AN APPEAL, &c.
THE REFLECTING OF ALL DENOMINATIONS.
men and brethren!
allow me, with respect and affection, to address you, as persons who assign their due value to serious things, on a subject of, as it appears to many, no inconsiderable importance.
The existence of a body of Christians who humbly trust that they belong to the New Church of the Lord, predicted in various parts of the Holy Scriptures, and called, in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, the New Jerusalem, has, for some time past, attracted a considerable degree of public attention. It is generally known that the Views of the Eternal World and State, and the Doctrines of Faith and Life, held by these persons, are those which are delivered, as deductions from the Word of God, in the Writings of the Hon. Emanuel Swedenborg; who is by them regarded as a distinguished servant of the Lord, raised up for this work by as express an interference of Divine Providence, as that by which a Luther was raised to effect the Reformation from the corruptions of the Church of Rome, or even as that by which a Paul was called forth to teach the great truths of Christianity itself, or a John the Baptist to announce the first advent of its Divine Author. But while it has thus been known that such a body of Christians exists, and that such is the origin of their views and doctrines, the greatest misapprehension in general prevails as to what those views and doctrines are, and the grounds on which they are embraced: for, unhappily, they have been heard of by the public at large, only, for the most part, through the misrepresentations and perversions of adversaries. We, who have embraced them, feel an entire but humble assurance, that, were they seen in their true colours, all the Reflecting, of all Denominations, would immediately admit, that they are worthy at least of deep consideration and serious attention; and we are assured further, that, were such consideration and attention bestowed on them, numbers would rise from the investigation with a conviction of their truth. If they are true, to have just or erroneous conceptions of them cannot be a matter of indifference: permit, then, one of those who have not hesitated to stake their salvation upon their certainty, to address a serious Appeal to you in their behalf. Great activity has been used, through a great variety of channels, to possess your minds with totally false and extremely injurious conceptions respecting the illustrious Swedenborg and his writings: allow, therefore, I intreat you, one who has maturely considered both, to disabuse you respecting them,—to disperse, by a fair statement, the clouds of misrepresentation in which the sentiments received by us have been involved,—and to bring to your acquaintance views of Divine Truth, which appear to us to be at once elevated and well-founded; views which, we venture to assure you, challenge the strictest scrutiny of Reason, and come supported by the plainest testimony of Scripture. Yes, ye who prize the inestimable gift of Reason! permit me to say, that never was a more gross deception practised on mankind, than when it has been attempted, by idle tales and false imputations, to make you believe, that Reason, and what is commonly, but improperly, termed Swedenborgianism, are uncombinable terms. And to you, ye sincere lovers of the Scriptures! allow me to declare, that to persuade you that writings and doctrines like those we espouse, which place the truths of Scripture in their own genuine light, are at variance with the truths of Scripture, and that they originate in delusion, is to impose on you an extravagant delusion indeed.
Were I left to my own choice in regard to the form which this Appeal should assume, it would be different from that which I am compelled by circumstances to adopt, Having a rich store from which to make my selection of the most luminous truths and most satisfactory doctrines, upon every subject that is interesting to a man, to an immortal, to a Christian, I naturally should give to the most important things the largest share of attention, bestowing a more cursory notice on matters of inferior moment. There are no sentiments entertained by us, or advanced in the writings of Swedenborg, which we are not satisfied are pure and genuine truths; but in every extended system of doctrine there are truths of higher and of lower importance; as in the system of the visible heavens "one star differeth from another star in glory;" and as the representative breast-plate of Aaron not only included the ruby and the diamond, but also the agate and the jasper. In making, then, an Appeal to you in behalf of our views, were I left to pursue the most natural course, I undoubtedly should place the richer gems, the rubies and the diamonds, in the more prominent light, and give to the inferior a subordinate station. The great truths respecting the Nature, Person, and Attributes, of the Lord God Almighty; the work of Human Redemption; the duties of Repentance and Reformation; the process of Regeneration; the entire Inspiration and exalted Spirituality of the Word of God; the certainty of a Future Retribution; the true Importance of the Present Stage of Existence as that in which man makes up the form and character of his spirit and internal life, and thus fixes his state, either for happiness or misery, to eternity; the pure Glories of Heaven and the real Terrors of Hell; the Wonders of the Divine Government or of Divine Providence, which extends to the minutest occurrences of human life, and in all that it either appoints or permits, primarily regards eternal ends:—these, and such as these, are the subjects which occupy the distinguished stations in the doctrines which we believe to be those of the Few Jerusalem, and in the writings in which those doctrines are delivered: on these they present views which are indisputably heavenly and exalted: on these then the pen of an Apologist would naturally dwell at the greatest length and with the most delight, secure that in all which he should offer respecting them the mind of the unprejudiced reader could scarcely fail of finding the most decided satisfaction. But they who have set themselves to crush, if it were possible, the rising New Church in its infancy,—as Herod sent to slay all the children in Bethlehem of two years old and under,— naturally take the opposite course. Some of them, indeed, as the late Dr. Priestley and a few others, have undertaken to oppose the leading doctrines of our church by argument; but the greater number have endeavoured to keep our real doctrines, as far as possible, out of sight, offering, and then combating, such a garbled statement of them, as can give their readers no just idea of what they are; while they have ransacked the pages of our valued Author in quest of every thing which, on being brought forward by itself, separated from its context, and from the explanations necessary to its right apprehension, might appear most repugnant to the ideas commonly entertained of religious truth, and might with most plausibility be made the ground of opprobrious animadversion; especially when heightened by exaggeration and misstatement, which have often been supplied accordingly; not to mention the many absolute fictions, void of all foundation either in truth or in probability, which have been propagated respecting Swedenborg, his writings, and their admirers. In appealing to you, then, in behalf of our sentiments, it is necessary to follow the course marked out by our opponents; and as they have endeavoured to raise prejudices by chiefly dwelling upon parts of our author's system and writings which are of very inferior importance, I shall be obliged to give to such subordinate points, a much larger proportion of attention than they otherwise would demand. I shall take, then, for my guide, as to the subjects necessary to be discussed and to be set in their true light, a publication by the Rev. G. Beaumont, of Norwich, which he denominates "The Anti-Swedenborg; or, a Declaration of the Principal Errors and Anti-Scriptural Doctrines contained in the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg." My chief reasons for giving my Appeal a particular reference to this publication, are, first, because it is a tolerably complete condensation of all the topics of objection ever raised against our views and doctrines; and secondly, because this work has been the occasion of many misrepresentations of our sentiments and of ourselves in the theological Reviews and Magazines, the editors of several of which, taking it for granted that Mr. Beaumont's reports and views are correct, have recommended his work, have repeated his statements, and thus have given a wide circulation to the injurious impression he has laboured to excite. As observed above, had I chosen my own ground in this Appeal, the form of it would have been different from that which, under the existing circumstances, it will assume: but the advocates of the New Church, though without any confidence in themselves, are at all times willing, conscious of the invulnerability, in every point, of their sacred cause, to leave the choice of the ground to their opponents, and to meet them in any line of attack they may think proper to adopt. To legitimate argument (though it is seldom, alas! that any thing of that kind is employed against us), we hope to be enabled to oppose legitimate argument from sounder premises; to misrepresentations of facts or sentiments, the statement of such facts or sentiments in their proper colours; to misapplications of Scripture, Scripture justly applied and fairly explained; and to the artifices of falsehood, the honesty of truth. But we will not return railing for railing; nor, because the most scandalous imputations have been fabricated to be affixed on us, will we retort with anything of the kind against our accusers. We commit the whole cause, with perfect composure as to the issue, into the hands of him whose cause we believe it to be; and while we are grateful that we have been enabled to behold the truth, on subjects of the deepest importance to human welfare, in, as we are satisfied, its own genuine light, we will not be offended with those who as yet see differently, nor cherish the smallest spark of personal ill-feeling towards the bitterest of our opponents. They, as well as we, are in the hands of a merciful God, who, as our doctrines assure us, does not visit with severity for involuntary, much less for well-intentioned error: and though we cannot but believe that our adversaries, especially when they misrepresent and malign us, are in error, we strive to cherish the hope, in every case where there is any possible ground for it, that the error is involuntary and well-intentioned.
Beside occasional notices of other assailants, I intend then in the following pages, for the reasons stated above, to answer all the objections raised in the work above mentioned. I do not propose, however, to follow the author's steps in a servile or captious manner, or to keep him or his objections constantly before the reader. My design rather is, to take occasion, from his strictures, to open, upon general principles, the subjects brought under discussion; so that this appeal may include a general exposition of the sentiments of the New Church upon the most important of her doctrines, and especially upon those subjects, even when of quite inferior moment in themselves, in regard to which the most common and plausible objections have been raised, and the most injurious misconceptions have gone abroad.
I entreat you, then, my serious friends, to whatever denomination, as regards the profession of religion, you may belong, to enter on the perusal of this Appeal with candid minds, and with a sincere desire to see the truth, wheresoever, and with whomsoever, it may be found. As the best preparation for thus seeing it, allow me to request you to raise your hearts, in prayer for right direction and illumination, to the Truth Itself Impersonated, the Lord Jesus Christ. "We are assured in his unerring Word, that He is "the true Light which lighteth every man, that cometh into the world;" * He declares, himself, that He is "the Truth," # and again, that He is "the Light of the world," and that "he that followeth Him shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life:"$ whatsoever then may be your present opinions in regard to his nature and person, you cannot doubt, if you believe the Scriptures, that he has the power of imparting the light of truth to the mind that looks to him for it. Nor can you doubt, that, to the reception of any gift from him, faith in his power to confer it is a necessary preliminary. When the two blind men intreated his mercy, while on earth, He said unto them, "Believe ye that I am. able to do this ?" and on their answering in the affirmative, "then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And," the sacred record adds, "their eyes were opened." $ Who does not see the correspondence between the communication of the light of day to the eye and of the light of truth to the mind ? and that the one miracle was performed to represent the other ? Whatever then may be thought of the Lord Jesus Christ, evident it is that He is set forth to us in the Scriptures as the Being from whom the inestimable gift of the perception of divine truth is to be received; and that, in order to its reception, He is to be applied to with confidence in his power to bestow it. Be your ideas of Him then, in other respects, what they may, permit me to beg of you to believe, that He really has this power; to elevate your hearts towards Him with corresponding desires; and in this frame of mind to weigh the statements and considerations, which, in the following Sections of this Appeal, will be laid before you. Under this guidance, I cannot refrain from hoping, that you will be led to the conclusion, that what our opponents call "principal errors" are in reality momentous truths, and that what they denominate "anti-scriptural doctrines" are in fact the very doctrines of the Scriptures. But do not let the fear of being brought to this result, by the devout experiment which I have presumed to recommend, deter you from making it: do not refuse to put your minds, on this occasion, under the sole guidance of the Lord Jesus Christ, from an apprehension, that He who is the light and the truth, may by any possibility, guide you into error.
* John, i. 8. # Ch. xiv. 6. $ Ch. viii. 12. $ Matt. ix. 28, 29, 30.