Noble's 'Appeal': V. A Human Instrument Necessary, And Therefore Raised Up:
C. The Objection, That Swedenborg performed no Miracles, Considered.
that, whenever the time for the Lord's making his Second Advent should arrive, a Human Instrument, to communicate the truths then to be made known, would be necessary, and that no man more likely to be chosen for that purpose than the illustrious Swedenborg could easily be found; that his qualifications for such an office, and his claims to be received as invested with it, are supported by abundance of most unexceptionable testimony; are propositions which, I trust, my candid readers will allow to have been sufficiently established. Against him, then, as standing in this character, what objections are raised ? None that would demand any notice, were they not continually re-iterated, and did they not sway the minds of those who are destitute of the information requisite for forming a correct judgment on the case. One of the principal, and one that has been most pertinaciously insisted on by his opponents of all classes, is, that he performed no miracles. This, therefore, shall be considered in the present part of this section.
The objection made against the authority of Swedenborg, that he performed no miracles, has been replied to by his advocates with the most convincing arguments.* Among other considerations it has been urged, that if no human instrument who has a divine commission is to be accepted in that character till he has performed some miracles, then were the Jews fully justified in rejecting the Baptist: for it is expressly said, "John did no miracle." + But it has been endeavoured to evade this argument by a strange misrepresentation. "As Baron Swedenborg," it has been urged, with equal wit and elegance, "took upon himself to act the part of a mighty man of valour in revolutionising heaven, earth, and hell, he ought in any wise to have certified his credentials for such a mighty undertaking by a few notable miracles. Moses, who headed a new dispensation, wrought many in the name of the Lord. Jesus Christ, in his own name, wrought numberless miracles, signs, and wonders. "Whilst the Baron, proclaiming himself to be at the head of a dispensation which shall last for ever, does not justify his heavenly mission by even a single miracle! The Baron's friends excuse their leader by saying, that John the Baptist wrought no miracles. This plea is weak and futile. John was not at the head of a new dispensation; he was the harbinger, not the author of the Christian religion—the author was the Son of God, 'the author and finisher of our faith!' " # So then it is allowed, that if the Lord Jesus Christ, and not Swedenborg, is at the head of the New Jerusalem Dispensation of Christianity, as he was of the Dispensation of it announced by the Baptist, the performance of miracles is not to be demanded of the harbinger; and what a monstrous perversion of truth is it to pretend any otherwise,—to represent Swedenborg as guilty of the blasphemy of "proclaiming himself to be at the head of the dispensation" which he announces, in the same manner as Jesus Christ was at the head of the dispensation then commenced! or even to claim any thing similar for Moses!
* See, in particular, Hindmarsh's Letters to Priestley, Let. i. + John x. 41. # Anti-Swedenborg, Preface, pp. xi. xii.
But supposing the only reason why John the Baptist did not perform miracles, to have been, because he pointed to another person who did; what could be the reason that the ancient prophets did not perform them ? for of all the sixteen prophets, with the Psalmist in addition, there is not one, except Isaiah, of whom any miracle is recorded. $ To say that it was necessary for Moses to do miracles because he "headed a new dispensation," but was not requisite in those who, under the same dispensation, came with divine messages after him, is a "plea weak and futile" indeed. How did the miracles of Moses authenticate the testimony of all who succeeded him? Did their acknowledging his miracles, and living under the dispensation which he was the Human Instrument for introducing, evince that what they delivered was equally true ? As well might we say, that because the Pope acknowledges the miracles of Jesus Christ, and lives under the dispensation which he was the Divine Agent in introducing, he possesses the infallibility to which he pretends, and all his bulls are to be received for what they claim to be, the dictates of divine inspiration. Would the Jews have been justified in refusing to admit into their canon more than half the books which we at present find there, because the writers of them did not work miracles ? If not, there must be something in the character of every divine communication which carries its own evidence with it; and it must be upon this evidence, and not for outward signs and tokens, that He from whom it comes requires that it should be received. But it will perhaps be urged, that the fulfilment of prophecy, without miracles wrought by the prophet, sufficiently evidences its origin. To a certain extent, this is true: but of what use is this ex post facto evidence to those to whom the divine message was first delivered, and whose most important interests frequently depended on their immediately believing it ? Besides, though many things contained in the prophetic writings have since been fulfilled, so obscure are they, frequently, in their literal sense, that the learned dispute whether some of them, yea, whether any part of whole books, have been fulfilled yet: and so far from compulsive is even the evidence afforded by the fulfilment of any of them, that infidels, we know, reject the whole together. As, then, it is incontrovertible, that, even under the Jewish dispensation,—the only dispensation to which miracles properly belonged —it was not usually that the Divine Being authenticated the writings even of his most distinguished prophets by any immediate external token; much less, surely, was it to be expected, that the deliverer of such communications as Swedenborg's, if true, purport to be, should appear with a wonder-working rod, and bring in a new age of prodigies and signs. And, in regard to the evidence which prophecies derive from their fulfilment, we have seen that the testimony of Swedenborg has received an authentication which is fully equivalent and of an exactly similar kind: for that the visible effects of the Last Judgment, which he announced, speak as plainly in his behalf, as any fulfilled prophecy whatever.
$ Jeremiah predicted the death, within a year, of Hananiah; Shadrach, shach, and Abed-nego were delivered from the furnace, and afterwards
Daniel from the lions' den: and Jonah was saved by and from the fish: but none of these were miracles wrought by themselves, or of a nature to insure their credit as prophets.
But let us look a little more particularly at the circumstances attending the introduction of the Mosaic, the Christian, and the Renewed Christian or New Jerusalem Dispensations; and see if we cannot discern satisfactory reason why miracles accompanied the two former, but cannot form proper accompaniments of the last.
By what means, then, other than miracles, was it possible for Moses to have accomplished the external mission on which he was sent ? The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and in no condition to emancipate themselves by force: by what means then but miraculous ones was it possible to compel the stubborn will of Pharaoh to let them go ? All the miracles wrought by Moses, or rather by Jehovah through his almost passive instrumentality (for not one was attempted by Moses but in compliance with a positive injunction), had for their object the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, their preservation in the wilderness, and their introduction into Canaan, as the subjects of a species of political government which has been properly called a theocracy, in which Jehovah himself filled the station of a temporal king: and not one was performed which was not obviously necessary to these purposes. As far as concerned the Jews, external objects alone were in view: and by the miracles wrought, external objects alone were attained: the one were exactly adapted to the other; and, as external performances, to nothing else. That they all represented spiritual things, and are recorded in the Divine Word for our continual instruction, which is the second and higher end designed in them, does not alter their nature as external performances. Having once been wrought and recorded by inspiration, they teach their spiritual lesson for ever; and, to convey this benefit, it is totally unnecessary that they should be wrought again.
Now who does not see, that between Moses, the Human Instrument in delivering a people from temporal slavery,—their conductor through a series of temporal wanderings, amid the destitution of a wilderness, to colonise a temporal country,—and the necessary Human Instrument for announcing the truths connected with the second and purely spiritual advent of the Lord; no regular parallel can exist. All that was done by Moses, was, in his situation, and for the immediate natural and remote spiritual objects to be obtained, indispensable; but to require the same works as were done by him of the herald of the Second Advent, would be like requiring of the present inhabitants of England the tasks of the back-woodsmen of America; tasks which were necessary when England too was a forest, but which are equally unnecessary and impracticable now that the forest is no more, but meadows and corn-fields occupy its place. For the Jews, indeed, who hope again to be gathered from among the nations and re-conducted to the land of Canaan, it is perfectly natural to expect the great prophet who is to deliver them to bear a rod more powerful than that of Moses, and to smooth the road by a series of miracles: having only a natural kingdom in view, they are consistent in looking for its establishment, by supernatural means, indeed, but productive of none but natural effects: but for Christians,—for spiritual masters in Israel, who know that their Lord's kingdom is avowedly not of this world, to expect that, at his Second Coming more truly to establish it, he will again send prophets such as Moses to astonish with external prodigies, is to betray conceptions as gross as those of Nicodemus; it is to loathe the manna in comparison of the garlic and leeks, and to sigh again for the carnalities of Egypt.
"When, however, God himself appeared on earth Incarnate, he was preceded, his coming loudly proclaimed, and the duty of repentance as necessary to prepare for him authoritatively preached, by a "Harbinger" who "did no miracle;" but of whom, nevertheless, it is stated, that "all things which he spake of this man [Jesus] were true;"* plainly enough instructing us, that miracles are by no means necessary to authenticate the most important communications and doctrines; and that a teacher divinely commissioned may point to the Lord, and prepare men to receive him, who does not bring outward signs to prove whence he comes. Nor is the force of this instance; at all evaded by saying, that "John was not at the head of a new dispensation;" that "he was the harbinger, not the author, of the Christian religion;" and that "the author was the Son of God," who "wrought numberless miracles, signs, and wonders." This argument would be very good, and would make strong against Swedenborg, were it meant to prove, and could it prove with truth, what alone it tends to prove, that the design of the miracles, signs, and wonders, wrought by Jesus, was to induce men to believe the simple preaching of John! But when the fact is the reverse; when, before Jesus had begun to show himself, there "went out unto John Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins;"+ and when, without a previous belief in the simple preaching of John, men could not, notwithstanding the "miracles, signs, and wonders," be brought to believe in Jesus;# the conclusion is indefeasible, that miracles are not necessary to the authentication of truth: and it will not be easy to deny, that, when they were performed, it was, as to the outward performance, for a very different purpose.
* John x. 41. + Matt. iii. 5, 6.
But Jesus Christ himself, the great teacher of all, "in his own name wrought numberless miracles, signs, and wonders." Assuredly he did; for how could God Incarnate do otherwise? When God appeared in a natural body on earth, it was reasonable to expect that his power would be exerted, and his beneficence displayed, in. operations extending even to the bodies of his creatures,—that from the person in which he dwelt virtue must go out,* adapted to operate upon the persons of those, who, by faith in him, were capable of admitting it. But it hence follows, by parity of reason, that at his coming again, not in the flesh but in the spirit, his power would be exerted, and his beneficence displayed, in operations upon the spirits of his creatures,—that the virtue which would then go out from him would be the proper operation of his Holy Spirit, affecting and enlightening the minds of those, who, by their acknowledgment of him, should be capable of admitting it. Of what kind, also, were the external miracles which he performed while in the flesh ? They consisted almost entirely of cures wrought upon the sick and possessed, and of the sudden production, to support or refresh his creatures, of bread, or of wine. "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." + Who does not see in these operations, something shadowed out of far more importance than the relief of the body ? Who does not behold, in him who wrought them, the Physician of the soul, the Dispenser of spiritual health and life ? Who then can doubt that the miracles to be looked for at his spiritual coming, are such, and such only, as those which he performed while in the flesh represented? that they will consist in the opening of the spiritual eye, or the illustration of the understanding, and the straightening of the spiritual limb, or the restoration to order of the natural mind and life; in the cleansing of the spiritual leper, or of those who through ignorance, falsify the truth, and the opening of the spiritual ear, or the bringing into obedience of the disobedient will; in the raising up of the spiritually dead, or of those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and the preaching of the gospel to the poor, or the communication to the ignorant of the instructions of the life-giving Word ? Thus the miracles wrought by the Lord at his coming in the flesh, by no means lead to the conclusion, that similar miracles must be performed at his coming in the spirit: they in fact prove such an expectation to be unfounded: but they intimate that divine works may then be looked for, as far superior to the former in importance, as the soul is superior to the body.
* Luke vi. 19. + Matt. xi. 5.
Still then we find that there was nothing, in the circumstances attending the introduction of former dispensations, that authorises the expectation of miracles to be performed by the Human Instrument who should announce the last. If, as we see, the external miracles performed by the Lord at his first coming, do not lead to the inference, that he would perform miracles of the same kind at his second; in no degree whatever can they lead to the inference, that such would be performed by his "harbinger." Who will be so mad as to run a parallel between the Lord himself and any Human Instrument whatever? Who then will advance the monstrous false inference; that because the Incarnate God wrought miracles in person, the Human Announcer of his second coming should do the same ?
But in answer to this it will probably be urged, that the Lord not only wrought miracles himself, but empowered his apostles to do so too. He did so, most certainly; and, in both cases, for the same reason. "The Word was made flesh," * and showed himself to men; and, as the natural consequence, he wrought miracles that affected men's bodies. To extend the knowledge of this fact, he sent forth Apostles; and by them, for the same reason, he wrought similar miracles. To evince "that Jesus Christ was come in the flesh,"+ was the main point of their testimony: the burthen of their preaching, was, "repentance towards God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ;"# that is, faith that he, who was known on earth by the name of Jesus Christ, was the Word made flesh, was God Incarnate It was to this that they were to "bear witness." $ There was, then, precisely the same reason that "the Word made flesh" should work miracles affecting the bodies of men, by the witnesses of the great truth, that the Word was made flesh, as that he should do them by his own immediate agency. It still was not the Apostles, but the Incarnate God, who was the sole operator: and the operations in both cases were effects from the same cause, and were but parts of the same whole. To argue, then, from what was done in this way by the preachers of the Lord's advent in the flesh, to what ought to be done by the Human Instrument for announcing his advent in the spirit, is again to draw a complete false inference. The legitimate conclusion is directly the reverse. We have seen that there must be the same difference between the operations produced at the Lord's second coming and at the first, as there is between the whole nature of the second advent and of the first. We have seen that, as it was agreeable to order that the Lord at his coming in a human body should perform cures on the human bodies of men, it would be contrary to order that he should do the same at his coming in the spirit and power of his Word, but that then the internal operations should take place of which the external were figures. We now see that it was agreeable to order that the preachers of his coming in the flesh should do similar miracles to those which he performed himself.
* John i. 14. + John iv. 3. # Acts xx. 21. $ John xv. 27; Acts i. 8, 22; iv. 33.
Would it not then be a palpable violation of all order, that the announcer of his spiritual coming should do such miracles as were performed by those "who companied with the apostles all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among them;"—and were "ordained to be witnesses with them of his resurrection?"* Is it not a most clear requirement of order and consistency, that the miracles to be performed by the announcer of the Lord's coming in the spirit and power of his Word, should be such, as the Lord Himself will alone then perform ? miracles relating solely to the illumination of the understanding and the rectification of the heart, and. which, cannot appear as miracles before the outward eye ? These are only to be performed by instruction in genuine truths drawn from the Holy Word; and of such instruction, by such truths, there is ample store in the writings of Swedenborg. These are found, by the humble and sincere, efficacious to the performance of genuine miracles. The restoration of sight to the naturally blind is productive of less delight, than many have experienced in the enjoyment of that clear light of truth, which, through the instrumentality of those writings, has burst on their mental sight. Through their means, the spiritually lame has leaped as a hart, and the tongue of the spiritually dumb has burst out into singing; for through their means, notwithstanding the state of desolation into which the professing church of the day has declined, in the wilderness waters have broken out, and streams in the desert. +
* Acts i. 21. 22. + Isa. xxxv. 6.
Again, then, we see, from all the circumstances attending the introduction of former dispensations, that there is no reason whatever for supposing that the Human Instrument appointed to announce the last, should accompany his announcement by the performance of natural miracles: on the contrary, they afford the most conclusive grounds for presuming, that the time is completely gone by in which the performance of miracles could form any part of the divine economy.
But, further: who that frees himself for a moment from tha shackles of prejudice, and allows himself to think from judgment, and from a regard to the present state of mankind, does not see herein the wisdom of the Almighty ? Who is there that seriously believes, that a dispensation ushered in by miracles would be at all suited to the present state of the world ? Does any one actually think, that a man who should appear working miracles, would at this day obtain any serious attention ? When miracles were literally performed, it was among a people to whose habits of thinking they were congenial. The Jews scarcely looked upon miracles as things, extraordinary. Among a people then of such a turn of mind, it is reasonable to suppose that some of the messengers of Jehovah would be authorised to gratify the popular expectation by miracles. But if, as is certain, to the performance of miracles, a disposition to acknowledge their reality is necessary in the persons among whom they are wrought; if, as is certain, the incredulity of his countrymen was capable of restraining the wonder-working energies of the Saviour in person;* who can imagine that, in these times, in this age of incredulity, Divine Wisdom would rest its communications on such a basis ? Would not, in these days, a man working miracles be treated as a mountebank ? And would he be respected much more, even by those who believed his miracles to be real ? Would not the cures he might perform be resolved into collusion, or, where this was proved to be impossible, be imputed to the agency of unknown natural causes, or of that power which modern infidelity has invested with omnipotence,—the more than magic power of imagination ? It may be affirmed, that a repetition of the miracles of the Saviour himself would at this day, and in Christian countries, obtain but little attention: they were all such as might either be denied altogether or imputed to one of the above causes: and if he did not choose to silence his numerous gainsayers by the more terrible prodigies of Moses, we cannot suppose that he would cause such interruptions of the course of nature to be produced by the herald of his second advent. Indeed, it may be doubted whether even the prodigies exhibited by Moses would now command belief. Were a modern teacher to conduct an army from Calais to Dover, few, probably, would be convinced, by any testimony, that they had marched through the sea. Many, in fact, who would be loth to be thought infidels, confess as much. Even they who are loudest in demanding miraculous evidence, often, almost in the same breath, admit its inefficacy in altering the principles of a man's religious belief: while they object to Swedenborg that he did no miracles, they inform us, that they would not have believed him if he had. Thus the celebrated Dr. Priestley, after having said a good deal on the indispensable necessity of miracles to authenticate a divine commission, at last overturns his whole argument by this ebullition of Unitarian firmness: "Should any being, in the complete form of an angel, tell me that God hath the form of a man, and that this God was Jesus Christ, I should tell him that he was a lying spirit!"+ And the Rev. W. Roby, relying on the stability of the decrees which Calvin has framed for the Almighty, affirms, that "even miracles themselves could not confirm the truth of Swedenborgian doctrines."# What inconsistency! to call upon us to authenticate our doctrines by miracles; and then to acknowledge that they agree with us in thinking that miracles are not proper evidences of doctrinal truth!
* "And he could there do no mighty work, save
that he laid his hands on a few sick folk, and healed them." (Mark
This sentiment,—that miracles are not the proper evidences of doctrinal truth, is, assuredly, the decision of the Truth itself; as is obvious from many passages of Scripture. We have seen that the design of the miracles of Moses, as external performances, was, not to instruct the Israelites in spiritual subjects, but to make them obedient subjects of a peculiar species of political state. And though the miracles of Jesus Christ served collaterally as testimonies to his character, he repeatedly intimates that this was not their main design, and that they were only granted, in this respect, in accommodation to the hardness of Jewish hearts: and he condemns and laments the gross state of the people that could require them. He even says to a disciple, in reference to his own manifestation of himself After his resurrection, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed:"* clearly teaching, how superior is the state of mind which can see truth without external evidences, above that which demands them. So when the nobleman of Capernaum besought Jesus to heal his son, though he complied, he answered, in terms expressive of displeasure at such requirements, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." + At another time, more plainly still, he says, that it is "a wicked and adulterous generation (that) seeketh after a sign;" # on which occasion, according to Mark, "he sighed deeply in his spirit."$ How characteristic is that touch of the Apostle, "The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom!"|| (where by wisdom he means the elegance and refinement of Grecian literature): may we not say, that, generally speaking, these Jews and Greeks are well represented by the religionists, and persons indifferent to religion, of the present day ? Even, then, while performing miracles, it is evident that the Divine Energist did not regard them as the proper evidences of spiritual truth, and conceded them, thus far, with reluctance. Hence, likewise, he so often commanded those on whom his miracles were wrought to keep them secret;@ a proceeding which would be unaccountable indeed, if he meant them as proofs of the truth! For the evidence of truth he taught men to look at the truth itself, and to the witness it finds to itself in the duly prepared heart. He does not say, "If any man see a miracle, he will know that the doctrine taught by the operator is of God;" but, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God."**
xx. 29. + John iv. 48. # Matt. xvi. 4; xii. 39;
Luke xi. 29.
$ Ch. viii. 12.
But Truth itself carries still farther its disownment of miracles as its proper evidences. Although the Lord, at his advent in the flesh, did signs and wonders in condescension to the hard-heartedness of the Jews among whom he appeared, he never intimates that either he or his messengers shall repeat such signs at his second coming; on the contrary, what is quite conclusive, he seems thenceforth to relinquish them to the powers of darkness. Thus, in reference to the time of his second coming, he says, "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."* So Paul, illustrating a prophecy of Daniel, notices a wicked one to be revealed, "whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders."+ So the Apocalyptic Divine, speaking of the second beast, says, that "he doeth great wonders,— and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do."+ And in another place he mentions "the spirits of devils" as "working miracles"$ Is it not then evident, that after the time of the Lord's advent in the flesh, no miracles were to be expected, but such as might be wrought, or pretended-to, in attestation of error ? It is probable, indeed, that by the miracles here predicted, we are not to understand outward miracles, but a certain power of fascinating the mind as if by inchantment, exercised on those who yield to its influence, which always accompanies deeply infernal delusions: yet very extraordinary outward occurrences also, very strongly testified, are recorded in the annals, not only of Catholicism, where they are most abundant, but of many Protestant sects: however, be the nature of the predicted diabolical miracles what it may, miracles they are called: is it not then certain, that, had Swedenborg wrought any, all the texts just adduced would have been cited by his adversaries, and his performance of the signs which are now demanded, would then have been urged as infallible tokens that his mission was from Satan ? Has not then the Spirit of God "done all things well," in that, after having predicted no future miracles but infernal ones, it has omitted to decorate the Human Instrument for communicating its last discoveries with those questionable insignia ?
* Matt. xxiv. 24. + 2 Thess. ii. 9. # Rev. xiii. 13, 14. $ Chap. xvi. 14.
Let us illustrate this by an example or two.
That Swedenborg's claims have, however, been supported by every species of testimony short of that of direct miracles, has been fully shown in the first and second parts of this section: and that, had he been authorised to perform absolute miracles, they would, if denial of their reality was found impossible, have been attributed to the agency of Satan, may be concluded from the fact, that this has actually been done in regard to the extraordinary instances of the reality of his communication with the spiritual world which have been given in the preceding part of this section, The author of a volume of considerable magnitude, full of the most amazing misrepresentations and direct falsehoods, called "The Trial of the Spirits," &c., allows, that the evidences to their reality are such as cannot be set aside. He calls them "instances of supernatural knowledge, and proofs of a power of command in the world of spirits, which are not a little surprising;" and adds, "there seems to be no possibility of denying their truth as facts." What then is his inference? No other than this: "That a power of working apparent miracles, or prodigies, may, on some occasions, be permitted to evil spirits, and their wicked instruments." *
The same opponent has given another example of the candid admission of undeniable facts, accompanied with the most uncandid denial of them as testimonies to the truth.
In the section on the last judgment, and in the first and present parts of this section, it has been shown that Swedenborg's announcement that the Last Judgment has been accomplished, connected with the extraordinary occurrences, plain consequences of that event, which have since astonished the world, affords as conclusive a proof of the truth of his claims to be received as a divinely appointed Herald of the Second Advent, as could result from the plainest prophecy and its fulfilment. In addition, to what has been shown to this effect above, I will here give another exemplification.
Swedenborg states, in his account of the Last Judgment, that when the interiors of those who were inwardly wicked, who had established themselves in the intermediate region of the spiritual world, were laid open, by the nearer presence of the Divine Judge, "they no longer appeared, as before, like moral Christians, but like demons: they raised riots, and wrangled with each other about God, the Lord, the Word, faith, and the church; and, as their concupiscences of evil were at the same time loosed from restraint, they rejected all belief in such matters with contempt and mockery, and rushed into enormities of all kinds.—As the opening of their interiors advanced, so the order established in societies was changed and inverted. They who displayed most power in their reasonings against the sanctities of the church, rushed into the centre and seized the government: and the rest, whose power by reasonings was less, gave place to those in the centre, and acknowledged them as a sort of guardian angels. Thus things began to assume the form of hell." Now if this had, been delivered as a prophecy of what took place at the French revolution, could it have been described more faithfully ? In the transactions which then occurred, was there not exhibited, in the natural world, a perfect image of what this extract states had been performed in the spiritual ? In France, after works full of reasonings against the sanctities of religion had long been eagerly read, did not they who were strongest in the same principles assume the government ? were not enormities of every kind practised, and religion actually abolished by law ? Who then may not behold, in the one course of transactions, effects resulting from the other, and which, without divine instruction, Swedenborg could not have known ?
I could hope that those who in future may be disposed to write against the New Church would give this matter,—of the evidence which Swedenborg's statements respecting the Last Judgment and its accomplishment, as substantiated by subsequent events, yield to the truth of his testimony in general,—their serious attention. The only writer by whom it has yet been noticed, is the author of "the Trial of the Spirits," already cited; and he is embarrassed by it not a little. "We will notice his attempts to surmount it, and expose their futility.
"The only circumstance," says he, "in the Baron's revelations which makes any approach to prophecy,—is the intimation he is said to have given, that a great revolution had taken place, in the year seventeen hundred and fifty-seven, in the spiritual world: and that a similar change in the opinions of mankind would shortly ensue. From whence he obtained this prophetic idea and presentiment of the French Revolution, and of the liberal opinions and revolutionary spirit about to arise, which has since pervaded all countries, it is not difficult to conceive. The Indians at Mexico had similar intimations and forebodings of the coming of the Spaniards, before Ferdinando Cortez appeared; and Lord Chesterfield, and other experienced men of political sagacity, had a presentiment of a great political storm, fifty years before it happened, and certainly without any familiar converse with angels and ghosts. If it was by the strength of intellect and natural means alone that he foresaw the spirit of innovation, and the advance of real science and the march of evangelicism on the one hand, as of scepticism and infidelity on the other, this does him credit, as a man of acute observation, but as a prophet, very little indeed."* But if the Mexicans, as historians do affirm, had distinct expectations of the coming of the Spaniards, they could, only have obtained them by supernatural means: this example then, if true, makes nothing against Swedenborg, but the contrary; unless, we admit, what the writer would insinuate, that the knowledge of distant future events can come from the devil; whereas theologians in general (founding upon Deut. xviii. 22, and Jer. xxviii. 9,) have with the utmost reason, considered the knowledge of futurity as one of the peculiar attributes of Divine Omniscience. It is true that some politicians, as they reasonably might, looked for a change of affairs in France (not, however, fifty years before it happened): but which of them had any foresight of the immense change in the state of the human mind which has pervaded the whole of the civilised world ? which of them saw a change preparing of such magnitude and universality, as would have led them, had they wished to act as religious impostors, to resort, as the cause of it, to such magnificent machinery, as the accomplishment, in the spiritual world, of the general judgment? To ascribe this assertion then in Swedenborg to his foresight of events in this world which would not commence till thirty years afterwards, and the prodigious extent of which could be anticipated by none, is to make him "a man of acute observation" indeed!
Our author stumbles still more in the following sentence: "Had it," says he, "been the Baron's lot to have survived to our times, and to have witnessed the horrors of the French Revolution, in the long and frightful course of which there were many very magnificent prophecies fulfilled,—and among them the famous Session of Judgment (Dan. vii. 9, 11, 22, 26) upon the delinquencies of the beast, there might have been more ground for his confident asseveration, that the day of judgment is passed." Again: "Had Swedenborg lived till 1789, and then fixed his day of judgment in the stormy season of the French Revolution, there had not been more truth, but much more appearance of it, in such an arrangement. For then undoubtedly began the accomplishment of many prophecies, and particularly the session of judgment upon the reigning great Roman beast." So then, this author considers, that the judgment predicted in Dan. vii., and which is there spoken of as attending the second coming of the Lord, has been accomplished in the troubles consequent upon the French Revolution: but which exhibits most spiritual discernment; to recognise in those effects the accomplishment of the prophecy upon the subject, after they had taken place: or to announce the performance in the spiritual world of the judgment itself, from which such effects were naturally to be expected, long before the effects began to appear ? The one lay open to every common observer: the other could be seen only by a man, the eyes of whose spirit had been opened by the Lord, as Swedenborg declares of himself.
The same writer, in another place, makes this admission: "That within forty or fifty years back, a change in the characteristics of the age, and in the tone of the opinions and n orals of mankind, has really taken place, to whatever secondary causes attributable, is easily granted. The remaining traces of its march ever since, are too strongly impressed upon memory, and have been too much revived perpetually by fresh and alarming proofs of its continued existence, to be denied." If this is granted, and is allowed to be too plain to be denied, we have all that we contend for; since it also-cannot be denied that the cause for it assigned by Swedenborg, before the effects began to appear, is a cause, and the only conceivable one, adequate to the mighty results. "When this is acknowledged, the whole mystery is solved; while it is unknown or denied, we are left to wonder at most prodigious effects for which no cause can be imagined,—to recognise a universal impulse simultaneously operating upon the whole human race, but having no source whatever!
It is no answer to say, respecting the acknowledged change in the characteristics of the age and its effects, as this writer proceeds to do, "But these are not 'the spots of God's children,' nor proofs of the real existence on earth of the city of peace, whose 'walls are salvation and her gates praise:' the proof rather tends the contrary way, and shows that this is the accomplishment of the predicted 'third woe' which is to precede and introduce the Millennium."— In this remark, he differs but little from the view we take of the subject. It was shown in our last section, that the first outward effect on the earth of the accomplishment of the last judgment in the spiritual world, was to be expected to consist of works of judgment here: of these, this antagonist allows there has been already an ample display: he seems, however to anticipate more: and we, though we are willing to hope the best, and see the commencement of many encouraging symptoms, would by no means presume to affirm that he is here mistaken. The greatest weight of chastisement has fallen on the Roman Catholic nations; whether the Protestant nations have yet had their full allotment, may perhaps be doubted. And, though we consider that the dispensation which has commenced is that of the New Jerusalem, we do not conceive that the state of the church which is strictly represented by the establishment upon earth of "the holy city" itself, has yet arrived. We consider that, as yet, the woman is in the wilderness; (Rev. xii. 14) by which symbol, according to Swedenborg, is represented the state of the New Church at its commencement, while it is yet confined to a few, and surrounded by a general spiritual desolation: and certainly, the dragon is yet easting out of his mouth the waters of false accusation as a flood, by the instrumentality of such writers as the author of "The Trial of the Spirits," Mr. Beaumont, Mr. Pike, Mr. Lane, Mr. Roebuck, and many more (not to mention writers innumerable in Reviews and Magazines), to cause her, though in vain, to be carried away of the flood. Thus the very arguments brought against Swedenborg's testimony respecting the performance of the last judgment, as evidenced by the late and present state of the world, only tend to confirm it.
The writer of "The Trial" again repeats his admission, and his conclusion from it, thus: "That we are entered upon a new era, and a very important one, is true. The altered spirit and atrocious demoralisation of the times show it, as well as the advancement of our age in the science of good and evil. But all this is no proof of the existence of St. John's and Isaiah's holy city—the New Jerusalem, or its being already upon earth; but it agrees well enough with Swedenborg's." Very true. It does agree with Swedenborg's: for Swedenborg never said that the New Jerusalem, strictly speaking, was "already upon earth," but only, that it was preparing to descend. But he affirmed that the Lord's second advent was commencing, and that the last judgment, as connected with it, had in the spiritual world been performed: and this adversary acknowledges the change of state in the natural world, discernible by all, to be so great, as obviously to announce a new and very important era. How extraordinary does it appear, that, seeing this, he cannot acknowledge the only adequate cause! But the Scripture must be fulfilled: "Every eye shall see him; and they also which pierced him." (Rev. i. 7.) They see, indeed, what cannot be regarded as anything less than the effects of the Lord's second coming: but they refuse to acknowledge him in them: spiritually they pierce him still; or deny him, by falsifying his truth."
But, before closing this part of this section, we must notice another subject.
Wishing, as far as possible, to avoid, in this Appeal, repeating what has been said by others, I have not yet, in stating the reasons why no direct miracles were performed by Swedenborg, dwelt much upon those offered by Swedenborg himself, and which have been most urged by his vindicators. I thus have not urged the most important of all,—their tendency to close the rational mind. This, however, ought not to be passed by: and to treat a subject which has been handled by such writers as Hindmarsh and Clowes with as much originality as possible, I will do it by subjoining an extract from an address drawn up by me for a certain occasion (but not used) in the year 1799; at which time I had not read anything on the question but what is contained in our author's own writings, with which I had become acquainted the preceding year. There is more warmth in the manner than I should use now; but this the reader will excuse in a youthful production; written too at a time when the delight accompanying the perception of new truths was in all its freshness, and when I literally was filled with astonishment that what appeared to me clearer than the light of the meridian sun should not be seen by others.
"Some, probably, will say, 'What argument can induce us to believe a man in a concern of this nature who gives no visible credentials to his authority ? A teacher commissioned from on high ought to have the power of working miracles. Had we seen him raise a dead corpse to life, or jump unhurt from the Monument, we might have believed him; but without such proofs as these we cannot.' But let us ask in return, Is it worthy of a being wearing the figure of a man to require such proofs as these to determine his judgment ? Are we not endowed with rationality ? Is it not by virtue of this celestial spark that man boasts himself a man, and claims superiority over every other rank of animated nature ? The lower orders of creation have bodily senses as well as we: they can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell: and if we, refusing to exercise those faculties which we possess in common with angels, receive only such evidence as our external senses can grasp, do we not degrade the dignity of our nature, deny our heavenly origin, and reduce ourselves to a level with the beasts that grovel on the ground ? The beasts act from the impulse of their bodily senses, but are utterly incapable of seeing from reason why they should so act: and it might easily be shown, that while a man thinks and acts tinder the influence of a miracle, he is as much incapable of perceiving, from any rational ground, why he should thus think and act, as a beast is.
" 'What!' our opponents will perhaps reply, 'Dare any one speak thus disrespectfully of miracles, when they are sanctioned by the testimony of the Bible ? Was it not entirely by miracles that the Jewish Church was established ? Was it not by miracles that the Israelites were induced to believe Moses ? Was it not by miracles that they were governed in the wilderness ? And was it not by miracles that the prophets sometimes testified their authority? Do you not believe these facts ?'—Yes, my friends, I do most entirely believe them: and at the same time I most ardently hope that none of us are such people as the Jews were; because the most stupendous miracles would then do us no more good than they did them. For can we have a more conclusive evidence of the inadequacy of miracles to convince a man to his real benefit, than in the conduct of that people; who, notwithstanding the wonderful things which they daily saw, were continually rebellious, insomuch that, we are informed, they were stiff-necked above all the people on the face of the earth ?—' If then the Jews were not amended by those means, what end did they answer ?'—Let us consider what end was answered in their being introduced into the land of Canaan; for how can we suppose that a people of this character ever constituted a real spiritual church? And how can we imagine that they could ever be, in a peculiar manner, the express favourites of God ?—'But if not, why did he interpose in so wonderful a manner to deliver them from Egypt ?'—We answer; They were delivered from Egypt, which was a type of the natural state of man, and introduced into Canaan, which was a type of his spiritual state, that they might represent all that belongs to a real spiritual church by their ceremonial worship and particular transactions; and that, by their means, a revelation might be given to the world, which, in its literal sense, should treat of their affairs and of those of the neighbouring nations, their wars, rites, and customs; all which spiritually signified such things as relate to the real spiritual church; and because they could not be brought even to represent such a church by superior inducements, they were driven and forced to it by miracles; which, likewise, were all representative of spiritual subjects.
"But it may be objected, 'That supposing the Jews were a gross external people who did little more than represent a spiritual church, the Christian was an interior dispensation; and yet miracles were wrought at its establishment, both by Christ and his Apostles.'—But let us remember, that the Lord passed his whole life upon earth among the Jews, who, being such a people as has just been described, required testifications of this sort; which here also, as well as in the case of the miracles wrought by Moses, had a spiritual signification. Besides, the Word of the New Testament, wherein they are recorded, was yet to be written: and every sickness and infirmity therein described to have been healed, was representative of some evil or false principle which only the divine power of the Lord is able to remove. If this were not the reason, why is not this power continued to the dignitaries of the church till this day ? We see that it is not: we find that, as soon as the Christians were entirely separated from the Jews, miracles ceased.
"But now, at the opening of a more interior dispensation than either of the former,—of a more spiritual form of the everlasting gospel,—no miracles are performed at all. Is not the reason yet. evident ? Let me ask any person whatever, whether he can be forced to think what he does not think, or to love what he does not love ? It is true that, by the civil laws of a state, or anything which occasions fear, a man may be forced to say what he does not think, and to do what he does not love: yet, notwithstanding this, he does not think and love what he thus says and does; and, were the constraint removed, he would immediately speak and act otherwise. Now, though such conduct as this may indeed answer the purpose of the civil life, do we not see that, with respect to the spiritual life, it is nothing ? A man may, by civil and ecclesiastical enactments, be restrained from speaking against the truths of religion and outwardly transgressing its laws; yea, he may be, and in some countries is, forced to acknowledge and obey them: yet if his knowledge and obedience proceed only from such a cause, what is his religion ? It is evident, that unless a man really thinks what he speaks, and loves what he acts, there is nothing of the man in such speech and action. Hence it may appear, that the essential human principle, or that by virtue of which man is man, consists in the liberty of thinking and willing; and that if this liberty were taken from him, which would be the case were he constantly tinder the influence of a miracle, he would no longer, properly speaking, be a man at all. If we see a beast of prey destroying another animal, do we reprobate him as guilty of moral evil ? No, we do not: we are sensible that he is gratifying a natural appetite, which he has no liberty of will to resist. But if we see a man commit an act of cruelty or injustice, we do reprobate him as guilty of moral evil: we are sensible that reason might have taught him it was wrong, and that he was at liberty, had he pleased, to obey her dictates. If, then, we thus confess it to be these faculties which raise us from mere animals to men, how ought we to disdain to seek an influence, which, by depriving us of them, would reduce us from men to mere animals! And such is the influence of miracles. For if, when we have rejected a truth, the operation of a miracle force us to acknowledge it; is there any thing of true faith in such acknowledgment? True faith must reside in the rational mind: but the miracle, acting only on the external senses, actually shuts up the rational mind; so that, astounded in a stupid amaze, we become utterly incapable of looking at what is thus forced upon us in any light of reason, or of receiving it in any affection. Wherefore the miracle becomes quite useless: for finding ourselves, while its impression remains, deprived of our freedom,—bereaved of the faculties which constitute us men,—we willingly suffer it to wear off: and thus being restored to our liberty, we confirm anew what our reason dictates; we return to our former belief, because it is what we think, and what we like to think. But that we may see this as clearly is possible, let us take an example. Suppose a man, having no affection for goodness, to be forced by a miracle to acknowledge a truth which he otherwise would reject: will he behold this truth with pleasure, even though it teach the way to happiness ? Assuredly not. And why ? Because he wishes to find happiness some ether way. For this (inasmuch as it is a truth) teaches, that, to be truly happy, we must be good, and renounce the pursuit of such enjoyments as are grounded in the love of evil: but he, being devoted to the pursuit of such enjoyments, which he feels as his very life, will regard as an enemy whatsoever opposes it. Finding himself therefore under an irksome restraint in the prosecution of his favourite pleasures, from the monitory voice of the truth he has acknowledged, he will shortly reject it as founded in error; and he will deny the miracle which induced his belief, by persuading himself that it was the accidental effect of some natural cause with which he is unacquainted; or, perhaps, that it proceeded from the agency of powers which delight in deceiving mankind.
"Let us, then, not wish to have our minds closed by miracles, but let us open them by rational investigation. If we are desirous to know whether the doctrines now promulgated are consistent with truth, let us search for them in Moses and the prophets; for these are they which testify of them; and if we believe not Moses and the prophets, neither should we be persuaded though one rose from the dead. These are the Lord's own words; which I remind you of, to evince, that the reasons I have offered to demonstrate the inutility of miracles as evidences of spiritual truth, are derived from Him who cannot err. Let us remember that he also assures us, that it is an evil and adulterous generation which seeketh after a sign. Let us remember likewise, and tremble lest we resemble them, that the Jews, who were such a generation, were not convinced by the signs when they beheld them. Of this, what an awful instance they gave when they crucified the Lord! 'Come down from the cross,' they cried out, 'and we will believe thee.' Did he not perform the miracle they demanded as the condition of their faith ? Nay, did he not perform a much greater miracle ? He raised his glorified body from the grave: the Jews knew it:—and they bribed the guard to say it had been stolen by his disciples!
"No, my friends, believe me! it is not by miracles that disciples are to be gained for the New Jerusalem. The real inhabitants of this 'holy city,' are to be interiorly principled in wisdom and goodness: and it is not in the power of a thousand miracles to affect the interiors of the mind, or to remove one evil which is rooted there. Let us, then, remember we are men, and look for such evidences as become the capacities of men; which are, truths that recommend themselves to an enlightened reason: and of these rational evidences there is no lack to accredit the testimony of Baron Swedenborg." *
* See also some remarks upon the unsatisfying nature of the evidence from miracles in the preface to "The Plenary Inspiration," &c. I had there said, in reference to those defences of Christianity which build chiefly on that evidence, that they "are more adapted to silence than to satisfy even art ingenuous inquirer." The observation has been cavilled at by some of the Reviewers; but I have since had the satisfaction of finding precisely the same idea, in nearly the same phraseology, expressed by Mr. T. Erskine, in his very popular work, "Remarks on the Internal Evidence for the truth of the Christian Religion."—"We generally find," says that amiable writer, "that the objections which are urged by sceptics against the inspiration of the Bible, are founded on some apparent improbability in the detached parts of the system. These objections are often repelled by the defenders of Christianity as irrelevant; and the objectors are referred to the unbroken and well-supported line of testimony in confirmation of its miraculous history. This may be a silencing argument, but it is not a convincing one." (P. 200, Ed. 1823.) * Deut. xiii. 1, 2, 3. + Ch. viii. 20. # Luke xvi. 29, 31.
Upon the whole, I trust, that all the Candid and Reflecting will agree with me in the conviction, that Swedenborg, by the non-performance of miracles, has in no degree weakened his claims to attention, but that he would have weakened them much more had he wrought the most "notable" ones. Even under the Mosaic law, abounding, us that dispensation did, with outward wonders, the performance of them is never laid down as among the credentials of a prophet; while, on the other hand, their exhibition by false prophets is spoken of as possible and probable: "If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods which we have not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the voice of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams."* Thus the knowledge of God, as revealed, of course, in his Word, is spoken of as the only infallible touchstone. So in Isaiah: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because they have no light in them."+ To the same purpose is the wise answer of Abraham in the parable: "They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them.—If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."# And the Lord himself: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.—Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me." (John v. 39, 46.) It is to this testimony that Swedenborg appeals. As the "harbinger" of the Lord at his first advent preached of, and pointed to, the Word made flesh, and they who thence were led to Jesus acknowledged, that, though "John did no miracle, all things that he said of this man were true;" so does the Herald of the second advent point to the Lord in his Word; and they who, guided by his directions, seek him there, will assuredly find, that, though Swedenborg did no miracle, all that he has said of the presence of the Lord therein, in the power and glory of its spiritual sense, is true also. And the one is as great a divine discovery as the other. As it was impossible for John, without illumination from above, to have known in his true character the Word in person; so was it impossible for Swedenborg, without illumination from above, to have known the true character of the written Word of God,—to have seen how it makes a one with the living Word himself; being a derivation from him in the inmost of which he is, and by the opening of the internal sense of which he is bringing himself nearer than ever to mankind, and granting to them a nearer access to him. It would be idle, I admit, to talk in this manner, if the views of Scripture given in the writings of Swedenborg differed not from those of commentators in general,—if they contained nothing beyond what learning and study and piety might discover: but if they exhibit far more than this; if they present the Word in a light completely new and transcendently glorious; if they prove that it includes throughout a regular spiritual sense, which, without superseding that of the letter, immensely exalts and dignifies the whole, displaying it to the enchanted eye of reason as well as of faith as the very Divine Truth and Wisdom,—as, without a figure, the Word of God indeed; then surely it will be conceded, that flesh and blood could not have revealed this unto him, but he must have received it by special illumination from the living Word himself. No miracle can rival, in the clearness of the conviction produced, the revelation and rational apprehension of previously hidden truth: and he who enjoys this interior conviction of truth would not feel it more strongly, were he to behold the most stupendous miracles performed by the Human Instrument of conveying it. Many superior minds have seen, that miracles have no tendency to enlighten the understanding; and the remark of that extraordinary genius, Rousseau, was not less profound than it was brilliant, when he said, that he believed the gospel itself, not on account of its miracles, but in spite of them.