emotion of love in our heart. The will flows right into the heart, because the two correspond. On the other hand, the understanding, which is the thinking part of the brain, corresponds to the lungs and, therefore, as soon as the doctor pumps some gas into our lungs and our lungs become filled with this gas, our consciousness ceases. We no longer have any consciousness because the lungs in the body are the necessary basis of consciousness. In near drowning accidents, many people who have been resuscitated have described how the light went out when the lungs were filled with water. The light goes out, and if the water had not been pumped Out, the light would have stayed out. Furthermore, we know that a baby is not conscious until it breathes, and as soon as it breathes. it usually starts to cry as a sign that it is conscious. Before that it has motion, for the heart beats before birth; but it has nor consciousness.
The heart always corresponds to the will. It is when man's will dies, that he is tempted to commit suicide. Just as a man, when his heart stops beating, is dead as to his body, so he is dead spiritually when he has no loves. If he does not love anything, he becomes purposeless and is a spiritual nonentity. We have other correspondential expressions taken from the animal kingdom. For example, we say, "This man is foxy. He is a foxy man." The Lord called Herod an old fox, referring to those qualities of a fox which reflect and correspond to human traits that were in Herod. And we say, "This person is as gentle as a lamb." We speak of a vicious man as a viper.
There is a correspondence between birds and man's thoughts, and so we say "as keen-visioned as an eagle," meaning that as an eagle can see from great heights, a man with eagle vision is farsighted in business, in finance or in government. There is a law of correspondences. In the simplest terms it may be stated thus: That the spiritual will do for the mind what the natural thing to which it corresponds will do for the body.
That is the law, the spiritual quality which is represented by the thing we are talking about will do for the mind what the natural thing will do for the body. To illustrate: Water quenches the thirst. Water, the Writings say, corresponds to truth. On the plane of this world we have water. On the plane of the mind in which we think, we have truth to which water corresponds. Water quenches the thirst. Truth, then, to which water corresponds, will quench the thirst of the mind, that is, when we are told the truth our curiosity is satisfied. The truth of this can be seen with our children. They come to us filled with curiosity, and want to know the answers to the questions they ask. You satisfy their curiosity when you tell them the truth. That is what the Lord meant when He said, "For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." (Mark 9:41)
Water has another great use, the use of cleansing. Water has the power to cleanse and so does truth. The Lord said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," (John 8:32) free from your evils. It will cleanse the spirit, and the man who lets truth course through his mind by reading the Word, cleanses and purifies his thoughts. When teaching that water corresponds to truth, frequently one of my pupils will say, "Ah, yes, Mr. Alden, but why does water drown people?" The answer is that truth may do the same as every minister knows, if he preaches too long, the people will go to sleep and they are just as good as drowned when they go to sleep. If the algebra teacher assigns too many problems, he will choke out the enthusiasm he will kill the love for his subject. There is nothing that water will do for the body that truth will not do for the mind, because the two correspond. Fire corresponds to love, Swedenborg says. Fire has two great uses that we all enjoy one is to warm our houses and make them comfortable and enjoyable. Some of you may remember back in war times when we were not allowed sufficient fuel to heat our houses. How chilly and desolate they would feel compared with a nice cozy house that is well heated. What the warmth of fire has done for the house the warmth of love does for the mind. You have doubtless met people who seem to have very little love for others. In my travels I once met a man on the train who appeared to love only himself. He was handsomely dressed and he looked like a powerful executive, but he had no friendliness in his disposition at all; and I was placed in the embarrassing situation of sitting opposite him in the diner, and having him look straight through me, not even recognizing me to the point of asking me to pass the salt or anything. There was no warmth in that man's nature and I was only glad that I did not have to live with that disposition all my life, for his mental house was very chilly. On the other hand, a few meals later, I met someone who was just the opposite. He exuded friendliness and kindness, consideration and the desire to make his table companion happy. It was a real source of pleasure to be in his presence.
It is in our own hearts that we feel the warmth of love or the cold of its absence. After all, when we bear grudges against people, we feel cold toward them. Our own mind becomes chilly and an uncomfortable place in which to live. From these illustrations we can see that the warmth of love does for our minds what the warmth of fire does for our bodies. The other use that fire performs for all of us is that it cooks our food and makes it palatable, and easy to digest. My wife and I once were invited to a meal. The hostess had a fadthat all vegetables should be eaten raw! The meal consisted of raw potatoes ground fine and white, raw peas a beautiful green, and raw carrots the color of gold. Everything looked attractive, but alas, it would not digest. Cooking makes food digestible, easy to assimilate.
Fire corresponds to love, and every teacher knows that if he can get his class to love his subject, it is no trouble at all to teach it to him. He assimilates it with ease, and it sticks with him. I took a ride down to Washington with some boys and they knew every car we passed from 1932 Buicks to 1947 Cadillacs. They knew not only the name of the car but the year it was made. They loved that, and they had no trouble at all in learning it because love made it easy to learn. Another boy I was with knew the number of the license tag of every car in Bryn Athyn and the person to whom it belonged. He could do this because he loved to. Just as soon as anyone loves something, that love makes that thing easy to learn and easy to digest, because love will do for the mind exactly what fire will do for the body.
A ship corresponds to doctrine. Perhaps that does not enlighten us too much, but doctrine is that by which a man lives. Whether he is an atheist, a New Church man, or a subscriber to some other religion, he has some set of principles which guide his actions. These principles are his ship of doctrine; that is what he sails on through life. The day after the Lord had fed the five thousand, He went up into a mountain to pray and the disciples took shipping without Him. The Sea of Galilee represents the truths that we have in our minds great volumes of them, all kinds of truths, natural and spiritual. The disciples had a doctrine of life represented by their little ship. But the Lord was not in that ship. They had gone twenty or thirty furlongs when a great storm arose. And soon the waves threatened to swamp their little ship which sailed without their Lord.
It is just as in our minds. We take in truths, we read the newspapers, we read magazines, we read the Word, we read the Writings. There are all sorts of truths in our memorylike water in the Sea of Galilee. If we get to thinking without having some firm conviction in God, we encounter all kinds of doubts. Look at all the poor people! How can they have a fair chance when many others are born rich? This person is born a cripple, and here is a spastic. We think of all sorts of strange and sad things and the first thing we know, our mind comes into such a turmoil that it threatens to engulf our ship of doctrine. We are driven toward the shipwreck of despair and denial.
That is what was represented by the disciples being tossed about in this storm. Then the Lord came walking up to themwalking on the water. It is plain what that means. There is no truth, whether it is a truth of science or a truth of religion that does not support the LordHe walks on the water and it supports Him. If we think that science contradicts religion, it is because we don't understand science or we don't understand religion, because nature and revelation are the two foundations of truth. And all of God's truth supports Him; so He came walking right over the water to the disciples and they took Him into their ship. It is just like the man who had been puzzled about God. There comes a time when he does see and understand the necessity for believing in God. Then it is that he takes God into his ship of doctrine; that is, into his thought, as the disciples took the Lord into their ship. And lo and behold, the ship was immediately at the shore where they were going. If we take the Lord into our thinking, then we will understand the purposes of life, will know where we are going and why.
It is revealed in the Writings that creation proceeds from God by what is called discrete degrees. Swedenborg illustrates the difference between discrete degrees and continuous degrees by the difference between the ether which you cannot hear, touch, smell, taste or feel, and the air by which you can hear when it impinges on your ears. There is a discrete degree between the ether and the air.
A continuous degree, on the other hand, is one that just merges right into the next degree. For instance, my voice just fades away; if you are far enough away you cannot hear it, and it gets louder as you come nearer the source of its activity. Similarly with the light of a candle it fades away by continuous degrees. The thermometer indicates continuous degrees of hear.
Creation was made by discrete degrees. The Divine love is the infinite substance itself of God, and that substance exists in Divine wisdom which is the form of God's substance. The first thing that was created by God was the sun of the spiritual world which is the correspondent of the Lord's love and, therefore, sends forth love to all humanity, both angels and men. And this Divine sun radiates light which is wisdom.
Between the spiritual world, which is ruled by this spiritual sun with its heat of love and its light of wisdom, and the natural sun is a discrete degree. Between the spiritual world and the natural world, there is an absolute answering of part to part through what Swedenborg calls correspondences. Correspondences join planes or realms which are a discrete degree apart. They join the natural world of time and space with the spiritual world of eternity.
God created man in His own image and in His own likeness, but between God and man there are many discrete degrees. Man is created out of substances originally derived from God. We do not believe, as is taught in some of the churches, that God created the universe out of nothing. There was nothing but God in the beginning and everything was created out of substance which He put off from Himself. We can think of that in a finite way as every child who is created in this world is created through substances put off from the mother and given to the child by the mother, although there is always a discrete degree between the mother and the child. For example, the heart-beat of the mother never enters into the child, but the child's heart-beat, from the very beginning, is its own, and until its own heart commences to beat, there is no pulsation in the child. There is a complete separation. of the child from the mother, and this is in order that each generation may be free.
Man is in the image and likeness of God. He is the image of God because he has an understanding, and the understanding can receive the Divine truths from God and enable man to think rationally. Man thinks rationally, but he thinks finitely, that is, his thoughts are limited, whereas God's thoughts are omniscient. He knows everything, but, because man is God's image, man knows something, and man has the ability to think and the ability to be self-conscious and he can know he is alive and have the feeling of his own self-direction. That is because he is the image of God.
But God did not leave man with just one faculty. He created him also in the likeness of God. The likeness of God is represented by man's will. God commanded and it stood fast. He said, Let there be light and there was light." God's will is complete and perfect, and all He has to do is to say, "Let there be," and it takes place; but man, because he is the likeness of God, also can exercise his will and in a finite way, in a limited way, because he occupies only a little space he is only one of millions of creatures but nevertheless he has also the likeness, he can say, "I will do this." or "I will not do this." He has the power of self- direction and all the responsibility that goes with it. In contrasting the Creator with man whom He has created, we see that there is a correspondence between man's finite understanding and God's wisdom, and man's finite and limited will and God's omnipotent will. Man's will and understanding are spiritual and they live to eternity. They are not part of the body that is laid aside in the grave when we die. They are the immortal part of man. They contain man's love and affection, his thoughts and ambitions, and everything that he knows; and all of that he carries into the spiritual world with him. But, in order that this marvellous machine of his understanding and his will, which are formed of actual substances highly organized in order that they may flow into our body which was given us for life in this world, it was necessary that the body correspond on its plane to the discrete degree above it which is the mind. To illustrate: the lungs in the body correspond to the understanding in the mind. This can be seen from the fact that the babe in the womb is unconscious until after the lungs begin to function. The Word says, "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) It is the breath of life, the filling of the lungs that gives the child consciousness, and this because they correspond to the understanding.
Similarly, the will-power which contains our loves corresponds to the heart, and that is the reason why, when we say we are in love, we feel the sensation in our heart. All of man's blood is poured through his lungs, and returning to the heart is pumped throughout the whole body. This corresponds to the way that every one of man's volitions has to pass through his understanding, there to be modified by the truths which he knows, or polluted by the falsities which he embraces. It is because of this interaction between the will and the understanding that we believe that daily family worship, daily reading of the Word, is like breathing pure clean air for it fills the understanding with truths. So complete is the correspondence between the will and the understanding and the heart and the lungs that Swedenborg says that all that will ever be known of psychology and the interaction between understanding and will can be traced out in the physical relationship between the heart and the lungs. I shall give one example of this. The lungs are not fed by the blood that they purify. They are fed from without by the bronchial artery. No more is man's understanding fed by the impulses of the will which it purifies. It is fed by that inner will which rises above the natural will and forms the basis for regeneration. To understand the manner in which the spiritual sense of the Word was given, we have to comprehend the correspondence between the various planes of life. A correspondence between the mineral and the vegetable, between the vegetable and the animal, between animals and men, and lastly between man and God.
The doctrine which explains the spiritual sense of the Word is that since there is this correspondence between the various planes of life, in the inmost sense the Word might be talking about the wisdom and love of God, in a lower sense about the sun of the spiritual world, and in a still more external sense about man's regeneration, and all this could be described by the actions of men in this world. Since the universe has been created by means of discrete degrees, then it is quite conceivable that a Word could be written by the Divine mind through human instruments which would talk about earthly things, but which would conceal in its bosom sense after sense that could be opened so that the Lord Himself would finally be seen, standing, as it were, at the head of Jacob's ladder. That is exactly what the Writings claim for it. They claim that the Word has been written in natural language by the pen of men, but it was inspired by the wisdom of God. They point out that since it is God's Word, it must treat of deeper things than the Israelites, or Moses, or any other earthly history. It must treat inmostly of the most sublime truths that can possibly exist otherwise it could not be called the Word of God. Since this is the case, the Writings are able to disclose a law by means of which the Word can be interpreted. This is the Law of Correspondence, and it is stated in the simplest terms, thus: The spiritual thing will do for the mind what the natural thing to which it corresponds will do for the body.
Let me further illustrate the law of correspondences by a consideration of the spiritual meaning of garments. We are not left to guess about the meaning of garments there is a whole chapter in Heaven and Hell on the subject of garments, the garments with which angels are clothed. Garments correspond to intelligence, so that everything that a garment does for one's body, intelligence does for one's mind.
The chapter on garments in Heaven and Hell first describes the beautiful white garments of those who have gone into the spiritual world and have passed successively through the first two states in the world of spirits. When their interiors are seen to be heavenly then they are instructed in the way to heaven and they are given white and shining garments. These garments correspond to the truths they understand. In these new garments, they are then led into heaven; and introduced into the society there where they belong.
Each angel, the Writings say, has many garments, nor do they disappear and appear erratically; but the angels have garments that they take off and garments that they lay aside and garments that they take care of when they are off. With this there is a wonderful correspondence to the state of wisdom in which they are; and so Swedenborg says that their garments, although they are the appearances to other angels of their intelligence, nevertheless are real because when their intelligence is seen objectively in the spiritual world, it appears like a garment.
That the angels are clothed in garments, Swedenborg says, is evident from every angel who was ever seen by anybody in this world. For example, when Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of the Lord and the other Mary came out to the sepulchre, they saw two angels, it says, clothed in shining garments beside the head and the feet where the body of Jesus had lain; and John, when he saw angels in the spiritual world, said that he saw them in fine linen, clean and white. He said they had washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. The blood of the Lamb represents Divine truth, and their robes represented their intelligence which had been cleansed by the Divine truth. If we take that passage literally, we behold an impossibility. We could not wash a robe white in blood. To see its real meaning, we must look at it spiritually. There is a great variety in the garments which angels wear because there is a great variety in their personalities. Some people in the spiritual world have simple garments and some have very rich and beautiful garments, and that is all due to the difference in people's understanding which they have in the spiritual world. There are the rich and the poor in heaven, the wise and the simple all the varieties which we have in this world.
To further illustrate the doctrine of correspondences as seen in garments, let us consider the garments that are mentioned as clothing the Lord because they correspond to Divine truth. The descriptions of His garments in the letter of the Word tell us how men saw Divine truths.
On the night that the Lord was born, the first sign given to men that the Lord had been born, was the message of the angels to the shepherds; "And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12) Swaddling clothes are just one piece of linen, a plain cloth in which the Babe was wrapped. Swaddling clothes are the simplest possible garment that you can imagine. And they represent the way the Lord first comes to us. He is wrapped in the simplest of truths the truths that we teach a little child.
On another occasion the Lord wanted to show His disciples that He was God Himself, not just a man, not just a son of Mary, but that He was a Divine Man. He took them up into a mountain apart Peter, James, and John, who represented Faith, Love, and Charityand before these three disciples He was transfigured. "And His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light, (Matt. 17:2) Those garments that shone were the truths of the Word, illuminated by the Divine internal sense, shining through them and irradiating and making them brilliant before the eyes of the disciples.
On returning from Nazareth, the Lord had been asked by Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, to come and heal his little daughter. She was twelve years old and was dying of a fever. The Master set out for the home of Jairus, followed by a great crowd of curiosity seekers who wanted to see what would happen.
"And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched His garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him, turned Him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And His disciples said unto Him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest Thou, who touched Me? And He looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done in her, came and fell down before Him, and told Him all the truth. And He said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." (Mark 5:25-34) This woman had had an issue of blood for twelve years, and she said, "If I may but touch His clothes." When she did so, the Lord said, "Who touched Me?" He knew that virtue had gone forth from Him. Today many men read the Word and they are not touched by it in the least. They are like the crowd that jostled the Lord on His way to Jairus' house. But when this woman reached forward and touched His garment on purpose, virtue went forth, instantly healing her. We are like her if we can take up the Word, read it, and get a spiritual message out of it, realizing that it is the Divine Word of God. When we can do this, we can touch the Lord's garment, and be healed of our spiritual diseases.
On the morrow, the soldiers "crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots." (Matt. 27:35) We know how that outer garment was made, like Joseph's coat of many colors. It consisted of many pieces of cloth sewed together to make one outer garment. It was a fit representative of the letter of the Word which is made up of many different books written over a long period of time, from 1500 years before Christ, when Moses wrote, down to the Book of Revelation, written between sixty and ninety years after the Lord's Advent.
But there was also the inner garment woven from top to bottom. This could not be divided, therefore the soldiers cast lots for it. This continuous inner garment, woven without seam from top to bottom, represented the spiritual sense of the Word present in the letter through the laws of correspondence. Here is a garment of truth which inmostly tells the story of the Lord's glorification, and by analogy the story of man's regeneration.
The science of correspondences is the Divine method by which the Word was written, and since the Bible or Word is Divine, we must learn to know wherein that Divinity lies. Swedenborg's Writings show that because it is the Word of God, whatever may seem trivial in the letter must of necessity contain some deeper meaning. It must be possible to open up the letter of the Word and see in it ever deeper and more far- reaching meanings until at length we stand in the very presence of the Lord Himself.
Man is a spiritual being. I shall confine myself here to showing from the Bible, from common sense, and from the Writings, why the only logical belief that we can have is that man survives death and God's purpose in creation is the formation of a heaven from the human race. The Lord said to the Sadducees, "But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:31, 32; Mark 12:26, 27; Luke 20:37, 38) The Sadducees were a sect which did not believe in the resurrection. They believed that when the body died, the whole man died, and that was the end of the cycle of life. The Lord told them that God was not a God of the dead but of the living, and since God told Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they must be living at the time centuries later when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush.
In the Gospel of Luke there is a familiar parable. "There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with crumbs that fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. (Luke 16:19-28) Since the five brothers of the rich man were still alive, this shows that the rich man, when he died, immediately continued life in hell, and that Lazarus died and was taken immediately into Abraham's bosom. There was no waiting around for any last Day of Judgment, no waiting to enter into the spiritual world, but immediately Abraham embraced Lazarus in heaven and the rich man lifted up his voice from hell.
Note also what is written in Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians. But first let us recall the teaching of the Christian Church, that man will re- enter his natural body at the last day that by a miracle the flesh and bones which had been disintegrated will be called together and reform themselves. How could this take place? The answer comes that with man this would be impossible, but that with God all things are possible. Yet the truth is that man's natural body is not the man, but man's spiritual body is the man; and man's spiritual body continues in the spiritual world, and man's natural body is laid aside and is never taken again, and that is borne out by this passage from Paul.
Paul says. "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (that is, man's natural body); "neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." (That is, the body which is corrupted in the grave never inherits the incorruptibility of eternal life.) "Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law." (I Corinthians 15: 50-56) And in the same chapter (verse 44), we read, "It is sown a natural body, but is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
It is the plain teaching of Paul that man has a natural body for life in this world, and a spiritual body for life hereafter. Divine Providence always seems to bring us illustrations when we are meditating deeply upon some subject.
I remember once I was preaching on the subject of life after death. It was Easter time, and as I walked to my Church in Toronto the little crocuses were just poking their heads through the ground. A blind man came out of a house just ahead of me.
A little boy was leading him by the hand. As they walked the boy was telling him about the crocuses, and how the grass was turning green, and how everything seemed to be reborn and coming into new life again. I could see the delight on the face of the blind man at the description of this world which he could not see, but which he thoroughly believed in, because of the words of his companion. And I thought, this is a parable to illustrate what I am going to try to do in my sermon. I am going to tell the congregation about the beauties of the spiritual world which they have never seen with their eyes, but which have been seen by the eyes of Swedenborg. Swedenborg has to bring to them the glories of the unseen world just as the little boy brought the glories of this world to the blind man.
The whole Christian world is supposed to believe in the immortality of the soul. But they have such a vague doctrine, without any particulars, and such an incomprehensible belief, that in this skeptical age in which we live today, many doubt the existence of a spiritual world and many are becoming agnostic that is, they say there may be a life after death but if there is, no one can know about it. The New Church, in the Writings of Swedenborg, has positive instruction concerning the life after death, instruction which has led to the formation of a new and living faith in the life hereafter.
The idea which we hold of the spiritual world, and of man as a spiritual being, is intensely important. It will affect the entire pattern of our living because we are going to shape our lives in accordance with the ends which we believe to be the most important. The Lord said in words that cannot be mistaken: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matthew 6:19-21) That is the point, where our treasure is. If our interest is in worldly things, if we seek social position or strive to accumulate wealth, or center our love in the success of our children, these will be the things wherein our real love resides. They will shape our lives. But the Master exhorts us to make spiritual things, the treasure of heaven, the real goal of our search.
Is it not startling to contemplate the fact that one hundred years from now scarcely a soul will be left in this world who is here today! A hundred short years, and some of us have lived many of the hundred already. Is it not strange that in spite of that fact many are content to let the spiritual world seem vague and illusionary? So many people with whom you desire to talk about the spiritual world do not seem to be interested. It is a very peculiar thing. If they were going to take a trip to Europe, or some place where they had never been before, they would be thrilled and they would be getting timetables and maps, and they would study the history and the customs of the people and of the places where they were going, but we are all going into the spiritual world inevitably and inescapably. Therefore it is very important that we make the study of it one of the great and moving forces of our lives. Now review with me the wealth of material concerning the spiritual world which can be found in the Writings of the New Church. We believe Swedenborg's claims, but no one can believe them until he sees the truth in them. If I show you a yellow lampshade and tell you that it is yellow you will believe me because you see it is. If I could show you a truth just as clearly, then you would believe that also. For example: If I say two plus two make four, that is a truth. You see that clearly, and I do not have to convince you. Those of us who believe Swedenborg see these truths to be true just as clearly as we see that the needles on a pine tree are green. The only proof of the truth of Swedenborg's Writings is that they bring to the mind the light of truth in which truth alone can be seen; just as we see the sun solely by the light of the sun. New Church ministers who preach about the spiritual world do not ask anyone to believe it until they see it to be true. But we do want you to know on what we base our convictions about the spiritual world. In the first place, Swedenborg claims that he was fully conscious in the spiritual world for twenty-seven years! This consciousness was not like a seance produced by spiritists who, after various incantations, may get a medium to utter a few disjointed sentences. Swedenborg's contact with the spiritual world was not like that at all. He was there continuously, and conscious in both worlds at the same time for a period of twenty- seven years.
During these twenty-seven years these are the things that he wrote about the spiritual world. He kept a diary which we know as "The Spiritual Diary." Swedenborg did not name it and did not expect it to be published. It was written for his own use. But now it has been translated into English and published. It forms a perfectly wonderful undesigned story about the spiritual world. It was not written with any thought of its ever appearing before the world. It was written by Swedenborg in that simple guileless style that was characteristic of him. He just wrote down what he saw in the spiritual world and the conversations that he had had with the men and women with whom he had talked. There are five volumes of the Spiritual Diary. Then in three of his works, Apocalypse Revealed, Conjugial Love, and The True Christian Religion, he appends after each chapter what he calls Memorable Relations. The Memorable Relations are accounts of things that happened to him in the spiritual world. Once a man named Cuno in Holland who had a high regard for Swedenborg said, "Why do you put in these accounts about what you heard and saw in the spiritual world? Don't you know that people will think you are crazy?" "Well," Swedenborg said in his simple direct way, "I put them in by command of the Lord." He explained that it was necessary to understand both the appearances and the inner relationships in the spiritual world, in order to understand the doctrine of the New Church, for the two go hand in hand. It it quite impossible to believe the theology of the New Church about one God in one person who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and about shunning evils as sins against God, or Conjugial Love, or the spiritual sense of the Word, unless we believe that the spiritual world is a real world.
The New Church minister has seventy-two of these Memorable Relations to draw from. The one that opens Conjugial Love is twenty- five pages long and contains many descriptions of actual things in the spiritual world. In addition there is the work on Heaven and Hell, which is a volume devoted entirely to a description of the spiritual world and life there. And in Swedenborg's other Writings, continual mention is made of the spiritual world as a real world, a living world, a factual world. Swedenborg talks of the spiritual world just as freely and simply as you and I talk of the natural world. The New Church minister has all of that wealth of truth from which to draw his picture of the spiritual world. It is no concept that he invents but it is a description of the spiritual world as it has been revealed to mankind through the mind and experience of Emanuel Swedenborg.
It is interesting to note that when the Lord was on the cross He said to the thief that believed in Him: "Today shalt thou he with Me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) It is interesting for this reason the thief's body was buried in this world, so that the "thou" denoted the personality of the thief who repented on the cross and whom the Lord said would be in the spiritual world. The Lord did not say, "Half of you will be with Me in the spiritual world today." He said: "This day thou, the ego, the man himself, shall be with Me in paradise." And so with all the clearness that words could possibly denote, the Lord gave that thief to believe that he, the man himself the spirit who felt and thought and loved would be with Him in paradise. "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise."
The relation of the natural world to the spiritual world is really not hard to understand. In winter we wear overcoats. We dislike their weight and clumsiness, and we long for spring, so that we can lay them aside and expand our muscles more freely. But the real man is still inhibited by his physical body in addition to his clothes. If I want to see the Canadian Northwest my body has to be carried there by an airplane or a train. But my mind can get there instantly. Even in this world man is continually striving to overcome the handicaps of time and space. That is why he has invented the telephone and television so that the laws of the mind which govern the spiritual world may function here. The question is, why do I want to talk by telephone to someone thousands of miles away? Why do I want to see and touch things thousands of miles away? Because that is the law of the spirit. And when I go to the spiritual world, after I put off this natural body, I will be able to see and talk and feel and be with people, with all my senses, at any distance whatsoever, so long as we wish to be together. There, the law of attraction is the only thing that can bring us together. If there is no mutual attraction, two spirits or angels cannot be together; but if there is attraction and love they can be; for thought brings presence, the Writings say, and love brings conjunction.
After seven years, scientists tell us, there is scarcely a particle in our body that we had seven years before. The change is gradual but still we remain the same person. Which shows that the physical body has nothing to do with the personality, the real person. If you live to be seventy years old you have perhaps had ten natural bodies! Is it difficult to believe that, if we die at seventy we can leave ten different bodies in this world and still be the same man? That which has organized the ten bodies that we have had successively was the spiritual body. It is that spiritual body which is the real man that goes immediately into the spiritual world at death, and carries into that world all our loves and all our thoughts and every single experience, conscious or unconscious, that we ever had.
Swedenborg discovered and made known quite a number of things years before scientists discovered them. For instance, before his spiritual eyes were opened, he discovered that the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and various areas of the brain control various parts of the body. He discovered this long before it was acknowledged by the world. And now modern psychologists are talking about the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind, in Swedenborg's Writings, includes what is called the interior memory. The exterior memory is what you can recall consciously. Now psychologists are discovering that under certain stimuli, and by certain forms of hypnotism, or by various drugs, they can get a man to reproduce things from the subconscious memory which he cannot reproduce from his conscious memory.
Every single sensation that comes to us forms a part of the spiritual man and goes into the spiritual world. It may be said that every man is his own bookkeeper; every man records all things in his own book of life. Our book of life is our interior memory upon which is written every least detail of our lives. All of these details are written upon man's interior memory, so that when he puts off the material body he loses absolutely nothing of his personality, of his mental capacity, of the broadness or depth of his loves. Nothing does he lose and nothing does he leave in this world of any essential value. The only thing he leaves is a material organism which was for the purpose of contact in this world. And when he lays it aside, within three days the man himself becomes completely conscious in the spiritual world as to every one of his faculties. "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise."
Some people have thought that God's original plan was to put men in this world and have them live here forever; but that sin caused them to die. They sinned when they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The Lord had said, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:17) Very definite words, and yet the day that Adam and Eve ate thereof at the behest of the serpent, they did not surely die. No indeed far from it. They were merely driven out of the Garden of Eden, and afterward Eve suffered the pain of childbirth, and Adam had to till the soil and earn his living in the sweat of his brow. But they did not surely die that is, physically. They died a death that could surely be represented as the death of sin. "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." This cannot be taken in a literal sense, for the simple reason that they did not surely die.
The Lord on the night before He was crucified had a wonderful conversation with His disciples. They were worried. They knew He was going to be taken from them. But He said: "Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God. Believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3) He said this just before He was crucified, and shortly before the Easter morning when they saw Him as the risen Lord. What a magnificent promise that isthat He goes to prepare a place for each one of us and that in His house there are individual mansions for each one of us.
After a spirit is free from the body it is free to travel wherever it wants to. It is also free to express its true emotions in a way that it could never do while in the body. If our bodies are overweight, we must use determined fortitude to diet in order to make our natural bodies conform to some standard which we think may be good for them. However, there are other things about the natural body that we cannot change. As the Lord said, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?" and "Thou canst not make one hair white or black." (Matthew 6:27; 5:36) But that is not true of the spiritual body. It can be made beautiful by the beauty of our character, or if we live a wicked and selfish life our spiritual body will actually become ugly and distorted.
The way that the spirit grows in strength is to do the things that we know are right. On one occasion the Lord showed how this was done. It was the time that he had been left by His disciples at Jacob's well conversing with the Samaritan woman. When His disciples returned they "prayed Him saying, Master, eat. But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, bath any man brought Him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work." (John 4:31-34) Every time that we do the will of God we build up our character that is, we feed and strengthen our spiritual man that lives to eternity. Obedience to the commandments, and courage to do what is right build spiritual stamina and increase the beauty of man's spirit. One other thought. Throughout the Bible, wherever angels are said to have been seen, those angels have been seen as men. You know how Michelangelo pictured angels with great white wings. But we do not believe that any of us will have wings in the spiritual world. We will just be people there, as here. This is confirmed from the Word.
The first mention of angels in the Bible is where they appeared to Abraham three of them and they were men. He got a feast ready, and he gave them food, and they ate, and talked with him. (Genesis 18) Later, two of them went down to Sodom and talked to Lot and took Lot by the arm and brought him forth out of Sodom. (Genesis 19) Of course, you will recall the angel mentioned in the Book of Revelation who took John all over the Holy City and when John fell down to worship him, He said, "See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow-servant and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God." John saw thousands and thousands of angels wearing white robes. The picture that he draws is one of many people of human beings and no matter where you read in the Word, wherever angels are spoken of, they are described as people. But the most important thing to stress is that the real man is spiritual. And when I say a "spirit," I don't mean a ghost. That is why in the New Church we do not say "the Holy Ghost." We say "the Holy Spirit" because the word ghost," through a few hundred years of usage in the English language, has come to mean an apparition something that haunts a house, something that comes and goes and is not substantial; but a "spirit" is the will and the understanding, the love and the affections everything that makes you to be you. That is the spirit of man, and that is independent of his body.
For example, if I should have a wretched accident and have to have my arm amputated, you would all feel sorry for me, but you wouldn't think that I was a different person not at all. You would just feel that I had a physical handicap to overcome. You could remove both arms and both legs; in thought you can see that I could lose an eye, and an ear; I could become blind; like Helen Keller I could be blind and deaf, and still the real person would be there. Although Helen Keller is deaf and blind, she has learned to appreciate color through the eyes of other people, and sym. phonies through the ears of other people, and people love her. Now they don't love the deaf ears or the blind eyes. They love the magnificent spirit within her which has triumphed over all of those handicaps. And she says in her book, "My Religion," "It is easy for me to see the spiritual world through Swedenborg's eyes and to hear its songs through his ears and to hear the voices of the angels through his ears," because, she says: "I have had to depend for all of my knowledge of this world on the eyes and ears of other people."
As we grow older the thing that impresses us more and more is that we just feel like ourselves. We all recognize that the body acquires limitations with age, but as to personality we do not feel the slightest bit different, and as we become older it becomes more and more evident to us that the real person is not the body which is subject to rheumatism, arthritis, stomach aches, head aches and the like. The real person is our affections, the depths of our loves, our constancy, our courage, our willingness to accept duty, our ability to pull our weight in the affairs of men, and all the things which are qualities of character and are essentially spiritual.
As we advance in years, we come more and more to identify those immaterial and spiritual qualities with ourselves. It is the thought of the man and his will, that make the real man. When we go into the spiritual world, the Writings say, the only thing that we leave on this side is the natural body, which is subject to decay, disease, and death; but that in us which cannot be touched by death or explosions or atom bombs or any accident of any kind, goes on living, and it lives in the spiritual world.
What I want to make clear in this chapter is how the New Church idea of the spiritual world must appeal to us as a place where we would like to go, and live in forever. It is not like this world which is subject to time and space and all sorts of accidents.
Let us commence our thinking with the idea that God is Love, pure and total love. This idea of God was first voiced in the New Testament, and the theme is dwelt upon at length in the Writings of Swedenborg, who says that God is Love Itself and Wisdom Itself, that is, God is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom.
If we were to understand the Old Testament literally, we might think that God is a God of wrath and vengeance, a God who mocked His enemies. For we read in the Psalms, "The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them." (Psalm 21:9) From that we might be led to believe that God is a God who would blot out His enemies, and Who would be revenged on those who did Him ill. But the Old Testament was given during the childhood of the race, and was therefore adapted to the childhood understanding of the race. As the race grew up and came into the state of youth at the time of the coming of the Lord, He reinterpreted all of those old commandments. He did not annul them, but He filled them full of a new meaning. As He teaches in Matthew, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." (5 : 17) This fulfilment He revealed by such words as: "Ye have heard that it bath been said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you that ye resist not evil; but whosoever will smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matt. 5:38, 39) And He also said, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44) Besides killing He condemned hatred, and besides adultery He condemned lust.
As we come down through the ages there is ever a greater ability to understand truth, so that the New Church revelation is a body of truth given to man in his rational state, and the motto of the New Church is the one that Swedenborg saw over the temple of wisdom in the spiritual world, "Now it is allowed to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith." (TCR 508) We are not compelled by our religion to have a blind faith in doctrine. We are not compelled, for instance, to have a blind faith in the life after death. But through our revelation we are able to see a rational and beautiful vista stretching out before each one of us, an expectation of future life which makes every day in this world more important and more significant because it leads to that which is imperishable. What inspires us to live a noble life in this world is the conviction that it will continue in the world to come. The knowledge that every sacrifice which we make, every generous and altruistic action that we put forth is worthwhile. These actions are not brushed aside at death; their value lasts to eternity. That is why, in order to make this clear, we must commence our thinking with the idea that God is love itself clothed with wisdom itself.
Let me sketch for you in briefest outline the creation of the two worlds, the spiritual and the natural, because we cannot understand the creation of this world unless we understand that it is but the outer garment which clothes the real spiritual world which is everlasting, and which is the final purpose of God. The Writings of the New Church teach us that God did not create the world out of nothing, which is what is stated to be the case in the creeds of the Orthodox Christianity. The Writings say "from nothing, nothing is made." (TCR 76) Since God was the only substance in the beginning, the only source of the substance from which to create the world was Himself. So God gave the substance for the universe from His own Infinite Being.
Since we are created in the image of God we can see an image of the mode of His creation in the way that man creates anything new. Suppose that I was the author of a songbook. How did I create it? Well, first of all I would create it in my brain, in a realm that you would not be able to see at all. I would first think the new songs out in my mind, and then I would write them and give them to the printer. He would use paper and ink and produce a book that you all could see, giving, as it were, a body to my thoughts, but the real book existed first in my mind where the music and the words were created. That is to say, it was really created in the spiritual world where man's mind lives, the world of his thoughts and his affections.
God said, "Let there be . . ." (Genesis 1:3) The creative word in His own Divine Mind, His Divine Love started the creation. It flowed into the Divine Wisdom and was molded thereby into all the forms of the universe. First He created the inner world of mind and spirit, the eternal world. It is the real world. It is the life that will receive each one of us. It is the life which we will enter when we pass out of this world. That is what He created first, and in the very beginning of the world He created that sun which we call the sun of the spiritual world. This sun does for our minds what the sun of the natural world does for our bodies, that is, it gives light and heat, only the light that it sheds is the light of truth, and the heat that goes forth from it is the heat of love. Truth is light. The spiritual sun is the sun that lightens the mind of every single man in this world as well as in the life to come, and the light that proceeds from that sun is the light of truth, and the heat that proceeds from that sun is the warmth of love.
Man's love is a warm thing. We say that this person is warmhearted. You can go into his house and you will be received with open arms. By being warm-hearted we mean that they love you, they have an affection for you. They are not cold and distant and full of envy, hate, and jealousy, but they really love you because love is the warmth of the spiritual sun. And so this sun of the spiritual world which the Lord created, and which rules in the whole of the spiritual world, is a sun, the very essence of which is love, and the very outgoing of which is the light of wisdom.
The spiritual world has atmospheres and earth just as the natural world has, and the spiritual world, the Writings say, is in the natural world as the kernel of a nut is within its shell. In other words, there is no natural heat that does not have spiritual heat within it as its soul, and there is no natural light that does not have the light of truth within it, as its very soul. Every emotion that we have exists in the spiritual world and is received by us from the Sun of that world, in the midst of which is Jehovah God Himself, sending forth His Wisdom as light, and His Love as heat. The internal of our life here is spiritual so that when we die we do not go anywhere. We simply become aware of the spiritual forces which had been ours all the while, and we cease to be conscious of the material world of nature. In the spiritual world we find the cause of everything. Animals, for example, have souls, but not individual souls like men have. The souls of animals are human affections, good affections producing good animals, and the evil affections evil animals. The real thing that created them in the beginning was a human affection. So it is with the birds that wing their way through the firmament. The soul of them is found in men's thoughts. They correspond to thoughts, which can be lifted up above the ordinary things of this life. Man has two kinds of thoughts, good thoughts which fill his mind with love toward God and the neighbor, and evil thoughts which spring from selfishness and worldliness. Affections and thoughts are the souls which, when given bodies, fill this world with innumerable creatures.
There are two worlds, there is the world of nature in which our natural bodies live, in which we pursue our natural jobs, and have need of food, clothing, and shelter; and there is within that natural world the spiritual world which supplies the food, clothing, and shelter for our spirits. We need to be fed with the things that make the mind grow. We need to be clothed with "righteousness". (Psalm 132:9) We know that going through temptations, struggling through the various difficulties of life, make for character. The spiritual body is the body of our character, and it finds its home in the doctrines which we sincerely believe.
When Peter, James, and John went up the Mount of Transfiguration, the Lord opened their eyes and they saw Him clothed in spiritual garments. "His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light." (Matt. 17:2) It was the truth that reveals God that clothed Him. Those truths were His spiritual garments. In a similar manner our spirits have to be clothed. All of our affections are clothed with truths. We speak of our thoughts clothing our loves. Suppose I am fond of my neighbor: that is a good affection. I clothe it with a thought, and say, "I love that man, and I want to do something for him." Then I think of what I can do for him, and that thought clothes the affection. These are the spiritual realities from which the vesture of angels is wrought.
The Lord said, "In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you." (John 14:1) For without eternal habitations life here would be purposeless. What would be the meaning of dying for one's faith? It is because we hear Him saying, "I go to prepare a place for you," that we are willing to take up our cross and follow Him. There are mansions in the spiritual world, and each one of us is secretly building with His help our home there by every act which we do here. Is it not beautiful that our Lord should prepare habitations for us when He said concerning Himself while on earth "the Son of Man had not where to lay His head." (Luke 9:58) When He came to earth He was born in a stable, but when we die He will receive us into a heavenly mansion!
The Lord's scheme is to have a spiritual world the laws of which are the laws of the human mind, and if you want to know those laws, examine the functions of your own mind, and you will discover many things that are true of the spiritual world, a world in which the mind of man is free. When we come into the spiritual world we will be able to do freely all of those things that in this world can be done only with exasperating slowness. Here each housewife wants to make her home look exactly the way she likes it. She longs to have it correspond to her affections. Gradually she makes it correspond to her desires.
In the spiritual world that urge which we have in this world to make our home correspond to the tastes which we have will be the dominating force, and all of us will live in homes that we want to live in, and if because of the spacious quality of our mind, because of our generous impulses and our large interests, we desire an ample abode, we will be blessed with a mansion there that is large enough to house all of our interests. On the other hand, if we are mean and groveling and think only of ourselves, then we are going to be compelled to live in a hovel which will exactly correspond to the wretched character which we have built up in this world. These things are inevitable.
Let us see how the heavenly mansion of character is put together. According to our philosophy, man not only has heredity from his father and heredity from his mother, but he also has a Divine endowment from the Lord. He has a heredity from the Lord, and it is due to that Divine endowment that there is continuity from generation to generation. For example: in every human being the Lord created two vessels. One is called the understanding. This enables him to think, be rational, and to know his God. It gives him the power to see his relationship to other men, and to think out the problems of life. The other faculty that the Lord created in man is the ability to love. How barren and dry, and utterly worthless life would be if we could not love! We have many kinds of love and they are what make life worth living. When our loves drive us forward we have the understanding to satisfy those loves. And so this will, which is capable of love, and this understanding, which is able to think, is the Divine Endowment. These two form the very heart of human nature and they go on from generation to generation. They are not dependent on heredity from the father, or heredity from the mother. They are a gift which the Lord gives independently of the parents to every child that is born into the world.
We now come to the vital question: Why do men die at various ages? It is obvious that no particular span of life, no particular age in life is less dangerous than others, if you want to think of it as being dangerous to die. People die at all ages of life. There is no time in life when death does not strike. So let us consider the reasons why some die at one age and some at another.
All life comes from the Lord, and the Lord is above the Sun of the spiritual world. He is the inmost of it, and the only thing that keeps any of us alive for a single moment is that the connection has not been broken with God. The influx of life is unconscious to us, but nevertheless continuous, and it is that connection with life from God that keeps us alive.
What is our inmost form? When we study the faces of any group of people we soon perceive the tremendous outward variety. The face is the index of the mind, and what we have observed in faces indicates the vast variety that exists in the minds behind the faces. There are more than just the hereditary factors that blend in the offspring; there is the Divine Endowment, and we believe that in the formation of each child in the womb there was an architect; an invisible director that supervised the creation of the body. This invisible supervisor is the Divine Endowment that comes from the Lord but passes through the heavens on its way to man and, in passing through the heavens, it becomes Divinely aware of the needs of the heavens.
I am talking about the creation of an individual soul. An individual soul is a form that comes from God who is life itself, and in its descent it passes through the heavens and becomes acutely aware of what the heavens need. The heavens are receiving more and more people all the time, and as they increase in size there is need for more and wider uses. The individual soul is endowed by the Lord with a form which will help to build the growing heavens.
The Lord cannot miraculously feed the heavens, clothe the heavens, house the heavens apart from individual human beings; just as individual human beings are necessary for the performance of uses in this world. Without Divine guidance heaven would get out of balance. To prevent this, the Divine life descending through the heavens gives to the soul a character which will supply the use which heaven needs.
Science knows a great deal. Scientists can tell you exactly what happens in the fertilized ovum, but what the scientist cannot answer is, who is the architect of the growing child? Who directs the weaving of the body? Who says to this cell, "You become brain matter", and to that cell, "You become part of the blood vessels? The New Church answer is that it is the soul which derives life from God and comes down through the heavens and takes on a form that shall be of eternal usefulness to the heavens; that is the directing form that builds the babe. Our teaching is that growth is not accidental. The first cell does not just happen to fall into place. The invisible soul which lives after death is continually directing the body and forming it to be a home for itself. Since it is the soul that lives after death, it is the soul that provides for itself a body in which it can develop all its latent powers. Thus each one of us has been so created that there is some use in the eternal scheme of things which we are better fitted to perform than anyone who has or ever will be created.
There are many different uses to be performed in the Grand Man of heaven and every use is vital to the scheme of eternal life, and all of the uses are different. The perfection of heaven rests in its variety. The greater the variety the more perfect the whole. We can see this illustrated in a watch. When I look at the works I may say, "Why that's a great big wheel, it must be much more important than this little one", but if I take the little wheel out the watch stops, and if I take the big wheel Out it will not tell time. You cannot say that any one wheel is more important than another. They are all needed to keep the time. And so in the spiritual world, that form which is called the Grand Man is the most perfect organization in the universe; all its parts are human beings perfectly prepared for the uses that they are performing.
Every function performed in the body of each of us will be performed in the body of the Grand Man. Myriads of things make up our oneness. We don't think of our fingers or our ears, or our eyes, we think of ourselves. We are made up of millions of cells, and the Grand Man of heaven in the same way is made up of millions of cells, and some day each one of us is going to be one of those millions of cells, and we are going to be able to do for the Grand Man of heaven what no other person can do.
The Writings say that a gift is given to the whole of heaven when each new angel arrives. That is a wonderful thing to contemplate. It gives to us dignity and a sense of the worthwhileness of life when one day we shall bring a gift that shall carry a new joy to the whole of the heavens. If we regenerate we are bringing a gift to the whole of the heavens, and so there is not a single part of the heavens which is not intimately connected with this world and we, ourselves, are preparing every minute of every day for an eternal relationship with all the men and women who have ever gone before, we are preparing for a wonderful society where each man's efforts count and bring greater happiness to the whole.
You may ask: "What about the person who does not love his use?" I must say just a word about that because you might misunderstand me. If men are selfish and evil and live in disregard of the commandments they still must perform uses. Even in this world they must perform uses. They have to perform uses in order to live, to eat, to have clothing and a home. They have to do it in this world, and similarly they will have to do it in the spiritual world.
The use that we perform in the spiritual world may not be the job that we have done here, because men get caught up in all sorts of circumstances where they have to do a job to support their family, but that does not mean that the job they are doing is their eternal use. We don't know about that, but by means of their job here and through their faithful performance of it, they are prepared by the Lord to perform their eternal use, whatever that may be.
Even the devils of hell have to perform the uses for which they were created because that is the inmost form of their very being, and the Writings say that in order to eat, evil spirits have to perform uses. When they perform those uses they are given goods, and the evil spirits take the goods and they pervert them.
The Divine scheme provides for uses. Whether we are good or evil, we must perform the use for which we were created. We are evil only if we wish to be. The love of evil is the only thing that takes a man to hell. He goes there only because he wants to go there. No one ever slips into hell accidentally. If he is going to hell he was in hell here on earth before he ever died, because he loved evil things. The Lord does not send anyone to hell as a punishment for some wicked deed that he has done while here on earth. Hell is a way of life that evil people like.
Having seen the conditions which govern life in the spiritual world, we are now in a position to understand the reasons why men die at various ages. The Writings tell us that there are four reasons for death, and they must all concur, otherwise death will not take place. (See Spiritual Diary 5002, 5003; AC 6807, 7836)
The Writings tell us that in the first states of marriage, the Lord loans the couple a sphere of inmost angels, who have the purest of thoughts, and they are with the couple when they are married, to give them the vision of conjugial love. These angels are from those who died in infancy, who came into the spiritual world in complete innocence, who have never heard anything derogatory of marriage.
Then we have persons dying at the time of the idealism of youthyoung men and young women who have confidence that mountains can be moved and valleys filled in. They have the courage to tackle tasks which, when we grow older, we fear to attempt for we have seen so many cases where mountains failed to topple, and where valleys have remained ditches. We grow less enthusiastic as we grow older, but the Grand Man needs these young folks who bring that unconquerable spirit with them into the spiritual world. And then we see men dying in the very full tide of their manly powers, when their character is firm and set, and they are leaders. They are strong, and from this side of the
picture we cannot see why the Lord takes them, but it is because they are needed over there. Heaven needs men like that, too. Also in the kingdom of heaven it is necessary to have those who lived a long full life here, who have all of this world's life fully impressed upon them. They bring rigidity and firmness to the Grand Man, even as the bones bring rigidity to the body.
We cannot tell too much about individual cases, but we can see from the outline of the subject that no matter when death comes, there is a reason for it, and no one enters the spiritual world by accident. The Lord is a God of love, and He directs human affairs for that greater end which is the perpetual increase, and beautiful symmetrical growth and development of the Grand Man of heaven.
The Christian Church believes that there is no marriage in heaven, because of the Lord's saying that the sons of the resurrection shall "neither marry nor be given in marriage". Yet Swedenborg unhesitatingly proclaimed that the angels live in married bliss! How can such an apparent contradiction be explained?
Swedenborg's claim is that he was twenty-seven years in the spiritual world and was fully conscious there, not there just as to eyes and ears, but as to all his senses; not there for a brief while in a trance like spiritualist mediums, but present there from the time that he was fifty-seven years old until he died at eighty-four, continuously and consciously a citizen of both worlds. His claim is the most amazing that is made in history. No one else has ever made such a claim as that. Yet after we come to believe what he taught, it is not hard for us to realize. We, too, are actually in the spiritual world as much as we will ever be in it. But we are not conscious of it. Swedenborg, however, was fully conscious of both worlds at the same time. And he testifies that he saw thousands of married people in the spiritual world. He says it is full of people who are married, and, with the exception of certain nuns and monks and people who, from religious conviction, had made vows of celibacy and who sincerely believed those vows, everyone in heaven is married.
My task is to show you that there is no real contradiction between what Swedenborg saw in the spiritual world, namely, many married couples, and the Lord's words that there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage in heaven. But that you may better understand this situation, I must give a little of the background of the statement.
The Lord's words are recorded in the twenty-second chapter of Matthew (verse 30), as well as in Luke (20:35) and in Mark (12:25). They were spoken the last week of His life, on the Tuesday before His passion. We know a great deal about what the Lord did during that week.
On this Tuesday the Lord had a long day of conflict with His Jewish enemies. Some of these were the Herodians, who followed Herod. Another group were Pharisees, who were the aristocrats, the better-than- you people of Jerusalem, the socialites, the type to whom other people would kowtow, they knew that they were superior. And finally there were the Sadducees, a sect of people who did not believe in any life after death. Many of the Sadducees were rank materialists. They believed that when they died they were buried: that was the end of life, and there was nothing beyond the grave. They also insisted on a literal interpretation of the five Books of Moses and believed that if they obeyed those Books, Jehovah would bless them; but if they disobeyed them, He would curse them; and their heaven or hell would be right here on earth.
This last Tuesday of the Lord's life, from morning to night, He talked in the Temple and related many famous parables: the parable of the ten virgins, five of whom were wise and five were foolish (Matthew 25:113); the parable of the master who went away and left his servants, one with five talents, one with two, and one with one (Matthew 25:14-30); and the parable of the householder who let out his vineyard to husbandmen, and went away, and then, at the appointed time, sent for some of the produce, with the result that the husbandmen stoned his servants, and finally killed his only son, saying, "Let us seize on his inheritance" (Matthew 2 1:33-41). All these parables were obviously directed against the priests, the scribes, the Sadducees, the Herodians, men who had risen up in violent opposition to Him, and who even now were seeking His death. The plot was gathering and was to reach its bloody climax on the coming Friday.
His words about marriage were spoken on Tuesday. You remember that on Palm Sunday He had ridden into Jerusalem on an ass's colt on which no man had ever sat before. He rode into Jerusalem as the kings of old had ridden up to the city, and the people spontaneously thought that now He was going to create the hoped-for revolution. They strewed palm branches before Him and spread their garments in the way, and sang, "Hosanna to the son of David, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." They were ready to make Him a king. But to the disappointment of the populace, He told them that His kingdom was not of this world. He did not proceed to the palace but to the Temple, where He had been at twelve years of age and which He had then called 'His Fathers' house'. And now He overturned the moneychangers' tables and cast out all them that sold and bought in the Temple, saying, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves." (Matthew 21:12-13)
The priests were making huge profits from the temple mart. It was estimated that at the Passover in those days more than a million people came to Jerusalem. They came from all parts of the civilized world: Jews and proselytes from all around the Mediterranean basin, from Egypt, from Greece and Rome and Persia. They came for the yearly Passover. They had money: Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Parthianall sorts of money. The priests, however, had made the ruling that all offerings had to be made in temple shekels. So the priests were busily exchanging temple shekels for the money of those people who came; and that is how they made the temple a den of thieves. For they cheated the people whenever they could. The Lord therefore said that they had made His house a den of thieves. And He ruthlessly overthrew their tables, spilling the money over the floor. You can imagine how those Jews were filled with rage. This festival was their big time for making a fortune, and to have the opportunity spoiled by this Reformer did not please them at all; so they came to the Lord and began to put Him under inquisition.
They wanted to trap Him in such a way that they could arouse the multitude against Him. He had just been acclaimed by the people, and in the crowd there were children whom He had cured of their diseases, and there were blind people who had received their sight. There was Simon whose leprosy had been cured and who had entertained Him on Monday night at a banquet. You cannot arrest a man with a popular following and crucify him without stirring up a revolution; so the Jews were trying to force the Lord to say something that would lessen His popularity and discredit Him with His followers.
First the priests came to Him and demanded, "By what authority doest Thou these things?" that is, "Who gave you the right to come into the Temple and upset the moneychangers' tables and cast out them that bought and sold?" Of course, all the people, the great multitude who stood by, were waiting to hear how the Lord would answer. And the Lord answered and said unto them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it, from heaven, or from men?" (Matthew 21:24,25) The priests got together and whispered among themselves, for they knew that if they said that it was from heaven, He would say, "Why then did not you believe John?" And they also feared that if they said it was of men, the people might even stone them, because they thought John the Baptist to be a prophet. John had died a martyr's death. He had been beheaded by Herod, and the people had acclaimed him as the last of the prophets, and he had been held in great honor by the common folk. And so these priests came back to the Lord and said they could not answer His question. The Lord said, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." (Matthew 21:27) That put the people on the Lord's sideit seemed like a fair proposition. "If you do not answer my question, then I do not have to answer your question"; and they did not answer His, so He did not answer theirs.
The priests went away. The next group that tried to entangle the Lord in His speech were the Pharisees. You remember that they came to Him and asked, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" (Matthew 22:17) At this time in the history of the world, about 30 A.D., Tiberius was the Roman emperor, or Caesar (a title of Roman emperors), and he ruled over the whole Mediterranean basin. The Roman Empire composed the civilized world of that day. Tiberius was the absolute ruler of it, and his word was law in Jerusalem as in all the Roman provinces. On the other hand, the Jews were fanatical nationalists. Even through seventy years of captivity in Babylon their racial patriotism had been so strong that they had refused to intermarry with the Babylonians, and the result was that they came back from Babylon an integral people, without losing their identity.
I heard a lecture recently in which the speaker pointed out that, if Nebuchadnezzar had really wanted to destroy the Jews, he would have sent his Babylonians into Jerusalem and provided the opportunity for the Jews to intermarry with the Babylonian women in Jerusalem, and they would soon have lost their identity; but by dragging them away into Babylon, he unwittingly fostered in them a loyalty and comradeship, which was typified by the courage of Daniel, who braved the lions' den, and of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who faced the fiery furnace rather than to have any part in the Babylonian life or worship.
The more fanatical Jews wanted to throw off the yoke of Rome. It galled them to think that they had to pay tribute to Caesar, and that they were not an independent nation; and they looked for a soldier king like David who would break the yoke of Rome. Thus the question, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" was very crafty. The Pharisees had planned that if He said, "By no means, do not give anything to Caesar", then they would just call in the Roman guards, saying, "Do you hear what this man says?" Then He would be taken off as a traitor to Rome. On the other hand, if He spoke out boldly and said, "Yes, give tribute to Rome", then the whole Jewish mob would be out to stone Him, and He would have lost His prestige with them, which was what the Pharisees wanted. But the Lord simply called for a penny and asked, "Whose is this image and superscription?" They answered that it was Caesar's, and then the Lord said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God, the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:20,21) The common people marvelled at the answer, because there was no offense given either to Caesar or to the rabid Jewish mob, and the Lord gave a law that is applicable in all of our affairs and shows the correct relation between the things of the State and the things of the Church. The things of the State are to be rendered to Caesar, and the things of God to God. So for the second time, in the eyes of all this multitude, the adversaries failed to discredit the Lord.
Now came the third class of Jewish opponents, the Sadducees, skeptics and materialists. They did not believe in a spiritual world, yet they drummed up a question about the resurrection which they thought would surely silence the Lord. We read:
"The same day came to Him the Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection, and asked Him, saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine." (Matthew 22:23-33)
There is no question whatsoever that the Lord said "they neither marry nor are given in marriage". But let us look at the word marriage. We have, each one of us, a certain idea of marriage which we have gained through all our past experience, and when we read these words of the Lord that there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage, we might naturally get the idea that He meant there is no marriage such as we know of. And literally, there is in heaven, in the life after death, in the resurrection, no such marriage as the Sadducees had in their minds; and because there was no such marriage as that, I invite your intelligent consideration to the fact that the Lord's words do not mean there is no true marriage in heaven and that He did not intend to rule out true marriage when He said that they are "as the angels of God." For the angels of God, we believe, are in conjugial love or true marriage. What did the Sadducees mean by marriage? Let us look at their story.
There were seven brothers, and all six of the remaining brothers might have been married when the oldest brother died without any child. According to the law of Moses, for the sake of order in the representative of a church, which was purely external and where there was no conjugial love and where marriage was for the sake of procreation only, it was permitted the people, "for the hardness of their hearts", to have polygamy. It was permitted them to have the wife of a dead brother taken by another brother, to have a child raised up that would be called by the dead brother's name. (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) If that brother happened to be already married, we would call that relationship polygamy at best, or else adultery. We would not call that marriage, would we? This woman passed from one of seven brothers to the others successively, whether they were married or not; and the Sadducees asked the Lord to tell whose wife she would be in the spiritual world, since all seven had had her to wife.
We would not admit that any of the six younger brothers had her to wife. There had not been a marriage between any of the six and this woman, according to our conception of marriage. In the literal sense, the Lord could not have answered that there was in heaven the kind of "marriage" that the polygamous Jews advocated on earth. If He had answered to that effect, He would have established, in the very first days of the Christian Church, a sensualism which it could never have outlived. He would have debased the whole spiritual conception of marriage in the Christian Church. And so, to prevent that, and to answer the Sadducees on their own plane of thought, He said to them, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." Imagine saying that to the Sadducees who thought they were the experts on the Scriptures. They thought they knew the Books of Moses better than anyone else.
I want to point out to you how the Sadducees thought they were going to trap the Lord. They wanted to have Him discredited with the crowd so that they could crucify Him without causing a riot. The law of Moses was the fundamental religious law, and the masses venerated it. It was written in the law of Moses that, if a man died and left a wife, a widow with no child, his brother should take that widow and raise up a child who should be called by the dead brother's name and who should inherit the property of the dead brother. (Deuteronomy 25:5) That was called the law of the levirate. And if the Lord had said that the woman was the wife of any one of the seven brothers, He would have left out the other six brothers and he would have discredited the law of Moses. But the law of Moses forbade polyandry, that is, more than one husband for one woman. (Numbers 5:20) if the Lord had said that after the resurrection, she would be married to all seven of them, He would thus have violated the law of Moses. So the Sadducees failed to entangle Him by their catch question. For He answered them in a way that they did not expect, and said that "in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."
So much for the literal understanding of the Lord's words. He may not have convinced the Sadducees, but, as the Proverb says, you have to answer a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:5), and I think that the Lord told those Sadducees the exact literal truth, that there is no marriage, no polygamous marriage such as they had in their minds, in the kingdom of heaven. There could not possibly be.
Let us now go a step further and see if the Christian Church is justified in ruling out the idea of marriage as part of the concept of the life after death just from the evidence of the Scriptures themselves. When instituting marriage, the Lord abolished polygamy. When He gave the
Christian marriage law in the Gospels, he said, They twain shall be one flesh . . . What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6) That is how the Lord stated the law of marriage in the New Testament. This allows for no polygamy. Monogamy, one man and one woman, has been the marriage law of the Christian Church from its beginning. "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
The Christian Church, without any warrant that I can see, has added the idea that God puts man and wife apart by death, so it has taught that marriage lasts for this world, but that when death intervenes, that is God putting asunder the marriage covenant. Let us see if this will stand the light of reason.
God's purposes do not change. God sees all the way through to the end of the problem. We see just to the first curve, and we have to wait until we get to the bend in the road before we can look around it, but God does not. He is all-wise, and He sees clearly through to the end of the problem. And if He sees fit to create humanity in two complementary forms, the form of the male and the female, neither one of which is complete with. out the other, and the two perfectly complement each other; and when He joins them together and says, "Let not man put asunder what God hath joined together", what logic would require us to believe that they are put asunder by death and that man, waking up in the spiritual world, no longer needs to be complemented by woman nor woman any longer needs to be complemented by man?
There is no real reason to believe that God meant that death was the end of marriage, for I believe that what God hath joined together remains joined together. That is irrevocable unless man himself, in his freedom, wishes to destroy his marriage which is, of course, possible. Any man can do that, but it does not mean that where man does not want to destroy his marriage, God will destroy it by death. We have to go back to the fundamental purpose for which God has created everything, because there is wealth of irresistible evidence for marriage in heaven. The Lord indeed knew that His words would make the Christian Church believe that death was the end of marriage. He knew that, and He spoke advisedly in order to keep the Christian ideal of heaven from being a sensual ideal, and to keep it on a spiritual plane; and this was in Providence, since the doctrine of truly conjugial love could not yet be revealed.
Look at the whole scheme of creation. We have an irresistible body of evidence for the continuance of marriage in the spiritual world. In the first place, the two fundamental qualities in God Himself are the quality of love and the quality of wisdom. God Himself has these two qualities and they are united, or as it were, married in Him and are the source of all creation and all human life; and we know that woman is the form of love and man the form of wisdom. And just as God loved to create the universe, that love had to be married to His wisdom, to His ability to know how to create the universe, and without that ability to know how and without the love to do it, He could not possibly have created the universe. But He did create the universe, and so we have this expression of two necessary complements of life. Wherever you look, you are going to see two things which long to be conjoined, and until they are conjoined and complement one another each one is imperfect by itself Let me illustrate this by a magnet. A magnet has two poles, the positive pole and the negative pole. The poles attract each other so that if I have two magnets and put the positive to the positive they repel each other, but if I put the positive to the negative and the negative to the positive, they bind each other together. Let us think of the positive and the negative as the love and wisdom in God. And the Word does not merely say that God created man in His image and in His likeness but that He created them male and female.
Look at the map of the world. We see that it is made up of land and water. Land is the feminine and water is the masculine: we spontaneously say "Mother Earth", do we not? We say of the Mississippi River that it is the "Father of Waters." Did not Horatius, before he swam across the stream with all his armor on, say, "Tiber, Father, Tiber, to whom all Romans pray"? We instinctively talk about rivers as masculine and the land as feminine and for a very good reason, because the earth receives the rain. Without receiving the rain it brings forth nothing. It is positively sterile. But when it receives the rain it brings forth the produce. The earth is like the mother of everything. We find this duality wherever we look. We have it in the sun itself in heat and light, and we find it in the chemical world. We have acids and bases, and when you add them together, you get salts which are like the offspring of the acids and bases. And then in the vegetable kingdom, we have bees flying from masculine blossoms to feminine blossoms, and if they do not pollinate the blossoms, there is no fruit. You have an appearance of sexes even in plants. Then you come to the animals.
From the tiniest animals, all the way up to man you have this division of sexes the male and the female. That is so universal that we cannot escape it; and it is that way because God Himself is love and wisdom and everything created reflects something of His image and likeness. The whole world is created in the likeness of a marriage. And since the spiritual world is a continuation of life, no one would wish to wake up in that world something different than he had been, but we want to wake up in the spiritual world loving the things that we have learned to love with intense passion and interest in this world, we want to go right on loving them. We do not want to be somebody different, even if we could have the name of an angel. We would just rather be ourselves. And the longer we are married, the more completely lost we feel when we do not have the companionship of our partner. And to contemplate an eternity where one would become a creature deprived of what in this life is the sweetest of all human experiences is abhorrent and unthinkable. To have the things that you do not have supplied by your partner who has them, and to give your partner the things that your partner does not have, one mutually complementing the other, is the delight itself of life. To think of death as a jumping-off place, where you take off for eternity and suddenly are all alone, without hope of ever seeing your married partner, would seem to be running in the face of the whole scheme of creation, running in the face of all that evidence we have laid before you. It seems to be utterly illogical to think that marriage should stop at death. I have two more reasons for believing that marriage does not stop at death. The first one is that heaven is the same in greatests and in leasts, just as human society here is the same in greatests and in leasts. The United States is a Grand Man. It has a head which we call the government and it has its nerves, the telegraph and radio services. It has its muscles which are its police and military forces to enforce the law and protect the country. It has its stomach, its great grain centers like Chicago. It has its veins, its arteries, which are the trains and trucks which bring food for the stomach all the way to the local store and at last to the individual house which is the unit cell. The whole country is a man. The state is a man in smaller form. The county is one, too, and finally we come all the way down to the borough which has its burgess, its borough council, and all the functions of a man; and finally we arrive at the individual.
All is in a human form. That is the way God planned it, and Swedenborg simply testifies that it is extended into the spiritual world, and that the whole spiritual world is a man in the sight of the Lord, each of the three heavens is a man. Each society in heaven is a man, as well as each individual angel.
The Lord Himself calls Himself the Bridegroom, and calls Heaven and the Church His Bride and Wife, and this all through Scripture. Just to quote a single passage: "I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2) It is only one of many passages which treat of the Church as the wife and mother, and the Lord as the Husband and Father of the Church and of the children of the Church; so that if we can think of a marriage so holy that it can be said that the Lord is married to the Church, then surely the institution of marriage must be something sacred and lasting. It would be hard to think that there is a marriage of the Lord and the Church, if the people of the Church in the spiritual world were all sexless creatures that themselves have no marriage.
In conclusion we shall be reminded that the Word says of the Lord: "Without a parable spake He not unto them." (Matthew 13:34)
Everything the Lord said was spoken with deeper meanings than just the surface meaning. The surface meaning was for the child-like state of the people to whom He talked. He talked to the Sadducees in a language they could understand, but within His conversation were eternal truths which will be valid and true ages after the name of the Sadducees has perished from man's memory. And the deeper truth involved in saying that there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage in the spiritual world refers to that marriage of the Church and the Lord which is produced when man takes the truths which he receives from the Lord in the Word and marries them to the goods of life, in his own life, in this world. That is also what is meant by putting oil in our lamps as the wise virgins did in the parable. They had taken the light of truth represented by their lamp and they had also taken oil, which represents the good to which truth leads; and when truth leads to good in a man's life, it is said to be married to the good, conjoined to it. And to have this internal marriage of good and truth is the essence of conjugial love.
The spiritual meaning of the Lord's words is that it is in this life on earth that we are free to choose whether we will live the life of truth or not. If we live the life of truth, the good and truth in our life are spiritually married to each other. After we go into the spiritual world it is too late to marry goods and truths; and so spiritually there is, as the Lord said, neither marriage nor giving in marriage in the spiritual world. For if we do not choose to marry good and truth in this world through the process of regeneration, they cannot be conjoined in the spiritual world.
Spiritually speaking, therefore, there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage after death. And so, to sum up, the Lord's words do not bar the concept of eternal marriage in the spiritual world. First of all, the Lord gave a literal answer to the Sadducees whose thoughts were of polygamy or adultery and not of conjugial love or marriage; secondly, the whole scheme of creation from God Himself down to the least of the mineral kingdom is dual, and everywhere we see represented the feminine and masculine, nowhere complete unless conjoined together on whatever plane it may be, mineral, vegetable, animal, human. The masculine always complements the feminine and the feminine always complements the masculine. And thirdly, the Lord could not describe the whole heaven as the Bride and Wife of the Lamb and Himself as the Husband and Father of the Church unless that marriage was universal and extended from the firsts which are in Him down to the lasts, which belong to angels and men. Lastly, it can clearly be seen that the spiritual sense refers to the marriage of good and truth in the life of each individual, that is, to the application of the principles of truth which you believe to your life. Here and now, this world is the place where that must be done, and if not done in this world, then in very deed it cannot be given in the spiritual world. Speaking with the spiritual sense in mind, the Lord therefore said that "in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels of God in heaven."
Having seen the vision of heaven which is contained in the Writings of the New Church, it now becomes essential to state in simple terms the means whereby man may come into heaven. Since heaven is a kingdom of uses which are performed from love, we must learn how man prepares himself to carry on uses from love. Herein lies our central doctrine of regeneration, which is the shunning of evils as sins against God. The Lord told Nicodemus that "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) It is this re-birth that constitutes regeneration and the way of our salvation. Man is not born good, as some have supposed, but before regeneration commences he is like an unploughed field which is full of many weeds, briars, and thorns which must be rooted out before the good seed can be sown and take root. This process of rooting out our evils is what is known in the Church as "shunning evils as sins against God." If man shuns them for any other reason than as sins against God he is not shunning them really, he is only causing them not to appear. Therefore, as we progress toward the kingdom of heaven, our daily prayer should be that the Lord will deliver us from evil.
Before we can sincerely pray that we be delivered from evil, we must acknowledge that we are in evil, and that unless we can be led, as the Psalmist says, to a rock that is higher than I", our condition will be truly pitiful. I have met many people in this world who have not been conscious of being in any evil; they have committed no murder, have not indulged in adultery, have not been guilty of theft or falsehood. They are like the rich young man who came running to the Lord inquiring what good thing he might do that he might inherit eternal life.
The Lord told him that he should keep the commandments, to which he replied that he had kept them from his youth up. "What lack I yet?" The Lord's answer was that he should sell all that he had and give to the poor, and then he should take up his cross and follow Him. All New Church men are in the position of that rich young man. We are rich beyond the dreams of Midas in the things that count infinitely more than gold, for we are rich in revealed truth. All the truths of the Writings are ours merely for the asking. We have but to search the Scriptures and learn of Him. But this vast wealth of truth will not save us any more than the rich young man could be saved by his wealth.
Something more is necessary. For him it was to sell all that he had and give to the poor. For us it is to turn a sincere eye inward to our own hearts and there discover the things that we cherish, the things that we love and like to think about, the deeds that we deem allowable. If we do this honestly we will know that we have need of the Lord "to deliver us from evil." We do not ask Him to deliver us from anyone else's evil, nor from evil in general, but we petition Him to save us from our own particular sins, the sins that we have discovered in our own hearts when we have given our minds over to self-examination. Herein the New Church is different from the former Christian Churches, for we are enjoined to confess a particular sin, whereas in some of the Churches in Christendom they are exhorted to pray for a general forgiveness for the things that they have done that they ought not to have done, and for the things that they ought to have done which they have left undone. Certainly no evil can escape being included in these petitions. But this general confession that one is a sinner does not uncover or reveal the real source of our evils. The way of genuine regeneration is a work of building one stone upon another, as the prophet states it, "Line upon line, line upon line; precept upon precept, precept upon precept; here a little, there a little." (Isaiah 28: 10) This is the law of spiritual growth, and it is the law of regeneration.
When, by self-examination, a man discovers a particular evil in himself, he should then pray to the Lord to deliver him from that evil. How does the Lord deliver a man from an evil? He does it by keeping man in a wonderful equilibrium so that he is free to shun that particular evil as a sin against God. "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." (John 8:34) But "Know the truth and the truth shall make you free . . . If, therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." (John 8:32 . . . 36)
Now the responsibility of the New Church man comes down to this: the Lord has given him many, many truths; each truth has the power to free him from some evil. If, then, man knows his evils through self- examination, he will be able to find the truth in the Writings that will apply to his own life, and when he acts on that truth, the Lord by means of that truth will set him free from that evil.
When the Lord gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel, He told them Who He was, and why they should believe what He told them, and why they should obey His commandments. He said to them, "I am the Lord thy God, Who brought thee out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." (Exodus 20:2)
The Israelites knew little of Jehovah at that time, but they did know that He had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. They still remembered the lash of Pharaoh's taskmasters, they still remembered the hardship of making bricks without straw! Then the truth began to be spoken in their ears by Moses, miracles commenced to happen. Plague after plague was visited upon their captors until finally the Egyptians, after the death of their first-born, drove the Israelites forth from their land. They began to know the Lord as their Redeemer and Savior because He had delivered them from evil. So the Ten Commandments had force with them because they were the laws of the God who could deliver them from evil.
In the days of Noah, when men were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, a great overwhelming danger from evil threatened. Could anyone deliver the fallen race from that impending evil? Yes, the Lord could, but He could not deliver them apart from means. He told
Noah and his three sons that if they wanted to be saved from the impending flood they would have to build an ark, an ark that would ride upon the waves and not be engulfed by them. Noah obeyed the words of God, and he and his wife and his sons and his Sons' wives were saved alive when the rest of mankind perished. The Lord, by means of the truths concerning the ark which He had revealed to them, delivered them from the devastating flood.
The coming of the flood marked the end of the Most Ancient Church and the beginning of the Ancient Church. The ark represented a new doctrine, and doctrine means simply a new way of life which had been revealed to them by the Lord and in which they believed. The Lord taught the men and women of the Ancient Church a new way to live, and that new way of life saved them from their sins. Daniel was one of the Children of Israel who had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians. Darius issued a decree that none should ask any petition of any man or God for thirty days save of himself. But no worldly decree could deter Daniel from praying three times a day to his God. The result was that he was cast into the den of lions. Then it was that his trust in God was put to the full test. Could the Lord now deliver him from evil? Yes, He could. The lions were powerless against him because he was surrounded by a heavenly sphere which they could not pass. The Lord did deliver Daniel from evil. And this teaches us a lesson. If we are faithful and fearless in our belief in the Lord as He is revealed in the Writings of the New Church, no power on earth can harm us. The lions that destroy the evil represent cruel lusts which will be powerless against us because we are surrounded by heavenly spheres.
Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego refused to fall down and worship the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar. For this refusal they were cast into the burning, fiery furnace, but their courage was not abated, for although the fire slew the men that threw them into the furnace, it was impotent against them. The Lord whom they had trusted had delivered them. So it may be with us. When we refuse to do some well-loved evil, it may seem for the time that we are cast into a burning fiery furnace. It is the furnace of our own lusts that we are cast into. But the Lord has power to rescue us from all temptations. If we are steadfast He can deliver us from evil.
The deliverance from evil is so important in the scheme of regeneration and salvation that it is included in the Lord's Prayer. Let us therefore remember, as we say the Lord's Prayer, that we are commanded by it to examine ourselves for actual evils, and that when we have discovered them, then we pray to the Lord for help to shun them as sins against Him. If we do this He will deliver us from evil. He will rescue us from the lash of the spiritual taskmasters of Egypt. He will save us from the floods of waters representing the falsities that consumed the evil remnant of the Most Ancient Church. He too will save us from the lions of lust and the fiery furnace of selfish pride, for He is our God, we have trusted in Him and He will save us.
One of the questions that naturally arises when one contemplates joining the New Church is, Why is there need of a New Church baptism? Since baptism was commanded by the Lord Himself when He was on earth, why, if a person baptized in the former Christian Church joins the New Church, is it necessary for him to be baptized into the New Church?
Note that the baptism of John was a baptism of repentance. The Lord was circumcised as a child of eight days and then, on entering His public ministry, He received baptism at the hands of John. But later on, all those disciples who had been baptized by John were again baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ who in One Person is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, so that they, in joining the Christian Church, were rebaptized. (See TCR 690)
When the disciples and after them the first Christian Church put into practice the Lord's words, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", we find that they baptized simply into the name of the Lord Jesus.
As we read "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." (Acts 19:1-6)
The belief of New Church people is that the Church of the New Jerusalem is as distinct and separate from the Christian Church about us, as the Christian Church was distinct and separate from the Jewish Church which was about it. It took the Christian Church some time to learn that it was to be a distinctly new church and that it would have to separate from the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish Church.
In the early days of the Christian Church it was at first thought essential to be circumcised as a Jew before becoming a member of the Christian congregation. Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, was a holy day among the early Christians. These primitive Christians thought it essential to keep the Passover and to observe the rites of various washings, feast days, and probably even sacrifices. Also it was believed among these Christians that it was necessary to abstain from swine's meat and to eat only the flesh of animals that chew the cud and split the hoof. All those Jewish rites and ceremonies were at first carried over into the Christian Church.
Then one day Peter, who was a Judaizing Christian, so-called because he was strong in teaching that Christians must fulfill the rites of the Jewish law, received a vision from heaven, in which a sheet was seen let down from heaven with all sorts of meats in it. To Peter's great astonishment, swine's flesh and other things that were forbidden to be eaten by the Jewish law were contained in this sheet, and Peter was instructed that he should eat freely of all of them. In this manner, he was given to know that the Christian Church did not depend upon the rituals of the Jewish Church. Instead, it had two sacraments of its own. (Acts 10:11-16)
Those two sacraments, instituted by the Lord Himself, were the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of the holy supper.
Into the sacrament of baptism were gathered all the multifarious rites of washing which were used in the Jewish Church. The Jews had been given particular instructions how they should wash their garments, the dishes from which they ate, and how they should wash the beds in which they slept; and many other particulars were laid down as laws that they were supposed to observe, if they were to be good Jews and desired to receive the blessings which Jehovah would shower on them. The Writings tell us that everything that was spiritually signified by these washings was gathered up into the sacrament of baptism so that the Lord, when He came on earth, abolished all such representative rituals and concentrated them all in the one simple sacrament of baptism.
Among the rituals of the Jews there were also many sacrifices. They had to sacrifice sheep and oxen and doves and meat offerings and wave offerings. The complicated ritual of sacrifices culminated once a year in the celebration of the Passover when each family had to sacrifice a lamb and eat it with a very specific and minutely prescribed ritual. But everything that was represented by the sacrifices throughout the whole of Jewish history was gathered up into and made available in spiritual form in the institution of the sacrament of the holy supper in which the Lord blessed the bread, saying "This is My body, take, eat," and wine, saying "This cup is the new testament in My blood." In the eating of the bread which was His body and the drinking of the wine which was His blood, He gathered up all the efficacy of the Jewish sacrifices.
In the early Christian Church, these two sacraments were practiced with the simple instruction which the Lord had given. The primitive Christians did not look upon the crucifixion of Christ as a sacrifice made to appease the wrath of an angry Father. The Holy Spirit was looked upon as the very spirit of the Lord, His magnetism, His instruction, His teaching to His disciples, the sphere of His presence in the Church.
The early Christians thought of the truths which made Christianity as the very life blood of Christ, and they thought of the unselfish character which is built up in obedience to the Lord's commands as derived from the Lord's love, which is the very body of the Lord. And so, the faith of early Christianity was built up around the simple belief in these two sacraments the sacrament of baptism as a gate of entrance into the Church, and the sacrament of the holy supper as a means of communion with their Savior.
In the course of time, however, primitive Christianity passed away. The Lord foresaw this when He prophesied that He would have to come again to establish a genuine Christianity, the Christianity which is now set down in the doctrines of the New Church.
In Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg disclaims any authority of that work for himself personally but he says it is the report of things heard and seen by an act of Providence through the opening of his spiritual eyes. The Christian Church had departed from the simple, clear tenets of Christianity, and so the Lord prophesied that the time was going to come when there should be wars and rumors of war. He said that the day was approaching when not one stone would be left on another of the great temple in Jerusalem, and He said that this generation would not pass until all these things came to pass. And then He said that the sun would be darkened and the moon would not give its light and the stars should fall from heaven and then should be seen the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and the Lord and the angels coming, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24)
In other words, the time would come when primitive Christianity, through the selfishness of men, through a rising love of dominion, and the increase of the love of the world, should fall away from its original truth and should be darkened by beliefs which would destroy the real idea of one God. This came to pass at the Council of Nicea which was held in 325 A.D., three centuries after the Lord had been crucified and had risen from the dead.
By that time the pagan world had made a great impact upon the Church. The old Greek culture, which had led the world in its day and had brought the human mind to its loftiest achievements under Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno the Stoic, and other renowned philosophers, had been polluted by skepticism and superstition, and various Gnostic sects had exerted an influence upon Christian theology, so as to de-personalize God, remove from man the idea of the Divine Humanity, and make of God an invisible abstraction. Other effects on early Christianity are traceable to the customs and thoughts of the Romans. The Roman holidays and many other Roman elements came into the Christian Church by adoption. Many of the names of our months were taken from the Roman calendar. July, for example, is named after the great Julius. Sunday is named from the god of sun worship.
We ourselves carry on many Easter customs which are completely pagan in their origin, having nothing to do with the resurrection of the Lord. The countries into which Christianity spread already had spring festivals and the old customs and superstitions were taken into Christianity.
In the beginning of the fourth century the central doctrine of Christianity that of the Deity of Christ was challenged by a presbyter of Alexandria, named Arius. Influenced by pagan traditions, he asserted concerning the supposed persons of the Trinity that the Son was indeed begotten before the world, yet was not God but the first of all created beings. Many Christians saw that this would inevitably lead to the idea that Jesus was but a man. A Church cannot be founded upon a man, but it must be founded upon Divinity. Many recognized that unless the Divinity of Christ was affirmed, Christianity would soon perish. The Council of Nicea was called, and many bishops were there and they debated the question of the Trinity; but the more they sought to solve the problem, the more difficult it became. Finally the Christian prelates adopted what has become known as the Athanasian Creed, and that Creed says that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, yet there are not three Gods but one God. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord, yet there be not three Lords but one Lord. And it goes on through the Creed, completely dividing the person of God into three persons and just as stoutly maintaining that although there are three persons in the Trinity, there is only one God. Then, because its contradictions are so palpable, the Creeds ends with this curious statement: "For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by Himself to be God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say there are three Gods, or three Lords." (Cited in Apocalypse Explained 1091; Doctrine of the Lord 56,58)
The Writings tell us that the Council at Nicea marked the spiritual death of the Christian Church. By that we don't mean that individuals in the Christian Church from then on were necessarily dead, but we mean that the fundamental accepted doctrine of the Christian Church, from that time on, was dead and that doctrine could not lead to any true theology. For that doctrine involves a Father whose sense of justice demands that a penalty must be paid for the original sin of Adam. Humanity, in its aggregate, has committed innumerable sins through Adam. But not a single one of us, by anything that he can do, can pay a big enough penalty to atone for the evil which he has committed. But, it is said, the Lord Jesus Christ, as a Divine and Infinite Son of the Father, when He died on the cross paid not only the penalty of mortal man, but He paid an infinite penalty. He made an infinite satisfaction for sin to God the Father, so that anyone who will make use of the penalty that He paid, can be sure that all of his sins will be forgiven because of his faith in the Lord as his Savior. Then after his sins are blotted out, the Lord will 'send to him the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who will regenerate and sanctify him.
Perhaps you will not find many people who realize that that is the teaching of the orthodox Christian Church, but you find it in their books. You will find it in their Creed. The fundamental concept of the orthodox churches is that we are saved through accepting the infinite sacrifice of Christ.
This review of the general doctrine of the Trinity accepted in the orthodox Christian Churches today leads us to the consideration of what baptism means in the Christian Church and what it means in the New Church. Early in the history of the New Church, many people insisted that Christian baptism, that is, baptism into any of the orthodox Christian Churches, was just the same as baptism by a New Church minister according to the forms prescribed in the New Church, and that it was impossible to have anything that we could call a distinctly New Church baptism. But let us see what happens in baptism. Fortunately we are not left in any shadow of ignorance in the New Church as to what the New Church idea of baptism is because a whole chapter of the great theological work True Christian Religion (numbers 667 to 697)written at the very end of Swedenborg's life, when he was eighty-two years old deals with baptism. I want to set forth the teaching of this chapter in order to show that baptism by a person who believes in the Trinity of Divine persons and who believes in atonement through belief in Christ's merit cannot constitute an entrance into the New Church.
The first thing that the chapter tells us is that baptism cannot be understood without a knowledge of correspondences. What is baptism? It is a washing, either sprinkling with or total immersion in water. That is one factor. The other factor is what the officiating minister or the priest says. The chapter points out that washing the body can in no way cleanse the soul, for the worst robber, a most hardened criminal, can wash his body fastidiously and can be externally clean while evil dwells in his spirit. In such a case the waters of baptism would be meaningless. But baptism is effective when we understand its correspondence, for its cleansing waters correspond to that pure truth from the fountain of all truth, the Word of God.
You do not need to be reminded that the law of correspondences is very simple and easy to grasp. The spiritual thing to which a natural thing corresponds will do for the mind of man what the natural thing will do for his body. Water corresponds to truth and, just as water cleanses the body and slakes the thirst, so the truth cleanses the mind of man and satisfies that mental thirst which we call curiosity or the love of truth or the love of understanding; so that, as soon as we realize that the real function of water in baptism is not the external act which is applied to the body, but what is represented by that act, namely, the truth applied to the mind, here we note a sharp distinction between New Church baptism and baptism performed in the present Christian Church.
What does the water represent? The water of baptism in the New Church represents the truths that are revealed in the Writings of the Church which constitute the Lord in His second coming. Those are the truths which, when seen within the truths of the Old and the New Testaments, shall wash man's spirit and cleanse him and shall render it possible for him to be regenerated. On the other hand, if a person subscribes to the creed of the former Christian Church, then the truths which are represented by the waters of baptism are not truths at all but are falsities that teach that there are three Divine persons, and that man can be saved by the bloody atonement of Christ, and that there is no marriage in heaven, and that the world is coming to an end, and so forth. They are the doctrines of the present-day Christian Church which are represented by the waters of their baptism when it is performed by a minister of the old Christian Church. The difference is vast.
There is even a difference in the words that we use in baptizing. In baptismal services of the Church of England, of the Baptist Church, and of the Methodist Church, the words used are from Matthew 28:19, where the Lord said, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." So, in the baptismal service in those churches the minister, after applying the water, says, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." He does not mention any name. He just says they are baptized into three attributes, but not into any name; whereas in the New Church, when a minister baptizes a baby or an adult, he follows the actual practice of the disciples, who, as we have seen earlier in this chapter baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. For they realized that the baptism of John was not the baptism of Christ; therefore they had Paul baptize them again, and he baptized them in the name of the Lord Jesus. That is what we do when we baptize a child or an adult. The minister says, "I baptize thee into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen." That is, into the name of the one God in one Person, whose essential attributes are called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
What are the uses of baptism then? We cannot understand the uses of baptism, the Writings say, without understanding its correspondence, but then we see that it means the washing of truth and that involves the whole revelation upon which the New Church is based. The second heading in the chapter states that the washing of baptism is a spiritual washing, and the third shows that baptism was given to the Christian Church by the Lord to replace the ancient Jewish rite of circumcision which was the gate of entrance into the Church. And in every single case, wherever a person was converted to the Christian Church as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, he was baptized, confessing his faith; for Christians early recognized that baptism was the gate of entrance into the Church.
The New Church was not slow in recognizing that baptism is the gate to the Church, a gate ordained by the Lord. And the holy supper, they teach, is the gate to heaven because it represents the appropriation of Divine good through the bread which He called His body, and the appropriation of Divine wisdom by drinking the wine which He called His blood. Thus the holy supper is the gateway to heaven. In the chapter on Baptism (TCR 677-685), three uses of baptism are definitely given. The first purpose is that the person may be known as a Christian. Baptism is a sign of Christianity. Many illustrations are given of how various insignia are used as signs of the office or of a particular use which is to be performed. For example, the robes of judges, the miter of priests, the crowns of kings, the standards that mark the different divisions of an army, the insignia that captains, majors, and common soldiers wear. All these are signs for the preservation of order. But the first use of baptism does not end in this world, according to our New Church doctrine, but it provides for insertion among Christians in the spiritual world; that is, a person who is baptized has an insignia and a sphere perceptible in the spiritual world which makes it impossible for a Mohammedan spirit or a pagan spirit, or any spirit but a Christian, to associate spiritually with him. (TCR 678) By New Church baptism, a person is not just introduced into the sphere of Christians in the spiritual world, but is introduced into the new Christian heaven, into the association of angels who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one only God of heaven and earth.
The second use of baptism is that the person who is baptized may acknowledge or be led to acknowledge, if an infant, the Lord Jesus Christ as the God of heaven and earth and follow Him.
The third use, which is the final use and the very end which the Lord had in view in instituting baptism, is that the baptized person may be regenerated. The Lord points out in the Writings with utter clarity that baptism confers neither faith nor salvation. Some churches teach that an unbaptized infant cannot go to heaven. That, of course, is abhorrent to any of us. Some churches teach that baptism has a certain sphere of good fortune about it, and other churches teach that baptism is the very sign that man is saved; but the New Church teaches that baptism confers neither faith nor salvation, but that it testifies that a man will be saved if he is regenerated. In other words, it is the very sign that salvation is possible to a person, if he shuns his evils as sins. He has first to examine himself and find those evil things in himself which render him detestable in the sight of God, and then he has to shun them, one at a time, as sins against God, not merely as injuries to his own reputation, or to his own chances of success in the world, but as evil in the sight of God. And if he does that, then step by step the testimony of his baptism becomes evermore truly a reality.
It is worthy of note that it is not recorded that the Lord ever baptized anyone. (See John 4:2) A minister does not represent the Lord in administering baptism. He acts as a servant of the Lord, which is what the word minister means. And he baptizes into the name, not in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord's command was: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," (Matthew 28:19) and the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is Jesus Christ. That is His name. The name of the Lord is the most precious, the most holy thing that there is in the world because it embraces all His truth, everything that points out His qualities is His name, whether it be a truth of science or whether it be a truth of religion. If it indicates something of His order and wisdom, it is a part of His name. To baptize a child into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is to hope that his life, as a tiny mirror, may image that life into whose name he was baptized, because we have been created into God's image and likeness and the Lord has told us to be perfect, 'even as My Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) When a child has been baptized into the name of the Lord, we must "teach him the Ten Commandments, that he may learn to shun evils as sins; (and) let him learn the Lord's Prayer, that he may be introduced into the worship of the Lord." (Liturgy and Hymnal for Use of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, p. 60.) When this has been done we may be sure that we have cooperated with the Lord to the end that the child may grow in love and wisdom and may learn ever more clearly how to keep holy that precious name into which he has been baptized. On the one hand, shunning as a sin against God all temptations "to take His name in vain"; and on the other hand, learning ever more deeply how to "hallow" that SACRED NAME.
"Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, go and prepare us the pass. over that we may eat. And they said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? And He said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the good man of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready." (Luke 22:7-12)
Peter and John said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? Their earnest question bridges the passage of years, and when we contemplate partaking of the Holy Supper we too may ask the meaningful words, "Where wilt Thou that we prepare?" With Peter and John it was a spatial question and dealt with the time of the first administration of the Holy Communion. With us affections take the place of space, and state replaces time. Our soul searches for the answer as to the affections of our own state. What is the preparation of the state of our affections that we may enter worthily into the participation of that sacrament which is said to be the gate of heaven and the opening of eternal life?
The Lord's body and blood are to be received. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:5 3) Unleavened bread blessed in His name is to be eaten; wine consecrated to His service is to be drunk, and by the immutable law of correspondences that bread, in feeding the It is a beautiful thought which we gain from the Writings that for each one of us there is an invisible thread leading through the tangled affairs of earthly life inevitably to the door of our heavenly mansion, just as by ways unknown to John and Peter, the man bearing the pitcher of water led them unerringly to the sacred rendezvous.
"Say to the good man of the house. Who is the good man of our spiritual house? What is it in our lives that points the finger upward? What is the voice of the good man of our mental house? It is the still small voice of conscience; the product of all those sweet and precious remains which have been stored in us from the days when the celestial angels were our guardians, angels who do always behold the face of the Father which is in heaven." Down through a mother's love, a father's care, a playmate's affection; through stirring love of country, through self-sacrifice, and noble deeds, the remains have been stored up. All have left their impress and their urge to help us seek for higher things.
The good man of the house shall show you a large upper room furnished and prepared. An upper room, men do not get inspiration from looking downward, but from trying to envision that which is higher. When the Ten Commandments were to be given, the Lord Jehovah selected Mount Sinai, a mountain towering high above the plains of the wilderness. There was not one single Israelite who did not have to look upward if he was to see God's contact with Moses.
Similarly when the Lord was on earth and He wanted to give in one great discourse the essence of all His teachings; when He desired to withdraw the disciples from the multitudinous distractions of the world, and bring them into the sphere of His love and the light of His wisdom, we read that "Seeing the multitudes He went up into a mountain, and when He was set His disciples came unto Him, and He opened His mouth and taught them saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:1-3)
The Psalmist was urging the same thing when he said, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains from whence cometh my help, my help is from the Lord Who made the heavens and the earth." (Psalm 121:1,2) Now the good man of the house takes Peter and John up, as by the rungs of Jacob's ladder, and there shows them the large upper room furnished and prepared.
As a practical application in our own preparation for partaking of the Holy Supper it would seem as though following the man bearing the pitcher of water would definitely lead us to read portions of the Writings such as the chapter on the Holy Supper in The True Christian Religion, that our thoughts may be drawn and directed to that heavenly house that shall some day be ours. Such reading is bound to arouse remains in us and elevate our minds and lead us into the large upper room furnished and prepared. Here we too may find the Lord in those lofty ideals, the large upper room, to which the steadfast following of the truth inevitably leads.
So far we have taken the active part; we have followed the man bearing a pitcher of water; now two events take place wherein the Lord takes the lead, and we cooperate. First He rose from the table and, laying aside His garments, He girded Himself with a linen towel, and, pouring water into a basin, He washed the disciples' feet. The Lord's garments are the appearance of the truths in which we see Him. What then is the significance of His laying aside His garments and girding Himself with a linen towel? The Word has many truths, but the truths needful for purification are simple indeed, and few in number, perfectly represented by the garment which now clothed the Lord. With water from a basin He washed their feet and dried them on the towel wherewith He was girded. The simple truths that must cleanse our very outward man before partaking of the Holy Supper are set forth in man's table of the Decalogue: "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not bear false witness," Thou shalt not covet." After He had washed their feet He took again His garments and sat down with them at the table. There must be actual repentance before the Holy Supper can benefit man.
The second thing that it is necessary for us to do before partaking of the Holy Supper is to shun our evils as sins against God. Any evil shunned otherwise is not really shunned: it is but hidden, it is a traitor in our midst. "He that eateth bread with Me, hath lifted his heel against Me." (John 13:18)
Judas, stung by the Lord's reprimand for criticizing Mary's costly anointing, had gone to the chief priests and sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, the price, then, of one slave! And now the hand of him who would betray Him was on the table with Him. In plain language He said, "One of you shall betray Me." (John 13:21) And then each disciple began to say, "Lord, is it I?"
Finally, in answer to John's inquiry He said, "He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot." (John 13:26) "Jesus said to him, that thou doest do quickly . . . He, then, having received the sop, went immediately out. And it was night." (John 13:27 and 30) We shall only discover the traitor in ourselves by self-examination. "Betray the Lord," we say to ourselves, "Never." Yet those who stood on the Lord's left hand at the great judgment scene were likewise in ignorance of ever having offended Him.
The Gospel accounts are not absolutely clear as to just what point in that Last Passover the Lord administered the Holy Supper, but it seems logical to believe that it took place after Judas, the traitor, had been separated. Then it was that "He took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:26, 27, 28).
To what, then, does His flesh correspond? It is obvious from the institution of the Holy Supper that He did not mean His Palestine body, for He took bread and said: "Take, eat, this is My body." Bread is the staff of life, and the bread that has been blessed corresponds to the Divine love. The Divine love builds man's character, even as the bread builds his body. It is the very substance of the universe, and is that from which the Lord created all things. Now man cannot receive that love unless he appropriates it, and he appropriates it by doing the commandments of the Lord.
The Lord illustrated this on a certain occasion when He was talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. When His disciples begged Him to eat, and He said that He had meat to eat that they knew not of, they wondered if He had been fed secretly. But He turned to them, and said: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me." (John 4:34) Even so is our character built, by doing the will of God; that is, by eating His flesh, in the deepest spiritual sense. What, then, is the meaning of the eating of the bread in the Holy Supper? "Take, eat, this is My body." Our prayer is that as the natural bread is eaten, and becomes an actual part of our body, so the spiritual bread that is His flesh, His Divine love, will be received by us, and will strengthen our steadfast determination to keep His commandments, that our faces may ever be set toward the kingdom of heaven.
And what of the wine? "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." His blood is His Divine truth and the Divine truth is the blood of the universe. It goes forth from the Lord as a mighty blood stream from the heart of the Grand Man. It comes forth pure and rich with the nourishment needed for men's souls; and it comes through the arteries down to the least capillaries until it reaches each individual cell. The cells of the Grand Man are the angels of heaven. In them it is colored with all the weakness of human thinking; and from them it returns again through the veins of the Grand Man, ascending as the prayers of the saints, and carrying back their hopes and fears and desires, to be purified by the wisdom of God and again sent forth with renewed vigor. What, then, is the meaning of partaking of the wine of the Holy Supper? It is just this. We pray that as the wine exhilarates the natural man, so the vision of the Divine wisdom will exhilarate our minds and make firm and sure the ideals for which we strive; that those ideals may in the end lead us to Him and to His heavenly kingdom. Without His love, and without His wisdom, there is no spiritual life in us; and that is what the Lord meant when He said in the synagogue at Capernaum:
"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53)
The beauty of the New Church Christmas is the thought that as the Lord was born into the world two thousand years ago, so He may, spiritually, be born into the heart of each one of us today. And as we trace the story of the Lord's actual birth into the outer world, so it is possible from the Writings of Swedenborg to draw a spiritual sense, which describes the way in which the Lord may be born into the hearts of each one of us. For the real coming of the Lord is His coming to each individual person.
Looked at in one way, there only are individuals in the world. In the eyes of God we are not just a mass of humanity, but we are individuals, we are Tom and Dick and Harry. We are people He knows, whose every problem and effort He knows. The Writings show that the whole end of His Divine providence is that there may be formed a heaven from the human race, a heaven where we may some day find something which we love to do, and so may perform a use for our fellow angels. Now, when we understand the spiritual sense of the Christmas story, we will see how the Lord may be born into the heart and into the mind of each one of us. Nothing is more clear than the fact that we have thoughts and that we have desires. Swedenborg tells us there are two compartments of the mind which take care of these things. The will of man is a spiritual organ which is capable of loving, and the understanding is a spiritual organ capable of thought. Now each of the organs is wonderfully adapted to the uses it has to perform, just as the ear is adapted to hearing and the eye is adapted to sight. It is in the will that love is found and since the heart corresponds to our will, when we love somebody we feel that love, as it were, in our heart. On the other hand, our lungs correspond to our understanding or our ability to think. This can easily be seen to be true, for as soon as our lungs stop functioning, rational conscious thought ceases. Throughout life the lungs correspond exactly to all our thought processes. The deepest psychology we can learn is imaged in the interaction between our lungs and our heart, and the more we study that, the more interesting things we learn about the will and the understanding. For example, every affection or desire that man has must be passed through the thoughts of his understanding just as the blood in our body must pass through the lungs. If our lungs are healthy and clean and functioning, the blood is purified by the lungs. In like manner, every purpose of our will, which is the bloodstream of one's spiritual life the stream of his affections, has to be passed through the understanding to be examined and purified. If a man is ignorant, he cannot shape his deeds by wisdom but instead they are the deeds of ignorance. If, however, he is wise, if he reads the Word and fills his mind with its teachings, every purpose that he can have is purified by the Word of God present in his understanding.
I speak of the will and the understanding for this reason: There are two accounts of the Lord's birth, one in Matthew and the other in Luke and as we look over humanity we observe the obvious fact that it is made up of two entirely different kinds of creatures, one called man and the other woman. Neither of them quite understand each other but they are irresistibly attracted toward each other and nothing very much worthwhile is accomplished in life without the close cooperation between them. These two great classes of beings, men and women, have been created by the Lord in order that the angelic heavens might be populated and so it is of Divine order that children should be born of their marriage. That is the greatest of their uses, the bringing of children into this world, and the careful raising of their children in order that they, in their day, may become angels of heaven. The husband and wife have to act conjointly in this use.
There are men and women in the world because man has these two faculties of the will and understanding, and we cannot do a thing, we cannot so much as lift our arm, without the marriage of the will and the understanding; that is, without the union of them. I have to want to lift it, that's the will, and I have to know how to lift it. If we observe a baby, we will notice that he does not know how to reach out his hand. A baby will look at something bright and try to touch it when it may be across the room. He thinks the moon is just as close as his little rattle. He does not know how to reach the rattle. That is something which it takes us months to teach him. But the budding will and understanding are both there and they must be so trained and developed that the Lord will be able to come to both faculties. This necessity is brought out in the twofold Christmas story.
In order to describe how the Lord comes to man fully, Luke and Matthew depict how He comes both to man's will or his affections, and to his understanding or power to reason. His entrance into the will is set forth in Luke's narrative, His enlightening of the understanding in the Gospel of Matthew. The broad generalities are very clear. Women of course represent love, and men wisdom. Not that all women are loving or that all men are wise but, in general, men reason things out and women, through the perceptions of love, arrive almost instantaneously at conclusions. Luke's Gospel has been called, by some commentators, the woman's Gospel. When the angel told Mary that she was to have a child, she said, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34, 35) Mary, who was the central figure in this drama, was completely convinced by the simple statement of this angel that she was to be the virgin mother of One who was to be great in the history of Israel. How great, she had no conception of, but she thought that this son of hers was to be the Messiah, perhaps a great warrior king who should free them from the yoke of Rome that was so distasteful to that freedom-loving people.
On the other hand, the Matthew story presents the virgin birth of the Lord from the standpoint of Joseph, who when he found that Mary was to have a child, being a just man, and not wishing to make a public example of her, was going to put her away secretly, but then the angel came to him and said "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20) The fact that Joseph was completely convinced by this angelic vision, that Mary's child was conceived of the Holy Spirit, is the greatest proof of the virgin birth. "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus." (Ibid. 1:24, 25) Therefore, because the Gospel of Luke makes clear to Mary the virgin birth, it has been called "The Woman's Gospel" and because the Gospel according to Matthew does the same for Joseph, it has been called "The Man's Gospel."
Luke's Gospel tells of events prior to the birth of the Lord. It tells of a venerable priest of the Jewish Church whose fathers had been priests before him for fifteen hundred years, all the way back to the days of Mount Sinai. His name was Zacharias and he came of a long line of people who had seen angels. Imagine his surprise when, as he went into the temple to burn incense, he saw an angel standing on the right side of the golden altar. He did not doubt that he was seeing an angel, although there had been no open vision in Israel for four hundred years, for as a priest he knew the history of his people. He was surprised, however, that the angel should come to him and he was filled with fear. The conception that the Jews had of Jehovah at that time was of a fearful God, a just God, but a God who executed terrific vengeance upon His enemies. Zacharias was troubled and fear fell upon him. But the first thing the angel said to him, even as later he used the same words to Mary, was "Fear not."
However, Zacharias doubted, as well he might, when Gabriel told him that he was to be a father in his old age and Elisabeth was to be a mother. He doubted, and the angel told him that as a sign to him that it would surely come to pass, he should be dumb. The priest of the old dispensation should speak no more! The angel had told him of the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a sign of the prediction the old priest, the priest of the religion which was to be supplanted by Christianity, was silent until the words of the angel came true.
True to Gabriel's words, in due course of time Elisabeth bore a son. All the relatives wanted to call his name Zacharias after his father but, no, he had been named John by the angel; and when they asked his father what he would have him named he called for a tablet and wrote, "His name is John." Not until the birth of the herald of the new dispensation did speech return to the lips of this old Judean priest.
John the Baptist grew to be a wonderful man. He was a Nazarite. He drank neither wine nor strong drink and matured in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey; and just before the Lord was ready for His public ministry, thirty years after the event we are now talking of, John stood in the river Jordan and when he saw the Lord coming he said to his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Spiritually understood, the thing which brings the Lord to us is the letter of the Word, the Old and the New Testaments. All our knowledge of the Lord comes from that source.
When John preached in the wilderness that men must repent because of the coming of the great Messiah, he prepared the way of the Lord, as it is written in the prophets, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." (Mark 1:3) In the same way, the reading of the Word in the letter prepares us to receive the vision of the Lord as to His Spirit. And so the Writings tell us that John the Baptist represents the letter of the Word. That is what he signifies, his relation to the Lord is the same as the relation of the letter of the Word to the spiritual sense which it contains. John went before the Lord even as we must read the letter of the Word before its spirit can be revealed to us.
If we look at some of the features of the Gospel according to Luke, we can see how it is primarily a coming of the Lord to our affections. The Luke story appeals to the hearts of children. It is easier to insinuate into the affections of children than is the Matthew story. That is only natural since the Luke story suggests how the Lord is born in our heart and in our affections rather than how He comes to us in a rational manner, or is born within our understanding. The events which Luke narrates took place before the events described by Matthew. The shepherds came to the Lord on the very night of His birth and found Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn. But it was not until weeks later that the wise men from the East came to lay their costly gifts before Him, the gold, the frankincense and myrrhand they found Him in a house.
Let us first explore the significance of Mary and Joseph's exclusion from the inn. In it there was room for the wealthy Pharisees who were the aristocrats of the Lord's day. There was also room in the inn for the Sadducees, who were the skeptics of those days, denying the life after death. There was room for the learned scribe and also for the arrogant priest. The inn-keeper found room for all of those people, but when Mary and Joseph knocked at his door, he said, "There is no room for you in the inn.
The Writings tell us that the inn represented the education of the Jewish Church because, just as the body is fed and housed in an inn, so the mind of man is fed by the education offered at his day and is nourished by it. In fact, that is where he lives in the spiritual inn which is the basis of his thinking. The Jewish education of the Lord's day led men to believe that the Messiah would be a great king, a national hero, a fighting man, a victorious conqueror, one who would break the yoke of Rome from off their necks. That is why they all rejected our Lord, except a handful of people. His own people rejected Him because there was no room in the education of His day for what He had to offer. We who are striving to establish New Church education think that there is a close parallel with the schools of today. The schools of today have room in their curricula for studies that lead to success. They can educate fine business men. They can give boys a training that will enable them to earn good livings. They can make masters and doctors out of them. They can take girls and put them in a finishing school and give them the social graces and dancing and music and enable them to get along smoothly with their fellow men; but in all our public schools, because of their very nature, religion is ruled out. There is no room for the Lord in the inn of our modern education except in those religious schools such as our own, which we conduct separate from the public schools at our additional expense. Only so can we provide room in the inn of our education to fill the minds of our children with the faith that there is One God in One Person who is the Lord Jesus Christ. This fundamental truth shall enter as a dominant thought into all our teaching into geography, mathematics, history and all other subjects, so that the Lord shall be in all of the instruction that we give. That is what we believe, and that is what we strive in our hearts to do! The Lord could not be born in the inn of Bethlehem because it represented the education of His day. In a beautiful passage from the Writings, in the Apocalypse Explained, it is said, "If it had pleased the Lord He might have been born in a most splendid palace and have been laid in a bed adorned with precious stones; but He would thus have been with such as were in no doctrine of truth, and there would have been no heavenly representation." (706:12)
He must be born into that with us which shelters the innocent affections. Domestic animals represent men's good affections, and ferocious animals like the wolf, the tiger, or the lion represent the things that kill men's spiritual life, such as envy, pride, hatred, murder, and all the affections for evil. The Lord cannot be born where the affections for evil abound, but He can be born in a stable, in the spiritual stable of each one of us; that is, He can be born in whatever is in us that shelters and makes possible the life of innocent affections and especially the affection represented by the horse. For the horse represents the understanding of the Word. So when we turn to the vision of the Apocalypse, we find the Lord described as a horseman, riding a noble white steed followed by thousands of angels on white horses, all of which represent the understanding of the Word. And the Lord was laid in a manger. First He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, the simplest of garments which represent the simplest of truths. By the simplest truths I mean the truths in which the Lord comes to us originally. For instance, that God is our Creator. Our children ask, "Where did the world come from? Where did I come from?" We answer, "God made you." "Where does our food come from?" "God made it." Simple truths like these are like swaddling clothes. The Lord was laid in a manger because the manger provides food for horses and thus represents the Word which furnishes ideas of the Lord for our minds, ideas which grow with us from infancy to adult life.
The Luke story also tells of the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock by night on the lonely hills of Bethlehem. All of us have some responsibility. Those of us who are parents have their own children, those of us who are teachers have children for whom we are responsible, and those of us who are adults all have responsibility for the whole generation. Therefore the Lord said to Peter, "Feed my lambs." (John 21:15)
I am just speaking for myself, you will have to translate it into terms of your own occupations. It is very easy to enjoy teaching when the boys are bright and smiling and when you are doing the things that the boys like you to do and you do not have to correct them. That is like tending your sheep in the daytime when there are no dangers. But then there come disciplinary troubles, and things you have to tell the boys that they cannot do, and you meet the resistance of their will, and these may lead you into states of quite black despair. If you can still keep boldly on and keep watch over your flocks by night, then in some slight measure you arc following in the footsteps of those shepherds. It was on these very hills of Bethlehem that David slew both the lion and the bear, while he was keeping watch over his flock by night. When these shepherds were keeping watch on this particular night, then suddenly a beautiful angel appeared to them in the sky and told them that the Savior of the world had been born and that they would recognize Him because He would be lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. The angel announced the simple truth concerning the birth of the Messiah and the shepherds heard it. And as this simple truth was pouring in upon them, suddenly there was with the one angel a multitude of the heavenly host. The whole heavens were filled with angels praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2: 14) That is a pattern of the experience of every New Church man. When once he sees one truth and gets its message from the Writings, there soon follow a multitude of truths never seen before. This is portrayed in the story by the words, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Ibid. 2:13, 14)
That host of angels that appeared in the plains of Bethlehem was seen in the spiritual world. The spiritual eyes of the shepherds were opened, and at the same time an angelic society was seen as a star before the spiritual eyes of certain wise men in the East (Coronis 41) But this story is told in the Gospel of Matthew.
In the spiritual world, the East is where the Lord is. The angels always think of the East as where the Lord is and everything in the spiritual world is oriented by where the Lord appears. When it is said in the letter of the Word that the wise men saw the Lord's star in the East, it represents those who are striving for something higher than materialism, striving for God, hunting for Him, longing to see Him. Such men always see His star in the East. The wise men, from the prophecies that had come down to them from the Ancient Word, were convinced that the star foretold the birth of the king of the Jews; so they went to Jerusalem. But when they arrived there, they found Herod upon the throne.
I do not know of any contrast in the whole Word between good and evil so sharp and clear as the one we have here the wise men and Herod who had murdered three sons, a brother, and a wife. His nameless evils of which we are unaware may have been even more horrible. And Herod was a jealous man and, when the wise men informed him that they had seen a vision in the East which told them that a Messiah had been born in Jewry, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him and he inquired from the scribes and found out that the Lord was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah.
Remember this is the gospel that depicts the coming of the Lord to the understanding; Hence the mention of wise men, of a star which signifies the light of the mind, of kings who represent truths, finally of Bethlehem which means the house of bread and spiritual bread is what feeds and builds the mind. Judah was the southern part of the country and represents love; thus the love of understanding things is signified by Bethlehem, and that is where the Lord is born. After Herod had found that the Lord was to be born there, he called the wise men craftily and enquired of them diligently what time the star had appeared to them; that is, how many weeks or months or days ago the wise men had seen it and started on their journey. For Herod had already determined murder in his heart and had decided that in order to kill the Messiah all the babies in Bethlehem should be put to death so that he would be sure to destroy his rival.
Herod represents the hereditary evil with which we all are born. The wise men represent the truth in us which receives the Lord. What a battle takes place in our lives between these two forces. Each wants to know where Christ should be born; the wise men that they might worship Him, and Herod that he might destroy Him. Herod sought to use the wise men for his evil purposes. "When ye have found Him," he said, "bring me word again that I may come and worship Him also." (Matthew 2:8) The wise men represent the voice of conscience within us and bid us turn our backs upon the allurements of hereditary evil. Every step that they went put distance between them and the king. This represents the momentous decisions that we make in our lives. When we decide to leave evil and to seek the Lord, we are acting like the wise men of old who turned their backs on Herod and departed from him. As soon as this decision was made, "Lo, the star which they saw in the East went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." (Ibid. 2: 9,10)
So it will be with us, in those decisions when we take a stand against some particular evil. Not the kind of confession that says, "O, I am hopelessly evil" and does nothing about it. But the kind of self- examination that finds some particular evil which we determine to shun as a sin against God. Then it is that we depart from Herod, and the star of truth that first awakened the conscience in us will go before us and it will lead us to the place where the Lord is. And we, too, will rejoice as the wise men did. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him." (Ibid. 2:11)
The Lord was born into the world of Mary and we certainly owe Mary love and respect, but not saint worship. To Swedenborg it was granted to meet Mary in the spiritual world and Mary then said that the Lord had indeed been born of her but that everything that she had given Him had been put off; and that she worships Him solely as her God, not as her Son. Yet Mary, in the letter of the Word, also represents the Church because the Lord is born into the hearts of our children and into our own hearts through the Church.
The Church provides the means whereby ministers may be instructed and educated and consecrated and ordained and set apart for their duties of teaching and preaching the Word of God. All of the ministrations of the Church are for the purpose of bringing the Lord into the hearts of men, bringing the Divine on earth, the Writings say, and that is all represented by Mary. It was Mary who brought the Lord into the world physically, but just as we do not worship Mary, so we never worship the Church. We respect the Church and support the Church because it is a means, in the hand of the Lord, for the saving of men, but the Church is never the end of our veneration as it is in some religions.
The wise men went in and they found the young Child with Mary, His mother. There is no mention of Joseph, and they did not come into a stable, but into a house. We do not know the exact time which elapsed since the night of the Lord's birth but it was certainly less than two years. After the wise men came into the house they spontaneously fell down and worshipped the Infant Lord and they rose and opened their treasures, and presented Him with gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
The three gifts represent the three degrees of the mind. Gold, from time immemorial, has been the most precious of metals. Gold has been used for the crowns of kings, and gold has been used on the domes of temples to honor God because of its high correspondence. It represents the highest and purest of loves of which the human heart is capable. The Writings call that love celestial the love to the Lord our Savior.
The second was frankincense. Frankincense, which was used in their sacrifices on the very altar of incense which Zacharias had been tending when the angel came to him, represents all of our spiritual loves. Spiritual loves are our intellectual interests, the things about which we think, the things that we plan, dream, imagine. In offering this we offer our understanding and everything in it to the service of God. The last gift was myrrh, which was also an ingredient in sacrifices. It represents the natural degree in man. The natural degree is characterized by obedience. Those angels who go to the natural heaven (in contradistinction to the spiritual or celestial heaven) are the type of people who do things that are right from duty, who obey laws because they believe that the Lord has commanded them. They may not understand them, they may not love them, but they love the Lord and they love to obey the Lord. And so the third gift offered to the Lord was myrrh because obedience, natural obedience, is the stepping stone to a true love to the Lord. As the Lord said, "He that loveth Me, keepeth My commandments. "
The wise men offered gifts that signify all the things of a man's life, his celestial loves, his spiritual loves and his natural loves, which are all given without restraint to the Lord as an offering. And then night fell and these wise men dreamed a dream, a dream important to all of us. After we have seen the light, and after we have worshipped the Savior, and after we have rendered Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, the Herod of evil is not dead, and he is still on the throne of our natural mind. He is still powerful and deceitful and the chances may be that he may still crush the spark of spiritual life in our hearts. And so God gave a parting warning to these wise men. And "being warned of God in a dream that they should not return, to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Ibid. 2:12)
One-third of the New Testament is occupied with an account of the last week of the Lord's life on earth and the forty days during which He tarried among men before His ascension. If His whole life had been recorded in the same detail, it would take eighty volumes the size of the New Testament to contain it. John indicates this thought when he said, "and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (John 21:25) At Easter time we are accustomed to hear two or three isolated texts with a clear and detailed exposition of their spiritual meaning, but the grand sweep of all the events is frequently overshadowed by our particular interest in some one event. Let me here rather trace for you the sequence of all these events.
For the New Church man the story of the Divine life is the story of the Lord's glorification and, although in its deeper recesses it contains truth of the noblest and the most penetrating kind, yet certain aspects of it can be easily grasped by all who worship the Lord Jesus Christ as their God and Savior.
When the Christ-child was born in Bethlehem His soul made one with the infinite God of the universe, but the body that lived from that soul was all from the Virgin Mary.
On Easter morning, when He rose from the sepulchre, He had with Him nothing that He had taken from Mary. He rose with His whole body; but that Divine substantial body in which He rose was not only conceived of Jehovah, but was also born of Jehovah. The manner of this birth can be clearly understood.
The universal teaching of the Writings is that He continually put off the human from the mother, and in place of it put on the human from the Father. By the human from the Father we mean the Divine qualities into whose image and likeness man was created. We are human because we were created into the image and likeness of the Divine Human.
Let me illustrate this by a simple example: When the Lord was a boy, before He put off the eye-sight which He had derived from His mother Mary, His sight was limited, just as ours is. It could not see through walls, nor around corners, nor into human hearts. But as His glorification advanced He put off limited sight from Mary, and put on divine sight from the Father, which is omniscience, the ability to see everywhere. That He put on this kind of sight is evident from the Gospel story, for when He was feasting with Simon the Pharisee and Mary Magdalene came in and washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head, Simon thought within himself, "This man, if He were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth Him: for she is a sinner." (Luke 7:39) But Jesus saw right into his heart, and read his thoughts. Again, when Peter asked about the tribute money, the Lord saw the fish with the coin in his mouth and sent Peter to fetch it. These illustrations might be multiplied many times. From them it is obvious that He put off the limited sight that He derived from Mary, and in its place put on the power to see as the Father sees.
The same is true about His power to act. When He was a boy He could move only the objects that He could touch, but as He began to enter into His ministry He was no longer limited by the power of His Mary-body; in its place He put on power derived from the Divine Omnipotence. When the nobleman sought His aid at Cana of Galilee to heal his son who lay sick at Capernaum, twenty miles away, He simply said, "Go thy way; thy son liveth." (John 4:50)
When we come to consider the closing events of His life, it becomes clear that it was through temptation-combats and victories over the hells that He continually put off the human from Mary with its limitations and in its place put on the human from the Father, which knew no limitations.
One month before the Lord's own resurrection, He raised Lazarus from the dead. This proved to be the occasion which caused the Sanhedrin to determine to put Him to death. Knowing their plots He retired northward into the wilderness of Ephraim for two weeks, and then He went down and crossed the Jordan and came into the land of Peraea. Here He spoke the parable of the Prodigal Son. While He was in this place the disciples prevented the mothers from bringing their children to Him and He rebuked them and said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14)
But now the time had come for Him to go up to Jerusalem. He crossed the Jordan as Joshua had done twelve hundred years before and entered into Jericho, and there in a sycamore tree He saw Zaccheus, whose action brings a message to all of us, for he is an outstanding example of a man who overcame his handicaps. Being extremely short, he was never able to see the Lord when He passed by, so he did something about it. He overcame his limitations by climbing a tree, and "when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto Him, Zaccheus, make haste, for today I must abide at thy house." (Luke 19:5) As the Savior left Jericho, His attention was arrested by the cries of blind Bartimaeus. When Jesus stood still the blind man came to Him naked, having cast away his ragged garment, true symbol of the falsities of his old faith, which each man must discard if he is to embrace the doctrine of the New Church. (Mark 10:46-52)
From Jericho to Jerusalem was a long hard journey of some twenty-five miles along an up-hill road. But at the end of the journey lay Bethany, and the home of Mary and Martha, and Lazarus. There He and His disciples arrived Friday night, one week before the crucifixion. On the Sunday morning before Easter the Lord sent two of His disciples to a nearby town called Bethphage where He told them that they would find an ass and an ass's colt tied. They were to loose them and bring them to the Lord. If any one questioned their action they had only to say unto him, "The Lord hath need of them." When they brought them to Jesus they cast their garments on them and set the Lord thereon, and as they marched in triumph into Jerusalem many spread their garments in the way and some cut down palm branches and waved them, and the crowd cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." And when the priests bade Him silence the multitude, He said that if they should be silent, even the stones would cry out. Had they never read what was written in the Scripture: "Out of the mouth of infants and sucklings hath He perfected praise"? (Matthew 21:16; Psalm 8:2)
One of the profound and beautiful truths taught by this occasion is that the Lord rode triumphant into Jerusalem seated upon borrowed garments. What a living tableau that is to us of the way that He enters our hearts resting upon the garments of truth borrowed from the minds of the prophets, borrowed from the minds of the Evangelists, borrowed from the mind of Swedenborg.
After teaching and healing in Jerusalem, He returned to Bethany with His disciples to spend the night. On Monday He set out again for Jerusalem, on His way cursing the barren fig tree, symbol of the unfruitful faith of the Jewish Church. As was His wont, He went straight to the temple. There He found, as He had found three years before, them that bought and sold, and the money-changers; and He overturned their tables and drove out them that bought and sold, saying, "Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves." (Mark 11:17) Thus at the beginning of His ministry and at the end of His ministry He purified the temple, for it was a symbol of His presence among men, and it must be kept pure. That night He and His disciples returned again to Bethany.
The Tuesday of the last week of the Lord's life is notable for many things: we know more about His teaching on this Tuesday than on any other day of His life. As the Lord and His disciples journeyed from Bethany to Jerusalem, they passed the fig tree which He had cursed and some of the disciples marveled that it was already dead, but Jesus said unto them, "If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done. " (Matthew 21:21)
No sooner had He entered the temple than the forces that hoped to destroy His power with the masses commenced their attack upon Him. First came the priests whom He had angered the day before by cleansing the temple. "By what authority doest thou these things, and who gave thee this authority?" (Matthew 21:23)
The Lord said that He would tell them by what authority He acted if they would answer Him one question: "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? Answer me. And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven, He will say, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we say, Of men, they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell, And Jesus answering, saith unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." (Mark 11:30-33)
No sooner had the priests departed than the Pharisees and the Herodians came. Flattering Him with the words, "Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man," they proceeded to ask Him if it was lawful to render tribute unto Caesar. He knew their dark design and put them to rout by asking to see the tribute money, and they brought unto Him a penny. When He was told that the image upon it was Caesar's, He said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:16-21)
The Pharisees were followed by the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection. They asked Him about a woman who was successively married to seven brothers who in turn had died. Finally the woman died also. Then they asked Him, "In the resurrection whose wife shall she be, for they all had her?" "Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures," He said, "nor the power of God, for in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God."* Then a lawyer came running to Him and asked what was the great commandment, and when He had answered that it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, no man durst ask Him any further question. The multitude were delighted with the way in which He had silenced His enemies.
Afterwards the Lord related the parables of the Two Sons, the Wicked Husbandmen, and the Marriage Feast for the King's Son. He then called the attention of His disciples to a touching sight. They were standing watching those that cast money into the treasury, and many of their abundance cast in much; then He pointed out a poor widow who had just cast in two mites, which make a farthing. It was her entire substance, and He said to them that she had cast in more than they all.
Later He went out into the court of the temple and there He gave His farewell temple sermon. It was a scathing rebuke to the powers arrayed against Him. Found in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, it contains the words, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye devour widow's houses, and for a pretense make long prayers." As they went out of the temple for the last time, one of His disciples said, "Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" And Jesus said unto him, "Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Mark 13: 1-2)
* Explained in 'The Spiritual Sense of His Answer to the Sadducees.'
Quietly He led His disciples across the valley of the Kedron and up the side of the Mount of Olives, and seated with Jerusalem over against them, He told them of His Second Coming: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven . . . Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:29, 30) The concluding portion of the last Tuesday of the Lord's life on earth was filled with activity. After He had explained the meaning of His second coming, He told His disciples six parables. Among these was the parable of the Ten Virgins, five of whom were wise, and five of whom were foolish. Then follows the parable of the lord who, when he departed, gave to one servant five talents, to one two, and to another one; and the parable of the Judgment Scene with the sheep on the right hand of the Son of Man, and the goats on His left, and the marvelous words:
But His day was not yet finished, for in the evening He had been invited to dine at the home of Simon the Leper, probably one of the many lepers whom He had healed. While they were at meat a woman came in having an alabaster box full of precious ointment. She broke the box and poured the ointment over His head. Judas grew indignant at such waste, and said that this perfume might have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor. But the Lord rebuked him: "For ye have the poor always with you; but Me you have not always. For in that she poured this ointment upon My body, she did it for My burial. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, shall be told for a memorial of her." (Matthew 26:11-13)
It is supposed that this was the night that Judas, stung by the rebuke, went out and covenanted with the chief priests to sell His Master for thirty pieces of silver, the current price of one slave! We know nothing of what He did on Wednesday, but it was probably spent at Bethany in quiet retirement with His disciples. The Lord devoted the last Thursday of His life on earth wholly to His disciples. In the afternoon He sent Peter and John into the city of Jerusalem to find a place where He might celebrate the Passover with His disciples.
When the evening was come He sat down with His disciples to eat the Passover, and after He had washed their feet and separated Judas from their midst He instituted the Holy Supper. The remainder of the evening was spent in soul-searching instruction as they reclined about the table. Near the end of the evening He gave the long discourse recorded in the fourteenth chapter of John, which opens, "Let not your heart be troubled." About midnight, after they had sung a hymn, they went out, and as they walked toward the Mount of Olives He still talked with them. "I am the vine," He said, "and ye are the branches." He led them to the old familiar place where He had talked to them so often and, leaving eight of his disciples, He went on further with Peter, James and John. Then, bidding them remain by themselves, He went a stone's throw away; and as He prayed to the Father that this cup might pass from Him, great drops of sweat like blood fell from Him. We now come to the early hours of the last Friday that the Lord spent on earth.
Three times He came back from praying and each time He found His disciples sleeping. The third time He said, "Sleep on now and take your rest", but no sooner were the words spoken than the noise of the rabble coming up the hill caused Him to say, "Lo, he that betrayeth Me is at hand."
Led by Judas, a multitude with swords and staves and flaming torches approached Him. Twice when He answered them that He was Jesus of Nazareth they fell backward. Finally, betrayed by Judas' kiss, He was bound. Peter asked, "Shall we smite with the sword?" but without waiting for an answer he smote off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest.
Then, in the confusion, the disciples all forsook Him and fled. First He was dragged to the home of Annas who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. There He was informally questioned, and then He was taken to the palace of Caiaphas where the Sanhedrin was assembled. They produced false witnesses which did not agree. Jesus confessed that He was the Christ, the Son of God, and that they would see Him sitting at the right hand of power. At these words the high priest rent his clothes, saying, "What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: What think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death." (Mark 14:63-64)
It was while this was going on that Peter, warming himself by the coal fire in the courtyard, denied his Lord three times; and then the cock crew and he went out and wept bitterly.
After daybreak the Sanhedrin formally condemned Him. This was an effort to make the trial appear legal. Judas, now seeing the full consequences of his acts, tried to return the money to the priests, but when they refused to receive it, he threw it down in the temple and went and hanged himself.
After the trial before the Sanhedrin they brought the Lord before Pilate, making the governor come out to them because they dared not enter into his house, for this would defile them and make them unfit to eat the Passover. At first they endeavored to prove Jesus guilty of forbidding men to render tribute to Caesar, and they accused Him of stirring up the people to insurrection. "Then Pilate entered into the judgment hail again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the king of the Jews? . . Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world . . . Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth . . . Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews." (John 18:33,-36, 37, 38) As the trial proceeded Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean, so he sent Him to Herod to be tried, but before Herod the Savior was silent. Herod turned Him over to his soldiers to mock, who put a purple robe on Him and sent Him back to Pilate.
Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews said, "If you free this man you are not Caesar's friend." Then he invoked the custom of releasing a prisoner at the Passover, hoping that he might thus release Jesus, but the mob cried out for Barabbas. "What then shall I do with Jesus?" asked Pilate. "Crucify Him, crucify Him," they shouted. When Pilate received word from his wife to have nothing to do with that just man, he called for a basin and water and washed his hands before them all, saying that he was innocent of His blood.
Then he turned Him over to his soldiers to be mocked, and they put on Him a scarlet robe and a crown of thorns. Finally they led Him away to be crucified, and as He stumbled under the weight of the cross they compelled Simon the Cyrenian to bear it. To the women who wept for Him as He passed along the road, He said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but for yourselves and for your children."
They crucified Him between two thieves, having parted His garments among them and cast lots for His vesture. From the cross He spoke seven times: For His enemies He prayed, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." To Mary He said, "Woman, behold thy son," to John, "Behold thy mother," and to the repentant thief, "This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Then there was darkness over the land from noon to three o'clock. Finally He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" A little later He said, "I thirst, and then, "It is finished," and last of all, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit."
Pilate had said to Him, "What is truth?" but he never waited for an answer. Earlier he had said, "Art Thou a king?" and Jesus answered, "Thou sayest that I am a king; for this reason came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth. "
The Lord was the Word made flesh, the Word of truth, and in order that He might fulfill all things He had to suffer as the truth had suffered at the hands of the Jewish nation. They had crucified the truth, they had made the law of none effect through their tradition. Through them the hells were able to wreak their fury upon the Human which the Lord had assumed from Mary.
Yet as He hung upon the cross there came a time when their power became impotent, and at that moment He cried out, "It is finished." His faithful followers thought that He meant that it was the end of His kingdom among men. His enemies hailed it as evidence of their victory, but the truth was that His Divine work of putting off all the twisted and perverted human states that He had derived from Mary was at an end. That which He had come on earth to do was finished.
Then came the soldiers to break the legs and thus hasten the prisoners' death because of the approaching Sabbath. But Jesus had already expired, so they did not break His bones. Wonderful internal sense! His bones represent the laws of the universe. Men could scoff at Him, could crown Him with thorns, but they could not alter one single Divine law, represented by His bones!
He was buried by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and it is interesting to note that, just as there was a Joseph connected with the birth story and that for the reason that Joseph represents a protection of the truth of the Wordso in the resurrection the same protection was necessary, and we find mention of another Joseph. At six o'clock that evening the Jewish Sabbath commenced. By that time the Lord's body had been buried, a great stone rolled over the door, and a watch of Roman soldiers set.
It was not until twenty-four hours later, at six o'clock on Saturday night, that the women were free to purchase and prepare the sweet spices to anoint His body. So very early Sunday morning they went out to the sepulchre. They found that an earthquake had rolled away the stone and two angels appeared to them, saying, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen."
Apparently Mary quickly went back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples, and John and Peter raced to the sepulchre to find it empty. Convinced that what Mary had told them was correct, they returned to the city to tell the other disciples, but Mary Magdalene tarried behind. It was then that she stooped down and looked into the sepulchre and saw the two angels in white, and, turning, saw the Lord standing and calling her by name. And she hailed Him as "Rabboni!"
Later on the Lord appeared to two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and in the evening to the ten as they were locked in a room for fear of the Jews. Thomas, not being present, refused to believe, but one week later the Lord appeared again, and Thomas hailed Him as My Lord and my God! "
Some weeks later, seven of the disciples, having gone back to fishing, saw the Lord on the shores of Galilee, and then He appeared to more than five hundred of the brethren at once. Lastly, forty days after Easter He led the disciples out to the Mount of Olives, and there He ascended into heaven, being received by a bright cloud. Two angels then spoke to them saying, "As ye have seen Him go into heaven, so shall He come in like manner." (Acts 1:11)
Now we know that He has come again in those clouds of heaven which are the literal sense of the Word, in which may be seen the glory of the Word, which was in the beginning with God and which was God and which became flesh and dwelt among us. And we can now behold His glory, as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.
In closing, let me point out one of the surest signs that we have that the Lord really did rise from the tomb on Easter morn! That is the conduct of His disciples. You recall that when He was first taken by the band led by Judas 'the disciples all forsook Him and fled. (Matthew 26:56) They were now a band of stunned and deeply disappointed men. The lingering hope that the promise of Palm Sunday, when the Lord rode triumphant into Jerusalem, would become a reality, that in very deed He would establish His kingdom here, had been rudely shattered. In terror
they fled lest they too should be apprehended and persecuted. John and Peter had followed afar off, and the rest of them disappeared from the story. Had there been no resurrection this would have been the end of Christianity instead of its beginning.
There followed the sad crucifixion and burial, and the rest of the Sabbath Day, but with the first day of the week His real appearances commenced, and on twelve different occasions He was seen by various individuals or groups of followers.
Now note how their conduct changed. From being fearful men they became brave and lion-hearted. No power on earth could make them deny the risen Lord whom they had seen with their own eyes. On the day of Pentecost they had received the Holy Spirit. It filled them with a new zeal and a new power, and shortly after receiving this gift from the Lord, Peter and John went into the temple to pray and to give thanks unto God, and there sitting by the gate that is called Beautiful sat a man who had been born lame from his mother's womb. "And Peter fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. Then said Peter, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. " (Acts 3:4-8)
Later a large group of the rulers set John and Peter in the midst of them and asked them "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. " (Acts 4:7-10)
Again the rulers called them before them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." (Ibid 4:19, 20) On still another occasion the rulers warned them saying, "Did not we straightly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom ye slew and hanged upon a tree. (Acts 5:28, 29)
This does not sound like the Peter who sat warming his hands at Caiaphas' fire and thrice denied his Lord! A new courage had entered his heart because he had seen the Lord.
The enemies of Christianity have said that the disciples invented the myth of the resurrection. But men will not die to vindicate a lie. Stephen could never have delivered his last fiery sermon in the very teeth of his persecutors had he not seen the risen Lord and been inspired by that sight. So strong was his conviction that even as the death-dealing stones fell thick about him he told those who were killing him of his vision of the risen Lord and he asked the Savior to forgive them for their brutality.
If Christian tradition can be trusted, every one of the disciples except John met a violent death, dying for the Lord whom he had seen. Nothing but the actual sight of the risen Lord could have changed doubting Thomas. Therefore, when the Lord appeared to him and said, "Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing" (John 20:27), all his doubts were dispelled. The surest of all proofs of the resurrection is found in this miraculous change in the conduct of His disciples who, from fleeing cowards, became the living symbols of bravery, faith, and utter devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Nineteenth of June is called New Church Day because on that day in the year 1770 the Lord called together His twelve disciples and sent them throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns and of His kingdom there shall be no end. (TCR 791)
At Christmas time we think about the Advent story and how the birth of the Lord, as revealed to the wise men, represented the Lord's coming to our understanding, and how the story as told in the Gospel of Luke, with its tidings of good joy told to the simple shepherds, represented the birth of the Lord in our hearts. The natural sense of the Christmas story we share with the world; but in all its events we also see the spiritual sense which makes the coming of Christ on earth as our God and Savior a coming to each individual.
At Easter we again join with the Christian world in celebrating the Lord's bodily resurrection from the grave. As Paul said so many times in his epistles, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain." (I Corinthians 15: 17) It was the fact that the disciples saw the Lord so many different times after He had risen from the dead that established the firm faith of Christianity. And in this belief we join, but we add to it the spiritual sense of the Word that is revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg. For we can now see that in the tomb the Lord put off all the human from the mother, and that on the third day He rose completely glorified in a body of Divine substance.
The Nineteenth of June, however, marks an event which only those can celebrate who receive the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg as a Divine revelation. It is through his eyes alone that we see the other world and the events which transpire there. For as the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ his spiritual eyes had been opened that he might record the events in the spiritual world which marked the Second Coming of the Lord.
The calling together of the disciples in the spiritual world was an event with stupendous implications. It makes of the spiritual world a very real place. Here were men who had preached on earth, who had given up their fishing or tax collecting and all their worldly occupations, and had devoted themselves, heart and soul, to the spread of the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ was the God of heaven and earth; calling on people to repent and to he baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to enter the Christian Church. In doing this in the world, these twelve men had incurred the wrath of the Jewish hierarchy and the persecution of the Roman emperors.
It is inspiring to know that these men, who had made the preaching of the gospel of the Lord's kingdom in this world the center of their lives and who had gladly died for their convictions, were still filled with glowing enthusiasm when they came into the spiritual world. What a thrill it must have been for them to be called together in the spiritual world by their same Lord and Master and sent forth into a vastly wider field to do that which they had loved to do best of all, while they lived in the world, to preach the gospel that the Lord Jesus Christ doth reign! Let me recall to your minds a similar event in this world, as recorded in Matthew:
"And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent forth." (Matthew 10:1-5)
Eagerly they entered into the mission which He had set before them, and went forth and preached with utmost vigor and courage.
The True Christian Religion was the last work which Swedenborg himself published. He had commenced writing the twelve volumes of the Arcana twenty-two years before, and they are the first fruits of his complete inspiration. Many volumes had flowed from his pen since that beginning and the Last Judgment had taken place in the world of spirits. Swedenborg was now eighty-two years of age. We can but wonder at his energy and that he was able to complete so vast a work! He finished the first draft of it on the Nineteenth of June in 1770. At the bottom of the manuscript, after he had written the last chapter on "The Consummation of the Age," he adds a note which reads, "After this work was finished, the Lord called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world; and the next day He sent them all forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages of ages, according to the prediction in Daniel, (7: 13, 14) and Apocalypse (11:15)" (TCR 791)
You will note that the sending forth of the disciples into the spiritual world depended upon the completion of the True Christian Religion in this world, and it is impossible to understand the significance of the Nineteenth of June in the year 1770 without understanding some spiritual history and spiritual geography. The spiritual world is a world of living men and women. There is no one there except people who have once lived on this earth. There are no angels created such from the beginning. There are myriads of angels there, but they have all been good men, women or children in this world first. The angels of heaven are just like those good people who seem almost angelic even while living in this world. Thus the spiritual world seems very real to us, for it is populated by people who are very human in their interests, and very forthright in their friendliness.
The Writings tell us that the spiritual world, which is the scene of all man's experiences after death, is divided into three parts. There is the world of spirits, into which everyone comes immediately after death; above the world of spirits is heaven, and below it there is hell. Into heaven are gathered all those people who love to do what is right, while those who love to plot evil descend by a spiritual gravity into hell. What counts is what man has learned to love in this world. The Lord came into this world to give life and to give it more abundantly, and we know that wherever people are of a generous nature, wherever they seek to help one another, wherever they are fond of one another, there life becomes abundant. On the other hand, where people are selfish, all their life becomes restricted and narrow. That is the effect of evilit narrows life, whereas good gives life and gives it more abundantly. So we have those two great regions in the spiritual world on the one hand heaven, and on the other hand hell, and in between them there is an intermediate realm called the world of spirits. The world of spirits is where we first go when we die, and the world of spirits is a place where the Lord has arranged that man may judge himself; that is, that man may become convinced of his actual loves.
In the natural world we are so pressed upon by externals that we are not always sure what our deepest loves are. We are restrained from doing evil by the law. We have to obey the laws of our country if we do not wish to be pursued by the police. So we may wonder how much of our good conduct is due to the police, and how much to our own self restraint. An even stronger motive for respectable behavior is the moral law or the force of public opinion. How compelling these two forces are we may not realize in this world, but the Writings tell us that the only thing that really counts is the spiritual law which is enshrined in our conscience and bids us to shun evils as sins against God. The sins against Him destroy the things which He has created and they make the beautiful ugly and the sweet bitter; and so, only when we really want to shun evils, not because they will land us in gaol or ruin our reputation, but because they hurt Him, only then do we shun them from a spiritual principle.
All of these different motives, originating in respect for the civil law, the moral law, and the spiritual law, are pretty well mixed up with us in this world, and when we get to the world of spirits, we have the opportunity of having these things clearly defined. We come into a state of freedom, where we have not the slightest feeling that anyone is watching us or cares at all what we do. We have the sensation that we are in a country that has no laws that can be violated, and so the only law that governs us is our own conscience, which we take with us to the spiritual world. In the world of spirits we do not feel that anyone is checking up on us. No neighbor is watching what we do, no wife will note what time we come in or what time we go out and no one will seem to have the slightest interest in what we do.
In other words, we come into a state of real freedom where we proceed to do what we really love to do and do it freely, and if we have loved to do the things which are right and good and clean, those are the things that we will do in the world of spirits. Soon we find that we are associating with people who like the same kind of things. And if we have chosen to do good we will be associating with angels, because we love the things that the angels love. After we have made such a choice, we are instructed by angel guides, and we are finally led to that part of heaven where we can take up the work for which we are best fitted. On the other hand, if we have chosen evil, the Lord has provided that in order that there may not be a horrible mixture of good and evil within us we be given an opportunity to get rid of the good that appears to be ours, the good which our neighbors have thought was part of us, but which in our inmost hearts we hated, since it was only put on to attract their attention and to win their admiration. Then, when all the good which had clung to the external has been removed from us and our evil loves have, as it were, become naked and acknowledged by ourselves, then we begin to associate to ourselves evil people like ourselves and eventually find our abiding place in hell.
The world of spirits is intimately connected with this world. Each one of us lives in the world of spirits right now. That is where our mind breathes, that is where our thoughts come from. This may explain how our affections radiate and move other people just through our presence. You have all had the experience of coming into the presence of someone who heartily dislikes you. You have felt their cold sphere. We all have felt that kind of sphere; and we have also felt the sphere of love when we come among those people who are fond of us. For as to our minds we are in the world of spirits right now.
Now, the medium of connection between the natural world and the spiritual world is the Word. 'When I read "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want," the angels that are with me perceive the spiritual sense of those words and are delighted by it. The Word is the actual connecting medium between the two worlds. It combines the spiritual sense within with the natural sense without. We cannot understand what happened on the Nineteenth of June unless we see this principle clearly.
You have frequently heard of the Last Judgment. Men who read the Word and think only of the letter believe that some day there will be a great last judgment and then the world will come to an end, but the Writings tell us that the last judgment has already taken place. The Lord did teach that there was to be a last judgment, but He did not mean that it would be accompanied by the end of the physical world. It was the end of the Church of which He spoke, the Church founded at the time of His first coming.
That judgment took place in the spiritual world, and the nature of it was this. Men in the love of dominion had misconstrued Divine revelation in order to gain power for the Church over the souls of men. The Roman Catholic Church maintains that because it is said in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew that Peter was to be given the keys of heaven and of hell, this meant that Peter passed down that power to the popes whom the Catholics look to as Christ's vicar on earth, that is, the one who exercises Christ's Divine power on earth. But this conception is hard to reconcile with what we read in the twenty-eighth chapter of Matthew. To His disciples, after He had risen from the dead, He said, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18) In these words the Lord informs His disciples Peter included, that all power was given unto Him, in His Glorified Human, and not that any special power was given to Peter as Christ's vicar on earth. But let us examine the passage in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew upon which the Pope's claims are based. "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? and they said, Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:13-19)
Now let me call your attention to the fact that the Lord asked, "Whom say ye that I am?" And when Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ," the Lord said, "Thou art Peter and upon this rock." The rock is obviously not Peter the man, but the rock is the confession that He, the Lord, was Divine, that He was the Christ. It is on that doctrine of faith that the Church shall be built, not on the man Peter. However, if it were not for what the Lord said six verses later, we might get an erroneous idea of the importance of the man Peter. For the Lord then recounted to the disciples "how that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee. But He turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind Me, Satan: thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." (Matthew 16:21-23)
Thus we note that in the same chapter, only six verses apart, He says first, "Thou art Peter and on this rock will I build my Church," and then He calls Peter "Satan," and says that he is an offence unto Him and that he should get behind Him.
I looked up this text in the Douay Bible, which is the Catholic English version, to see how the twenty-third verse would be rendered. They translated it, Thou art Satan, Get thee behind Me," but they had a footnote by a learned bishop who said, and I quote, "Verse 22. 'And Peter taking Him.' That is, taking Him aside, out of a tender love, respect, and zeal for his Lord and Master's honor, began to expostulate with Him, as it were to rebuke Him, saying, Lord, far be it for thee to suffer death: but the Lord said to Peter, verse 23, 'Go behind me, Satan.'
These words may signify, begone from me; but the Holy Fathers expound them otherwise, that is, come after me, or follow me; and by these words the Lord would have Peter to follow Him in His suffering, and not to oppose the Divine will by contradiction; for the word 'Satan' means in Hebrew an adversary, or one that opposes." (Footnote in the Douay Bible at Matthew 16:22 and 23) This explanation will hardly satisfy the reason of an intelligent person. The explanation of the New Church is just this: that Peter the man was neither the rock on which the Lord built His Church, nor was he Satan; but that the declaration of faith that Christ was God was the rock on which the Church was to be built, and Peter's opposition to the Divine will was Satan. Thus we see that the letter of the Word can be misused to subject people to the dominion of the Church. Millions of worshippers have been under the rule of the Catholic Church and when they have gone into the spiritual world they were still under its dominion.
Other millions of simple souls had accepted the doctrine of salvation by faith alone and they had been kept under the dominion of that false persuasion by Protestant ministers for many hundreds of years. Because the letter of the Word was used to hold people under the altar, as described in the book of Revelation, a judgment was not possible until the spiritual sense of the Word had been revealed. However, when the Arcana Caelestia was finished in 1756twelve marvelous volumes explaining the internal sense of thousands of passages in the Word, then the condition was ripe in the world of spirits for a spiritual judgment. After the truth concerning the Trinity, and the truth concerning the life after death, and the truth concerning man's being saved through building a character which loves the things that the angels love, when those truths had been revealed in all abundance in the Arcana Caelestia, then there was an immediate reaction in the spiritual world. These new Divine truths tore away the sham foundations of the imaginary heavens that wicked leaders had been able to set up through their abuse of the letter of the Word. And when the truths of the spiritual sense were revealed in this world as they were in the Arcana Caelestia, it was possible for the Lord to effect, accomplish, and produce the Last Judgment in the spiritual world, which took place in the year 1757.
The New Heaven, however, was not completed until 1770. That is a number of years later and, during the interval, there poured from the pen of Swedenborg, but not from the mind of Swedenborg, for they were Divinely inspired, the rest of the Writings, among which were: Heaven and Hell, The Earths in the Universe, The Last Ju4gment, Divine Love and Wisdom, Divine Providence, The Apocalypse Explained, The Apocalypse Revealed, Conjugial Love, and The True Christian Religion. When Swedenborg finished the last paragraph of the first draft of The True Christian Religion, the Lord "called together His twelve disciples who followed Him in the world, and sent them forth throughout the whole spiritual world to preach the Gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, whose kingdom shall be for ages of ages." (TCR 791)
All of the truths necessary for the establishment of a New Church in this world had now been revealed. The purpose of this revelation was to manifest the Lord in a new way. The Divine is everywhere. In no true sense can the Divine come to a place where the Divine already is. But the Divine can reveal Himself in a new way. At the time of the first coming He revealed Himself as a Man. But in the second coming He revealed Himself as Divine Truth. The essential of this Divine Truth is that the same Lord Jesus Christ who had gathered the twelve apostles to Himself in this world is the very God of heaven and earth. In this world the disciples had preached the doctrine that the Lord Jesus Christ was Divine, and that He had risen from the dead, and most of them had given their lives to defend that doctrine. How beautiful, then, that they should be called upon to preach throughout the whole spiritual world that the Lord Jesus Christ doth reign and that of His kingdom there shall be no end.
That was the first New Church sermon that was ever uttered, and it was preached in the spiritual world. The calling together of the twelve disciples was on the Nineteenth day of June in the year 1770. That is why we call that day the birthday of the New Church. We may well ask ourselves why the twelve disciples who had followed the Lord in this world were chosen for this high office in the spiritual world. Was it because they were better than anyone else? Just why was it that of the thousands and thousands of Christians who were in the spiritual world by 1770 the same twelve men should be chosen as were chosen in this world? We are not left without an answer to that question. A study of the Writings tells us that Swedenborg met the twelve disciples in the spiritual world on March 13, 1748. He tells us in the Spiritual Diary (1330) that there were thousands and thousands of angels in the inmost heaven of the spiritual world who were higher angels than the apostles ever became. The apostles went to the interior heaven, he said, and above the interior heaven is the celestial or inmost heaven, so that the disciples were not of the highest angels. They were not chosen then because of their personal virtue.
When Swedenborg met the twelve apostles on March 13, 1748, the occasion was their descent from their heavens into the world of spirits for the purpose of judgment; and when they came down into the world of spirits, they entered into the external state in which they had been in this world. Here on earth the Lord had said that when He came into His kingdom they would be judges, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. On one occasion the disciples had been quarreling together. They had been arguing among themselves as to who should be greatest in the Lord's kingdom, when He came into His power. They were thinking that He was going to be a worldly ruler who would break the yoke of Rome from the neck of Israel. Then one of the twelve would be first in His kingdom. They wanted to know who that one was going to be. (Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46; 22:24) But the Lord called a little child and put him in the midst of them and said, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) On another occasion, the mother of James and John came to the Lord and desired that He allow her sons to sit at His right and left hand when He came into His kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-28) She was thinking of His worldly kingdom, when He should come into power, and the Lord said that that position was reserved for those prepared for it by His Father which is in heaven.
When, therefore, these same disciples came into the world of spirits, they came into their external state. Then it was that they thought that they should judge the tribes of Israel, and they thought that only those who had suffered martyrdom for the sake of their faith, as they had done, should be rewarded by being given heaven. And they had to be instructed that if martyrdom were the price of heaven, then in modern days, no one would be going to heaven because no one is dying for their religion at the present time. No one would be coming into heaven if the apostles' criterion for entrance into heaven were correct. In reading the account in The Spiritual Diary (1330) it is interesting to note how absolutely human these men were.
They were still influenced by what they had thought on earth, and it was not until they had been instructed and had been freed from these wrong ideas as to what makes a person worthy of the kingdom of heaven, that they could return to the interior heaven which is their final abode.
We are now ready to see why these same twelve men should be called to preach the Gospel in the spiritual world that the Lord reigns. The reason is that they were better able than anyone else to preach the Gospel of a Divinely Human God. For although God is Infinite, Divine, and eternal, He must still appear to us as a Divine Man, and He does so appear in the pages of the New Testament. And of all the people in the spiritual world, no one could have known Him as a Man with the same vigorous impressions that these disciples had who had eaten with Him, slept under the same roof, listened to Him, talked with Him, and followed Him whithersoever He went in this world. And the message of the Nineteenth of June, which is the Gospel of the New Church, is that the Lord Jesus Christ is a Divine Human Personal God who is interested in individuals and who can be worshipped, not as a cloud, not as a force of energy, but as a Divine Human Savior.
It is stated that the Lord called together the twelve disciples who had followed Him throughout the world and sent them each into his own province. Why were there twelve disciples? Why weren't there thirteen or Six? There were twelve for the same reason that there were twelve tribes of Israel. The number "twelve" corresponds to all the goods and truths of the Church. Twelve is a combination of three and four: three representing the truth in its fullness and four representing conjunction of good. The combination of the two represents everything that the marriage of good and truth can bring to the life of the Church, and the twelve disciples represent all of the elements of good and truth which go to make up a true Church.
There is another passage from the Writings about these disciples that I want to call to your attention. Swedenborg was writing the chapter on Faith in The True Christian Religion. Here he brings together, from many different angles, the truth that the Lord is one God in one Person. He quotes many passages from the Word which teach this doctrine. "I and My Father are One."
(John 10:30) "Before Abraham was I am. (John 8:58) And he quotes many more beautiful passages which show the oneness of God. At the end of number 339 he says, "The foregoing was written in the presence of the Lord's twelve apostles, who were sent to me by the Lord while I was writing it." The Lord had surrounded Swedenborg with the very company who had known Him as a Man and who had followed Him in this world in order that their sphere of absolute knowledge might inspire Swedenborg to present a living faith in one God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In number 108 of The True Christian Religion we read, "To this I will add the following new information. Some months ago the twelve apostles were called together by the Lord, and were sent forth through the whole spiritual world, as they formerly were through the whole natural world, with the command to preach this gospel; and to each apostle was assigned a particular province; and this command they are executing with great zeal and industry." What is meant by each apostle being assigned a particular province? You recall that the Lord's first miracle was turning water into wine, which represented turning natural truth into spiritual purpose. That was at the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee, and we are told that "both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage." This means that in order that this first miracle may take place in the lives of each one of us, both Jesus and His disciples must be present, and when they are present, then the miracle of changing water into wine can take place. The reason for this is because the disciples represent that which brings the worship of the Lord to the individual, and this is none other than the principles of good and truth whereby we make the religion of our hearts govern the acts of our daily lives.
But each disciple went to preach in his own province. Peter's province was faith. We can see in every act of his life this principle of faith. We see his life reflected in our own lives for we all know that at some moments, faith is very living. It seems to fill our whole being, just as Peter cried out on the eve of the crucifixion, as he sat by the Lord at the Last Supper and said, "Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee." (Matthew 26:35) Only a few hours later, in the palace of Caiaphas the high priest, he denied Him three times. We exhibit the same disloyalty when, knowing what is right, we do evil.
It is not hard to understand the province into which Thomas was sent, for he is the symbol of all doubters. To be able to see by rational demonstration is a God-given faculty. When the Lord said, And the way ye know," Thomas immediately said to Him, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest." He came out and confessed his ignorance, so the Lord said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." (John 14:5, 6) Later, when the Lord appeared to ten of His disciples on Easter night, Thomas was not there, and when the disciples told him about it he said that unless he put his finger in the print of the nail and thrust his hand into the Lord's side, he would not believe that the Lord had risen again. One week later, the Lord appeared again and said to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing." Thus by rational demonstration the Lord convinced Thomas, and he answered, "My Lord and my God." (John 20:24-29)
Or we could take the case of the beloved disciple, John. How constant he was, how unlike Peter who denied the Lord! John never denied the Lord. True, all the disciples forsook the Lord and fled, when he was seized. (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50-52) But John and Peter returned and followed the Lord even to the palace of the high priest (Matthew.26:58; Mark 14:54; Luke 22:54), and John went into the palace. (John 18: 15) We might also think of Philip whose name means "a lover of horses," and whose spiritual correspondence represents the study of the letter of the Word and connects with the fact that the Lord was born and laid in a manger where horses are fed.
Consider any one of the disciples, or all of them, and as we study their lives we can see that the principles which they represent are the principles which have to be established in us, if the Lord is to be the one only God of our heaven and earth. Similarly, in the Grand Man of heaven there is a province which receives the particular ministrations of each apostle. Each apostle is privileged to perform that use which is particularly his own. Thus, when we celebrate the Nineteenth of June, as New Church men we can understand why the Lord chose His twelve apostles to proclaim, each in his own province, that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, and that His kingdom shall be for ages and ages. As we receive Him into our own lives, and as we let His love, mercy, and wisdom penetrate into every province of our personalities, then we will be so inspired by Him that every action of our lives will bear witness of Him. Since He will be in our loves, our lives will be uplifted; since He will inspire our wisdom, our footsteps will be directed heavenward; and since He is our God, our whole being will be moved to proclaim the new gospel of His apostles, "The Lord God Jesus Christ reigns, Whose kingdom shall be for ages and ages."