Noble's 'Appeal': V. A Human Instrument Necessary, And Therefore Raised Up:
B. Specific Evidences to the Qualifications of Swedenborg, and to the Truth of his Claims.
in the preceding part of this section I have offered a general view of Swedenborg's qualifications for the holy office to which, as we are satisfied, he was called: we will here support what was there advanced by some testimonies of persons of learning and rank as to his character and attainments, and as to certain uncommon powers which were conferred upon him as necessary for the discharge of his commission.
It will perhaps be most proper to begin with the account which Swedenborg gives of himself, as contained in a letter to his friend, the Rev. T. Hartley; and then to see how it is corroborated by what others have testified respecting him. The letter is as follows: *
"I take pleasure in the friendship you express for me in your letter, and return you sincere thanks for the same: but as to the praises which you bestow upon me, I only receive them as tokens of your love of the truths contained in my writings, and so refer them to the Lord our Saviour, from whom is all truth, because he is the truth. (John xiv. 6.) It is the concluding part of your letter thai chiefly engages my attention, where you say as follows: 'As after your departure from England disputes may arise on the subject of your writings, and so give occasion of defending their author against such false reports and aspersions as they who are no friends to truth may invent to the prejudice of his character, may it not be of use, in order to refute any calumnies of that kind, that you leave in my hands some short account of yourself; as concerning, for example, your degrees in the university, the offices you have borne, your family and connexions, the honours which I am told have been conferred upon you, and such other particulars as may serve to the vindication of your character, if attacked; that so any ill-grounded prejudice may be obviated or removed ? For where the honour and interest of truth are concerned, it certainly behoves us to employ all lawful means in its defence and support.'—After reflecting on the foregoing passage, I was induced to comply with your friendly advice, by briefly communicating the following circumstances of my life.
"I was born at Stockholm, in the year 1689,+ Jan. 29th. My father's name was Jesper Swedberg, who was Bishop of West-Grothland, and a man of celebrity in his time. He was also elected a member of the [English] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; for he had been appointed by King Charles XII. as bishop over the Swedish churches in Pennsylvania and London. In the year 1710 I began my travels, first going to England, and thence to Holland, France, and Germany; whence I returned home in 1714. In the year 1716, and afterwards, I had many conversations with Charles XII. king of Sweden, who was pleased to bestow on me a large share of his favour, and in that year appointed me to the office of Assessor of the Metallic College; in which I continued till the year 1747, when I resigned it; but I still retain the salary annexed to it, as an appointment for life. My sole view in this resignation was, that I might be more at liberty to devote myself to that new function to which the Lord hath called me. On my resigning my office, a higher degree of rank was offered me: but this I utterly declined, lest it should be the occasion of inspiring me with pride. In 1719, I was ennobled by Queen Ulrica Eleonora, and named Swedenborg: from which time I have taken my seat with the Nobles of the Equestrian Order in the Triennial Assemblies of the Slates of the Realm. I am a Fellow, by invitation, of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Stockholm: but I have never sought admission into any other literary society, as I belong to an angelic society, wherein things relating to heaven and the soul are the only subjects of discourse and entertainment; whereas the things which occupy the attention of our literary societies are such as relate to the world and the body. In the year 1734, I published at Leipsic the Regnum Minerals, in three vols. folio; and in 1738, I took a journey into Italy, and stayed a year at Venice and Rome.
"With respect to my family connexions: I had four sisters. One of them was married to Eric Benzelius, afterwards promoted to the Archbishoprick of Upsala: and thus I became related to the two succeeding archbishops of that see, both named Benzelius, and younger brothers of the former. My second sister was married to Lars Benzelstierna, who was promoted to a provincial government. But all these are dead: however, two bishops who are related to me are still living: one of them, named Filenius, is Bishop of East Gothland, and now officiates as President of the Ecclesiastical Order in the Diet at Stockholm in the room of the archbishop, who is infirm; he married my sister's daughter: the other, named Benzelstierna, is Bishop of Westermania and Dalecarlia; he is the son of my second sister. Not to mention others of my relations who enjoy stations of dignity. Hive, besides, on terms of familiarity and friendship with all the bishops of my country, who are ten in number; as also with the sixteen Senators, and the rest of the Nobility; for they know that I am in fellowship with angels. The King and Queen, also, and the three princes their sons, show me much favour: I was once invited by the Eing and Queen to dine at their table,—an honour which is in general granted only to the Nobility of the highest rank; and likewise, since, with the Hereditary Prince. They all wish for my return home; so far am I from being in any danger of persecution in my own country, as you seem to apprehend, and so kindly wish to provide against; and should anything of the kind befal me elsewhere, it cannot hurt me.
"But I regard all that I have mentioned as matters of respectively little moment; for, what far exceeds them, I have been called to a holy office by the Lord himself, who most graciously manifested himself in person to me, his servant, in the year 1743; when he opened my sight to the view of the spiritual world, and granted me the privilege of conversing with spirits and angels, which I enjoy to this day. From that time I began to print and publish various arcana that have been seen by me or revealed to me; as respecting heaven and hell, the state of man after death, the true worship of God, the spiritual sense of the Word; with many other most important matters conducive to salvation and true wisdom. The only reason of my latter journeys to foreign countries, has been the desire of being useful, by making known the arcana entrusted to me.
"As to this world's wealth, I have what is sufficient: and more I neither seek nor wish for. #
"Your letter has drawn the mention of these things from me,, with the view, as you suggest, that any ill-grounded prejudices may be removed.—Farewell; and from my heart I wish you all felicity both in this world and the next; which I make no doubt of your attaining, if you look and pray to our Lord.
* The original Latin may be seen in a former periodical publication called the Aurora, vol. ii. p. 224, &c., from which I have in some places corrected Mr. Hartley's version of it. The date of it is 1769. The letter was first published by Mr. Hartley in the preface to his translation of the work "On the Intercourse between the Soul and the Body," called by him "A Treatise on Influx," printed in Swedenborg's life-time.
+ It has been ascertained that this should be 1688.
# This remark is an answer to an offer by Mr. Hartley to supply him with money, should he have occasion for it.
Now if the writer of this letter really was invested with the character he assumes, could anything be more suited to that character than the whole of its contents ? Does not every sentence and expression in it bespeak the truly humble, pious, and heavenly-minded man? Could any one who falsely pretended to what the Author professes, write of himself in a manner so perfectly in accord with the pretensions assumed, ? Would it be possible for an impostor, whether hypocritical or self-deluded, to assume that air of genuine simplicity, inward composure, and unfeigned contentedness, which reigns throughout the whole ?
The information here delivered by the Author divides itself into two general parts: first, the account of his life and general character; secondly, his call by the Lord to a holy office, and the consequent opening of the sight of his spirit, and endowment with the privilege of conversing with spirits and angels. We will see how both are supported by the testimony of others.
I. A confirmation of all the statements contained in the first part of the above letter, is given by the Rev. Nicholas Collin, of Philadelphia. This gentleman does not profess the sentiments of Swedenborg: but in the year 1801, when, in consequence of the adoption of those sentiments by many in America, the character and life of Swedenborg had there become the subject, as he states, of "frequent and sedulous inquiries," he published the above letter of his illustrious countryman, with a comment of his own, in "the Philadelphia Gazette" of Aug. 5th, 8th, and 10th. It was reprinted in "the New Jerusalem Church Repository," published at Philadelphia in 1817, at which time Mr. C. was still performing the duties of Pastor of the Swedish Church in that city. His testimony therefore is probably that of a still living witness.* Mr. Collin was well qualified to give authentic information, having, when a very young man, lived three years at Stockholm, when "Swedenhorg was a great object of public attention in that metropolis, and his extraordinary character was a frequent topic of discussion.—Not seldom he appeared in public, and mixed in private societies; therefore sufficient opportunities were given to make observations on him." I extract the sentences containing the heads of Mr. C.'s comment, in confirmation of some of which he goes into several details.
"His family-connexions were such as he relates, and well known in Sweden; some of them by myself personally. The mention of his father being, though honourable, modestly short, I shall enlarge upon it. This Jesper Swedberg was well qualified for one of the principal bishopricks in Sweden, by his piety, learning, integrity, benevolence, and all other virtues."—"Swedenborg is silent on the merits of his youth, which were great."—"The office of Counsellor in the Metallic College was conferred on him by King Charles as a reward for knowledge acquired by the labours of youth, and a means of making it very beneficial to the nation: that Board having inspection over the mines and metallic works, so important in that country; and being a constitutional department of the government." —"Swedenborg asserts with truth, that he was in favour with the royal family, and generally respected by the first classes. This was due to his learning and excellence of character."—"Swedenborg states properly his rank of nobility. He had the common degree, and was not, as many style him, a Baron; which title denotes the second class of noblemen; the first among the three classes being counts." +
* When the first edition of this work was published.
+ This is unquestionably a just account of his rank: but it may be observed, that, though he had not a title, his degree was the same as in England carries the title of Baron, or Lord; for it gave him a seat in the House of Nobles, or of Peers, in the Diet or Parliament of his country. The higher rank, which, he states, in his letter, was offered him on his retirement from office, was, no doubt, that of Baron; which in Sweden is equivalent to our Earl.
Mr. Collin adds an account of an interview which he once had with Swedenborg: it contains nothing very remarkable, but enough to evince that his behaviour on intimacy by no means tended to diminish the respect which his reputation had excited. "In the summer of 1766," says Mr. C., "I waited on him at his house; introducing myself with an apology for the freedom I took.—He received me very kindly.—We conversed for near three hours; principally on the nature of human souls, and their states in the invisible world; discussing the principal theories of psychology, by various authors; among them the celebrated Dr. Wallerius, late Professor of Natural Theology at Upsala. He asserted positively, as he often does in his works, that he had intercourse with spirits of deceased persons." — "We parted," says Mr. C., "with mutual satisfaction."
The next testimony that I shall offer is from a public document of the greatest authority. It is no other than an oration delivered in the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, on occasion of Swedenborg's death, by the Chevalier de Sandel, Superintendent of the Mines, and Knight of the Order of the Polar Star, at a Meeting of the Academy held in the Great Hall of the House of Nobles, Oct. 7th, 1772. The circumstance of the delivery of such a discourse, is alone a conclusive proof of the high estimation in which the subject of it was held. As Asmus of Wandsbeek, referring to this production, says of the most erudite of his censurers, "They would have suspended their opinion concerning him, had they known that Swedenborg possessed all their learning in his cradle."* But I must content myself with only extracting a few passages.
* See the Aurora, vol. ii. p. 220.
"Permit me," says the Orator to the noblemen and gentlemen around him, "to entertain you, this day, upon a subject which is not of an abstract or remote nature, but is intended to revive the agreeable remembrance of a man celebrated for his virtues and his knowledge, one of the oldest members of this Academy, and one whom we all knew and loved.
"The sentiments of esteem and friendship with which we all regarded the late M. Emanuel Swedenborg, assure me of the pleasure with which you will listen to me while he is the subject of my discourse: happy should I be, could I answer your expectations, and draw his eulogium in the manner it deserves! But if there are some countenances, of which, as the painters assure us, it is extremely difficult to give an exact likeness; how difficult then must it be to delineate that of a vast and sublime genius, who never knew either repose or fatigue; who, occupied with the sciences the most profound, was long engaged with researches into the secrets of nature, and who, in his latter years, applied all his efforts to unveil the greatest mysteries; who, to arrive at certain branches of knowledge, opened for himself a way of his own, without ever straying from sound morals and true piety; who, being endowed with a strength of faculties truly extraordinary, in the decline of his age, boldly elevated his thoughts still further, and soared to the greatest heights to which the intellectual faculty can rise; and who, finally, has given occasion to form respecting him a multitude of opinions, differing as much from each other as do the minds of the different men by whom they are formed!——
"But we have to follow him in longer and more numerous travels, in diversified occupations and undertakings, and through routes often attended with difficulty. And in order that no reserve or apprehension may afterwards invade us, and make us hesitate at accompanying him any farther, as often happens when we have not had time to make ourselves sufficiently acquainted with a travelling companion beforehand; represent to yourselves in Swedenborg the happy union of a strong memory, a quick conception, and a sound judgment; represent to yourselves these excellent qualities united to an ardent desire and encouraging hope of acquiring the most profound attainments in Philosophy, in all the branches of Mathematics, in Natural History, in Mechanics, in Anatomy, and even in Theology: let us not forget his skill in the Oriental and European languages: let us recollect the force of habit, acting in him in concert with the use of reason, especially in respect to the order in which he arranged his thoughts; without a regard to which, when they are too much occupied upon abstruse meditations, they are apt to give themselves up, without distinction of objects, to the fire of a too lively imagination: add to all this an excellent heart, as proved and formed by the rules which he had prescribed for his conduct, and which I have found noted down in several of his manuscripts; which are these: 1. Often to read and meditate on the Word of God: 2. To submit everything to the will of Divine Providence: 3. To observe in everything a propriety of behaviour, and always to keep the conscience clear: 4. To discharge with fidelity the functions of his employment and the duties of his office, and to render himself in all things useful to society. Such were the characteristic traits of Swedenborg's mind: and whoever thinks there is the least exaggeration in the delineation of them, must, in some shape or other, be the victim of prejudice.
"He finished, in 1733, his great work entitled, Opera Philosophica et Mineralia, which was printed in 1734, at Dresden and Leipsic. The Consistory of the University, and the Academy of Sciences, of Upsala, did themselves the honour of being the first to acknowledge the merit of their illustrious countryman, and to show him marks of their esteem. The Consistory, in 1724, had invited him to accept the situation of Professor of the Pure Mathematics, vacant by the death of Nils Celsius; and this, because, as they expressed themselves, his acceptance of the office would be to the advantage of the students and the ornament of the University. But he declined the honour. The Academy of Sciences admitted him into the number of its members in 1729.
"But the learned abroad now hastened to give him marks of their consideration. The Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg appointed him a Corresponding Member, by a diploma dated Dec. 17th, 1734. Christian Wolff, and other foreign literati, were eager to establish with him a literary correspondence, and consulted him on many intricate subjects. The Editors of the Acta Eruditorum of Leipsic, which gives an account of the works of men of science and literature, found in those of Swedenborg a rich harvest with which to ornament their collection. Nor has time yet deprived his Opera Philosophica et Mineralia of any of their value. The authors of the magnificent Description des Arts et Metiers, now publishing at Paris, have thought so highly of the second part, which treats of Iron and Steel, that they have translated it, and inserted it entire in their collection."
His character as a theologian, was, of course, not a subject for examination in this Eulogium, and yet it could not be passed without notice. M. de Sandel adverts to it, as a natural philosopher might be expected to do when addressing natural philosophers, but without at all treating it as matter of ridicule.
"I have as yet," he says, "only spoken of one part of the works of Swedenborg; he afterwards entered on another route."——
Having given a list of his theological works, he says, "The titles of these works announce matters of great importance: and though the subjects of them are different, they are all founded on Anatomy, on Physics, on Philosophy, on explications of Holy Scripture, on certain revelations and visions; and they all conduct us, according to his manner of treating them, to serious meditations respecting the Supreme Being, the soul, things invisible and spiritual, and the life hereafter. We thus now find, soaring above the clouds, the same man whom we have just been following in the mines, in furnaces and workshops; and we find him everywhere equally diligent, zealous, and fertile in emblematical illustrations.——
"I have probably dwelt too long on Swedenborg's theological works: these are not matters to be discussed in an Academy of Sciences. Suffice it then to say, that his merit and excellent qualities shine with brillancy, even where we are endeavouring to discover in him the weaknesses inseparable from human nature. I do not come here to defend errors or unintelligible principles: but I will venture to assert,—and I reckon, gentlemen, on meeting your approbation in the assertion,—that where others would have discovered a deficiency of intelligence and a confusion of ideas, Swedenborg has displayed an astonishing assemblage of knowledge; which he has arranged, according to his system, in such order, that the elements themselves would have striven in vain to turn him out of his course."
I only add two or three other notices from this Eulogium.
"Never did he allow himself to have recourse to dissimulation.— He was the sincere friend of mankind.—In society, he was cheerful and agreeable. By way of relaxation from his important labours, he sought and frequented the company of persons of information, by whom he was always well received.—As a public functionary, he was upright and just: while he discharged his duties with great exactness, he neglected nothing but his own advancement. Having been called, without solicitation on his part, to a distinguished post, he never sought any further promotion. When his private occupations began to encroach upon the time required for the functions of his office, he resigned it, and remained content with the title which he had borne while exercising it for one-and-thirty years.—As a member of the Equestrian Order of the House of Nobles he took his seat in several of the Diets of the Realm; in which his conduct was such as to secure him both from the reproaches of his own conscience and from those of others.—He enjoyed excellent health, having scarcely ever experienced the slightest indisposition. Content within himself, and with his situation, his life was, in all respects, one of the happiest that ever fell to the lot of man, till the very moment of its close."
The above is translated from the version from the original Swedish prefixed to a French translation of Swedenborg's True Christian Religion, published at Paris in 1802. More unexceptionable testimony to his high character as a man of learning and virtue, cannot certainly be desired.
The next that I shall offer is that of a man whose exalted rank and great attainments give the utmost weight to his testimony and opinions. This is Count Andrew John Von Hopken. He was one of the institutors of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, which, being a man of eminent learning, he served for a considerable period in the quality of Secretary. He afterwards was, for many years, prime minister of the kingdom; which station, in addition to his post as one of the sixteen Senators, with whom, prior to the revolution in 1772, the royal power in fact was vested, the king being merely the president of that body, made him the second person in the kingdom. He died on the 9th of March, 1790. In "the New Jerusalem Magazine," published in 1790 and 1791, are five letters of this nobleman's to General Tuxen, in answer to some inquiries respecting Swedenborg made by the latter. Count H6pken's letters exhibit much of the wariness of an old politician; yet while he even seems to censure some parts of Swedenborg's writings, his anxiety to apologise for them clearly discovers what was his real opinion. The dates of the letters are May 11, 1772; May 21, 1773; August 1, 1773; January 13, 1774, and July 6, 1781. I give some sentences, chiefly from the first and longest; the whole of which I only abstain from quoting from a regard to brevity.—"All I could say," states the Count, "by way of preliminary on this subject, regards the person of the late Assessor Swedenborg. I have not only known him these two and forty years, but also some time since, daily frequented his company. A man who, like me, has lived long in the world, and even in an extensive career of life, must have had numerous opportunities of knowing men as to their virtues and vices: but I do not recollect ever to have known a man of more uniformly virtuous character than Swedenborg. He was always contented, and never fretful and morose, although throughout his life his soul was occupied with sublime thoughts and speculations. He was a true philosopher, and lived like one.—He was gifted with a most happy genius, and a fitness for every science; which made him shine in all that he pursued. In his youth he was a great poet: I have in my possession some fragments of his Latin poetry, which Ovid would not have been ashamed to own. The style of his Latin prose, in his middle age, was easy, elegant, and ornamental: in his latter years it was equally clear, but less elegant after he turned his thoughts to spiritual subjects, He was well acquainted with the Hebrew and Greek; an able and profound mathematician; and a skilful engineer."—"He detested metaphysics [as usually taught] as founded on fallacious ideas, because they transcend our sphere; by means of which Theology has been drawn from its simplicity and corrupted. He was perfectly conversant with mineralogy."—"In Holland he began to apply himself to anatomy; in which he made some remarkable discoveries, which are preserved somewhere in the Acta Literaria" —"He possessed a sound judgment upon all occasions: he saw every thing clearly, and expressed himself well on every subject. The most solid memorials, and the best penned, at the Diet of 1761, on matters of finance, were presented by him. In one of these, he refuted a large work in quarto on the same subject, quoting all the corresponding passages in it; and all this in less than one sheet." —"He might, with or without reason (which I do not venture to determine), be accused of having given a warm imagination too free play in his revelations: but, for my part, I have nothing on which I could found this conclusion. Whether or no our Lord, in our times, may grant to particular persons particular revelations; what is the nature of such revelations; and by what criterion we are to distinguish the genuine from the false: of all this I have no solid grounds for judging. But if, according to human notions, we were to compare the revelations in the Apocalypse with those of Swedenborg, I know not to which of the two the preference would be given.— I once represented to this venerable man, in rather a serious manner, that he would do better not to mix his beautiful writings with so many revelations, which ignorance makes a jest of, and turns into ridicule. But he answered, 'that this did not depend on himself that he was too old to trifle with spiritual things, and too much concerned for his eternal happiness to give into such notions, were they unfounded:' and he assured me, on his hopes of salvation, 'that no imagination produced in him his revelations, which were true, and from what he had heard and seen.' It may be so: the church cannot judge of mysteries; nor can I.—When the generality are speaking of the theology of Swedenborg, they always dwell on his revelations, and think that every thing consists in these. In regard to what he relates of the spiritual world, and the other progressions in the angelic heaven, there appears, I think, an analogy with, and resemblance of, the gradations which God has established in this world, and in which no variations or exceptions are admitted; insomuch that Swedenborg has taken the same road by which we proceed from the visible to the invisible; from things known to things unknown; from several collected facts to one fundamental truth before unknown to us; in like manner as, in arithmetic, we are led from known numbers to those we seek. We have no other way of obtaining knowledge. Few persons have judiciously read his works, which everywhere sparkle with genius. If I meet with any thing unusual, extravagant, or which might be thought to indicate a disordered understanding, I do not judge of it. We read Plato with admiration: but there is nothing to be met with in his works, which, if related by another person, might not be deemed extravagant, inconceivable, and absurd."—"The late Swedenborg, certainly was a pattern of sincerity, of virtue, and of piety; and at the same time, in my opinion, the most learned man in this kingdom."—"The Sweden-borgian system is more comprehensible to our reason, and less complicated, than other systems; and while it forms virtuous men and good citizens, it prevents all kinds of enthusiasm and superstition, both of which occasion so many and such cruel vexations, or ridiculous singularities, in the world. From the present state of religion, as more or less every where conspicuous according to the more or loss free form of government, I am perfectly convinced, that the interpolations which men have confusedly inserted into it have nearly effected its total corruption or revolution: and when this is seen, the Swedenborgian system will become more general, more acceptable, and better understood, than at present. 'Opinionum commenta delet dies, naturae judicia confirmat,' says Cicero."
The above testimony must surely be allowed to carry the greatest weight, both as it refers to the character of Swedenborg himself and of his writings. On the former subject, the assertions of a person of such rank and knowledge of the world, and founded on a forty-two years' intimacy, are beyond all exception; and on the latter, the opinion of a man of such intelligence, and such evident prudence and caution, is entitled to the highest respect.
Connected with, the last testimony is that of General Christian Tuxen, to whom Count Hopken's letters were addressed. This gentleman, being the king of Denmark's Commissioner of war at Elsineur, at which port the vessels in which Swedenborg was proceeding on his voyages frequently stopped in their passage through the Sound, repeatedly obtained the company of the illustrious stranger at his house. In a letter to Mr. Nordenskjold,* he details many particulars of these interviews: and the result was, that he was so completely satisfied with his "valuable guest," that he calls him, at the close of his letter, "our late benefactor, and in truth not only ours, but that of all mankind, if they are seriously solicitous about their state after death. For my part," he adds, "I thank our Lord the God of heaven, that I have been acquainted with this great man and his writings. I esteem this as the greatest blessing I ever experienced in this life, and hope I shall profit by them in working out my salvation."
Dr. Gabriel Andrew Beyer, Professor of Greek Literature and Assessor in the Consistory of Gottenburg, became one of Swedenborg's most intimate friends, and one of the most active promoters of his sentiments. This drew upon him a severe persecution from the Consistory. The matter was carried before the supreme Government, when, in compliance with an order from the king, Dr. Beyer presented to his majesty, Jan. 2nd, 1770, a Declaration of his sentiments in regard to the doctrines of Swedenborg.+ Towards the close, the amiable and learned author expresses himself thus: "In obedience to your Majesty's most gracious command, that I should deliver a full and positive declaration respecting the writings of Swedenborg, I do acknowledge it to be my duty to declare, in all humble confidence, that so far as I have proceeded in the study of them, and according to such gifts for investigation and judgment as I possess, I have found in them nothing but what closely coincides with the words of the Lord himself; and that they shine with a light truly divine."
* Dated from Elsineur, May 4th, 1790, and printed in "the New Jerusalem Magazine."
+ It may be seen in "the Intellectual Repository," vol. i. (first series,) p. 113, &c.: it has also been since published in the form of a small tract: for it contains a most masterly vindication of the sentiments selected by the Consistory for condemnation.
Mr. Robsam, Director of the Bank of Stockholm, was another intimate friend of Swedenborg's; and he has testified his opinion of him by publishing several anecdotes, tending to recommend him to acceptance as an extraordinarily gifted man. "We shall have occasion to advert to Mr. R. again.
Mr. Springer, a Swedish gentleman who had filled several important offices, and was, during many years, the Swedish Consul at the port of London, was the intimate friend of Swedenborg, both in Sweden and in England. He was known to many of the early readers of Swedenborg's works in this country, and has left the strongest testimony to the worth and extraordinary character of his friend. But to him, also, we shall have occasion to advert again.
But beside his own contrymen and other foreigners, some who knew him in this country have added their most decided suffrage to his excellent qualities.
Of these the principal is the Rev. Thomas Hartley, M.A., Rector of Winwick in Northamptonshire; who, having met with some of Swedenborg's works, sought an acquaintance with their author, and was admitted by him to his intimate friendship. Mr. Hartley has left his testimony respecting him on record in the prefaces to the English editions of the works "On the Intercourse between the Soul and the Body," and "On Heaven and Hell," and in a Letter to the translator of "The True Christian Religion," inserted in the preface to that work. In the first of these prefaces, Mr. H. says, respecting his author, "I have conversed with him at different times, and in company with a gentleman of a learned profession and of extensive intellectual abilities: we have had confirmation of these things from his own mouth, and have received his testimony, and do both of us consider this our acquaintance with the author and his writings among the greatest blessings of our lives."—"The extensive learning displayed in his writings evinces him to be the scholar and the philosopher; and his polite behaviour and address bespeak him the gentleman. He affects no honour, but declines it; pursues no worldly interest, but spends his substance in travelling and printing, in order to communicate instruction and benefit to mankind: and he is so far from the ambition of heading a sect, that wherever he resides on his travels he is a mere solitary, and almost inaccessible, though in his own country of a free and open behaviour. He has nothing of the precisian in his manner, nothing of melancholy in his temper, and nothing in the least bordering on the enthusiast in his conversation and writings." Mr. H. makes similar remarks in his Letter to the translator of "The True Christian Religion:" "The great Swedenborg was a man of uncommon humility."—"He was of a catholic spirit, and loved all good men of every church, making at the same time all candid allowance for the innocence of involuntary error."—"However self-denying in his own person, as to gratifications and indulgences, even within the bounds of moderation; yet nothing severe, nothing of the precisian, appeared in him, but, on the contrary, an inward serenity and complacency of mind were manifest in the sweetness of his looks and outward demeanor."—"It may reasonably be supposed, that I have weighed the character of our illustrious author in the scale of my best judgment, from the personal knowledge I had of him from the best information I could procure respecting him, and from a diligent perusal of his writings: and according thereto, I have found him to be the sound divine, the good man, the deep philosopher, the universal scholar, and the polite gentleman: and I further believe, that he had a high degree of illumination from the Spirit of God; was commissioned by him as an extraordinary messenger to the world; and had communication with angels and the spiritual worlds far beyond any since the time of the apostles. As such I offer his character to the world, solemnly declaring, that, to the best of my knowledge, I am not herein led by any partiality or private views whatever, being much dead to every worldly interest, and accounting myself as unworthy of any higher character than that of a penitent sinner."—What Mr. Hartley here says of himself is unquestionably true: for he was well known to many of the religious characters of that day as a man of the deepest piety, and he was, at this time (in 1781), very far advanced in years, and near the end of his earthly career: to the testimony of such a man to the character of Swedenborg, what exception can be made ?
The "gentleman of a learned profession and of extensive intellectual abilities," mentioned by Mr. Hartley above, was the late Dr. Messiter, an eminent physician of that time. What his opinion of Swedenborg, the result of personal acquaintance, was, appears from his correspondence with the Professors of Divinity at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen; * to which Universities, by desire of Swedenborg, he, in 1769, presented some of his works. In his letter to Dr. Hamilton at Edinburgh, Dr. M. says, "As I have had the honour of being frequently admitted to the author's company when he was in London, and to converse with him on various points of learning, I will venture to affirm, that there are no parts of mathematical, philosophical, or medical knowledge, nay, I believe I might justly say, of human literature, to which he is in the least a stranger; yet so totally insensible is he of his own merit, that I am confident he does not know that he has any; and, as himself somewhere says of the angels, he always turns his head away on the slightest encomium." (Dr. Hamilton, in his answer, candidly says, "I have seen enough to convince me that the Honourable Author is a very learned and pious man; qualities that shall ever command my respect.") So, in his letter to Dr. Grerard at Aberdeen, Dr. Messiter, speaking of Swedenborg's works, says, "They are the productions of a man whose good qualities, resulting from his natural and acquired abilities, I can with much truth, from my frequent converse with him, assert, are a high ornament to human nature. Credulity, prejudice, or partiality, seem to have no share in his composition or character; nor is he in the least influenced by any avaricious or interested views. A proof of this last assertion was afforded me, by his refusing an offer of any money he might have occasion for while in England; which was made him on a supposal, that his want of connexions in a place where he was a stranger might prove an obstacle to his divine pursuits."
* See Intellectual Repository, vol.iii. (first series) p. 449, &c.
With the Englishmen whose approbation of Swedenborg's sentiments was strengthened by a personal acquaintance with himself, must be reckoned the late Mr. Wm. Cookworthy; a man of most superior character, the friend of the first Lord Camelford, and of Captain Jervis, afterwards Earl St. Vincent, and the associate of many of the literati of his day. This gentleman testified his satisfaction with Swedenborg and his writings, by joining with Mr. Hartley in translating the treatise on Heaven and Hell, and defraying the whole expense of the printing and publication. *
To the above may be added the testimony of Mr. and Mrs. Shear-smith, in whose house Swedenborg died. To rebut a malicious report pretended to be founded on their authority, that Swedenborg, in his last hours, had recanted his statements, they made an affidavit, dated Nov. 2, 1785, deposing to the circumstances of his last illness and death; in which they aver, "that he enjoyed a sound mind, memory, and understanding, to the last hour of his life." Many are now living, of whom I am one, who can bear witness to the strong terms of respect in which they always spoke of their noble lodger.+
* See a Memoir of him in "the Intellectual
Repository," new series, vol. i. p. 439, &c.
In the testimony to Swedenborg's virtues and attainments, thus borne by so many most unexceptionable witnesses who knew him well, and against which no opposing testimony whatever, from persons acquainted with him, can be adduced, we surely have the most satisfactory confirmation, not only of his own account of his life and character, but of all that is advanced above, as to his qualifications for the office to which he declares he was appointed, and as to the antecedent probability, that he might be the Human Instrument selected to communicate the truths connected with the second advent of the Lord, on the supposition that the time for that event has arrived. We also see that many men of the very first respectability, intelligence, and learning, who formed their opinion from a knowledge of the man as well as of his writings, believed, during his life-time, that he actually was such an Instrument.
II. But, secondly, it may perhaps be thought, that if, in consequence of having been called by the Lord to a holy office, he really had the privilege of conversing with angels and spirits, some plain proofs of it, beyond his own assertions, might occasionally occur. Now that such proofs did occur, is a certain fact. He indeed never appeals to them in support of his mission: he shows, in various parts of his writings, that where the mind is not receptive of truth by its own evidence, no external testimony will force it in: he therefore affirms, what we shall presently advert to, that it would have been incompatible with the nature of the truly spiritual dispensation to be opened by the second coming of the Lord to prove it by miracles. To the performance of miracles, therefore, he made no claim: yet as Providence permitted him, on some occasions, to give full demonstration of his supernatural knowledge, we must conclude that it was granted for some useful end. That end may be, to afford satisfaction to those, who, though favourably inclined towards the doctrines of the New Church in general, would yet feel more assured by some external tokens. On those who are decidedly opposed to the truths contained in our author's writings, no external tokens whatever, we are quite certain, would induce reception: but to others, those which follow may be useful as confirmations: in which light, only, they are offered.
Two of the most extraordinary instances of Swedenborg's access to the spiritual world, are those respecting the Countess de Marteville, whose husband was ambassador at the Swedish court from Holland, and the Queen of Sweden, Louisa Ulrica, wife of King Adolphus Frederic, and sister of the celebrated Frederic of Prussia. Many editions of these anecdotes in different works, resting on the authority of different relaters, have appeared; but all agreeing in substance. Both of them are given by M. Pernetti, in the preface to his French translation of the treatise on Heaven and Hell, upon the authority of Count Hopken. Both are mentioned, also, by Mr. Springer; and that relating to the Queen is given in the Letter of General Tuxen's cited above; who states, that, having heard of it from various persons, he inquired the exact particulars from Swedenborg himself. But we will give it in the Queen's own words; as recorded, together with the anecdote of the Countess de Marteville, by an author who cannot be suspected of any partiality in favour of Swedenborg; I mean M. Dieudonne Thiebault, a French savant of the school of Voltaire, and Professor of Belles Lettres in the Royal Academy of Berlin. He was the author of a work translated into English, and printed at London, in 1805, under the title of "Original Anecdotes of Frederic the Great, King of Prussia." He represents Queen Louisa Ulrica as being, like her brother, a professed esprit fort, carrying it even to the avowal of atheism; which I mention as necessary to account for the contradictory remarks with which she concludes her narration; and because it makes her a more unexceptional witness to the fact she relates. It occurred in 1759.
M. Thiebault says, "I know not on what occasion it was, that, conversing one day with the Queen on the subject of the celebrated visionary, Swedenborg, we (the members of the academy) expressed a desire, particularly M. Merian and myself, to know what opinion was entertained of him in Sweden. I on my part related what had been told me respecting him by Chamberlain d'Hamon, who was still alive, and who had been Ambassador from Prussia both to Holland and France. It was 'that his brother-in-law (the Count de Marteville), Ambassador from Holland to Stockholm, having died suddenly, a shopkeeper demanded of his widow the payment of a bill for some articles of drapery, which she remembered had been paid in her husband's life-time: that the widow not being able to find the shopkeeper's receipt, had been advised to consult with Swedenborg, who, she was told, could converse with the dead whenever he pleased; that she accordingly adopted this advice, though she did so less from credulity than curiosity; and at the end of a few days Swedenborg informed her, that her deceased husband had taken the shopkeeper's receipt for the money on such a day, at such an hour, as he was reading such an article in Bayle's Dictionary in his cabinet; and that his attention being called immediately afterwards to some other concern, he put the receipt into the book to mark the place at which he left off; where in fact it was found, at the page described.' The Queen replied, that though she was but little disposed to believe in such seeming miracles, she nevertheless had been willing to put the power of M. Swedenborg, with whom she was acquainted, to the proof: that she was previously acquainted with the anecdote I had related, and it was one of those that mostly had excited her astonishment, though she had never taken the pains to ascertain the truth of it; but that M. Swedenborg haying come one evening to her court, she had taken him aside, and begged him. to inform himself of her deceased brother, the Prince Royal of Prussia, what he said to her at the moment of her taking leave of him for the court of Stockholm. She added, that what she had said was of a nature to render it impossible that the Prince could have repeated it to any one, nor had it ever escaped her own lips: that, some days after, Swedenborg returned, when she was seated at cards, and requested she would grant him a private audience; to which she replied, he might communicate what he had to say before the company; but Swedenborg assured her he could not disclose his errand in the presence of witnesses: that in consequence of this intimation the Queen became agitated, gave her cards to another lady, and requested M. de Schwerin (who also was present when she related the story to us) to accompany her: that they accordingly went together into another apartment, where she posted M. de Schwerin at the door, and advanced towards the farthest extremity of it with Swedenborg; who said to her,—'You took, madam, your last leave of the Prince of Prussia, your late august brother, at Charlottenburg, on such a day, and at such an hour of the afternoon; as you were passing afterwards through the long gallery, in the castle of Charlottenburg, you met him again; he then took you by the hand, and led you to such a window, where you could not be overheard, and then said to you these words: ———.' The Queen did not repeat the words, but she protested to us they were the very same her brother had pronounced, and that she retained the most perfect recollection of them. She added, that she nearly fainted at the shock she experienced: and she called on M. de Schwerin to answer for the truth of what she had said; who, in his laconic style, contented himself with saying, 'All you have said, madam, is perfectly true—at least as far as I am concerned.' I ought to add," M. Thiebault continues, "that though the Queen laid great stress on the truth of her recital, she professed herself at the same time incredulous to Swedenborg's supposed conferences with the dead. 'A thousand events,' said she, 'appear inexplicable and supernatural to us, who know only the immediate consequences of them; and men of quick parts, who are never so well pleased as when they exhibit something wonderful, take an advantage of this to gain an extraordinary reputation. M. Swedenborg was a man of learning, and of some talent in this way; but I cannot imagine by what means he obtained the knowledge of what had been communicated to no one. However, I have no faith in his having had a conference with my brother.' "
These philosophical remarks of the Queen's would deserve introduction in a work which I have often, thought might be written, and be equally amusing and instructive, under the title of "The Credulity of Unbelievers." Here is an accomplished princess, who finds another person in possession of a secret which she is quite sure was only known to herself and her deceased brother: she knows that he did not obtain it from herself, yet rather than believe that he obtained it from her brother, she imagines the existence of a "talent" incomparably more inexplicable!
The same observation applies to several other relaters of the story. One of these is Baron de Grimm. He allows Swedenborg to have been "a man distinguished not only by his probity, but also by his knowledge and his intelligence." [Un homme distingue non seulement par sa probite, mais encore par ses connaissances et ses lumieres.] Yet he, after giving the above anecdote, gives this contradic-tion-in-terms as his judgment on it: "This fact is confirmed by authorities so respectable, that it is impossible to deny it; but the question is, how to believe it!" [Ce fait est confirme par des autorites si respectables qu'il est impossible de le nier; mais le moyen d'y croire!] * But Baron de Grimm was professedly a determined atheist, and therefore could not believe any fact, however evidenced, which supposes, as real, the existence of man after death.
* See Memoires Hist. Lit. et Anecdotiques, tires de la Correspondence addresse au Due de Saxe Gotha par le Baron de Grimm. Tom. iii. p. 56. Ed. Lond. 1813.
Another relater of the anecdote is not much less inconsistent. This is Captain Charles Leonard de Stahlhammer, Knight of the Royal Order of the Sword. Some editions of the story affirm, that what Swedenborg repeated to the Queen were the contents of a letter which she had received from her brother: and as the main facts were undeniable, some of Swedenborg's enemies, so late as 1788, endeavoured to account for them by the improbable tale, that Count Hopken had intercepted and opened the letter before the Queen received it, and that he and another Senator communicated the contents of it to Swedenborg, paying him for that purpose a mysterious visit in the night. To this, Captain Stahlhammer replied, in a letter dated May 13th, 1788, and printed in some of the Gazettes. He declares that his account "can be attested by many persons of distinction, who were present, and are still alive." On Swedenborg's delivering his communication, he says, "The Queen, struck with astonishment, was taken ill, and did not recover herself for some time. After she was come to herself, she said to those about her, 'There is only God and my brother who can know what he has just told me.' She owned that he had spoken of her last correspondence with the prince, the subject of which was known to themselves alone." Captain S. then gives the highest character of Count Hopken; who, he says, "was a declared enemy to secret intrigue and underhand devices." Of Swedenborg, he says, "I cannot explain how he came to the knowledge of this secret.—The only weakness of this truly honest man was his belief in the apparition of spirits: but I knew him a very long time, and I can declare, that he was as fully persuaded that he conversed with spirits as I am that I am writing at this moment. As a citizen and as a friend he was a man of the greatest integrity, abhorring all imposture, and leading an exemplary life." Here then is a man affirming the reality of a supernatural fact, most strongly maintaining Swedenborg's abhorrence of imposture, and insisting that he fully believed that he conversed with spirits, and thus that he received the information in question from the deceased prince himself; yet treating, in the same breath, such belief as a weakness, and making the fact resulting from it altogether inexplicable! *
* The whole of Captain Stahlhammer's letter may be seen in a French work intitled "Abrege des Ouvrages d'Emanuel Swedenborg," and in "The Intellectual Eepository," (first series) vol. i. p. 370, &c., in the review of "The Beauties of Emanuel Swedenborg," &c.; which is a translation from the aforesaid "Abrege."
I will take this opportunity to observe, respecting this work, which has been sedulously thrust before the eye of the public, that it ought rather to be called The Deformities, not indeed of Swedenborg, but of the Abridger and Translator. The Translator, being entirely ignorant of his subject, very often misrepresents the Abridger, and the Abridger is very far from justly exhibiting his Original. Indeed, the whole plan of the work is adapted to give a completely false idea of the works of Swedenborg. Each chapter is followed by what the editor calls a vision, which is frequently much longer than the chapter to which it is annexed; thus the reader is led to conclude that half of Swedenborg's writings is made up of visions; which is a more than ten-fold exaggeration. These visions too are much longer than anything of the kind in Swedenborg; for, to compose them, several of his "Memorable Relations" are frequently tacked together, making as confused a jumble as can be conceived.
The next anecdote that I shall adduce is similar in its nature to the last; but, the subject of it being a private person, it has not been so much known. It is to be regretted, also, that the relater of it has withheld his informer's name: he however answers himself for its truth, and is a man who, for his learning and respectable rank, is fully entitled to be believed. The relater is Dr. Stilling, Counsellor at the court of the Duke of Baden, in a work entitled "Die Theory der Geister-Kunde" printed at Nuremberg in 1808.* The following is an abridgment of his narrative:
* From a late English translation of which, under the title of a "Theory of Pneumatology," an extract is given above, pp. 159—161.
"About the year 1770, there was a merchant in Elberfeld, with whom I lived seven years in the most intimate friendship. He was much attached to mystical writings; but was a man of good sense, and one who would not tell a wilful untruth for all the world. He travelled on business to Amsterdam, where, at that time, Swedenborg was. Having heard and read a great deal of this extraordinary man, he went to see him. He found a very venerable and friendly-looking old gentleman, who received him politely: when the following dialogue took place." After some preparatory remarks, the Merchant said, " 'I think you will not be displeased with a sincere friend of the truth, if he desires an irrefutable proof, that you really have communication with the spiritual world.' Swedenborg. 'It would indeed be very wrong, if I were displeased: but I believe I have given already proofs enough, which cannot be refuted.' M. 'Do you mean those respecting the Queen, the fire at Stockholm, and the mislaid receipt?' S. 'Yes, I do; and they are true.' M. 'May I be so free as to ask for a proof of the same kind?' S. 'Why not ? with all my heart.' M. 'I had a friend, a student of Divinity, at Duysburg: a little before his decease we had an important conversation together: now could you learn from him what was the subject of it?' S. 'We will see: Come to me again in a day or two: I will see if I can find your friend.' The merchant returned accordingly; when Swedenborg met him with a smile, and said, 'I have spoken with your friend: the subject of your discourse was, the final restoration of all things.' Swedenborg then repeated to the merchant, word for word, what he and his deceased friend had maintained. My friend," says Dr. Stilling, "turned pale; for this proof was irresistible.—Perfectly convinced, my friend left the extraordinary man, and travelled back again to Elberfeld."
The anecdote here alluded to respecting the fire at Stockholm has had many relaters: I give the brief account furnished by Mr. Springer, mentioned above, in a letter to M. Pernetti, prefixed to the translation by the latter of the treatise on Heaven and Hell. "I asked him," says Mr. S., "whether it was true, as I had heard related, that when he was at Gottenburg [on landing from England], a city sixty Swedish miles from Stockholm, he had told his friends, three days before the arrival of the post, the exact time of the great fire which happened at Stockholm [and consumed all the southern suburbs, in 1759]: to which he replied, that what I had heard was perfectly true." M. Pernetti states, from other information, that Swedenborg was afterwards told, that his own house had been the prey of the flames: to which he replied, "No: my house is not burnt: the fire only reached to such and such places." This was found to be the case.
Mr. Springer also relates, from his own knowledge, the following remarkable instance of the same kind. "Fifteen years ago [dating from 1782] Swedenborg was leaving London for Sweden, and begged of me [as Swedish Consul] to engage his passage with a good captain. I agreed with one named Dixon. When the captain came to fetch him on board, I took leave of him and wished him a good voyage: then turning to the captain, I asked if he had laid in a stock of good provisions; to which he answered, that he had, as much as was necessary. On this Swedenborg interposed, and said, 'My friend, we shall not have occasion for much; for, by the help of God, on this day week, at two o'clock, we shall enter the harbour of Stockholm.' Which assertion, Captain Dixon informed me on his return, was exactly fulfilled."
Another instance of similar knowledge is related by Mr. Robsam, and repeated in Pernetti's preface. "I met him," says Mr. R., "in his carriage, as he was setting off on his journey to London the last time but one. I asked him how he could venture on such a voyage at the age of eighty years: 'Do you think,' I added, 'I shall see you any more?' 'Do not make yourself uneasy, my friend,' he replied: 'if you live we shall see one another again: for I have another of these journeys to make after the present.' He returned accordingly. The last time of his leaving Sweden he came to see me the day he was setting off. I again asked him if we should see one another any more. He answered, with a tender and affecting air, 'I do not know whether I shall return: but I am assured that I shall not die till I have finished the printing of my work entitled The True Christian Religion, which is the object of my journey. But if we do not see each other any more in this lower world, we shall meet in the presence of the Lord, if we have kept his commandments." He did, accordingly, finish the printing of his last work, here mentioned, at Amsterdam; and he died at London not very long afterwards.
In the affidavit of the Shearsmiths, also, it is declared, that he told them on what day he should die a month before it happened: and we shall see, in the sequel, that he made the same communication to another person.
Respecting the certainty of Swedenborg's communication with the spiritual world, Mr. Springer, in his letter to Pernetti, makes the following statement. "All that he has related to me respecting my deceased acquaintances, both friends and enemies, and the secrets that were between us, almost surpasses belief. He explained to me in what manner the peace was concluded between Sweden and the King of Prussia; and he praised my conduct on that occasion: he even told me who were the three great personages of whom I made use in that affair; which, nevertheless, was an entire secret between them and me. I asked him how he could be informed of such particulars, and who had discovered them to him. He answered, 'Who informed me of your affair with Count Ekelblad ? You cannot deny the truth of what I have told you. Continue,' he added, 'to deserve his reproaches: turn not aside, either for riches or honours, from the path of rectitude, but, on the contrary, keep steadily in it, as you have done; and you will prosper.' "
To the above anecdotes, I will add the following, which has not before been published, and which I take from a memorandum of the late Mr. Provo, a medical gentleman of the most respectable character as many now living, beside myself, can testify.* Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia was printed, between the years 1748 and 1756, at the office of Mr. Hart, in Poppin's Court, Fleet Street; to whom, from the acquaintance thus commenced, Swedenborg became considerably attached, insomuch that, when in London, he often went to spend the evening at his house. Mr. Hart, the son of the former, told Mr. Provo, about the year 1779, that he looked upon Swedenborg as an extraordinary man, for the following reason. Mr. Hart, the father, died in London, while Swedenborg was abroad: who, on his return, went to Mr. Hart's house. After being let in at the street-door, he was told that his old friend was dead: to which he instantly replied, "I know that very well; for I saw him in the spiritual world while I was in Holland, at such a time [near the time of his death, or soon after]; also, whilst coming over in the packet to England. He is not now in heaven," he continued, "but is coming round, and in a good way to do well." This much surprised the widow and son; for they knew that he was just come over; and, as they assured Mr. Provo, that "he was of such a nature, that he could impose on no one; that he always spoke the truth in every little matter, and would not have made any evasion though his life had been at stake."—The inference from this anecdote may indeed be evaded by pretending, that Swedenborg took advantage of the information he received on entering the house, and turned it to his purpose: but what a ready as well as abandoned liar does this suppose him! None but the most ignorant, as well as most malignant, of his enemies can resort to such a supposition: others must conclude, as did Mrs. Hart and her son, who had the best means of forming the right conclusion, that he was indeed "a remarkable man."—The extent to which he carried his principle of speaking the truth in every little matter, may be judged of from the following fact. In 1769 he went to Paris with the intention of printing there his "True Christian Religion." The Censor of the Press, M. Chevreuil, informed him on application, that a tacit permission would be granted, but that the title must say, Printed at London, or at Amsterdam. But he refused to concur in this evasion; and the work was, bona fide, printed at Amsterdam. This anecdote was received from M. Chevreuil himself.+
I could add to the above instances of Swedenborg's supernatural knowledge, one which concerned the celebrated Mr. Wesley, and which convinced him, for a time, of the reality of Swedenborg's claims to be regarded as a divinely illuminated herald: but this I reserve to illustrate the next part of this section.
It may here be mentioned as a curious fact, though not as an addition of actual evidence, that among Swedenborg's contemporaries who were convinced of the reality of his spiritual intercourse and extraordinary illumination, was the celebrated Lavater. In "the New Jerusalem Magazine," so often quoted, are two letters from Lavater to Swedenborg, the genuineness of which has been recently ascertained. In the first, dated Aug. 24, 1768, which begins, "Most reverend and excellent man," Lavater says, "Knowing that so great a man was my contemporary, I could not help inquiring of him a few things which seemed to me to be of the greatest importance; as I know no person in the world but yourself, who have given proofs of an extraordinary and almost divine knowledge, capable of resolving my questions." Some of his questions, however, are such as Swedenborg neither could nor would resolve; as, for instance, whether Lavater's deceased friend, Felix Hess, would ever appear to him, and make him certain communications;—whether Henry Hess would become a convert to his doctrine of the power of faith and prayer;— which of the inhabitants of Zurich would be convinced of the said doctrine; &c. Under date of Sep. 24, 1769, Lavater wrote again, a little varying his requests. He now addresses Swedenborg as "Most noble, venerable, and beloved, in Christ our Lord;" calls him "a divinely inspired man;" and says, "I revere the wonderful gift? thou hast received of our God: I revere the wisdom that shines forth from thy writings; and therefore cannot but seek the friendship of so great and excellent a man, now living." It does not appear that Swedenborg ever wrote in reply; probably, because he did not like such compliments, and because he did not find in the letters the marks of a solid judgment.
* All the anecdotes collected by Mr. Provo have since
been printed in "the Intellectual Repository" for Jan. 1836, p. 27.
Among the latter 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: but opportunity of setting this fact in its true light will occur in the next part of this section.
This collection of evidences to the truth of Swedenborg's assertion, that the sight of his spirit had been opened by the Lord, to qualify him for the holy office to which he was called, might still be enlarged; and many instances, no doubt, have sunk into oblivion for want of a recorder. But the above must be amply sufficient to satisfy those whose minds are not closed against all evidence, by a decided rejection of Swedenborg's doctrinal sentiments, or by a confirmed denial of the possibility of any communication between the other world and this. Many, no doubt, will say, with Baron De Grimm: "The facts are attested by authorities so respectable, that it is impossible to deny them: but the question is, how to believe them!" It is best for such persons, that they should reject them: but the humble will judge otherwise, and will not fall into the absurdity of asserting, that that which is incontestable may yet be incredible.
Since the first edition of this work was published, a very important additional testimony in favour of the truth of some of the preceding instances of the spiritual intercourse enjoyed by our Author, has been published in this country, being no other than the declared conviction of their reality, after careful investigation, by the celebrated philosopher, Emanuel Kant. His opinion having been asked by a literary lady of quality, Madame de Knoblock, afterwards widow of Lieut. Gen. Klingsporn, Kant replied in the following letter, dated 10th Aug., 1758.
"I would not have deprived myself so long of the honour and pleasure of obeying the request of a lady, who is the ornament of her sex, in communicating the desired information, if I had not deemed it necessary previously to inform myself thoroughly concerning the subject of your request. Permit me, gracious lady, to justify my proceedings in this matter, inasmuch as it might appear that an erroneous opinion had induced me to credit the various relations concerning it without careful examination. I am not aware that anybody has ever perceived in me an inclination to the marvellous, or a weakness approaching to credulity. So much is certain, that, notwithstanding all the narrations of apparitions and visions concerning the spiritual world, of which a great number of the most probable are known to me, I have always considered it to be most in agreement with the rule of sound reason to incline to the negative side; not as if I had imagined such a case to be impossible, although we know but very little concerning the nature of a spirit, but because the instances are not in general sufficiently proved. There arise, moreover, from the incomprehensibility and inutility of this sort of phenomena, too many difficulties; and there are, on the other hand, so many proofs of deception, that I have never considered it necessary to suffer fear or dread to come upon me, either in the cemeteries of the dead, or in the darkness of night. This is the position in which my mind stood for a long time, until the accounts of Swedenborg came to my notice.
"These accounts I received from a Danish officer, who was formerly my friend, and attended my lectures; and who, at the table of the Austrian ambassador, Dictrichstein, at Copenhagen, together with several other guests, read a letter which the ambassador had lately received from Baron de Lutzow, the Mecklenburgh ambassador at Stockholm; in which he says, that he, in company with the Dutch ambassador, was present, at the Queen of Sweden's residence, at the extraordinary transaction respecting M. de Swedenborg, which your ladyship will undoubtedly have heard. The authenticity thus given to the account surprised me. For it can scarcely be believed, that one ambassador should communicate a piece of information to another for public use, which related to the Queen of the court where he resided, and which he himself, together with a splendid company, had the opportunity of witnessing, if it were not true. Now in order not to reject blindfold the prejudice against apparitions and visions by a new prejudice, I found it desirable to inform myself as to the particulars of this surprising transaction. I accordingly wrote to the officer I have mentioned at Copenhagen, and made various inquiries respecting it. He answered that he had again had an interview concerning it with the Count Dietrichstein; that the affair had really taken place in the manner described; and that Professor Schlegel, also, had declared to him, that it could by no means be doubted. He advised me, as he was then going to the army under General St. Germain, to write to Swedenborg himself, in order to ascertain the particular circumstances of the extraordinary case. I then wrote to this singular man, and the letter was delivered to him, at Stockholm, by an English merchant. I was informed that Swedenborg politely received the letter, and promised to answer it. But the answer was omitted. In the mean time I made the acquaintance of an English gentleman who spent the last summer at this place, whom, relying on the friendship we had formed, I commissioned, as he was going to Stockholm, to make particular inquiries respecting the miraculous gift which M. de Swedenborg is said to possess. In his first letter, he states, that the most respectable people in Stockholm declare, that the singular transaction alluded to had happened in the manner you have heard described. He had not then had an interview with Swedenborg, but hoped soon to embrace the opportunity; although he found it difficult to persuade himself that all could be true which the most reasonable persons of the city asserted, respecting his communication with the spiritual world. But his succeeding letters were quite of a different purport. He had not only spoken with Swedenborg, but had also visited him at his house; and he is now in the greatest astonishment respecting such a remarkable case. Swedenborg is a reasonable, polite, and open-hearted man: he also is a man of learning; and my friend has promised to send me some of his writings in a short time. He told this gentleman, without reserve, that God had accorded to him the remarkable gift of communicating with departed souls at his pleasure. In proof of this he appealed to certain known facts. As he was reminded of my letter, he said that he was aware he had received it, and that he would already have answered it, had he not intended to make the whole of this singular affair public to the eyes of the world. He should proceed to London in the month of May this year, where he would publish a book, in which the answer to my letter, as to every point, might be met with.
"In order, gracious lady, to give you two proofs, of which the present existing public is a witness, and the person who related them to me had the opportunity of investigating them at the very place where they occurred, I will narrate to you the two following occurrences.
[The first of these occurrences is that respecting Madame de Marteville (printed in the German work, Harteville), only differing from the relation of it given above from Thiebault, by representing the receipt to have been found, by direction from the deceased M. de Marteville, in a secret drawer of a bureau, which bureau, ignorant of the secret drawer, Mad. de M. had previously searched in vain. The other affair is the fire at Stockholm; and the particulars are given more minutely by Kant than in any account before known in England, He proceeds thus:]
"But the following occurrence appears to me to have the greatest weight of proof, and to set the assertion respecting Swedenborg's extraordinary gift out of all possibility of doubt. In the year 1756, when M. de Swedenborg, towards the end of September, on Saturday, at four o'clock, p.m., arrived at Gothenburg from England, Mr. William Castel invited him to his house, together with a party of fifteen persons. About six o'clock M. de Swedenborg went out, and, after a short interval, returned to the company, quite pale and alarmed. He said that a dangerous fire had just broken out in Stockholm, at the Sudermalm, (Gothenburg is about fifty miles * from Stockholm), and that it was spreading very fast. He was restless, and went out often. He said that the house of one of his friends, whom he named, was already in ashes, and that his own was in danger. At eight o'clock, after he had been out again, he joyfully exclaimed, 'Thank God! the fire is extinguished, the third door from my house.' This news occasioned great commotion through the whole city, and particularly amongst the company in which he was. It was announced to the governor the same evening. On the Sunday morning, Swedenborg was sent for by the governor, who questioned him concerning the disaster. Swedenborg described the fire precisely, how it had begun, in what manner it had ceased, and how long it had continued. On the same day the news was spread through the city, and, as the governor had thought it worthy of attention, the consternation was considerably increased; because many were in trouble on account of their friends and property, which might have been involved in the disaster. On the Monday evening a messenger arrived at Gothenburg, who was despatched during the time of the fire. In the letters brought by him, the fire was described precisely in the manner stated by Swedenborg. On the Tuesday morning the royal courier arrived at the governor's with the melancholy intelligence of the fire, of the loss which it had occasioned, and of the houses it had damaged and ruined, not in the least differing from that which Swedenborg had given immediately it had ceased; for the fire was extinguished at eight o'clock.
"What can be brought forward against the authenticity of this occurrence ? My friend who wrote this to me has not only examined the circumstances of this extraordinary case at Stockholm, but also, about two months ago, at Gothenburg, where he is acquainted with the most respectable houses, and where he could obtain the most authentic and complete information; as the greatest part of the inhabitants, who are still alive, were witnesses to the memorable occurrence.
"I am, with profound reverence, &c. &c.,
* German miles; near 300 English.
+ The above letter is taken from a work intitled Darstellung des Lebens und Characters Immanuel Kant's, von Ludwig Ernst Borowski, von Kant selbst genau rividirt und berichtigt. Koenigsberg, 1804.
Swedenborg's omitting to answer by letter professor Kant's inquiries relating to the above affairs may appear extraordinary. But it is to be remembered, that he never, himself, laid any stress upon these supernatural proofs of the truth of his pretensions; and never does he appeal to them, or so much as mention them, in his works. How strong an evidence is this of his elevation of mind; and of his perfect conviction of the truth of the views he was made an instrument for unfolding, with his own divine appointment to that purpose, as standing in no need of such evidence for its support! Could it be possible for any of the merely fanatical pretenders to divine communications to appeal to such testimonies of supernatural endowment, how eagerly would they seek to silence objectors by referring to the Queens, Counts, Ambassadors, Governors, and University Professors, that had been witnesses of their power! But it is precisely on account of the silencing nature of such evidence that Swedenborg declines to appeal to it.—Doubtless, however, it was of Divine Providence that occasions arose which constrained him to give such demonstrations, and that they were recorded by others: because such things serve for confirmations of the truth, though they are not the proper grounds of its original reception. When presented also upon testimony, and at a distance of time, they lose that compulsive character which they possess when they take place, or nearly so, before our eyes: and thus they may then become useful to draw the attention of receptive minds to the truth, which, when known, may convince by its own evidence.
That supernatural evidences, at a distance of time, lose that compulsive character which they possess when they take place, or nearly so, before our eyes; and that minds not receptive of the truth, will then throw off the attention to it that was only compulsively induced; are facts of which Kant himself afforded a melancholy example; for he afterwards wrote a pamphlet in which he depreciates Swedenborg and his writings. But, as observed by the editors, when his letter was first published in English in "the Intellectual Repository." *
"On the whole, this letter of Kant must certainly be deemed a very valuable document, and ought to have great weight with all unprejudiced minds. He here, it must be allowed, exhibits the true spirit of a philosopher. Prejudiced, at first, like most men of science, against all belief in spiritual intercourse, he consents, on finding a primae facie case made out in favour of that of Swedenborg, to investigate the matter thoroughly: he does so; and comes at last to
* For January 1830, from which some of the preceding remarks are abridged. See all that is there said upon Kant and his system, pp. 57—62. For what he afterwards wrote against Swedenborg, with an exposure of its utter futility, see pp. 197, 198, 199, of the No. for July, 1834; being part of an article, bearing the signature of AEgiochus, in which I examined the objections raised against Swedenborg's "inspiration," in the American Christian Examiner, by Dr. Hedge, of Harvard University.
the conclusion, that some of the cases are so well established, as 'to set the assertion respecting Swedenborg's extraordinary gift out of all possibility of doubt.' Admit this, and as we have already seen, the truth of his having received such a divine commission as he affirms he had, follows of course. To allow the reality of his 'extraordinary gift,' and to reject his account of the way and purpose in and for which he received it, is to make a fact unintelligible, and even incredible, though admitted to be indubitable. Nor will the attempted solution of some of the German writers, followed by some in England, at all meet the difficulty. "When they tell us, that his alleged spiritual experience was nothing else than the vivid embodying of the conceptions of his own mind, they tell us what, so far as concerns the relations in his writings, though not easy to believe, it were also not easy to disprove. But how does it explain the cases mentioned by Kant ? Supposing Swedenborg able to form so vivid a conception of the deceased M. de Marteville as to fancy he heard him speak; yet that a piece of information respecting a fact in the natural world, thus heard only in imagination, should be verified by the event, were indeed an extraordinary coincidence. How lively soever the idea that he might be able to conjure up in imagination of the Prince ot Prussia; yet that he should succeed in extracting from this phantom, the mere creation of his own mind, the knowledge of the secrets between the Prince and the Queen, never told to any other person, were also a miracle, such as only the credulity of sceptics could be capacious enough to take in. And with whatever force of colouring he might manage to picture to his fancy a fire three hundred miles off, till at last, believing it real, he becomes alarmed for his own house; yet that every thing thus imagined should prove true in every particular, if nothing but the activity of his own conceptions had given it birth, were a phenomenon to puzzle much wiser philosophers than either Germany, or any other country, ever beheld. In declaring, then, that some of the examples are such as 'to set the assertion of Swedenborg's extraordinary gift out of all possibility of doubt,' Kant has fixed the brand of folly on those of his own disciples, who sagely resolve the whole into vividness of conception. Nor is this testimony of Kant at all weakened by his own defective consistency, in afterwards slandering Swedenborg's works. An adequate cause here operated: and belief, solely founded on the basis of miracle, is never permanent. When he came to the conviction of the reality of Swedenborg's spiritual intercourse, he viewed this merely as an extraordinary fact, and did not connect it with any particular views of truth. When he afterwards found that the views of truth with. which it was connected by Swedenborg, either militated against his own, or would deprive him of the praise of the best of them, the pride of self-intelligence interfered; and upon the altar of this demon is to be immolated the adversary or the rival. Then he labours to depreciate, whom, in his letter to Madame de Knoblock, he had taken pleasure to honour. That letter remains, still honourable to Swedenborg; and the writer's departure from the candid spirit which dictated it, reflects disgrace only upon himself."
Upon a review of the whole that has "been advanced in this part of this section, I expect to have the suffrages of the Candid and Reflecting when I say, that there is no possibility of explaining the character of Swedenborg, the works he has produced, and the instances of supernatural power recorded of him, upon any other hypothesis than that which admits the truth of his claims. I verily believe, that this admission would force itself upon all who would go through with the examination. Certain it is, that the fact has been tacitly acknowledged by some. The Monthly Review, for instance, though it has sometimes indulged in ill-placed levity in regard to Swedenborg's writings, yet on the first publication, in English, of his treatise on Heaven and Hell, which is precisely the work of his which may most easily be distorted into matter of ridicule, spoke of the Author in the following tone of moderation:—"Count Swedenborg (so it styles him) is certainly to be ranked among the wonders of the age: for though enthusiasts and visionaries have arisen at all times, it is very rare to meet with one who so calmly, yet confidently, and with so much simplicity and cool reasoning, relates the frequent interviews he has had with the world of spirits." The Reviewers then give an extract from the book; after which they say, "In whatever light we regard this author, there is something truly astonishing in him and his writings. He was a man of eminence and distinction in his country," &c., continuing to relate much that was honourable in his character, and concluding with an extract from the translator's preface, exhorting to the perusal of his works,* In their account of the work intitled "The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine," after a sort of abstract of its contents, they say, "Possibly, when the doctrine here taught is stripped of its peculiar garb, it will be found to mean nothing more than that real piety, integrity, and goodness of heart, which all good men must plead for, and earnestly wish to see universally prevail.—"We will only add, that while we cannot but consider the late Count Swedenborg as an enthusiast of the first order, we must also regard him as a most extraordinary, and, indeed, a most wonderful man!"+ We here see precisely the same feeling as the force of truth, by another of its distinguished proclaimers, excited in one of old, whose previous habits had in like manner disqualified him for receiving it, but who, while under its influence for a moment, could not refrain from exclaiming, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." The previous habits of the Monthly Reviewers, together with the character they had to maintain, constrained them to speak of Swedenborg as an enthusiast; while the force of truth compelled them to admit, that he was such an enthusiast as the world had never before seen. What could have made them say, "In whatever light we view this author, there is something truly astonishing in him and his writings?" what, but an inward consciousness, though not acknowledged to themselves, that no other hypothesis could explain the phenomena of his case but that which the author himself assigns ? without which his character and writings must ever remain an inexplicable riddle, calculated to generate all that astonishment which attends the combination of contradictions? What more extraordinary contradiction than to talk of a calm and coolly reasoning enthusiast! whose doctrine, too, is such as all good men must earnestly wish should become universal,—that is, is the Essence Of Reason And Excellence?
* M. R. Nov. 1778. + M. R. Vol. lxiii. App.
When the recognition of part of Swedenborg's claims to attention, and the denial of the rest, involves men of rationality in such palpable inconsistency, what is the proper conclusion, but that sound reason requires the admission of the whole ?