Noble's 'Appeal': V. A Human Instrument Necessary, And Therefore Raised Up:
D. The Charge against Swedenborg of Mental Derangement, Considered With some Minor Objections.
we now come to the grand objection of all against the illustrious Swedenborg, and his claims to be accepted in the character he assumes. The common cry, re-echoed from mouth to mouth, and retailed from pen to pen, is, that he was mad; an aspersion which, notwithstanding some totally false and merely calumnious tales have from time to time been fabricated to support it, literally rests upon no foundation whatever, but that on which the same imputation was thrown against an infinitely greater character. He hath a devil and is mad: why hear ye him?"* Such was the salutation with which the Divine Truth, in person, was assailed, when "he came unto his own, and his own received him not." The Lord Jesus himself was reproached as insane by the leaders of the professing church of that day: and even his own kindred according to the flesh had so little conception of his true character, that when he began to display it by mighty words and works, "they said, He is beside himself. And they went forth to lay hold on him,"+ for the purpose of putting him under restraint, as a person of disordered mind. So little capable, when in the darkness of its sensual perceptions, is the human mind, of distinguishing the most exalted wisdom from insanity! No wonder then that the proclaimer of genuine truth now should be derided with similar reproaches. "The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord: if they call the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household!"# Such were the prophetic warnings by which the Lord prepared his disciples for the treatment they were to expect: and the experience of distant ages has proved their truth. When the Apostle pleaded the cause of Christianity before Agrippa and Festus, the Roman governor replied with the exclamation, "Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad:"$ and so, in our times, a man who has been favoured with a degree of illumination as much superior to that of modern Christians in general as was the divine knowledge of Paul to the darkness which then overspread both Jews and Gentiles, is assailed with the same cry, and, while his attainments in science are admitted, it is pretended that his studies had ruined his faculties. By the Candid and Reflecting, a sufficient answer to this charge will be found in his writings, which, though a period of twenty-two years intervened between the publication of the first of his theological works and the last, exhibit the most perfect consistency of sentiment throughout, while they are all written with a regard to the most orderly and methodical arrangement, and display in their author the most acute powers of reason and extraordinary strength of memory; which last faculty is evinced by the numerous references to other parts of his works which abound in them all. These, certainly, are qualities which do not usually attend the ebullitions of insanity. Indeed, it is impossible to pretend to find in the composition and manner of Swedenborg's writings any tokens of derangement: even adversaries admit that they exhibit plain marks of a very superior mind: and they only pronounce him mad, became his works contain such statements as they might naturally be expected to contain, should his claims to acceptance, as a heaven-commissioned teacher, be true.||
* John x. 20. + Mark iii. 21. # Matt. x. 24, 25. $ Acts xxvi. 24.
|| I had here, however, almost forgotten the Author of the Anti-Sweden-borg; for he, willing to be thought a more profound critic than any who had gone before him, objects to the manner, as well as the matter, of Swedenborg's writings. He complains that there is in them "an almost endless tautology and repetition either of expression or meaning," which, he adds, "is to me another plain indication of the author's disordered intellects." (P. 7). But his proof of the charge is not a little curious. "Lest," he says, "I should be charged with misrepresentation respecting those repetitions and tautologies, I will give one instance. No. 332, Memorable Relation, True Christian Religion. —No. 331, Memorable Relation, Conjugial Love. These two memorable relations, which I find in two different works, are word for word." Now repetition or tautology consists in repeating the same thing, in the same work, over again, in the same or in different words. To do this unconsciously, or without necessity, is certainly a mark of a weak head; but to indicate disordered intellects, it must be done in such a manner as to produce, not prolix exactness, but confusion. Not the least trace of tautologies and repetitions of either of these kinds, is to be found in the writings of Swedenborg. But in an extensive work it frequently becomes necessary to repeat something which has been said before, when it is to form the premises to further conclusions: and in different works on similar subjects this is still more unavoidable. Such repetitions as these certainly exist in the writings of Swedenborg; and they evince, not the disorder, but the exactness, of his intellect. But to give, in. Appendixes to different works, the same relation or discussion, not as forming; part of the series of the work, but because the author deems it illustrative or important,—though it is a repetition, it hardly comes under the description of what is critically so denominated: it is rather a second edition of an isolated, tract; and he who possesses both editions, seeing at once that they contain the same thing, will not read it again unless he wishes to do so. Now the example on which the writer rests his charge of tautology and repetition is one of this sort. It is an isolated relation given in the Appendixes to the chapters of two different works, because, in the last of them, the author wished to collect together all that he had written of the kind. Thus this objector, when endeavouring to avert from himself the charge of misrepresentation, completely establishes it..
If Swedenborg really had the senses of his spirit so opened, as to be present with angels and spirits as one of themselves, in the same manner as is experienced by all men when they have finally quitted the terrestrial body, it is abundantly certain that, if he should relate what he witnessed, he must relate much which, to common apprehensions, must appear extraordinary,—perhaps incredible. Now his adversaries in general only look into his works for such things as may serve to give a wrong impression. These they set forth as specimens of the whole, for the purpose of deterring others from examining for themselves: carefully suppressing those excellent and truly sublime and heavenly sentiments, upon numerous subjects of the first importance, which even they cannot help feeling, and half-acknowledging, that those writings contain. Thus respecting some sentiments of our author, which an adversary cannot deny to be excellent, he has these remarks: "What the Baron says respecting truth and good, and especially what he says respecting faith and charity [these are fundamental things, by the by], as also his opinion respecting man's free-will and predestination, accords in general with my sentiments, and may perhaps be read with some advantage."* We here have, to be sure, an admirable specimen of what Pope calls to "damn with faint praise;" yet we may be satisfied that there must be something truly striking in what Swedenborg delivers on these subjects, to extort even such praise from a person determined, when looking at his excellences, to apply the wrong end. of the telescope, while for discovering what might be distorted into blemishes, he uses the strongest magnifier he could find. Accordingly, he immediately adds, "But on these subjects the Bible may always be consulted with infinitely more success; therefore quitting the Bible for Baron Swedenborg's works, is something like leaving good wine for mere water." Can any thing be more futile ? Must not an adversary be sadly at a loss for an objection to offer such a one as this ? All that has ever been written in illustration of the Bible, is, it seems, mere waste paper! The Bible not only contains all things necessary to salvation, but all so plainly stated, that every reader, learned or unlearned, may comprehend the whole without assistance!+ He adds, "If we will read uninspired books upon these subjects, there are plenty to be found more compact and consolidated than the Baron's writings, which are frequently both diffuse and incoherent." This last imputation I utterly deny. I defy any man to produce a fair example of incoherence from any part of our author's numerous volumes. If there be, occasionally, some diffuseness in his style, it arose from his desire to avoid ambiguity; he doubtless would rather seem prolix than obscure. But prolixity is by no means the general characteristic of his composition: it in fact seldom appears but in the uniform and formal mode in which he introduces his comments on each, clause of the subject in his expositions of the Scriptures. Besides, who can judge of his style, that only knows it through the very disadvantageous medium of a literal translation ? In the original, it is often so condensed, that it is difficult fully to render the sense in English without greatly weakening it by dilution. I appeal as an example to the Latin of the work "On the New Jerusalem, and its Heavenly Doctrine;" which is a production truly admirable for the consolidated weight of its matter, and the correspondingly brief and sententious character of its style. But in respect to works like his, in which the matter is every thing, it only displays a previous determination to be displeased, when an opponent descends to cavils about the manner; and a man who wishes to be regarded as a friend of religion in general, ought, before he resorts to such cavils, to consider whom they will hit besides. It is long ago since Jerome noticed the solecisms of Paul; and it is well-known that none of the writers of the New Testament possessed a good Greek style: but who that pretends to a grain of candour regards this as derogating from the importance of their writings ? Who will say that, because, as to the composition, their Epistles are not faultless, there is reason to impute "disordered intellects" to the Apostles ? Let Swedenborg's writings be looked at for their sentiments, and be judged of by them: and we fear not to assert, that they will be found to contain a system of theology, which, instead of being, like that of his opponents, at open variance with half the Bible and really at variance with all the rest, is in perfect harmony with the whole; and, what is no less important, a system which, differently from all others, harmonises all the Bible with itself.
* Anti-Swedenborg, pp. 7, 8.
+ This brings to my recollection the following anecdote:— Mr. Samuel Warren, the father of the Dr. Warren who has made such a schism in the Methodist body, and who was himself attached to that body for fifty years, had, several years before his decease, which happened in 1833, embraced the views of the New Church. "When it was known among the Methodists that he had received the new doctrine, they deputed the Rev. J. Wood, one of their most influential ministers, to wait on him, and dissuade him from reading the writings of E. S. When the reverend gentleman entered, the following dialogue took place: 'Well, brother Warren, I hope you read your Bible?' 'Yes, bless the Lord, I do read it, and understand it too, more than ever.' 'But (says Mr. Wood) I hope you do not read any foolish books: the Bible, the Bible only, is the book for you: read nothing but your Bible.' 'Surely (replied the other) there can be no harm in my reading a little in the Methodist Magazine, or Wesley's Sermons?' 'Well, no (said Mr. Wood); but do not read foolish and visionary books.' 'I suppose you mean Swedenborg's (added Mr. Warren): but I tell you I shall not cease to read them unless they are proved to be false: till then, sir, neither brass, nor silver, nor iron, nor even Wood, shall hinder me from reading those works from which I derive good. If you approve of Wesley, I approve of Swedenborg.'" (See Int. Rep. for May, 1833, p. 436.) What says the Warrenite to this, who has recently disgraced himself by recompounding a farrago of oft-refuted slanders,—Mr. Roebuck?
Most unjust, then, in every respect, is the representation which many of our opponents have given of the writings of Swedenborg. It is fabled of the cruel Medea, that to stop her incensed father in his pursuit, she tore her tender brother Absyrtes limb from limb, and strewed the way with his mangled remains: thus, also, has Swedenborg been treated by his adversaries, to turn the sincere seeker from the pursuit of truth. Several of them, probably, exult in the dexterity with which they have performed this feat. Cheered by the plaudits of sectarian magazines, more than one mutilator probably says in his heart, something like what the notorious T. Paine has said in his "Age of Reason," on completing a not dissimilar exploit: "I have now gone through the Bible, as a man would go through a wood, with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees. Here they lie, and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may perhaps stick them in the ground again, but they will never grow." So easy is it, by overlooking the design of the whole together, and taking detached passages out of their connexion, to hold up to ridicule any thing whatsoever, even the eternal Word of truth itself; and so easy is it likewise for men, when they have done this, to persuade themselves that the objects of their scorn deserve it. This is just what several adversaries have done with the illustrious Swedenborg and his writings: they create deformities, and then call upon their readers to bestow on them their contempt.
"Trunca sed ostendens disjectis corpora membris, A spice ait."
One of them denominates his specimens, "Sundry Extracts from the "Writings of Baron Swedenborg." If "Sundry," means sundered, the title is truly descriptive. A scrap is taken from one place, and a scrap from another, while all the explanations necessary for the understanding of them are omitted: and the reader is solicited to condemn the Author on account of the grotesque dress in which his antagonist presents him. Suppose a man were to steal into the wardrobe of a prince, and cutting off a snip from one elegant garment, and a snip from another, were to patch them together in the form of a fool's coat: what should we think of him if he were to exhibit his motley compound, his thing of shreds and patches, as a dress of the prince's, instead of acknowledging that it was merely his own ? Just as good an idea would such a piece of patch-work present of a royal robe, as do the extracts furnished by our adversaries, in general, of the writings of Swedenborg. They endeavour by garbled quotations to make him appear ridiculous or unintelligible, and then they call upon the public to pronounce him mad. Return, however, the fragments to their proper places, and read them in their proper order; and the reason of the whole will appear; and then his writings, instead of lending any countenance to the imputation of insanity, completely refute it, and evince his heaven-born intelligence.*
* This shall be illustrated, in the sequel, in the case of the specially Sundered Extracts above adverted to.
II. As then there is really no ground in the works of Swedenborg themselves, viewed as the productions of a man specially called to discharge a divine commission, on which to found the imputation of mental derangement; and as this will more conclusively appear when we come, in the next Section, to consider the statements in his works most relied on for supporting such an imputation; we will proceed to examine the principal of the alleged facts, out of which the calumnious report has been constructed.
It has given much pain to the receivers of the doctrines communicated in the writings of Swedenborg, that the circulation of the report of his insanity should have been materially promoted by a man so much intitled to respect as the late Rev. Mr. Wesley. It is however certain, that in the part which that respectable person took in the affair, he was completely imposed upon by the minister of the Swedish Chapel in London, Mr. Mathesius, who was Swedenborg's personal and violent enemy. Mr. Wesley, indeed, professes to give his statement on the authority of a Mr. Brockmer, as well as of Mathesius: this, however, was only because Mathesius told him that he derived his information from Brockmer, but this Brockmer totally denied.
The substance of the account published from Mathesius by Mr. Wesley, is, that while lodging at the house of Mr. Brockmer, in the year 1743, Swedenborg was seized with a violent fever, attended with delirium; and the inference drawn from it is, that though he recovered from the fever, he never recovered from the delirium. But how completely unauthorised is such a conclusion! Is it usual with that common malady,—a fever attended with delirium,—to leave the faculties deranged after the patient's recovery ? The story itself, also, refutes the inference which the relators draw from it. For to prove that he once was actually delirious, or "mad," they" tell us (though nobody pretends to have seen it) that he played the mad trick of running naked into the street, exclaiming that he was the Messiah, and rolling himself in the mire. Now as it is abundantly certain that his conduct through all his after life was the most decorous possible,— as he completely left off playing mad tricks (supposing he ever had played any),—the proper inference is, that he ceased to be mad. In the judicious words of Mr. Hartley, "He was seized with a fever, attended with a delirium, common in that case, about twenty years before he died, and was under the care of a physician; and they have gone about to pick up what he said and did, and how he looked at the time, and have propagated this both in private and in print; a proceeding so contrary to common humanity, that one cannot think of it without offence, nay, even horror: but there is not the least occasion for a particular answer to so malignant a charge, as it receives its full confutation from the consistency and wisdom of his numerous publications before and since that time." The justice of these remarks is indisputable, supposing the story of the fever and delirium to be true: but what shall we think, if the whole story was merely fabricated to give a colour to the charge ? This, there is actually the strongest reason for believing. There is no trace of any allusion to the tale in any authentic source of information; and the Chevalier de Sandel, we have seen above,+ not only declares, that Swedenborg, "being endowed with a strength, of faculties truly extraordinary, in the decline of his age, soared to the greatest heights to which the intellectual faculty can rise,"—for this might be the case notwithstanding his having had a fever and delirium,—but he asserts, further,* that "he enjoyed such excellent health, that he scarcely ever experienced the slightest indisposition." Could this general assertion have been made, if so terrible an exception to it had ever happened ? In short, what with the inherent inconsistencies in the story itself, and the virtual refutation of it by Sandel, there is enough to evince its utter falsehood, could no direct contradiction of it be given. But such direct contradiction of it, taken from the lips of Mr. Brockmer, does exist, testified by the Rev. R. Hindmarsh, who was still living to confirm it when this Appeal was first published.+ Thus the whole origin of the story was evidently no more than this; Swedenborg mentioned freely to Brockmer the commencement of his spiritual intercourse: Brockmer talked of it: and from the idle reports which thus got abroad, Mathesius, nearly forty years afterwards, fabricated the tale with which he imposed on Mr. Wesley. This fact is alone sufficient to fix the brand of imposture on the whole story. The charge against Swedenborg of mental derangement, is built upon circumstances alleged to have occurred forty years before the charge was brought forward, and which had never been heard of in the whole of the intermediate period! What more palpable mark of fabrication could exist ?
+ See his excellent work intitled, "A Vindication of the Character and Writings of the Hon. Eman. Swedenborg," &c., pp. 19, 20. See, also, the New Magazine of Knowledge for 1791, which not only contains a refutation, by the late Mr. Robert Beatson, of the above story, but of the principal of the strange misrepresentations of Swedenborg's sentiments published by Mr. Wesley in the Arminian Magazine.
But if from the story of the fever and delirium, assumed as true, any should continue to argue that Swedenborg remained insane ever after; with much more plausibility might it he argued, that a man who became positively insane, and continued the remainder of his life in that state, might have been partially deranged long before it was suspected: and if so, we could easily account for Mathesius's imagining the tale he propagated; for that he went mad, is a well-authenticated fact. We are by no means prone to assume the distribution of divine judgments; but it really is difficult to avoid thinking that we behold one here. All must allow it to be a remarkable coincidence, that the man who first imputed insanity to Swedenborg, and was the chief cause of its being believed by others, should himself have experienced the deplorable visitation; which happened, also, soon after he gave the information to Mr. Wesley. The Abrege des Ouvrages d'Em. Swedenborg, which was published at Stockholm in 1788, states in the preface, that Mathesius had become insane, and was then living in that state in that city. The same is affirmed in "The New Jerusalem Magazine;" one of the editors of which was Mr. C. B. Wadstrom, a Swedish gentleman of great respectability, well known for his efforts in the cause of the abolition of the slave-trade, and who must have had ample means of knowing the fact. In a MS. minute, also in my possession,* of a conversation held by Mr. Provo, May 2nd, 1787, with Mr. Bergstrom, master of the King's Arms (Swedish) Hotel in Wellclose Square, the latter says as follows: "Mr. Mathesius was an opponent of Swedenborg, and said that he was lunatic, &c.; but it is remarkable that he went lunatic himself; which happened one day when he was in the Swedish church and about to preach: I was there and saw it: he has been so ever since, and sent back to Sweden, where he now is: this was about four years ago." All the accoiints agree: and thus evident it is, that into the pit which this unhappy man digged for another, did he fall himself. (Mr. Bergstrom also said of Swedenborg, with much more that is creditable to him, "He frequently called on me, and once lived ten weeks together with me in this house; during which time I observed nothing in him but what was very reasonable, and bespoke the gentleman.—Some of his friends here spoke against him, and some were for him: for my own part, I think he was a reasonable, sensible, and good man; he was very kind to all, and generous to me.")
* Since printed at length in the Intellectual Repository for January, 1830.
But, further: I am providentially enabled, by some documents which have come into my hands, to trace the progress of Mr. Wesley's mind in regard to Swedenborg, in such a manner, as completely to neutralise his authority in the unfavourable conclusion which he, at last, adopted: for I am enabled to show, that, in that conclusion, Mr. Wesley stands in direct opposition to Mr. Wesley himself; and that his first judgment was formed upon far better evidence than his last. It appears certain, that Mr. Wesley was at one time inclined to receive Swedenborg's testimony in the fullest manner: and this because he had had indubitable experience of his supernatural knowledge.
Among Mr. Wesley's preachers, in the year 1772, was the late Mr. Samuel Smith, a man of great piety and integrity, who afterwards became one of the first ministers in our church. Having heard a curious anecdote, said to rest on his authority, I wrote to Mr. .J. I. Hawkins, the well-known engineer, who had been intimately acquainted with Mr. Smith, to request an exact account of it. The following (a little abbreviated) is his answer: it is dated February 8th, 1826.
"Dear Sir, — In answer to your inquiries, I am able to state that I have a clear recollection of having repeatedly heard the Rev. Samuel Smith say, about the year 1787 or 1788, that in the latter end of February, 1772, he, with some other preachers, was in attendance upon the Rev. John Wesley, taking instructions and assisting him in the preparations for his great circuit, which Mr. Wesley was about to commence: that while thus in attendance, a letter came to Mr. Wesley, which he perused with evident astonishment: that after a pause, he read the letter to the company; and that it was couched in nearly the following words: *
' Great Bath Street, Cold Bath Fields, Feb. — 1772. 'Sir, — I have been informed in the world of spirits that you have a strong desire to converse with me; I shall be happy to see you if you will favour me with a visit.
' I am, Sir, your humble Servant,
* The letter was most probably in Latin; but Mr. Wesley, no doubt, would read it in English.
"Mr. Wesley frankly acknowledged to the company, that he had been very strongly impressed with a desire to see and converse with Swedenborg, and that he had never mentioned that desire to any one.
"Mr. Wesley wrote for answer, that he was then closely occupied in preparing for a six months' journey, but would do himself the pleasure of waiting upon Mr. Swedenborg soon after his return to London.
"Mr. Smith further informed me, that he afterwards learned that Swedenborg wrote in reply, that the visit proposed by Mr. Wesley would be too late, as he, Swedenborg, should go into the world of spirits on the 29th day of the next month, never more to return.
"Mr. Wesley went the circuit, and on his return to London, [if not, as is most probable, before,] was informed of the fact, that Swedenborg had departed this life on the 29th of March preceding.
"This extraordinary correspondence induced Mr. Smith to examine the writings of Swedenborg; and the result was, a firm conviction of the rationality and truth of the heavenly doctrines promulgated in those invaluable writings, which doctrines he zealously laboured to disseminate during the remainder of his natural life.
"That Mr. Smith was a man of undoubted veracity, can be testified by several persons now living, besides myself; the fact therefore that such a correspondence did take place between the Honourable Emanuel Swedenborg and the Rev. John Wesley, is established upon the best authority.
"On referring to Mr. Wesley's printed journal it may be seen, that he left London on the 1st of March in the year 1772; reached Bristol on the 3rd, Worcester on the 14th, and Chester on the 29th, which was the day of Swedenborg's final departure from this world. Mr. Wesley, in continuing his circuit, visited Liverpool, and various towns in the north of England, and in Scotland, returning through Northumberland and Durham to Yorkshire, and thence through Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire, to Wales; thence to Bristol, Salisbury, Winchester, and Portsmouth, to London, where he arrived on the 10th of October in the same year, having been absent rather more than six months.
"I feel it my duty to accede to your request, and allow my name to appear as your immediate voucher.
"I remain, Dear Sir, yours very sincerely,
" john isaac hawkins."
To this I can add, that the Rev M. Sibly has assured me, that he has heard Mr. Smith relate the above anecdote; and that he could mention, if necessary, several other persons still living who must have heard it too. He fully, also, supports Mr. Hawkins's statement in regard to Mr. Smith's veracity. Thus it is impossible to doubt that Mr. Smith affirmed it; and it is difficult to suppose that he could either wilfully or unintentionally misrepresent an incident which must have impressed him so strongly, and of which his consequent adoption of his sentiments formed a collateral evidence.
It may here be proper to observe, that the Translation of Swedenborg's little work on the Intercourse between the Soul and the Body had been published not long previously (in 1770), with a Preface by the translator, addressed to the Universities, urging the author's claims to attention. This Mr. Wesley had probably seen, and had thence conceived the desire he acknowledges to see the author. The discovery that this deeire, though it had remained a secret in his own breast, was known to Swedenborg, must have affected him very strongly: it must have convinced him that Swedenborg's assertion, that he possessed the privilege of conversing with angels and spirits, was true: and it is natural to suppose that he would conclude from it, that the cause assigned by Swedenborg of his having received this privilege, namely, that he might be qualified for a holy office to which he had been called, was true also. There is, further, the strongest evidence that Mr. Wesley's conviction went as far as this. I had heard an anecdote demonstrating it related in conversation by the Reverend and venerable Mr. Clowes, Rector of St. John's, Manchester, whose high character for every quality that can adorn a Minister of the Gospel, and of course for veracity among the rest, is acknowledged by all who knew him (and few were known through a wider circle)— by those who differed from him as well as by those who agreed with him in theological sentiment; I therefore wrote to him to request a written statement of the particulars, with leave to publish it with his name; with which request he kindly complied. The part of his letter (dated January 19, 1826) which relates immediately to this subject, is as follows:
" My very dear Sir,—In full and free compliance with your wishes, as expressed in your kind favour of the 16th, I send you the following Memoir of the late Mr. Wesley, as communicated to me by my late pious and learned friend, Richard Houghton, Esq., of Liverpool, who was also intimately acquainted with Mr. Wesley, insomuch that the latter gentleman never visited Liverpool without passing some timc with Mr. Houghton. As near as I can recollect, it was in the spring of the year 1773 that I received the communication, one morning, when I called on Mr. Houghton at his house, and at a time, too, when the writings of the Hon. E. S. began to excite public attention. These writings were at that time unknown to myself, but not so to my friend Mr. Houghton, who was in the habit of correspondence with the Rev. T. Hartley on the subject, and was very eager to make me acquainted with them. Accordingly, in the course of our conversation, my friend took occasion to mention the name of Mr. Wesley, and the manner in which he, on a late visit to Liverpool, had expressed his sentiments on those writings. 'We may now (said Mr. Wesley) burn all our books of Theology. God has sent us a teacher from heaven, and in the doctrines of Swedenborg we may learn all that it is necessary for us to know.' "
The manner in which Mr. Wesley here expressed himself was strong indeed: so much so, that were it not certain that his mind must have been at that time under a very powerful influence in Swedenborg's favour, he might be suspected to have spoken ironically. This I observed in my letter to Mr. Clowes; to which he replies, "I can hardly conceive, from the manner in which it was expressed by Mr. Houghton, that irony had anything to do with it:" and Mr. Houghton must have known with certainty whether it had or not. His repeating Mr. Wesley's observation to Mr. Clowes, as an inducement to him to peruse the writings of Swedenborg, is a complete proof that Mr. H. believed it to mean what it expresses. But an examination of dates will show, that Mr. Wesley's statement to that gentleman was made while the impression from Swedenborg's supernatural communication was acting in all its force. Mr. Clowes's interview with Mr. Houghton was in the spring of 1773. Mr. Wesley does not appear to have been at Liverpool between that time and the 10th. of the preceding October, when he returned from his last great circuit. In that circuit he did visit Liverpool, and was there early in April, 1772. This then must be the "late visit" mentioned by Mr. Houghton; and this was within six weeks after he had received the extraordinary communication from Swedenborg. This is certain: and it is also highly probable, that, at the time of his visiting Liverpool, the effect of that communication was greatly strengthened by the verification of the announcement, which, we have seen, Swedenborg had made to him, of the day of his own death. He died, as he had announced, on the 29th of March: there can be little doubt that a notice of it appeared in the papers: it would, thence, it is highly probable, be known to Mr. Wesley when he was at Liverpool, about a fortnight afterwards: and the words he then uttered to Mr. Houghton will not appear stronger than he might be expected to use, when two such recent and completely incontrovertible proofs of the truth of Swedenborg's claims were operating on his mind.
Yet Mr. Wesley, thus miraculously convinced of the truth of Swedenborg's claims (as far, at least, as relates to his intercourse with the spiritual world), afterwards exerted himself to check the extension of the same conviction to others! in which, however, he only afforded a proof of Swedenborg's constant assertion that miraculous evidence is inefficacious for producing any real or permanent change in a man's confirmed religious sentiments. When Mr. Wesley uttered the strong declaration respecting Swedenborg and his writings, he spoke of the latter, rather from what he expected to find them, than from what he actually knew them to be. The probability is, that he at this time knew little more of them than he had learned from the tract "On the Intercourse:" which contains, probably, nothing that he would except against; especially as it is certain, as will be seen presently, that even the treatise on Heaven and Hell, which gives the main result of Swedenborg's spiritual experience, was not condemned by him. But when, he came to find that Swedenborg's writings militated against some of the sentiments that he had strongly confirmed in his own mind; these, which were his interior convictions, gradually threw off the exterior conviction arising from merely outward though miraculous evidence: hence he afterwards accepted the false report of Mathesius, and promoted its circulation. Indeed, there can be no doubt that, then, such a statement as that of Mathesius would operate as a relief to him; for though be could not receive the whole of Swedenborg's doctrines, the positive proof he possessed of the author's supernatural knowledge must often have disturbed him in his rejection of them: he must therefore have been glad to meet with anything which could make him, in regard to that rejection, better satisfied with himself. Finally, perhaps, other causes assisted to strengthen his opposition. When first he published the slanderous report (in 1781), he still seems to have had some misgivings; hence he prefaced it with the acknowledgment, that Swedenborg was "a very great man," and that in his writings "there are many excellent things:" when he afterwards seemed less inclined to admit so much, although no doubt he still spoke sincerely, a little human frailty, perhaps, influenced his judgment. It is well known that Mr. W. was always prompt in taking measures to put down anything like rebellion among his disciples,—any thing that tended to the diminution of his authority over their minds. Now it is a certain fact, that Mr. Smith was not the only one of his pupils who began to think the doctrines of the New Church superior to those of Methodism: among his other preachers who came to the same conclusion, were Mr. James Hindmarsh, Mr. Isaac Hawkins, and Mr. E. Jackson, deceased, with Mr. J. W. Salmon and Mr. T. Parker, still living;* all of whom became active promoters of those doctrines: it therefore is not to be wondered at, if Mr. "Wesley at last took the most decisive steps to check their further extension among his flock.
* When the first edition of this work was published.
The above appears to me to be a fair and highly probable account of the progress, on this subject, of Mr. Wesley's mind. It is not, however, here offered with the view of casting any imputation on his memory. I have little doubt, that, though some erroneous sentiments confirmed in his understanding prevented him from accepting, in this world, the doctrines of the New Church, his intentions were upright, and there was a principle of real good in his heart, which, in the other life would throw off the errors that obscured it, and enable him to receive the truth. This, it is probable, was seen by Swedenborg, and was the reason of his inviting him to an interview: and thus, I trust, though Mr. Wesley acted chiefly as an opponent to him while on earth, he may now be associated with him in heaven. Let it, also, be remembered, that for the alleged facts published by Mr. Wesley, Mr. Wesley himself is not responsible: he was herein imposed upon by Mathesius. Let not, then, his followers still confirm themselves against Swedenborg's testimony by what Mr. Wesley published against him: let them rather weigh, without Mr. Wesley's prejudices, the reasons he had, and might have had, for coming to finally favourable conclusion; and let them accept the sentiments which, we may hope, Mr. Wesley now holds, instead of adhering to those which he, in all probability, has rejected.
Closely connected with the name of Mr. Wesley, is that of Mr, Fletcher; and as considerable pains have been taken to represent this distinguished character as participating in Mr. Wesley's mistaken opinions respecting Swedenborg, it may be satisfactory to some if I here enter into a little digression to correct this misrepresentation, and to establish the assertion advanced above,* that "among the believers of Swedenborg's spiritual intercourse, if not of the whole of his doctrine, is certainly to be reckoned the celebrated and eminently pious Vicar of Madeley, the Rev. Mr. Fletcher:"—consequently, he did not regard what Swedenborg has communicated on that subject as the result of mental derangement. It is also certain that, at one period, Mrs. Fletcher, scarcely less celebrated among the Methodist body than her husband, approved, at least, of much of Swedenborg's writings; clear proof of which will appear in the next section.
In this lady's journal, as edited after her death by the Rev. H. Moore, there is a passage of a contradictory description. But there really are circumstances which make it difficult to believe that the paragraph, as it stands, ever proceeded from her pen. It professes to relate a conversation between Mr. Fletcher and herself, not minuted down at the time, but inserted under the date of March 5, 1806, more than twenty years after Mr. Fletcher's decease. It begins thus: "A thought has struck my mind, That from some things mentioned in the notes subjoined to the Portrait of St. Paul, edited by Mr. Gilpin, after my dear husband's death, he might be thought to favour the opinions of Baron Swedenborg; I therefore think it my duty to bear my witness to the contrary."—What Mr. Gilpin had said on this subject, I have not ascertained, not having been able to obtain a sight of the first edition of the work; and the less honest editors of the subsequent editions have so carefully erased it, that not a syllable respecting Swedenborg is in them to be found. Mrs. F. proceeds: "The first book which he saw contained but little amiss: and Mr. Wesley having observed concerning it, 'I think it will neither do good nor harm,'—Mr. Fletcher, soon after, writing to his brother, who had mentioned it, observed, that it was a book which he did not condemn."—Now this book, which Mr. Fletcher did not condemn, which Mrs. Fletcher allows to contain but little amiss, and which Mr. Wesley did not think capable of doing any harm, was the Treatise on Heaven and Hell: and that is a work of no neutral character; for its details being constantly given as the results of the Author's personal knowledge and experience, not to condemn them is to acknowledge it to be at least highly probable that he wrote from divine illumination. And that work not only contains the Author's views respecting Heaven, Hell, and the Life after Death in general, but it touches, either directly or incidentally, upon the whole of his doctrines; in particular, it devotes two chapters to the explanation of the correspondence between spiritual things and natural, and advances throughout the great doctrine on which all the others hinge,—that of the Sole Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. If, then, Mr. Fletcher did not strongly favour the whole, would he have encouraged his brother, for whose spiritual welfare he felt the most tender solicitude, to study such a work, by telling him "it was a hook which, he did not condemn?"—Mrs. F.'s journal adds, "But when he had seen a little more of the Baron's works, he said to me one day, Polly, I believe Mr.—— will be a Swedenborger, and I am very sorry for it.' I said, 'Well, if he can believe there are wax candles and feasts in heaven, he must have strange ideas.' Mr. F replied, 'My dear, thou dost not perceive the snake in the grass. These books deny the atonement, and so strike at the root of all true religion.' In the same mind he continued to the last." It is here very strange that Mrs. F. should have made the remark about wax candles in heaven; for no such statement is anywhere made by Swedenborg. That Swedenborg's works do not deny the atonement as represented in the Scriptures, will be seen in a subsequent Section: and it seems scarcely possible that Mr. F. should have thought so. And that he esteemed Swedenborg's works injurious, and continued in that mind to the last, is utterly irreconcileable with the certain fact, that one of the last acts of his life was, to introduce those works to a beloved friend, who is living at this day, and blesses his memory, for having been brought by him to a knowledge of those invaluable writings.
The following is from a letter of Mrs. M. Walker, of Bath, to a lady in London, dated May 10, 1820. The original is before me. "I do not remember ever to have read any passage put forth by a public religious character with feelings of more surprise and astonishment, than one lately put into my hand by a friend, who is a lover of truth. The passage alluded to is in Mr. H. Moore's Life of that late very dear and venerable mother in Israel, Mrs. Fletcher, and is relative to Mr. Fletcher's opinion and sentiments on the invaluable writings of Emanuel Swedenborg; for which, I have from undoubted and united testimonies been convinced, that both Mr. and Mrs. F. entertained much respect, if they did not fully appreciate their worth. When young, I was honoured by intimate acquaintance with both those distinguished and pious characters; and I for some years corresponded with the above lady, both as Miss Bosanquet and Mrs. Fletcher. The last time I had the pleasure of addressing her, my letter was conveyed to her hands by W. Gilbert, Esq., a native of Antigua; in which I informed her that I had embraced the doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church, requesting her sentiments thereon. On this gentleman's return to Bristol, I naturally and ardently expected her reply: but to my great disappointment Mr. Q. informed me, that Mrs. F. had requested her kind love, and hoped I would excuse her not writing, as the weak state of her eyes prohibited her doing it. I then inquired if she had made no remark relative to E. S. Mr. Gr. replied, that she had conversed freely with him on that subject, and said, that she could always see a great difference in his writings according to the station he described himself as standing in, or receiving his instructions from:—for instance, when he wrote from the east, she could perceive more of the spirit of the Lord to be in it than when from any other quarter, when she considered what he wrote as coming from some spirit or angel, and sometimes from himself.* I remember that this gentlemen specified some parts of his writings, but cannot recollect which, as a proof of her assertion, mentioned as such by herself. Now as this dear lady always, from my earliest years, expressed a strong affection for me, and, had my father been willing, would have taken me home as her own daughter (being then in Bath, I think about the year 1766 or 67), it is most probable that a woman, of her sweet heavenly spirit would have warned me against reading: or receiving doctrines which she considered dangerous, had she seen, them in such light: which she might have done verbally, if unable to write, by Mr. Gilbert.—Again: I do not recollect the year, but at the time the Rev. Melville Home went to Sierra Leone, leaving Mrs. Home behind on account of her advanced state of pregnacy, Mrs. H. spent about ten days with me: and I experienced great delight in her conversation and communications of spiritual sentiments, not without surprise at finding them so congenial with my own. One day, on her making some spiritual remark which I knew did not grow in the old church, I said, 'My dear Mrs. Home, you can say, Shibboleth!— where did you gather your last sentiment from?' 'From Madeley,' she replied, 'from dear Mr. Salmon.' I then inquired if she had ever conversed with Mr. Fletcher on those doctrines: to which she replied in the affirmative, and that he appeared to esteem them so highly,, that she inquired why he did not preach them in his church. His reply she gave me in the following remarkable words: 'Because my congregation is not in fit states to receive them.' "
* It is to be observed, that Swedenborg never describes himself as standing in, or receiving what he wrote from, different quarters: this then is only Mrs. Fletcher's mode of describing the difference she thought she perceived in, his writings; but she herein adopts as true what he states respecting the difference of the quarters in the spiritual world, and the arrangement of its inhabitants therein according to their states; according to which representation, the east is where the Lord himself appears, and those are stationed towards the east who are eminently principled in love to him. But Mrs. P. here fully acknowledges her belief, that Swedenborg really did receive communications from the spiritual world, and frequently, even, from the Lord, though she falls into the inconsistency of supposing, that he who was thus the channel of divine and heavenly communications, was equally the channel of very inferior influences, and was himself unable to distinguish the one from the other! The fact is, she saw that the reality of his spiritual intercourse could not be denied, nor the exalted excellence of many of his views; but cherishing, herself, some erroneous sentiments, she made these the standard of her judgment, and so ascribed to an imperfect source whatever in his writings was inconsistent with her own opinions.
Mrs. Walker then relates what she had heard respecting Mr. Fletcher from J. W. Salmon, Esq., of Namptwich; but having myself been favoured with a letter from that gentleman detailing the particulars more fully, with leave to publish them, I give them on his immediate authority. His letter to me is dated July 2, 1825: and in it he says as follows:
"In answer to your inquiry, I state the following particulars for certain, which took place betwixt Mr. Fletcher and myself the last time I had the pleasure of passing a couple of days with him at Madeley, which was but a few months before his death. After receiving me with open arms into his house, he thus addressed me: 'My dear brother (which he always called me), I am glad to see you, and hope we are once more met to enjoy a heavenly feast together.' After this he went into his study, and brought the Baron's treatise on Heaven and Hell, and laid it on the table before me, saying, 'There, my dear brother, is a book, the contents of which will just suit your taste; and as I am particularly engaged for two or three hours every day, about this time, in finishing a controversial work of some importance, you will excuse my leaving you so hastily, and amuse yourself with reading a little in the book I have brought you, which I believe will be agreeable to your present state of mind.' He then left me: and being greatly impressed with the manner of his introducing the book to me, I fell upon my knees, and devoutly prayed, that if the truths contained in the book before me were likely to make me more holy and heavenly-minded, I might be prepared to receive them, and live accordingly. Then rising from my knees, I opened the book and, passing over the preface, I read about 30 pages, and was deeply impressed with the whole of them, but more than words can express with the declaration, that the Lord Jesus is the only God of heaven and earth, and the only Object of true Christian worship. Just after being thus divinely impressed, Mr. Fletcher came into the room, and thus addressed me: 'Let me now ask you, my dear brother, how you like the Baron?' To which I replied, 'Who can do otherwise than like him ? I never met with such a book in my life. He discards a trinity of persons in the Godhead, and makes the Lord himself to be the only God of heaven and earth. I should be glad to peruse the whole book, if you can conveniently lend it me.' To which he replied, 'I will lend it you with great pleasure, and desire you will make any marginal notes on it you think proper.' He further said, that he regarded the Baron's writings as a magnificent feast, set out with many dainties, but that he had not an appetite for every dish. He not only declared this to me, but I have frequently been informed he said the same to others. What books of Swedenborg's he was acquainted with besides the treatise on Heaven and Hell, I cannot say; but I should think he was well acquainted with the contents of that; as he told me that he intended to write a treatise on the science of correspondences; and from that book, I have often thought he gained the knowledge of that long lost and most important science." —Here then we see whence he acquired that extraordinary talent for opening the spiritual sense of the Scriptures, by which, Mr. Gilpin assures us, he was so distinguished.—Mr. Salmon then mentions how he was struck by Mr. F.'s manner of praying. He always began with "Dear Lord Jesus;" from which, and from a passage in his Pastoral Letters, p. 103, Mr. S. concludes, "that our Incarnate God and. Saviour was the grand Object of Mr. Fletcher's faith and worship." Mr. S. adds, "Let me not forgot to acknowledge, that Mrs. Fletcher sent to me for the book, saying, that as her dear husband was gone into the other world, she wished to see the account of that world given by the Baron.—What her sentiments were respecting the Baron's writings, I cannot say, as she never was present in the few conversations I had (respecting them) with her husband."
The fact then must surely now be admitted to be amply established, —that Mr. Fletcher is to be reckoned among the believers of Swedenborg's spiritual intercourse, if not of the whole of his doctrine; and, however the strange passage came into her journal, the same fact appears to be true in respect to Mrs. Fletcher also, though, probably, to a less extent. Would such a man as Mr. Fletcher have introduced writings to his friend, with the anticipation that that friend would approve them, if himself thought them the offspring of delusion ? Would he have permitted his friend to express his high approbation of the leading doctrine of those writings without checking his ardour, if himself deemed that doctrine untrue ? The thing is impossible: and the similar reflection which Mrs. Walker makes respecting Mrs. Fletcher's conduct to her, is equally well-founded. To Mr. F.'s remark, "that he regarded Swedenborg's writings as a magnificent feast, set out with many dainties, but that he had not an appetite for every dish," the same observation is applicable as to Mrs. Fletcher's notion, that our Author wrote at times from the Spirit of the Lord, and at other times from inferior spirits or from himself: only Mr. F. does not ascribe what he less approved to any fault in the thingz themselves,—for he compares the whole of those writings to a feast, and all their contents to dainties,—but to the state of his own appetite: modified, as this necessarily was, by the views of doctrine which he had imbibed in early life, and through the fallacy of some of which he was only beginning to penetrate when he was taken away.
But to return from this digression.
III. We have seen that the only specific ground upon which it has ever been attempted to found the imputation against Swedenborg of insanity, proves in every respect to be a foundation of sand: but as the charge continues to be vaguely reiterated by multitudes, they know not why, we will add some considerations upon it in general, taken from a correspondence in which I was formerly engaged. My opponent, on that occasion, was a young gentleman of very respectable attainments belonging to the medical profession; who, while repeating the old calumny, made more show of supporting it by argument than has been usual with our assailants. I was thus led to go more particularly into the examination of the imputation than had, 1 believe, been done before. The controversy embraced other subjects; but I shall only extract the part that relates to the present question. I will give as much of my adversary's letters, as, with my answers, is necessary to place the case fairly before the reader.
His first letter, being an attack on a lecture delivered by me, appeared in "the Colchester Gazette" of December 28, 1822. In this, my opponent, who writes under the signature of Gulielmus, had merely thrown out the charge in a declamatory manner; which I notice, in the following extract from my answer, inserted in the same paper, January 4, 1823. "You charge the truly illustrious Swedenborg with insanity; only supporting the charge with the gratuitous assertion, that 'it is a fact well known to those versed in his biography:' and you ask, 'Who would deem it wise to stake his faith, his hope, his terrestrial happiness and eternal felicity, upon the wild, and visionary, and mystical, and baleful,—if bright, and beauteous, and ingenious reveries of a Madman?' Allow me, Sir, to say, that I presume that I am, at least, as well 'versed in his biography' as you can be: and I know, what perhaps you do not, that he has found two classes of biographers; one who, without any personal acquaintance with him, or intimate knowledge of his works, have, from mere hearsay, the idle fictions of enemies, represented him as you describe; while the other class, who were personally acquainted with him, and who had fairly examined his writings, agree in representing him as retaining 'a sound mind, memory, and under standing, to the last hour of his life:' as was deposed on oath by Mr. and Mrs. Shearsmith, at whose house he had repeatedly lodged, and in which he died, in an affidavit sworn before the Lord Mayor, Nov. 24, 1785 [to rebut the charge of his having, when dying, retracted his former sentiments]. I might here quote the highly honourable testimony on this subject borne by the Rev. T. Hartley, M.A., Rector of Winwick in Northamptonshire, who was intimately acquainted with Swedenborg for several years before his death;—of Mr. Springer, formerly Swedish Consul at the port of London; of Dr. Beyer, Member of the Ecclesiastical Consistory at Gottenburg; of Dr. Messiter, an eminent English Physician; of Mr. Robsam, Director of the Bank of Stockholm; and of Count Hopken, many years Prime Minister of Sweden, and one of the most illustrious statesmen that Sweden ever produced. All these were Swedenborg's intimate acquaintances, besides being persons, as their rank and stations demonstrate, well qualified to form a judgment, and well entitled to be believed: how ought then all the hearsay reports,—the idle fictions of prejudice or of ignorance,—to fade away before testimony so unimpeachable!
"But, Sir, we care not for extraneous evidence. It is satisfactory, indeed, that we can produce incomparably more in his favour, even of this kind, than can be produced against him; but we are content to rest the cause, ultimately, upon the evidence which his writings bear to themselves. 'By their fruits ye shall know them,' saith infallible "Wisdom; 'do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?' Can he then be a 'madman' in whose writings we find the most coherent system of theology, the most satisfactory proof of all the great doctrines of Christianity, the most conclusive evidence of the divinity of the Holy Word, that modern ages have beheld; and all this deduced in the most orderly method, with the most logical arrangement of the branches of his argument, the most perfect consistency of system and of sentiment, though conveyed in volumes written (some of them) at the distance of more than twenty years from each other?"
In reply, Gulielmus addressed to me a second letter, which appeared in the same paper, Jan. 25th. The following sentences contain all the strength of his arguments. "You cite the affidavits of several persons who deposed as to the Baron's sanity; and you quote the opinions of others to the same effect.—But, Sir, admitting these affidavits to have been conscientiously made, and these opinions impartially given; still, I submit, they cannot prove, beyond all doubt and controversy, the sanity of the Baron.—I do not seek to impeach their veracity; but, in a case of this nature, I may be allowed to question their competency to decide. Does not every day show us instances, in which the rich, the noble, the powerful, the talented, and the educated, have given testimony, which subsequent events have proved erroneous ? I cannot fail to notice, Sir, you carefully conceal the countless many who have borne different evidence; but you most conveniently content yourself with the gratuitous assertion, that it is satisfactory, indeed, that we can produce more in his (the Baron's) favour, even of this kind (viz. extraneous evidence) than can be produced against him.' Sir, I recognise the possibility, that a man may be 'a Swedish Consul at the port of London;' or a 'Member of the Ecclesiastical Consistory at Gottenburg;' or 'a Director of the Bank of Stockholm;' or 'an eminent English Physician;' or 'a Count, and many years Prime Minister of Sweden;' or even an enlightened visionary Divine; and yet not competent to decide, unerringly, upon alienation of mind, or that peculiar species of it with which the Baron was affected, denominated idoloinania, in which the lunatic fancies he sees and holds converse with imaginary beings.
Sir, the merest tyro in medical knowledge would have informed you, that in eases of insanity like the Baron's, a man will often appear perfectly sane, and will stand the test of the most scrutinising examination till the subject is touched upon in which all his fond and delusive systems are concentrated; and then his aberration of mind bursts forth terrifically. I remember a case recorded of a gentleman whom his friends deemed insane: he was examined by several physicians of the greatest celebrity, experience, and talent, without their being able to find the smallest trace of insanity: Dr. Haslam, however, was consulted, who, after a long and ingenious investigation, touched the chord which vibrated to his infatuated fancy. See the opinions * of Mead, Cullen, Ferrisa, Haslam, Monro, Esquirol, "Willes, Burrows, and Pritchard. Sir, are we to be told that the depositions of two persons, and the opinions of a few more, are to be deemed infallible, upon a subject in which the most experienced talent is liable to "be mistaken ? Let no individual, Sir, form his opinion of the Baron from our newspaper-report on the subject;—no, out of his own mouth let the Baron be justified or condemned.—Can he be a sane man who records the subsequent reverie as matter of fact ? The Baron informs us, 'that on a certain night a man appeared to him in the midst of a strong shining light, and said, I am God the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer; I have chosen thee to explain to men the interior and spiritual sense of the sacred writings: I will dictate to thee what thou oughtest to write.' From this period, the Baron relates, he was so illumined as to behold, in the clearest manner, what passed in the spiritual world, and that he could converse with angels and spirits as with men, &c. I ask, does the Baron deserve any more credit than we give to the pretended visions of Mahomet, whom most denominate, by way of illustrious infamy, the False Prophet; or than the asserted inspiration of one Lodowick Muggleton, who, with his Companion, Reeve, set up for great prophets about the year 1657, and promulgated that their mission was entirely spiritual, &c.—Seriously, Sir, there seems to have been method in the Baron's madness, which enabled him so exactly to tread in the steps of Muggleton and Reeve, not abating an atom of their fanaticism and delusion.—Sir, in another part of your reply, with the ingenuity of sophistry, you imposingly ask, 'Can he be a madman in whose writings we find the most coherent system of theology,' &c.—Sir, I am willing to leave the decision of this point to the efficient decision of every unsophisticated and enlightened enquirer after divine truth, when he has perused the Baron's works; yes, let the subject be decided 'by the evidence which his writings bear to themselves.'—
* Not respecting Swedenborg.
"I conclude, Sir, by thanking you for the effort you have made to instruct me in the mysteries of the Baron's reveries: but I am so well satisfied with the good old way, that I am by no means desirous of an accession of any extraordinary new light."—
This second letter of Gulielmus drew a second from me, which the Editor of the Colchester Gazette inserted in his papers of Feb. 22, and March 1, 8, and 29. I extract the following paragraphs, here and there slightly altered:—
"I must first observe, that you have here only given an additional illustration of the fact, which we must know little of human nature in its present state of degeneracy not to expect, that such truly profound views of divine things as are developed by Swedenborg, and the means by which he obtained them, must needs 'seem incongruous,' as one of your authorities [Dr. Gray, quoted by Gulielmus on the subject of the patriarchal history] well expresses it, 'to those who cannot raise their minds to a contemplation of any economy which they have not experienced, and who proudly question every event not consistent with their notions of propriety.' This, Sir, is the sole ground of the assertion that Swedenborg was 'a madman.'—
"Allow me to state the general facts, with your conclusion from them.
"Scripture has abundantly predicted, that a great change in the state of the church would, at some future period, take place: All history testifies, that whenever such changes have taken place in former ages, they have always been attended, sooner or later, with great alterations in the political aspect of the world. The alterations of this kind which the last fifty years have produced, are such as the world has not seen since those which attended the first establishment of Christianity: Swedenborg, more than fifty years ago, announced the arrival of the time for the fulfilment of the Scripture-prophecies alluded to: 'Flesh and blood could not have revealed this' to him, but only our Father which is in heaven: But, say you, for him to affirm this is an unquestionable proof of insanity; though the truth of his testimony receives corroboration from the events of every passing year, yet because he asserts that he obtained his knowledge in the only way in which it was possible to attain it, he was a Madman. Such, Sir, when put in a tangible form, is the chain of reasoning which terminates in what you denominate your incontrovertible statement. Happily, however, we have a statement far more incontrovertible, even that of God Himself; which is, 'Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets:' (Amos iii. 7.) and never yet did he suffer the period to arrive for the execution of any of his magnificent works of mercy and judgment, without enlightening some faithful servant to communicate the important tidings. This, as you allow the truth of Scripture-history, you cannot deny; so that the plain jet of your argument, taking this into the premises, is simply this:—Scripture demonstrates, that to invest men, on the requisite occasion, with divine commissions? has always formed a part of the divine economy as exercised towards man: numerous false pretenders to such communications appeared in former ages, without the circumstance being considered as derogating from the authority of the true ones: but there have also been false pretenders in modern times: Therefore, it is impossible there can again be any true ones. A most legitimate conclusion! Do you seriously mean to affirm, that although God, in former times, confessedly interposed occasionally in an extraordinary way for the benefit of his church, he either cannot, or will not, do so any more ? Reflect how awful is the state to which you represent the church as having arrived, when its members deny either the power, or the right, or the willingness, of God to interfere, when necessary, for her guidance! Remember, that when once a wall of separation is built up between heaven and the world, and God is shut out from his church, a door is open for the admission, from the opposite quarter, of every corruption, both of doctrine and practice. We can, then, no longer wonder at anything that 'the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery;. for they say the Lord seeth us not, the Lord hath forsaken the earth." (Ez. viii. 12.)
"You draw your arguments in support of your charge from three sources: from Testimony: from the Principles of Medical Jurisprudence; and from Theological Considerations.
"On the question of Testimony; In reference to the deposition of the Shearsmiths, and the opinions of the learned and noble persons mentioned by me, you say, 'Admitting these affidavits to have been conscientiously made, and these opinions impartially given, still I submit they cannot prove beyond all doubt and controversy the sanity of the Baron.' Sir, I brought them forward, not as absolutely decisive proof, but as strong presumptive evidence; as affording a more than adequate set-off against the calumnies of the 'countless many,' who, you assure us, 'have borne different evidence.' Who these 'countless many' are, you, Sir, wisely, as well as 'carefully, conceal:' wherefore I will tell our readers. They consist of such persons as Gulielmus, who, without knowing anything of the matter themselves, are ever ready to echo a scandalous tale that they have heard from others, and who, when it has been thus circulated through a nation, cry out, 'See! they who repeat it are a countless many; and what everybody says must be true.' But, Sir, you must know little of the rules of evidence, which are those of common sense, if you are not aware, that a report does not gain, from the multitude who retail it at second hand, one jot of additional credibility; for this, it depends entirely upon the number, character, and means of knowledge, of those with whom it originated: on which account, I did not refer you to the thousands who have received Swedenborg's testimony as witnesses in his favour, but only to such as found their evidence on their personal acquaintance with him; and I could easily add to their number. But the stories respecting his supposed insanity cannot be traced up to one witness of this description. They were first put in circulation by Mr. Mathcsius, Minister of the Swedish Chapel in London, who was a bitter opponent of Swedenborg's sentiments; and who professed to relate his tale upon the authority of a Mr. Brockmer, at whose house in London Swedenborg had once lodged, but who, when questioned upon the subject by some gentlemen who waited on him for the purpose, denied having given Mr. Mathesius any such information.—Such, Sir, is the
——tenuis sine viribus umbra
to which you and your 'countless many' had given the
and thus, when pursued by a candid inquirer,
——nubi se immiscuit atrae.
"To cast up accounts, then, as we go on, how stands your argument as founded on witnesses ? Just thus. A number of gentlemen of the highest respectability together with the persons in whose house he lived, all of whom had the fullest opportunities of observing his conduct, have borne testimony on the question of Swedenborg's sanity: The testimony of such witnesses, by all the rules of evidence, is entitled to credit: But their testimony is in his favour: Therefore he must have been insane. Again: 'A countless many,' who refer as the source of their information to a man who denies having given them any, have borne testimony on the question of Swedenborg's sanity: The testimony of such witnesses, by all the rules of evidence, is unworthy of credit: But their testimony is against him: Therefore he could not have been sane.—O Prejudice, Prejudice! how great is thy power over those 'who cannot raise their minds to the contemplation of any economy which they have not experienced!' How readily, at the touch of thy magic wand, is white tranformed into black, and black into white! What thou deniest, no testimony can render credible! What thou affirmest, must, in spite of all testimony, be deemed incontrovertible! Thou canst make men believe, that the more positive the testimony in Swedenborg's favour, the less likely it is to be true, and that when deposed on oath, it becomes utterly incredible.
"I proceed to examine your arguments drawn from the Principles of Medical Jurisprudence. For feeling that the persons named by me are irrefragable witnesses on every subject of which they could have a competent knowledge, you would fain represent this as a casein which they are not qualified to form an opinion: so, rejecting the verdict of general reason, thus expressed by men collected promiscuously from the upper ranks of society and the learned professions, you claim this cause for the decision of medical men alone. Nor, it seems, are even these, if taken generally, to be depended upon for such a purpose: for though 'the merest tyro in medical philosophy' has, 'in cases of insanity,' a wonderful superiority over all un-medical intellect, yet here, you affirm, even 'physicians of the greatest celebrity, experience, and talent,' are 'liable to be mistaken.' Great caution, then, you deem, must be used, in framing a jury likely to return you a verdict, even of medical men alone. In this opinion of yours I entirely concur; since, strange as it may appear to you, not only was one of the gentlemen I mentioned before, a physician, but it ts a fact, that the number of medical men who have embraced the doctrines of Swedenborg, with full assurance that they are not the dictates of 'a madman,' is, in proportion to the whole number of his followers, fully as great as in any other religious profession whatever: indeed, I am satisfied, much greater. Swedenborg, also, has a claim to the candid regard of medical men, as the author of two works, intitled Regnum Animate, and OEconomia Regni Animalis, which display the most profound acquaintance with anatomical and physiological science. And, what is sufficiently remarkable, one of these works, or at least a great portion of it, was written after the access of his imputed derangement. *
* It was published in three parts, two of which were printed in 1744, and the third in 1745: his spiritual intercourse began in 1743.
"But, Sir, I have two other remarks to make on what you have said respecting the application of medical science to the question before us. The first is, That at the utmost, you have only shown an appeal to medical science to be here out of place. For you represent the chief use of this to be, in detecting the latent hallucination, where the patient, as often happens, endeavours to conceal it. But the peculiar persuasion entertained by Swedenborg he never concealed: nor did the gentlemen who have deposed to the soundness of his mind, do so in ignorance of this persuasion, but with a full knowledge of it, and after having weighed it and the whole of his character, conduct, and writings, together. The question which thus arises is not one in the science of medicine, but in theology; and the possession of medical knowledge confers no capacity of deciding it, beyond what is possessed by every man of general information and good sense. My second remark is, That, upon your own showing, an appeal to medical science must terminate in Swedenborg's favour. That you belong to the profession yourself, is sufficiently obvious; and I see no reason to doubt your claim to a respectable share of professional knowledge: of course, I cannot question the accuracy of your description of those 'cases of insanity,' which you affirm to be 'like the Baron's.' In these, you say, 'a man will often appear perfectly sane, and will stand the test of the most scrutinising examination, till the subject is touched upon, in which all his fond and delusive systems are concentrated; and then his aberration of mind bursts forth terrifically.' Now, Sir, no part of this description at all applies to Swedenborg: for, in the first place, though he did not obtrude his peculiar notions, it never required any 'scrutinising examination' to draw them from him; nor, secondly, where the subject was touched upon, nor even when he was rudely opposed, did he ever exhibit those terrific bursts, which you represent as the decisive symptom. Near the beginning of the first of his publications on theology, and repeatedly afterwards, he states his anticipation of such imputations, and his indifference to them: and he always evinced, in conversation, the same self-possession. He never would enter into dispute on points of religion. When obliged to defend himself, he did it mildly, and in few words: if they wished to urge him further, he retired from all contest, only saying, 'Read my writings with attention and without prejudice: they shall answer for me: perhaps you will see reason to change your sentiments.'* This behaviour, Sir, when 'the subject was touched in which his not delusive system was concentrated,' is very different from the terrific bursts to which you allow the lunatic will, on such occasions, give vent. Judged, therefore, even by your own theory, Swedenborg must be acquitted.
* Anecdotes collected by Pernetti.
"Finding, then, Sir, that the Principles of Medical Jurisprudence will not serve, any more than the Rules of Evidence, to condemn our author, you at last betake yourself to Theological Considerations; from whence you lay down a canon, which, if admitted, will certainly consign him to the condemned cell; and much good company with him. The Apostolic canon in such cases is, 'Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God:' (1 John iv. 1). and the touchstone to which they are to be brought is pointed out by the prophet: 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no truth in them.' (Isa. viii. 20). But instead of this canon, you offer another, which, requiring no discrimination in its exercise, is well suited for those who would decide in a summary way, without the trouble of examining the merits of the case. It is simply this: Whoever professes to be the bearer of divine communications, is insane. To bring Swedenborg within the operation of this rule, you quote, as if from his own works, a passage which is nowhere to be found in them, but which you seem to have taken from some Biographical Dictionary or Cyclopaedia, few of which, give any thing like a fair account of the matter. A statement, in substance resembling yours, has indeed been given by one of his friends: but there is very great reason to doubt its accuracy; and the particulars, as quoted by you, cannot, certainly, be depended on as correct. I prefer then to abide by Swedenborg's own account; and the most particular relation which he has given of himself is in Ms work entitled True Christian Religion; the last chapter of which treats 'Of the Consummation of the age (called in the common Translation the end of the world); of the coming of the Lord; and of the New Heaven and New Church.' One of the sections of this chapter is headed, 'That the coming of the Lord is not a coming to destroy the visible heaven and habitable earth, and to create a new heaven and a new earth, as many have heretofore supposed, in consequence of not understanding the spiritual sense of the Word:' and another Section is designed to show, 'That the Second Coming of the Lord is not a Coming in Person, but in the Word, which is from Him, and is (in its essence) Himself.' After having demonstrated these propositions with great clearness of reasoning and powerful Scripture testimony, he proceeds to another which is required to make the series complete; which is, 'That this Second Coming of the Lord is effected by the instrumentality of a man, to whom He has manifested Himself in Person, and whom He has filled with His Spirit, to teach from Him, by the Word, the Doctrines of the New Church.' This last proposition he begins to illustrate thus: 'Since the Lord cannot manifest Himself in Person to the world, as is shown in the preceding Section; and yet he hath foretold that he will come again, and found a New Church, which is the New Jerusalem; it follows, that he will effect this by the instrumentality of a man, who shall not onlj receive the doctrines of this Church in his understanding, but also publish them by means of the press. That the Lord hath manifested himself to me his servant, and appointed me to this office, and that he afterwards opened the eyes of my spirit, and so introduced me into the spiritual world, and granted me the view of heaven and hell, and the privilege of conversing with angels and spirits, which 1 have now enjoyed for many years, I testify in truth: as also, that from the first day of my calling, I have never taken anything that respects the doctrines of the church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while reading the Word.' Here, Sir, if a wonderful fact is related, it is no more than is worthy of the occasion assigned for it, and this occasion is one, which, every reader must acknowledge, must arise at some time or other; as also, that, when it does arise, it must demand such an instrument for its announcement, as our Author, in so unaffected a manner, states himself to have been made. "But, it seems, come when it may, you are predetermined not to believe it, but to denounce whoever shall declare it as a madman: for you ask, in a manner that conveys the strongest negative answer, 'Can he he a sane man who records such a reverie as a matter of fact?' But, Sir, did you consider whom you will include among the insane, if you make this the criterion ? Did you never read of one who says, in words very like your version of the Baron's reverie, 'It came to pass, that, as I took my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me: and I fell on the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me ? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord ? And He said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.' * Do you not recollect also, that the same person says of the gospel which he taught, 'I received it not of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ?+ Have you also forgotten who affirms that he was 'caught up to the third heaven,' and likewise, that 'he was caught up into paradise, and heard there unspeakable words, which it is not possible for man to utter;' and who also speaks of 'the abundance of his revelations ?' # These are reveries very like the Baron's: 'Can then he be a sane man who records them ?' Or did you never hear of another, who says, 'I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last,' and who, when he 'turned to see the voice that spake with him, saw one like unto the Son of Man,' $ whose glorious appearance he particularly describes; and who has written a whole book, full of the extraordinary things which he saw and heard, when he was 'in the spirit,' and 'in vision?' Here are reveries far more extraordinary still; can then he be a sane man, who records them ? In short to adduce all the instances of such reveries which we find in the Scriptures, would be to quote half the Bible: and if we judge of this Divine Code by your infallible test, we must pronounce the whole to be the effusions of insanity. You are displeased with me for having stated, in my former letter, that by setting revelation at variance with reason and philosophy [by insisting upon a merely literal interpretation of Scripture], you were strengthening the cause of the infidel; but assuredly you are doing the same thing here. The infidel assumes as a maxim, that the notion of God's interfering to communicate revelations of his will to man, is utterly incredible: and he may now quote your authority for his general principle. The infidel argues in support of his maxim, that such interference is contrary to common experience, and that they who have pretended to it in modern times are allowed to have been lunatics or impostors: and you re-echo the sentiment. But the infidel, in offering this argument, though weak, is consistent. He will readily acknowledge, that, if it can be proved that such interferences have ever taken place, there is no improbability in supposing that they may take place again. But you, while you adopt his general principle and argument, depart from the consistency which alone makes them worth a moment's consideration: you allow that God has in former times made men the bearers of divine communications, but affirm that whoever professes to stand in this character now, is convicted, ipso facto, of insanity. Really, Sir, (and I speak it with concern,) this assertion of yours, together with your declared determination to abide, wherever it may lead you, in what you mistakenly call 'the good old way,' makes me fear, that had you lived in Judea when the Saviour of the world appeared in the flesh, you would have remained in 'the good old way' of the Jews, and would have followed the cry which said, 'He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?'
* Acts xxii. 6, 7, 8. + Gal. i. 12. # 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4, 7. $ Rev. i. 10—13.
"You, however, call to your aid Mahomet, the old false prophet, and the more recent ones, Reeve and Muggleton; who supply you with the following pointed argument: Mahomet was a false prophet: so were Reeve and Muggleton: therefore, Swedenborg was another. But, Sir, in order to make us see the force of your therefore, you ought to have shown in what respects Swedenborg resembled your false prophets. You certainly have done this in one point: but the point you have selected, being the only one you could find in which Swedenborg resembled Mahomet and the others, is that single point, in which Mahomet and the others resembled the true prophets; which was, in professing to be invested with a divine commission. To complete then your argument, we must introduce your infallible test as the major proposition; and then we shall find it sufficiently comprehensive if not particularly conclusive. It will stand thus1. Every one who professes to have received a divine commission, is insane: Mahomet, Muggleton, all the Apostles and prophets, with Swedenborg, did this: Therefore Mahomet, Muggleton, all the Apostles and prophets, and Swedenborg, were insane.
"But, Sir, you should have known, that neither Mahomet nor Muggleton have been ranked as false prophets simply because they pretended to divine revelations, but because their pretended revelations contained nothing worthy of the source to which they ascribed them. That Mahomet's system is in many respects diametrically opposite to Holy Writ, is well known. Nor will the parallel you would institute between Swedenborg and Reeve and Muggleton hold any otherwise than in the way of contrast. Move disgusting stuff cannot be conceived than fills the pages of those ignorant drivellers: yet, though nothing bordering on such rubbish is to be found in the writings of Swedenborg, you are not ashamed to represent him, and this, you affirm, seriously, as treading exactly in the steps of Reeve and Muggleton, not abating an atom of their fanaticism and delusion ? And yet you profess yourself ready to abide by my appeal to his works! Read them first, Sir, and learn what they are. At least, read some one of them straight through, giving a candid attention to every part of its contents; not looking only for such things as may be distorted into subjects of ridicule, as infidels have treated the Bible.
"I will only mention one other circumstance, which marks a very wide distinction indeed between Swedenborg and the whole tribe of such pretenders as you have mentioned. It is a common infirmity with them all, to entertain high conceptions of themselves. Every remarkable one among them has been fond, with Simon the sorcerer, of 'giving out that himself was some great one.' (Acts viii. 9). The magnificent claims of Mahomet are sufficiently known. Reeve and Muggleton affirmed that they were the two witnesses mentioned in Rev. xi. Richard Brothers pretended to be the Prince of the Hebrews. Joanna Southcott fancied herself to be the woman clothed with the sun, mentioned in Rev. xii.; as Madame Bourignon and Mrs. Buchan, though without her grossness, had done before her. And they have all been forward in promising great blessings to their disciples, simply as such, to commence even in this life; while they breathed great bitterness against their opponents. But in Swedenborg nothing of this is to be found. His views of Scripture were too elevated to allow him to believe that any of its predictions pointed to himself, or to any other individual of the human race. His writings are so free from the least tincture of egotism, that he even never speaks in the first person where it is possible to avoid it. "Whenever the subject that he is upon requires him to mention his commission, as in the extract given above, he does it with the most unassuming modesty, taking not the least merit to himself on account of it, but representing it as arising out of the order constantly observed in the Lord's dealings with man, in which he always makes use of human instruments.—In short, neither in his life nor writings can there be traced the least desire to be thought some great one, or any other motive savouring of human infirmity. This fact, alone, is sufficient to render untenable the charge against him of insanity: for where this exists, as you well know, the checks suggested by reason being removed, the corrupt passions that lurk in the human heart always exhibit more or less of their naked deformity..
No, Sir: Piety to God and charity to man, form the soul, both of Swedenborg's system and of his conduct; and neither can deserve the reproach you have cast upon them, till it shall be allowable to deem virtue a farce; disinterestedness, madness; a belief in the spiritual and immortal nature of the human soul, and in the existence of an eternal world, its proper home, as rank insanity; a heartfelt conviction of the being of a God, of his omnipresence and perpetual providence, as the climax of absurdity: and till it shall be justifiable to treat the demonstration by argument of the nature of these soul-ennobling excellences, and of the reality of these great truths, as the most deplorable perversion of the human understanding.
"I will conclude, Sir, with begging of you either to refute the following dilemma, or, accepting which of its conclusions you please, to allow it to govern your next letter. Either the fact of professing to be the subject of divine communications is alone a sufficient proof of insanity; or it is not: If it is, then Paul and all the other apostles and prophets were insane: If it is not, then the nature of the communications must determine whether the person who pretends to them, is insane or not.—Assuredly, we cannot with any appearance of reason say, in such a case as this, 'The man is mad; therefore his doctrines must be erroneous:' but, after having proved the doctrines to be erroneous, we may say, 'Erroneous doctrines cannot be from God; therefore the man must be mad.' The one question ought to be entirely laid aside, till we have determined the other. To raise the cry of insanity in the first instance, is only to appeal to passion and prejudice, instead of reason and truth. I fear that this has been done in the case of Swedenborg, because it was felt to be more easy, bt, this stigma, to prevent mankind from examining his system, than, when examined, to prevent it from being embraced by the candid and well-disposed. But I by no means intend to apply this remark to you. I trust that your hostility has proceeded solely from misinformation; and thus that you are included within that canon of Divine Mercy, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' "
I earnestly recommend the above discussion of the charge against Swedenborg of insanity, to the serious consideration of my present readers. My Colchester antagonist did not reply again. His arguments are precisely the same as we commonly hear. I never met with better, and I cannot see how better can be invented. If then these are seen, as they surely must be seen, though ingeniously proposed by Gulielmus, to be utterly futile, let the reproach of "madman," in application to Swedenborg, be abandoned for ever. Only let it be allowed, as must be allowed, that the mere professing to have received divine communications does not prove a man mad; and let the consistency of Swedenborg's conduct and writings with the character he assumes, be tried by the Word of God and by sound reason; and he must receive, we are satisfied, the most honourable verdict.
IV. Before concluding this Section, I will notice two minor objections, strenuously insisted on by almost all the opponents of our Author's claims, and sometimes urged in support of the charge against him of mental derangement.
The first is, That he has pretended to make additions to the Word of God, and is convicted, ipso facto, of delusion or imposture.
To suppose, however, that the writings of Swedenborg, if true, are to be received as new books of Scripture, or that they are either offered by him, or accepted by us, in any such light, is to assume a gross error. Against him have often been quoted these words (or rather part of them, for the whole passage evinces its inapplicability) from the conclusion of the Apocalypse: "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book," (Ch. xxii. 18, 19). Now the whole passage, as here cited, evidently relates, not to the whole Bible, but to the book of the Apocalypse alone, and no more proves that no additional divine communications would ever be made, than the similar declaration in the last book of Moses, "Ye shall not add unto the word, which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it," (Deut. iv. 2). proves that no additions to the Word of God were to be made by the later prophets, If the passage of John the Revelator evinces Swedenborg to be an enthusiast or an impostor, the passage of Moses, by parity of reason, makes impostors or enthusiasts of all the prophets and apostles. Thus, upon any supposition, the text in the Revelation can prove nothing against Swedenborg, and to cite it for that purpose only evinces how eager his opponents have been, without much caring about the validity of their arguments, to ciose the ears of the public against his testimony. But give the words all the extent which such reasoners assign them; admit them to be an authoritative declaration that no addition would ever be made to the canon of Scripture; and they still prove nothing against our author; for it never entered his thoughts to claim for his writings the sacred character of the Word of God. It was his belief, and it is ours, that the canon of Scripture actually was closed by the Revelation of John, though that book does not say so; and the Contents of his writings are presented as truths drawn from the Scriptures now existing, not as new Scriptures given in addition. #
# For an explanation of the difference between the illumination of Swedenborg and the inspiration of those who wrote the Word itself, see the remark of AEgiochus, on the paper of Dr. Hedge in the American Christian Examiner, in the Int. Rep. for July, 1834, pp. 187, &c.
The other objection that I propose here to notice, is exactly the reverse of the former. It is, That Swedenborg rejects a great part of the Word of God; and herein again is convicted, ipso facto, of delusion or imposture.
Although as we have seen, the passage of the Apocalypse just noticed relates to that book only, and the passage in Deuteronomy only to the books of Moses, it cannot be denied, that to reject any book, or any portion of any book, as being part of the Word of God, when it really is such, would be a most unwarrantable piece of presumption; and to pretend to do so under divine illumination, would be a sure mark either of imposture or of delusion. Accordingly, every effort has been made to bring home this charge against Swedenborg; and it has been preferred in the most aggravated form. Thus one of our accusers states, that "the Baron, out of sixty-six books, excludes thirty-two:" and to exaggerate this enormity, and make us objects of horror to the well-disposed, he reasons thus: "Now if the Baron be allowed to expel thirty-two books out of the Bible, may not some other courageous man be allowed the same liberty of conscience, and suffered to dismiss at least half a score more ? Then, surely, as we all wish for equal laws and equal rights, another man, finding that several of the books remaining both annoy his practice and bother his conscience, must needs think himself entitled to the privilege of dismissing half a dozen more:" and so he concludes, that "a lusty quarto bible would be reduced to the thickness of an old coin sixpence, long, long before all objectors and Swedenborgians had exercised their imprescriptible rights and their elective franchise." "Without noticing the elegant and liberal style of this argument, I will only observe, that it takes a false imputation as its basis. The writer intimates, that we not only reject almost half the bible (though the thirty-two books he mentions, being all very short, make but a small part of the whole in regard to quantity); but that we do this, because, in his sublime language, they annoy our practice and bother our conscience. The complete contrary is the truth. We do not wish to eject from the Bible one book that is now found in it, nor one sentiment, or sentence, or word, from any one book. We consider the books which do not contain any internal sense,—any sense beside the letter—especially all the writings of the Apostles,— as delivering the true doctrines of the Church, and as written by men divinely illuminated in the things of God; thus we are quite satisfied that Paul spoke a real truth when he said, "I think also that I have the spirit of God." We do not then wish to deny the authority of one sentence that they have written, or to make the least alteration in it: and instead of finding any thing in those books that annoys our practice and bothers our conscience) so far as our practice and conscience are formed by our doctrines, we are convinced that every syllable in them is on our side. The objector observes, that "The books excluded are charged with having no internal sense!" Does he intend then to say, that they have an internal sense? By no means. He considers the "charge" to be very true: he ought therefore to acknowledge, that our idea of those books is precisely the same as his own. But we distinguish between books that are written by the highest inspiration, in which every word is suggested to the writer and is the immediate dictate and very word of God, and books which are written from the minds of men under such a divine guidance as secures from error, but of which the words themselves were not immediately given to the penmen. This latter is the only kind of inspiration now allowed to any of the books of the Bible by the learned in general; and none of them are aware that any books whatever contain a regular internal or spiritual sense in every word. We, therefore, place a part of the books in the Bible just in the same station as our opponents place the whole, and we respect them as highly as Christians in general respect any portion of them whatever: but the far greater portion we exalt much higher than Christians in general will admit: and thus, because we venerate the Bible, taken all together, a great deal more than they do, we are maligned as rejecting one half of it.*
* Those who wish to see this subject fully elucidated may consult my work on the Plenary Inspiration (App. No. II.), in which it is shown, that the distinction made by us is only a more accurate definition of that which has been made, in all ages, between those books in the Old Testament which are called the Law and the Prophets, and those called the Hagiographa; a similar distinction to which exists among the books of the New Testament likewise. See also the Int. Rep. for Jan. 1827, pp. 364—379, where is an article intitled, The New Church Canon of Scripture, as far as regards the Old Testament, advocated by the Eclectic Review; in which I have recited the large body of evidence, collected by a learned writer in that work, proving that those books only, which Swedenborg recognises as having an internal sense, belong to the canon. of plenarily inspired Scripture. So that the New Church by no means stands alone, at the present day, in her decision or this subject.
If, however, to make a distinction between some books of the Bible and others destroys the authority, as a theological leader, of him who makes it, then there is an end of the authority of the famous Luther, so highly venerated as the great founder of the Protestant Church. If, on this ground, we are to refuse to listen to Swedenborg, we must equally renounce Luther; and shall find no refuge but in returning to the bosom of the infallible Church of Rome, and accepting with her, as the Word of God, not only the whole of the books comprised in the Protestant Bible, but all the Apocrypha—Tobit and his Dog—Bell and the Dragon—to boot. Luther, upon grounds merely arbitrary, prefers some books before others, and rejects several altogether: witness the following extracts from his works, as quoted by Wetstein in the learned Prolegomena to his famous critical edition of the New Testament.* "From these remarks," says Luther, "you may judge which of the books of the New Testament are the more excellent, namely, John's Gospel and Paul's Epistles: these are, in a manner, the kernel and marrow of them all. The Gospel of John is the genuine and chief Gospel, to be far and far preferred to the three others, and to be much more accounted of. The Epistles of Paul and Peter, also, leave the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, at a long distance behind them. Compared to these, again, the Epistle of James is a mere book of straw: it does not at all savour of the Gospel." In his Bible, this Oracle of the Reformation places the Epistle to the Hebrews, with those of James and Jude, and the Apocalypse, by themselves at the end, with a preface before them, of which the following is an extract: "Thus far we have the genuine books of the New Testament: of those which follow the ancients thought very differently. In the first place, the Epistle to the Hebrews was not written by Paul or by any other Apostle; which I prove as follows," &c.—"I do not wish to force my opinion on others, but I must say, that I do not think the Epistle of James to be an Apostolic writing, chiefly for this reason; that, in direct contradiction to Paul and the whole of the Scriptures, he attributes justification to works. Besides, that James makes such a jumble and confused mixture of all that he treats upon, that I look upon him to have been some good simple soul who merely committed to paper some sayings he caught hold of from some of the disciples of the Apostles.—No one can deny the Epistle of Jude to be a mere abridgment and copy of the second Epistle of Peter, as it agrees with it almost word for word; so there can be no need to reckon it among the chief books of the New Testament.—In regard to the Apocalypse, I leave every one to think as he pleases; only allow me to say, that for more reasons than one, I do not believe it to be either an Apostolic or prophetic book."— To apply Wetstein's remark upon this slashing piece of sacred criticism:—Swedenborg is condemned for the judicious discrimination he makes between some books and others without rejecting any: Luther is venerated as an oracle, notwithstanding he, without discrimination, rejects some books altogether, and prefers some of the others to the rest, merely as they seem to favour, or otherwise, his favourite notions:—"Let them who can decide thus, consider, whether they are not straining out the gnat, and swallowing the camel!" On the whole, it is abundantly plain to all who know what Swedenborg teaches on the subject, that he neither attempts to add anything to the Word of God, nor to take aught from it; and to think of raising, out of his sound and truly learned doctrine on this point, a plea against his perfect sanity and solid wisdom, is little short of insanity and weakness of the most preposterous description. I beg still to add a word on the charge against Swedenborg of mental derangement, to introduce a desperate accusation that has been brought against him.
* Ed. Semler. p. 457.
It may, I believe, be said with truth, that no one can seriously read much of his works, possessing, at the same time, an adequate knowledge of his history, and continue to think him insane. This has been evinced by the conduct of some of the most inveterate of his adversaries. Men prejudiced against him in the strongest degree, and determined to find in his works nothing to approve, have yet felt that the imputation against him of mental derangement could not be supported. None, for instance, would think of casting on a man distinguished through a long life by every virtue, the charge of intentional deception, unless, while anxious to suppress his opinions, they despaired of rendering probable the imputation of a perversion of intellect. The Abbe Barruel, one of the most acrimonious of his assailants, was well aware of this; and, accordingly, the accusation of imposture, rather than that of insanity, is that which he chiefly laboured to render plausible.* So the author of the "Trial of the Spirits," noticed above,+ who exhibits throughout his work a more intemperate hostility and utter disregard of truth than almost any other of Swedenborg's enemies, is constrained to acknowledge that the charge against him of insanity cannot be maintained: so he substitutes for it that of diabolical possession! "Swedenborg does not," he says, "seem to have really laboured under any natural derangement of his 'interiors,' or vulgar insanity;—but if we acquit him of lunacy or hydrophobia, we cannot absolve him of diabolomania."# "If madness of any kind can be rationally imputed to Swedenborg, it can be no ordinary insanity, or mere derangement of intellect, from bodily or even mental disease; but must be truly of that species which was also impiously attempted to be charged on the blessed jesus—a demoniacal madness, (Matt. xi. 18.) he hath a devil." $ The parallel, in this respect, is undoubtedly a just one, and the charge is as true in the one case as in the other. We have seen above how exalted and amiable the character of Swedenborg is universally allowed to have been,—how completely serene and happy were his life and death: could such be the state of a man who was the organ of evil spirits ? Yet there is no alternative, according to this adversary, (in which we fully agree with him), between believing Swedenborg to have been such an organ, and believing all his writings to be true. Which is the more probable, let the candid reader decide.
* Of which see a most triumphant refutation in Letters
to a Member of Parliament on the Character and Writings of Baron Swedenborg in
answer to the Abbe Barruel: by the late Rev. J. Clowes, M.A.
Here, then, I close this section on Swedenborg as the Human Instrument for announcing the Second Coming of the Lord, and for communicating the truths then to be discovered; and I trust it has teen shown, that there is much to authenticate, and nothing of any Validity to impugn, his claims to be accepted in that character.
Why is this not generally seen ? Because Christians in general now, like the Jews at the Lord's first advent, have their minds preoccupied with erroneous conceptions respecting spiritual subjects: because, as the Jews were possessed with gross but darling notions respecting the earthly kingdom of the Messiah, and the perpetual carnal observation of the ceremonial law, and thus were disqualified for relishing the spiritual things which he declared were contained in that law; so Christians are possessed with external but fondly cherished sentiments respecting all the great points of the religion of Jesus, and with the persuasion that it is to continue unaltered, as professed by them, till the end of the world; and are thus disqualified for relishing the truly heavenly doctrines and really spiritual ideas which are now shown to be contained in the Word of God. Perceiving, on a slight inspection, that the views presented by Swedenborg oppose their prejudices, few take the trouble to make themselves sufficiently acquainted with his writings to be able to form anything like a correct judgment respecting their truth and credibility: yet I apprehend, even the most prejudiced will hardly deny that the spiritual sense opened by his instrumentality, if true, is a discovery of such importance as to be worthily referred to God. But let us hope that the reign of prejudice, though it has lasted long, will soon, in this as in so many other instances, be broken down. The Lord at his coming in the flesh was crucified; no wonder then that, when appearing again in the opening of a higher order of Truth in his Word, he should be rejected: but as he then rose again, and from his throne in heaven extended his reign over multitudes who then first began to acknowledge him, so, doubtless, the hour is coming when an influence from himself in heaven will accompany his Word as opened,—when the prejudices which oppose its reception will be abolished from the minds of multitudes,—and when they will again "look upon him whom they have pierced," and accept the truth they have denied. Begin then, I intreat you, ye Candid and Reflecting, to use the freedom which, by the accomplishment of the Last Judgment, is restored to the human mind. Suffer, in your own breasts, the power of prejudice to reign no longer. Take the pains fairly to estimate the views of, and from, the Word of God presented by Swedenborg, not rejecting the whole as soon as you find something that differs from your previous opinions, or that you do not immediately understand: and the result, I trust, will be that you will find them, as compared with the Word of God, testifying their own truth by evidence far more convincing than that of miracles, because by evidence that does not merely strike the senses, but reaches the understanding, and affects the heart. Then you will see that the illustrious Swedenborg must indeed have been the Human Instrument for communicating the great truths connected with the second coming of the Lord. If, with any degree of candour, you look at his character and writings without admitting this, you will find the whole an inexplicable riddle.* His writings, you will see, are far too replete with superior views of Divine Truth to be the productions, in its ordinary state, of the human mind: in addition, you will perceive, that they are far too methodical in their form, too soberly as well as sublimely rational, to be the imaginations of a lunatic; and, in further addition, you will acknowledge, that their excellent moral tendency, together with the eminently amiable and virtuous character of their author, render ridiculous the notion, that they can be the offspring cither of wilful imposture or of diabolical illusion. What remains, but that you accept them as the result of divine illumination,—the communications of a writer who had really been called to a holy office by the Lord ? Admit this, and the mystery is solved. You will be satisfied, that this much calumniated and much mistaken man was as consistent and exalted a character as the world has ever seen: you will confess, that having been selected as the Human Instrument for announcing the last great dispensation of gospel-truth, though differing from former similar Instruments as much as this differs from former dispensations; and being, as one of his illustrious predecessors says of himself, "not disobedient unto the heavenly vision;" + he pursued the course appointed him with as much steadiness and consistency, self-devotion and zeal, as marked the career of a Moses or a Paul: and your hearts will tell you, that, like them, he deserves to have his memory for ever embalmed in the grateful recollections of mankind.
* See the remarks on this subject above, pp. 214, 215. + Acts xxvi. 19.