Noble's 'Appeal': VI. Heaven And Hell; And The Appearances In Them, And In The Intermediate Region, Or World Of Spirits.:
A. The Human Instrument for opening the Truths to be revealed at the Lord's Second Advent, should be enabled to remove the prevailing Darkness on these subjects.
if the character of the illustrious Swedenborg, as the divinely selected Human Instrument for announcing the second coming of the Lord, and for communicating the discoveries of Divine Truth to be then afforded, be satisfactorily established: and if the reality of his intercourse, in that character, with the spiritual world, be confirmed, as we have seen it is, by indubitable evidences of his supernatural knowledge; all the objections which are made against him on account of the particulars brought to light by him respecting the hitherto unknown state of man after death, fall at once to the ground. If those particulars are in harmony with his general system of doctrine, and his general system of doctrine, including that part of it which relates to this subject, is securely founded on the Scriptures, it is the height of absurdity to reject them, and with them the whole of his system, because they clash with some unfounded prejudices of our own. Most men avow, that, in regard to all which relates to the life of man after death, beyond the simple fact that there is a future existence, they are involved in the deepest ignorance: yet offer them any specific information on the subject, and they reject it as untrue, with a decision which would only be justifiable, did they already possess respecting it the most accurate knowledge. Supremely interesting to an immortal being as is the nature of the state on which he enters at the death of the body, the opposers of the New Church act as if it were here a high privilege to be in the dark. Allow me, then, now to appeal to you my Candid and Reflecting Readers, on this much misrepresented and much misunderstood part of our Author's testimony and writings.
It is, we are well aware, (and it may be expedient, first, to meet that objection with a few remarks,) a great offence with many in this Sadducean age, that our Author should profess to have had open communication with the spiritual world; to have been so in the spirit,—and this, as he declares, not when he was asleep but when he was wide awake,—as to he able to communicate with those in the world of spirits, or the first receptacle of souls after death, and occasionally with those in heaven and with those in hell: as also to behold the appearances which exist in all those places and states respectively. The writer of this Appeal can here speak feelingly; for it was this which he found most repulsive, when first, by the kindness of Providence, the writings of Swedenborg came into his hands. Permit me, then, here to appeal to you from my own experience.
Accustomed, as is so commonly the case at this day, to consider the other world and this to be separated by an impassable barrier, I could scarcely believe it possible for an inhabitant of the natural world to have any open communication with the spiritual,—not even by the special gift and providing of the Lord. Hence I at first ridiculed what I read (for the first book I opened was the Treatise on Heaven and Hell), beautiful, sublime and affecting, as were the views presented. But examining further, the superior views on all the subjects of religious doctrine which the writings of Swedenborg everywhere exhibit, and the luminous explanations they offer of the Word of God, entirely convinced me, that, in these respects, he was truly an enlightened and safe guide. And then such thoughts as these occurred: "I am able, by the faculties with which God in mercy has endowed us, and by recurring to the standard in the Word of God, to form a judgment of the theological sentiments contained in these writings: and I feel with the utmost conviction,—I see in the clearest light,—that these are certainly true. But can he who is faithful in much, be unfaithful in that which is least ? If his statements respecting his spiritual intercourse are unfounded, they must either be the offspring of derangement or of a systematic attempt at deception. But to suppose that a man who communicates, on many most important subjects, such superior ideas, and who always writes with such perfect order and consistency, could have lost his reason, is a violation of all reason and sound judgment. If, then, his representations respecting the other world are not true, it cannot be because the Author was himself deceived: he must be a wilful deceiver, or none. But how could a man of bad intention, which always darkens the understanding on spiritual subjects, deliver views of truth so truly heavenly and glorious? Besides, how could a man of the irreproachable character which all testimony, of friends and foes, equally allows him,—of the genuine piety which all his writings breathe,—invent such stories to deceive? The idea is monstrous. I must take then the whole of his writings together, and Interpret the one part by the other: and as I can see that everything in them, of which it falls within the province of reason to judge, is certainly true, I may safely take those mere matters of fact, of which my reason can go no farther in its judgment than to see that they are not impossible, upon his authority. Besides, why should they not be probable as well as possible? He does not in the least resemble the common herd of pretenders to supernatural communications: the importance of his information is fully equal to its-singularity. His writings explain the nature and meaning of the second coming of the Lord, and of the New Jerusalem which is to accompany it. They prove, also, that the state of religion in the Christian world at this day, is precisely such as, it is predicted, would be the case, when those great events should arrive. Arrive at some time they must. Suppose then this should be the time, and he really is the appointed instrument for declaring them: in this case, that he should be admitted to the privilege of an intercourse with the spiritual world seems a matter of necessity. Besides: What subject is there in which the human mind at this day is enveloped in greater darkness, than in all that concerns the nature of the eternal world? What then can be so reasonable as to expect, that, among the communications which would be imparted to mankind in the day of the second coming of the Lord and appearing of the New Jerusalem, information respecting the eternal world, its appearances and its laws, would form a prominent subject ? And how could this so naturally be imparted, as by opening the spiritual sight of some inhabitant of the earth, and permitting him to report what he had witnessed?" It was thus that I then reasoned, and in deciding accordingly I found peace and joy; and the forty years which have since passed have only added strength to the conviction, that I then reasoned and decided aright. My experience has been that of many, and will be that of many more.
But what is there in Swedenborg's pretensions on this subject, which is not sanctioned by the experience of those who have formerly filled a similar office? Did not the Apostle Peter behold as extraordinary a vision as any that is detailed in the "Memorable Relations" of Swedenborg, when he beheld "a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet, knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth; wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls, of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter, kill and eat." ( Acts x. 11, 12, 13). Does not the Apostle Paul declare, that, to him, revelations from heaven were things of common occurrence ? He says,—and states it among his claims to respect and attention, not as what ought to involve his pretensions in doubt and denial,—"I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ [meaning himself ], about fourteen years ago (whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven.
And I knew such a man (whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell; God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not possible for man to utter. Of such a one will I glory.—And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." (2 Cor. xii. 1—5, 7) Communications with the spiritual world, then, were common with the apostles, and were regarded by them as properly belonging to their office: and specific examples of them abound throughout the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament. So, if we are to give any credit to the unanimous assertion of all the primitive fathers, similar communications were extremely frequent in the early ages of Christianity. But, without adverting to these, the possibility of such communications cannot be denied by any believer of the Scriptures. Surely then we may say, that, standing in the situation in which Swedenborg asserts he did, he would have been but half qualified for his work had he been without them. His pretending to them does not, indeed, afford proof that his other pretensions are true; but it makes the whole consistent, and thus it gives to the whole the character of higher probability. In him, as the instrument for restoring the true knowledge of religious truth, they were entirely in place. Without them, all that he advances besides would have lost half its claim to attention. And if the information communicated by him is far more distinct than had ever been made known on such subjects before, this also is precisely what, under the circumstances, was to have been expected. If the knowledge respecting life and immortality, brought to light at the first promulgation of the gospel, greatly exceeded in clearness what the world previously possessed; it surely was to be expected, that the knowledge on the same subjects unfolded at the Lord's second advent, would rise in distinctness above that communicated at his first, in the same ratio as this transcended the mere shadows afforded under the Mosaic dispensation. Is it, then, the part of sound reason to reject the information communicated, for being what, if true, it assuredly ought to be? Is it the part of sound judgment to conclude, respecting Swedenborg, from the mere fact of his asserting that he had such communications with the spiritual world, as, if his pretensions were true, he ought to have had, that therefore his pretensions were false ? We surely cannot justly come to such a conclusion, till, after having weighed all that he offers as the result of his communications in the balances of Scripture and Reason, we have found them wanting. The principle of the discoveries thus imparted, and of the objections made to them, shall be examined in distinct parts of this section.