Noble's 'Appeal': V. A Human Instrument Necessary, And Therefore Raised Up:
A. Swedenborg qualified to be such an Instrument, and not unlikely to be chosen for the purpose
I may now appeal to you, I apprehend, with, confidence, my Reflecting and Candid readers, respecting the means by which the great events, considered in our preceding and second Sections, must be communicated to mankind. If it be true that the long-expected Last Judgment has at length been performed,—that the long looked-for time of the Lord's second coming has at last arrived,—in what manner would it be reasonable to conclude that the important tidings should be conveyed ? Are we to behold a multitude of angels in the air, sounding great trumpets, and vocally calling the attention of the world to the crisis which has arrived ? In their spiritual, which as regards this subject, is their only true sense, the prophecies which speak of such an announcement doubtless must be (and we trust have been) accomplished:—from heaven,—that is, from the Lord through heaven,—the divine truths of the Holy Word must be (and we trust have been) discovered anew; for of the revelation, or communication, of Divine Truth, the sounding of trumpets is, in the Word, the expressive symbol:—but if, as I hope has been sufficiently proved, the second advent of the Lord was not to be of a personal nature; if the scene of the last judgment was not to be in this lower world, any otherwise than as to its effects; it follows, that it was not by a visible exhibition of angels with trumpets that the annunciation was here to be made. Yet, most unquestionably, some annunciation was necessary. The events which have passed in our times, and which are transacting still, upon the theatre of the globe, are indeed such as proclaim, with a voice of thunder, that some most extraordinary operation from the spiritual world upon the world of nature is in action; they are indeed such as demonstrate, when looked at under the proper aspect, that the last judgment has been performed, and that the second coming of the Lord is taking place: thus, when the truth is distinctly proclaimed, they bear witness to it in the most decisive manner: but they require a Human Announcer to give their loud voice a distinctly speaking tongue. The second coming of the Lord, also, as we have seen, is mainly effected by the re-discovery of the momentous and saving truths contained in his holy Word: among the signs of the times which we have noticed, are the loosening of the hold which erroneous sentiments had taken on the minds of men, a general change in men's modes of thinking, and such an alteration in the state of the human mind as indicates a preparation for the reception of juster views of divine truth than have heretofore prevailed: but still it is obviously requisite that the truth itself should be explicitly announced, and, of consequence, that a Human Instrument should be raised up for that purpose.
This appears to be the evident dictate both of reason and of necessity: and to these is added the confirming suffrage of experience. Never did a similar crisis in the history of the divine economy occur before, but human agency was employed to make it known. Prior to the flood, the divine purpose was communicated to Noah; who, as tradition reports, warned, though in vain, his abandoned contemporaries; whence he is called by an Apostle "a preacher of righteousness." (2 Pet. ii. 5.) When the time had arrived in which Jehovah proposed to verify to the Israelites the promise made to their fathers of putting them in possession of Canaan, a band of angels was not sent to announce the fact to the whole nation, but God revealed himself to Moses, and commissioned him to bear the tidings to his brethren. Even when the Lord Jesus Christ appeared personally on earth, and when, if ever, it might be supposed that merely human agency might have been dispensed with, he did not show himself to the people, till John the Baptist had announced his approach, and had proclaimed the kingdom of heaven to be at hand. Surely then, at his second coming, which was not to be a personal one, a Human Herald must be altogether indispensable. Had it occurred in the first ages, when Christians were looking daily, though mistakenly, for the second coming of their Lord, and when they had not yet learned to regard such an interposition as impossible, the appearance of such a herald would have been hailed with joy: and it surely ought not now to be scouted as ridiculous, by any but those, who, because mankind have lived so long under an economy different from that which prevailed before the introduction of Christianity,—under an economy in which continually repeated missions of divine messengers were not required, —have forgotten that such missions ever existed at all, and that, without them, Christianity itself could not have been established. It is however, an unquestionable truth, that how long soever the suspension may have lasted, one more example of them must be afforded;—one case more must inevitably arise, in which, without the employment again of one more such messenger, the last great purpose in the divine economy must fail to take effect,—the last great predictions of holy writ must remain unfulfilled for ever. I cannot, then, think that any of you to whom this Appeal is addressed,—any of the Reflecting of any Denomination whatsoever,—can treat such an occurrence either as impossible or as ridiculous: I am sure you will all acknowledge, that, at the era of the second coming of the Lord, some Human Instrument or other must be divinely enlightened to declare it, and to communicate the important truths, which at that advent are, as we have seen, to be unfolded to mankind.
Of this branch, then, of the inquiry to be pursued in our present Section, it must be quite unnecessary to go into any further discussion. That at the crisis which we are supposing, and which, as was attempted to be shown in our second and last Sections, there is reason to believe has arrived, a Human Instrument must be necessary, will, I am persuaded, be generally acknowledged: the only question, then, which we have now to consider, is, whether such an Instrument was raised up in the person of the every-way respectable and truly illustrious philosopher and theologian, the Honourable Emanuel Swedenborg.
An intelligent person once asked our author, How he, from a philosopher, became a theologian; to which he answered, "In the same manner as, on being called by the Lord, fishermen became apostles." He added, "That he had himself been a spiritual fisherman from his youth;" which he confirmed by showing, that in the spiritual language, formed of natural images, in which the Scriptures are written, a fisherman means a person who investigates and teaches natural truths, and afterwards spiritual truths, in a rational manner; whence the Lord, when he called his first disciples from their nets, said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men"* obviously meaning, instructors of men in the truths which relate to salvation. His interrogator expressed his satisfaction at this answer by the remark, "That the Lord alone knows of whom to make choice for communicating to mankind the truths to be discovered at Ms second advent, and whether the suitable Instrument is to be found in the person of a mitred prelate, or of one of his footmen." + This, certainly, was the judgment both of piety and of good sense. In the case before us, however, even human reason must concur in the fitness of the choice made by Divine Wisdom. All that is known of the illustrious Swedenborg, points him out as a man in whom was centred every thing that could qualify a human being for such an office.
* Matt. iv. 19. Mark i. 17. + See Swedenborg's little treatise On the Intercourse between the Soul and the Body, n. 20.
In his external circumstances, there is nothing that can be objected against the probability of his being made the subject of a selection which must fall on some one, except that he was not a priest, or a minister of religion by profession: but if this objection may with any appear to bear some shadow of reason, a little reflection must convince every one that it carries none of the reality. On what former occasion did the Divine Being first publish a new dispensation of his grace and truth, by the instrumentality of any who had been ministers of the former ? Though Moses was the son-in-law of a Gentile priest, and, from the necessity of the case, acted as a priest himself in the inauguration of Aaron into the holy office, he did not previously, nor ever professionally, belong to the order. In like manner, it was not from the priests of the Jewish Church that the Lord selected his apostles. The Baptist, indeed, was the son of a priest, and intitled, by the Levitical constitutions, to exercise the office himself; but when he arrived at the age fixed for that purpose by law, instead of taking up the function by ministering in the temple, he began in the wilderness to proclaim the advent of the Messiah: and the circumstance of his origin, instead of depriving his character of parallelism with that of Swedenborg, really, if a coincidence so unimportant be worth remarking, makes it more perfect; since Swedenborg also was the son of a priest, the excellence of whose character is the subject of encomium with all who have had occasion to mention him,—of a modern Zacharias, who, with Elizabeth his wife, "walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,"—the good Bishop Swedberg.
But Swedenborg's intrinsic qualifications, moral and intellectual, for the discharge of such an office, were such as all must allow to be appropriate in the highest degree. In him were united the utmost integrity, piety, and innocence of manners, with the most comprehensive understanding and most extensive attainments in knowledge. The former excellences, it will generally be admitted, were necessary to prepare him for his office at all; and without the latter, it will easily be seen, he could not have discharged it with effect. He stands not in the character of a new prophet, in the sense usually applied to that term, and as he has sometimes been denominated in derision; nor in that of a writer of additions to the Word of God, as he has also been maliciously represented. The Lord engages, at his second coming, to appear "in the clouds of heaven,"—or in the outward covering of his Word, which is its literal sense,—"with power and great glory,"—with the full evidence and clear brilliancy of the genuine truth of his Word, to which the letter is the covering. This could not have been accomplished by sending a prophet, again to speak in the enigmatical, and never, without special illumination, clearly-understood language of prophecy; but only by raising up a teacher, who, under the influence of divine guidance and illumination, should be able to see in the Scriptures, and to comprehend in his own mind, the sublime truths he was to teach, and to communicate them in a manner suited to their depth and importance. Hence the necessity that the Human Instrument made choice of on this occasion should be a man of learning. Something similar occurred at the first promulgation of Christianity: for the apostles were not all ignorant men. To diffuse the knowledge of the gospel among the Jews, persons possessing nothing beyond common Jewish attainments, but guided by the Spirit of God, were competent: but when "a chosen "vessel" was required "to bear the Lord's name before the Gentiles, and kings, and to the children of Israel" (Acts ix. 15.) scattered among the Gentiles,—to carry the gospel to the learned and polished nations of those times,—a man was miraculously called to the work, who, having been born and long resident at Tarsus, a polite Grecian city, was as much skilled in the learning of the Greeks, as, by having been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, he was versed in the doctrines of the Jews. Much more was it necessary that, in this age of the general diffusion of natural knowledge, the Human Instrument for first communicating the truths to be made known at the Lord's second coming, should stand upon a par with the first of his contemporaries in scientific attainment; especially as, while all the general doctrines he was to unfold were to be far more clear, and more easily intelligible, than those commonly received at present as the doctrines of Christianity, some of the truths to be discovered were to be of the most profound kind, requiring for their full development the highest talent for abstruse investigation, and for their perfect comprehension the most exalted powers of the best cultivated mind.
In Swedenborg, every requisite gift was centred. Well imbued, first under the tuition of his learned father, and then at the University of Upsala, with all the usual elements of a learned education, he for a time cultivated classical literature with diligence and success. He then applied himself to the most solid and certain of the natural sciences, and, not only by domestic study and by correspondence with foreign literati, but by repeated travels in all the scientifically enlightened parts of Europe,—in Germany, Italy, France, Holland, and England,—he made himself thoroughly acquainted with all the knowledge of his time, and was admitted, by general consent, to a station among the first philosophers of the age. As, in the midst of the distinctions with which he was honoured by his compeers in learning and by sovereign princes,+ he never forgot for a moment
+ Beside the favours he received from several kings and queens of Sweden, he was honoured with the friendship of the Duke of Brunswick, at whose court he abode for some time, and who, as a mark of his consideration, defrayed the expense of printing his great philosophical work, the Regnum Minerale; which accounts for the elegant form in which it appeared, so superior to the usual productions of the German press. He also received marks of favour from other German princes.
his original piety and modesty,—his scientific writings constantly breathing the humble and devotional spirit of a true Christian philosopher,—the acquisitions he made in natural science must be acknowledged to have formed an admirable preparation, and a most suitable basis, for the apprehension and explication of the spiritual truths which he was to be the Instrument for unfolding. Between the book of nature, read by the eye of humble intelligence, and the Word of God, every one intuitively perceives there must be an exact agreement; and spiritual views can never be so little likely to partake of delusion, as when they take for their foundation a copious store of Hound natural science. An extensive acquaintance with the knowledge of God in his works, must be the best preparation for a superior perception of the knowledge of God in his Word: and by the former was Swedenborg eminently distinguished.*
* I have drawn the above account of Swedenborg and his character from the best sources, and shall presently, for the reader's satisfaction, present him with some of my authorities for what I have advanced: but as they occasionally intersperse their notice of the author with remarks on his writings, I reserve them for the next part of this section.
Admitting then,—what, we have seen, none will deny,—that, at the era of the Lord's second coming, a Human Instrument, to communicate the truths then to be made known, would be necessary; and assuming,—what, also, it is hoped, has at least been shown to he probable,—that that long-expected era has at length arrived; sure I am that all the Candid and Reflecting will confess, that no man more likely to be made that Instrument could be found in Christendom, than the man whose qualifications for the office I have here briefly described. A priori, there is all the probability which such a case admits, that the pretensions of the eminent and honourable Emanuel Swedenborg to be received in this character, are well founded.
But to raise this probability into certainty, an examination of the views he has communicated in sustaining the character he claims, would be necessary. To go into this with fulness, would require an extensive survey of his writings; which would demand a work of much greater magnitude than this is intended to be. As noticed in the Introductory Section, I am here compelled to shape my course in the direction marked out by opponents, and am, consequently, Confined to the particular explanation and defence of those points, which, in the opinion of our adversaries, it is most difficult to maintain: if then I should succeed in showing reason to believe, that the views and doctrines most objected to are nevertheless true, it surely will be difficult to doubt, that the light by which the illustrious
Swedenborg was enabled to discover them, must have had a higher origin than his own mind. I am indeed satisfied, that a most convincing work might be written on the Internal Evidence which the writings of Swedenborg bear to their own truth; and this, not only in the great and leading doctrines which they deliver, and which they so scripturally and rationally establish, but in innumerable more minute points, in which they speak to the heart, and experience, and best intelligence, of man. There is no subject of which they treat that they do not lay open in a deeper ground than is done by any other author: in particular, they discover so profoundly and distinctly the inward operations, the interior workings, of the human heart and mind, and unveil man so fully to himself, that no person of reflection can attentively peruse them, without feeling a monitor in his own breast continually responding to their truth. Will it not follow, that a writer who can thus penetrate into the most secret things, and place them in a light which is at once seen to be the true one, must have been the subject of a superior illumination, and must, as he avows, have been admitted to a conscious perception of the things of that world, in which the essences of things lie open ? But I am content, for the present, to rest the truth of Swedenborg's pretensions to the divine illumination he professes to have received, in addition to the support they derive from his personal character, upon the evidence of those sentiments of his which are advocated in the various Sections of this Appeal. May I not recur to the view which has been given, in our second Section, of the true nature of the Second Coming of the Lord, as resting on the strongest basis of Scripture and reason ? But that view, so different from the hitherto received notions, yet so obviously true, was first advanced by Swedenborg, and was attained by him, because the time for the fulfilment of the prophecies relating to it had arrived. May I not advert to the view of the Resurrection, supported in our third Section, as presenting the only scriptural and rational conceptions on the subject ? Yet this view, though partially seen by many, was, in like manner, first conclusively established by Swedenborg, who learned it, he reasonably declares, from the experience granted him to enable him to discharge his commission. But may I not, especially, appeal to the view of the Last Judgment delivered in the last Section, and to the evidence there adduced of its having been accomplished, as being as plain as it is new ? Yet the performance of that great event was announced by Swedenborg, from, as he averred, his own experimental knowledge, while, as yet, nothing had been experienced in the world to support his assertion. But by what clouds of evidence has it been supported since! Here is, it really appears, a proof equivalent to the greatest miracle, of Swedenborg's having been the Human Instrument requisite to announce the Second Coming of the Lord and the execution of the Last Judgment: he did announce them; and we see, by palpable facts, that they must have taken place. He neither performed direct miracles, nor delivered predictions: but, by declaring the accomplishment of a great event in the spiritual world, which was inevitably to be soon followed by great effects in the natural world, which effects we have so unquestionably witnessed, he has given his testimony all the authority it could derive either from miracles or prophecy, without making it injuriously compulsive. In our subsequent Sections and in the sequel of this, we shall, I trust, meet other important points that are indubitably true, and capable of the most conclusive proof, but to discover which, in the first instance, must have either required knowledge absolutely supernatural, or a perception of truth in the Scriptures beyond the reach of any unassisted human intellect. They are fully equal in interest and moment to the most magnificent ideas which can be formed of the truths to be communicated at the second coming of the Lord: do they not then as fully accredit him whose writings convey them, as the Herald of the second advent, as the preaching of John the Baptist, owned by the Saviour himself, accredited him as the Herald of the first?