Noble's 'Appeal': VI. Heaven And Hell; And The Appearances In Them, And In The Intermediate Region, Or World Of Spirits.:
E. Other Circumstances in Heaven, Hell, and the World of Spirits, differing from what is usually conceived.
out of the important truths established in parts B and C of this section,—That all the inhabitants of the spiritual world were originally men in the natural world,—That man, after death, is no less a real and substantial man than before,—and, That all the circumstances in which he then finds himself are outward expressions of his inward state;—there cannot but arise a great variety of circumstances, in the other life, differing from what is usually conceived. While all real angels and devils are regarded as beings of a totally different origin and nature from man; and while man himself, when divested of his natural body, is viewed as a mere shade or phantom; no distinct conceptions respecting the circumstances in which such imaginary beings exist can possibly be formed; and from the merely negative imaginations thereupon assumed, circumstances which are perfectly natural and rational when all the inhabitants of the spiritual world are known to be real men,—men by origin, men by nature, and substantial men still, though no longer invested with an earthly body,—will be deemed repulsive and incredible. Such is the great truth, of the existence of a marriage-union in heaven, and of an opposite connexion in hell; which, nevertheless, I trust, has been shown to rest on solid grounds, both Scriptural and rational. It being my desire, in this Appeal, to meet all the principal or most plausible of the difficulties raised by our adversaries, I will now notice the chief of the other general circumstances, attending the state of the inhabitants of the other life, which have been made subjects of obloquy and derision; and I trust it will still appear, when it is known and borne in mind that the inhabitants of the other life are such different beings from what has been groundlessly assumed, that nothing is stated respecting them by the illustrious Swedenborg, but what is reasonable and probable, being agreeable to the nature of beings who are all of the human race, who are real and substantial human beings still, and who are placed in outward circumstances corresponding to their internal state.
1. The first circumstance that we will here notice, because it has been represented as supremely ridiculous, is That spiritual beings partake of food;—if not to keep them in existence, (since, certainly, they never can die), to keep them in the consciousness and satisfactory enjoyment of their life.
With respect to the Scripture-testimony on this subject, we have noticed above, that it would evidently appear, from the circumstance of Ezekiel and John's eating a roll or book when they were in the spirit, having no senses or faculties in action but those belonging to the spiritual body, and from their tasting what they ate, that eating and tasting are faculties belonging to the spiritual part of man as well as to his natural part; and that if they could be performed by prophets, while in the spirit, they must equally be proper to the spirit itself, when living as a real man after death. Accordingly, we find the Scriptures mentioning explicitly the food of angels, and the bread of heaven. The Psalmist, when speaking of the Israelites being fed with manna in the wilderness, says, that they, "had given them of the corn of heaven," and "man did eat angels' food:"* and in another Psalm, "He satisfied them with the bread of heaven."+ Now though the corn and bread of heaven might be equivocal expressions, and might only mean, corn or bread rained down from heaven; yet in the expression, angels' food, if that is the proper translation, # there is no ambiguity; it literally implies that angels have food of some kind: and this determines the other expressions,— the corn and bread of heaven,—to mean the same thing,—the food of the inhabitants. Those then who would abide by the letter of the Word in far more incomprehensible statements than this, cannot consistently deny, that, if the letter of Scripture is to decide this question, there is literally bread in heaven, which is the food of angels. The same would appear from the Lord's declaration, that "many shall come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven;" $ for the word here translated sit down, properly means, to recline at table, as was practised by the ancients at their meals. We also read of eating of the fruit of the tree of life.||
* Ps. lxxviii. 24, 25. + Ps. cv. 40.
Such being the language of Scripture, Milton takes it literally, and applies it to the angels. Of this author much the same remark may be made as was offered above respecting Young. When writing from the erroneous doctrine which he had imbibed, he often falls into great absurdities (of which his work on Christian Doctrine, lately discovered, affords more extraordinary examples than even his Paradise Lost); but when writing from common perception, and admitting the exercise of enlightened reason, he frequently offers the most beautiful sentiments and most important truths. Under the influence of such perception and reason, he makes the angel Raphael say to Adam:
" Food, alike, those pure Intelligential substances require As doth your rational; and both contain Within them every lower faculty Of sense, whereby they hear, see, smell, touch, taste." (P. L. v. 407, &c.)
So, in his description of a great day of assembly in heaven, he introduces a feast:
" All in circles as they stood, Tables are set, and on a sudden piled With angels' food, and rubied nectar flows In pearl, in diamond, and massy gold.— They eat, they drink, and, in communion sweet, Quaff immortality and joy; secure Of surfeit, where full measure only bounds Excess; before the all-bounteous King, who showered With copious hand, rejoicing in their joy." ( Ib. 631, &c.)
The same author represents the appetite for food among the infernals to be at times made an occasion of punishment, leading them eagerly to devour fruit of fair appearance but loathsome substance:
" They, fondly thinking to allay Their appetite with gust, instead of fruit Chewed bitter ashes, which the offended taste With sputtering noise rejected: oft they assayed, Hunger and thirst constraining," &c. (B. x. 564, &c.)
And Watts, in sober prose, suggests a similar thought. "What," says he, "if the creatures which they have abused should be made instruments and mediums of their punishments? Wine may be rendered a frequent means of sickness, agony, and pain, to the drunkard, and meat and other dainties to the glutton."$ Addison, also, in a beautiful paper in the Spectator, || supposes that in heaven all the senses will be gratified, not excluding, though not expressly mentioning, that of taste. "I have only," he observes, "considered this glorious place with regard to sight and imagination; though it is highly probable that our other senses may here likewise enjoy their highest gratifications," &c. In some form then, and as applied to some purpose or other, our greatest writers have entertained the belief, that food is not unknown in the spiritual world: when proposed by them, it is read as a sublime thought or reasonable suggestion; why then, when read in Swedenborg, is it turned into ridicule ?
$ Works, Ed. Leeds, vol. vii. p. 261. || No. 580.
But whatever of the ridiculous might be thought to attach to such a circumstance, will altogether vanish, when it is known, that the food which they thus eat is but an outward appearance, expressive of that food which supports the life of their minds. What is truly spiritual food, but that which nourishes the mind ? Hence, how common is it to draw a metaphor from the subject in common discourse: to talk of our intellectual appetite, to speak of knowledge as mental food, and to call the communication of kind feelings and elevated sentiments in conversation "The feast of reason" as well as "the flow of soul."
The true nourishment of angels, then, is nothing but that goodness and truth which is continually imparted to them from the Lord; and of nothing else do they think when engaged in taking the spiritual substance which is furnished them for outward food. This is purely a development, in outward form, of the spiritual gifts with which their minds are continually recreated. But as the mind is not anything, except there be some substantial form in which it may exist, so that the form of an angel, though the express image of his mind, is something distinct from the mind itself; therefore, as the mind requires to be continually nourished and fed by the communication to it from the Lord of affections and perceptions of goodness and truth, or love and wisdom, so does analogy require that the personal form, in which the mind dwells, should be nourished, and kept in order for acting as the proper instrument of the mind, by corresponding means. But the latter is never separated from the former in the idea of an angel: and throughout the spiritual world, it is only as the spiritual nourishment of the mind is received from the Lord, that the other food is afforded; because this is merely the outward image of the former,—an appearance corresponding to it. Hence it is stated by our Author in one of the extracts quoted by the adversary whose steps I chiefly follow, respecting those who are in hell, who cannot receive anything of goodness or try truth in their minds, that they are compulsively made to do something that is of some use; and, as they do this, they receive the other food also: but as they cannot will to do anything useful their outer food is of a wretched and disgusting nature;—as we read of the prodigal, who was fain to feed upon husks,
2. Almost as objectionable as the idea of spirits eating, is, in this opponent's estimation, that of their sleeping; and he is particularly indignant that such a refreshment should be allowed to infernals. He quotes three or four texts to support his notion, that nothing like sleep can ever enter hell: but the only one of them which even appears at all applicable to the subject is this: "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Rev. xiv. 11.) But if rest here means sleep, and this text proves that there is no sleep in hell, there are many which will prove that there is eternal sleep in heaven; for heaven is constantly represented as a state of eternal rest. Evidently then, rest, in the Scriptures, is not mentioned in contrast with waking, but with the intranquillity which ever attends the presence of evil lusts and their accompanying false persuasions; from which they who are in heaven are for ever delivered, and by which they who are in hell are for ever actuated and agitated; whence it may be inferred that even their sleep cannot bring peace, their life being still the mere life of lusts, but must be disturbed and unrefreshing; but it will not follow that they have no sleep, or not anything analogous to sleep, at all. Even this text, if it proves anything on the subject, proves the reverse of that for which it has thus been cited: for it speaks of day and night, that is, of changes of state analogous to day and night, as existing in hell; and the same book uses the same phrase ( Ch. iv. 8. ) to describe the changes of state existing in heaven; and surely it is to be inferred that, in one of those states, something is experienced approaching to the nature of sleep. We are told, indeed, that "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Of the Infinite, this is doubtless a proper attribute; and as exclusively, so most probably, as Infinity itself: for it is much to be questioned whether any inferior nature can keep all its faculties for ever on the stretch, and never need a refreshment analogous to that which we denominate sleep. They who have exercised their reason upon the subject have concluded otherwise. To cite again from him, who
" Into the heaven of heavens fain would presume An earthly guest, and draw empyreal air,"
and who, if he sometimes offers, as the result of his flights, the mere illusions of his muse, does also sometimes delineate scenes such as really exist in heaven. Such is the case when he speaks of
"when ambrosial Night—
3, The next thing which we will notice, and which equally admits of a satisfactory explanation when it is known that all that appears about spirits and angels, with all that is done by them, is a mere outward expression of their internal state, is, That those who are in a bad state, and in preparation for hell, are represented as falling into silly and ridiculous actions, and uttering extravagant sentiments. But if it be true, as observed above, that with the wicked in the other life no true rationality remains, what better could be expected ? What more rational than to conclude, that the dementation arising from their utter alienation from the Source of Wisdom, would discover itself in practices expressive of, and corresponding to, their infatuated state ?
Thus the guide I am following cites an account of the folly of some (but which only possesses them for a short time during a certain state), under the influence of which they employ themselves in building with all sorts of materials incoherently put together, so that what is built up in the day falls down in the night. This is one of the mere illusions resulting from the phantasy which possesses those of whom it is affirmed, who are such teachers as have endeavoured, in this life, to construct false systems of doctrine by misapplications of the truths of the Word. It is somewhat extraordinary that this should have been selected as objectionable by an opponent, who commends the hell of the ancient mythology, all the descriptions of which are obviously figurative; and when he particularly mentions with approbation the story of Sisyphus, whose punishment consisted in rolling a great stone to the top of a hill, which always, before he could get it there, broke away and rolled down again! for who does not see that this is merely a different symbolic representation of much the same spiritual thing and state, —of the attempt to give stability to the confirmations of falsehood ?
As to the extravagant sentiments ascribed by Swedenborg to evil spirits, what more appropriately in character can be conceived? Thus his derider extracts an account of the conversation of a Satanic spirit, in which he denies the existence of a God, and ascribes all things to nature, exactly in the style of certain philosophers, (to which class, when in the world, he had belonged,) except that he exposes the extravagant absurdity of such opinions more unguardedly than is commonly done on earth. Sometimes, also, Swedenborg represents those who had been confirmed in the common doctrines of a trinity of persons in the Godhead and justification by faith alone to the complete exclusion of charity, as broaching their views of those subjects in such naked deformity as to appear utterly ridiculous. But what is there in this which is not really in conformity with, and inherent in, the very nature of things? Such false sentiments of philosophy and religion, viewed in themselves, are absurdity itself. When propounded by those who entertain them in the world, they are usually put forth with much caution, and great art is used to gloss over their ridiculous points, and to give them a specious appearance. But in the other world, disguise is not possible. That is the world of essences, and things there appear such as, in their essence, they are. They who are sufficiently demented by false persuasions grounded in an evil life to be confirmed in doctrines that are intrinsically absurd, there avow them in all their extravagance without being conscious of their absurdity.
Is it not generally believed that all injurious false persuasions originate from hell ? Is it not then reasonable to conclude, that in hell they exist in their essences, and thus that there, and in those who are preparing for hell in the world of spirits, they show themselves in their palpable folly, as well as in their falsehood? What greater inconsistency can there be than to suppose, that let a man's sentiments here be ever so wicked and erroneous, they are at once corrected on his entering eternity, and that he no sooner becomes actually a devil, than he grows as wise as an angel ? It is true that every wicked person is convinced of the truth, and of his own true state, before he is cast into hell; but he cannot retain it; and with all the augmentation of cunning that is consequent on his becoming a spirit, he never can possess a grain of genuine rationality. What can be conceived more deplorable ? And is not this view of the subject that of rationality itself? Most consonant then to genuine rationality are all Swedenborg's delineations of the character and conversation of infernal spirits. Scripture also represents them as "putting darkness for light, and light for darkness;" ( Isa. v. 20) and as being possessed with so strong a delusion as to believe a lie.(2 Thess. ii. 11)
4. We will now notice the assertion of our Author, That the inhabitants of heaven, hell, and the intermediate state, all have some employment. This is a statement which has been a source of misrepresentation and abuse without end: though it arises naturally out of the two general principles we have laid down, and must be true, if man after death, is really a man, and is something more than a mere vapour, a puff of breath, a mere nothing.
But first let it be observed, that to suppose that we believe, and that the writings of Swedenborg, affirm, that every one is to follow in the other life the same employment as was his business here, is a gross misconception; it is one, also, which falls to the ground of itself, when it is known, that it is constantly affirmed in those writings, that everything which relates to food, habitation, and clothing, is, in the eternal world, provided and given gratis immediately from the Lord; for when you take away the employments connected with providing food, habitation, and clothing, you take away nearly all that are known upon earth. To suppose then, because in an extract cited against us, the author's Latin expressions (munia suorum officiorum) had been not very properly rendered by the common English phrase, the labour of their callings, that the means, that every one follows in the other life the same calling that he pursued here, is a very great mistake indeed. The most general of the employments of angels arise out of their office as "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them that are heirs of salvation," —a doctrine which the Scriptures affirm, and which all Christians believe. There are also employments connected with the administration of affairs in every one of the innumerable societies into which heaven is divided; for though the Lord guides and governs all things, yet he there also, as well as in his guardianship over the human race, makes use of the ministration of the angels themselves, and thus fills them with that sense of real happiness which is inherent in the performance of useful services, when done from the love of the Lord and of our neighbour. As to manual operations in heaven, all that our Author says respecting them is, that they are such as cannot be described by any words of natural language. In the intermediate region or world of spirits, however, which is the first receptacle of departed spirits, and where, at first, their state is not very different from what it was in this life, there are employments more similar, it would appear, to some upon earth; and it is by confounding our author's descriptions of this state with his descriptions of heaven, that his adversaries have framed the most specious of their misrepresentations. According to Swedenborg's mode of describing this subject, every one, on entering the other life, is at first in his externals, and then in a state not unlike that in which he was in this world: but this is successively put off, as his internals are opened; when the whole scene changes with him, and he passes to his final home in heaven or in hell. Of the nature of the employments in hell he offers no description beyond this; that they are mean drudgeries.*
* See Swedenborg's doctrine on this subject fully stated and elucidated Int. Rep. for January, 1834, pp. 22—27; and see a passage which had been mistakenly supposed to favour the notion, that people follow the same employments in heaven as they were engaged in here, fully explained, and shown, upon no possible interpretation, to sanction any such notion, Int. Rep. for January, 1833, pp. 323—330.
Now that this view is reasonable as well as Scriptural is evident from the fact, that pious men have often formed very similar ideas. Thus the celebrated Dr. Watts has many passages in his Essay on the Happiness of Separate Spirits, which might be supposed to have been taken from the writings of Swedenborg, had they not been written before these writings appeared. For instance:—"The souls of men having dwelt many years in particular bodies, have been influenced and habituated to different turns of thought, both according to the various constitutions of those bodies, and the more various studies and businesses and occurrences of life. Surely we may with reason suppose the spirits departing from the flesh, to carry with them some bent and inclination towards various pleasures and employments. So we may reasonably imagine each sinful spirit that leaves the body to be more abundantly influenced with the particular vices which it indulged here; whether ambition, or pride, or covetousness, or malice, or envy, or aversion to God and all goodness; and their various sorts of punishments may arise from their own variety of lusts giving each of them a peculiar inward torment.— And why may not the spirits of the just made perfect have the same variety of taste and pleasure in that happy world above, according as they were fitted for various kinds of sacred entertainments in their state of preparation and during their residence in flesh and blood ?" Accordingly, they who have studied the wisdom of God in his works, will in heaven, he thinks, follow up that employment. "Is there not," he says, "a Boyle and a Ray in heaven; pious souls who were trained up in a sanctified philosophy ? and surely they are fitted, beyond their fellow-saints, to contemplate the wisdom of God in the works of his hands.—May we not suppose these spirits have some special circumstances of sacred pleasure, suited to their labours and studies in their state of trial on earth?—But some," he adds, "will reprove me here, and say, What, must none but ministers, and authors, and learned men, have their distinguished rewards and glories in the world of spirits ? May not artificers, and traders, and pious women, be fitted by their character and conduct on earth for peculiar stations and employments in heaven?"—Which question he answers in the affirmative. "I confess," he further says, "heaven is described as a place of rest! that is, rest from sin and sorrow, &c. —but it never can be such a rest as lays all our active powers asleep, or renders them useless, in such a vital and active world." After concluding that there will be praises there and prayers, he adds (as if he were addressing the opponent who quotes in ridicule a passage in which Swedenborg speaks of preaching in heaven), "Perhaps you will suppose there is no such service as hearing sermons, that there is no attendance upon the word of God there. But are we sure that there are no such entertainments ? Are there no lectures of divine wisdom and grace given to the younger spirits there by spirits of a more exalted station?"—"But let the worship of glorious spirits be never so various, yet," says he, "I cannot persuade myself that mere direct acts or exercises of what we properly call worship are their only and everlasting work. The Scripture tells us, there are certain seasons when the angels come to present themselves before God (Job i. 6, ii. 1): it is evident then that the intervals of those seasons are spent in other employments. And when they present themselves before God, it does not appear that mere adoration and praise is their only business at the throne."—"Nor is it improper or unpleasant to suppose, that among the rest of their celestial conferences, they shall show one another the fair and easy solution of those difficulties and deep problems in divinity which had exercised and perplexed them here on earth.—Darkness and entanglement shall vanish at once from many of those knotty points of controversy, when they behold them in the light of heaven [a peculiar phrase of Swedenborg's]. And the rest shall be matter of delightful instruction for superior spirits to bestow upon those of lower rank, or on souls lately arrived at the regions of light."—"The saints above are engaged in many of the same sacred employments with the saints below, but all in a superior degree, and in a more transcendant manner." *
* Works, Vol. ii. pp. 388, 389, 390, 398, 400, 401, 402, 440.
I might extend these extracts from Watts to a great length; for the coincidence between his surmises and Swedenborg's statements on these subjects is really wonderful. Nearly every point which has been objected to by the opponents of Swedenborg, in what he has-advanced respecting the engagements of the inhabitants of the spiritual world, is proposed by Watts as the most probable conclusion of reason, Is it then, I again ask, at all rational to treat Swedenborg as writing irrationally when he advances a thing as a fact, while we admire Watts as writing sensibly when he proposes the same thing as the; most reasonable conjecture ?
5. The circumstances that we will next vindicate from aspersion, may be stated in the following proposition: That those who die as infants or children all go to heaven; but that at first they appear as children still, and are educated by the ministry of angels, till they become adult angels themselves; and that in the mean time they are instructed by such representations of heavenly things as are suited to their tender capacities, and are allowed such recreations as are congenial to their state. Proposed in these terms, what is there here to which the rational faculty does not immediately assent ? Yet this is precisely what Swedenborg has advanced, however his adversaries may hold up his statements to ridicule.
When a man dies at an adult age and in a state of regeneration, we may suppose that he is qualified presently to appear in heaven as an angel: but who can imagine that the case is the same with the dying infant? The infant is indeed in a state of innocence; it has never committed or appropriated anything evil, and thus is secure from hell; but its innocence is the innocence of ignorance, not as yet that of wisdom: it as yet is incapable of appropriating good; consequently it is not as yet prepared to take its place as an angel. An angel is a form of love and wisdom derived from the Lord; an infant has capacities for becoming such a form: but it is not made such a one by mere death. As an infant is born with only the rudiments of a perfect human body, so also is it born, we know full well, with only the rudiments of a perfect human mind, or, which amounts to the same thing, of perfect human spirit, since it is the spirit which is the seat of the mind: and the one is to be successively developed and perfected, as well as the other. To suppose, therefore, that, if it passes in this state into the eternal world, the mind and spirit will instantly expand into the fulness of the standard of an angel, is just as reasonable as to imagine that a new-born child may expand in an instant into the stature of a man. There surely then cannot be a shadow of doubt that when an infant enters the spiritual world by death, it will appear there in a form exactly answering to the infantile state of its mind; consequently, it must appear there, and be, an infant still. As the faculties of its mind are developed, and it advances in wisdom, it will advance also to the form and appearance of the adult angel. It is reasonable to imagine, as Swedenborg assures us, that in that world of higher perfection its advancement will be far more rapid than is possible here: yet even there the rudiments of wisdom must first be inseminated, and afterwards be cultivated and enlarged, before the mature angelic state can be attained.
Now under what auspices is this to be effected ? Doubtless, under those of the Lord, who is the only Parent known in heaven, and whose especial care and providence, according to the dictates of reason and the statements of Swedenborg, watch over the welfare of helpless and innocent children. But is it to be supposed that he will lead them to maturity there, any more than he does here, without deigning to associate any of their fellow-creatures in the important task? Scripture informs us that, even while here, infants are under the guardianship of angels exercised under the particular providence of the Lord: "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is heaven." (Mat. xviii. 10)—Is it then to be supposed, that by passing from this world into the other, they not only lose their human parents but their angelic guardians too; that to them the eternal world is an immense desert, where no protectors are near, —where, though helpless infants still, they are friendless and alone ?
Will no kind angel minister to them in the tender manner which their state requires ? Is it the part either of the rational mind or of the feeling heart to ridicule such ministrations, by applying to them, as has been done, the contemptuous title of "nursing in heaven?" Is there any among the natural affections so exalted as that of the love of children ? Is anything more affecting to be seen on earth, than the care of a fond mother for her offspring, and the delight with which she ministers to their helplessness ? Is not the implantation of parental love in the human breast one of the most striking products of the divine love in the Great Parent of all, and one that most nearly imitates its original ? Is it not then to be concluded, that this affection, which is heavenly even on earth, will not be extinguished, but exalted, on transplantation into heaven itself, and that they who have here been eminently influenced by a love to children, will be animated by a corresponding but spiritual affection for them there, and will be impelled by it to undertake with the utmost delight, the charge of the infant-spirits that are continually passing thither ? If our ridiculers will put this inquiry to the ladies of their acquaintance, the hearts of all of them, I am sure, will dictate an affirmative answer. Common perception appears to inform every reflecting mind that such must be the fact,—that the task of receiving the children who enter the other world, and nurturing their innocent but uninformed minds in the accomplishments of heavenly wisdom, must be one of the most delightful, and one of the most general, of the employments of angels. Let then every one be careful how he extinguishes in himself or others, the principle that would take delight in such offices, and how he too proudly disdains, what no sneers can degrade, the sweetest exercises of charity. Infants, when first landed on the eternal shore, must need such exercises from some quarter; and those by whose instrumentality the Lord administers them, doubtless regard it as a high privilege, and feel in it the most delicious enjoyment. Insensibility, we may be assured, is not an inmate of angelic breasts; and heaven is not peopled with a starched and stiffened race, who deem it beneath their high vocation to descend to the softest and most affecting duties of the meekest tenderness and love. "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
If then infants and children at first appear as infants and children in the heavenly world, and advance gradually, though rapidly, to the adult angelic state; so far from being ridiculous, it is in the highest degree reasonable, to suppose, "that in the mean time they are instructed by such representations of heavenly things as are suited to their tender capacities, and are allowed such recreations as are congenial to their state." That their infantile amusements with each other should be such as tend to insinuate into their tender minds a knowledge of, and affection for, divine things, as Swedenborg affirms, has surely no tendency to derogate from the credibility of his narrations. And that the "boys and young men," or youths (by whom are not meant adult angels, as some seem to suppose, but those who are still only in a state of preparation for becoming such), should, between the intervals of their studies and mental and spiritual engagements, be allowed to engage in running and similar exercises, has nothing in it improbable, when we remember our two general principles established above,—that man after death is a real substantial man, and that all that appears about him (or is done by him) is some correspondent expression of the state of his mind. Do our adversaries think, that if the youths in heaven are as really human beings as the youths here, they will never engage in any outward recreations ? While not yet angels, nor possessed of adult angelic wisdom, do they conceive they ought to affect it (according to the Pharisee's notions of it) by a melancholy elongation of countenance, a sluggish solemnity of gait, and by avoiding, as far as possible, to make any use of their external powers ? So have not thought any who have ventured to allow their rational faculty to form conclusions on the subject. Witness, again, the poet Milton, who introduces active sports among the recreations which he deemed worthy of angels, and (strange indeed for a Puritan!) included even dancing among the number. Is not the following description of a scene in heaven equally beautiful and heavenly ?
That day as other solemn days, they spend
And he describes the angelic guards who watched in Paradise, as amusing themselves thus:
Betwixt these rocky pillars, Gabriel sat,
Now if a poet may. without offence, represent angels created such as recreating themselves with dancing and athletic games, is it at all censurable seriously to conclude, that youths transplanted from this world, who as yet are not angels, but still have youthful or boyish minds, may at intervals recreate themselves in a similar manner ?
And this becomes still more probable when it is considered, that such exercises are exact correspondences, outwardly, of their inward state. Their state is a state of instruction, and of advancement in knowledge and intelligence towards the goal of wisdom; and of such a state, the exercise of running in particular, is exactly representative; and it is no doubt a result of this correspondence, that youth in the world, during the age of instruction, so spontaneously betake themselves to such exercises. The apostle Paul often draws images from the athletic exercises in use in his age, to illustrate the Christian progress: evidently, then, he saw in them something of a significant character. In the present day, even, something of the correspondence of such sports is intuitively seen: thus we familiarly talk of arriving at the goal, of hitting the mark, and of "Keeping the ball up of debate;" which last metaphor is taken from the games of handball and tennis, and evinces a perception, that those games bear an analogy to intellectual exercises and discussions.
Since then boys and youths in the other life still have boyish and youthful minds (for as soon as their minds lose this character they cease to appear as boys and youths); and since boyish and youthful minds cannot be kept continually fixed on serious studies; it seems a dictate of reason to conclude, that their intellectual exercises will at times alternate with external exercises corresponding to them; and that in heaven, where nothing whatever is done but for the sake of some use, by such exercises their intellectual acquirements may become fixed and confirmed; as, in the world, by moderate exercise, the formation of the chyle and its passage into the system are assisted, and the mental faculties, also, are refreshed and strengthened. Then let not Pharisees sneer at the notion of boyish sports permitted to boys in heaven, or think that the angelic character would be better formed in them by fixing them immovably on a cloud to sing hymns to eternity; or by allowing them, instead of ungracious running, to flit about on a pair of little wings, forming a sort of dish to hold their chubby cheeks. Let them remember, that if such juvenile recreations form no part of the proper felicities of heaven, they are at least used by the prophet as proper symbols for expressing those felicities: "And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls, playing in the streets thereof." (Zech. viii. 5.)
6. Only one other occasion of scandal seems necessary here to be mentioned: but that is a grievous one indeed, as Pharisees would make it. It is, That one mode of instruction, in the other life, is by means of scenic representations. That this should be considered as such a matter of offence, is, however, a striking example of the power of prejudice, and of the disposition of mankind to condemn for a mere name, however unexceptionable or excellent may be the thing to which that name is affixed.
That scenic representations in the world deserve but too much of that disesteem in which they are held by many pious persons, is abundantly true. As usually conducted, a most powerful engine is made the subject of great abuse; and many instantly argue from the abuse against the use; they seem determined to consider the whole machine as purely diabolical, even when employed in a manner purely angelical. On earth, the abuse is, perhaps, nearly inseparable from the use. In a corrupt state of society, the pieces composed will never have pure instruction as the first end in view: their main object will ever be to amuse, and to obtain success by flattering the taste of the spectators. Among the spectators will always be a great number of the most dissolute portion of society; and very exemplary virtue is not to be expected from the performers, as a body. Altogether, it is but too true, that our theatres are scenes of contagion: and as their attractions are also fascinating, it is no wonder if, by many of the pious, they are utterly proscribed. But suppose all this to be reversed: suppose the pieces performed to have no tendency but, by the most engaging means, to encourage and animate virtue and piety: suppose all the performers to be persons actuated by the sincerest desire to promote the same sacred object; and suppose all the spectators to be the best of characters likewise, attending the exhibition with a greater desire to be improved than amused, and to make the amusement completely subservient to the improvement: and what would there then be in the whole unworthy of heaven itself ? The beautiful remarks of Addison in the Spectator (Nos. 39 and 93.) on the moral uses to which the stage is capable of being applied, are well known: and even Watts, whom no one will accuse of laxity of moral or spiritual principle, allows, that it is only the abuse that makes the theatre an evil. "A dramatic representation," he observes, "of the affairs of human life, is by no means sinful itself: I am inclined to think, that valuable compositions might be made of this kind, such as might entertain a virtuous audience with delight, and even with some real profit. Such have been written in French." (On Education, Works, vol. vii. p. 566.) Indeed, the drama was originally connected with religion: among the ancients, dramatic performances formed part of the solemnities of their religious festivals; and on their revival in more modern, times, the subjects of them were taken from the Scriptures, the theatre for performing them was the church, and the performers were the clergy. Suppose them then to be not only restored to their original design, but exalted to all the excellence of which they are capable; and will they, we repeat, be unworthy of a place among the instructive recreations of heaven ?—at least, of some of the societies of the lowest heaven ? for it is only thus connected that Swedenborg mentions their existence. And, as mentioned by him, what is there justly to offend the most fastidious ? His words are, "There are, moreover, dramatic entertainments exhibited upon theatres out of the city; the actors representing the graces and virtues of moral life: amongst whom are inferior characters for the sake of relatives [or relation], No virtue with its graces and decencies can be represented to the life, but by means of relatives, in which all its graces and decencies, from the greatest to the least, are comprised and represented; and the inferior characters represent the least, even till they become none; but it is provided that nothing of the opposite, or of what is unbecoming and dishonourable, should be exhibited, except figuratively and remotely. It is so provided, because nothing that is becoming and good in any virtue, can by successive progressions pass over to what is unbecoming and evil; it only proceeds to its least, where it perishes; and then, and not till then, its opposite commences; so that heaven, where all things are becoming and good, has nothing in common with hell, where all things are unbecoming and evil." (TCR 745.) What is there, in this account of the matter, that is in the slightest degree unbecoming, or unworthy of heaven ? Who that can in the least distinguish between names and things, can look at the thing here described, and think that it is at all unlikely to be among the means of instruction for "junior spirits," in the angelic world ? Were not, in fact, the surprising scenes exhibited to John in the Revelation, completely of the nature of dramatic representations ? And if such a mode of instruction can be resorted to in the case of the prophets, by the Divine Being himself, is it unreasonable to suppose that an inferior species of the same kind of instruction may be beneficial to noviciate angels ?
I have now gone through the chief of the particulars mentioned in the writings of Swedenborg, and derided by our adversaries, which can with any plausibility be constructed into matters of offence; and I trust that, when considered with reference to their proper causes, and to the nature of man after death, of the circumstances in which he is placed, and of the appearances around him, all the facts must be allowed to be in perfect harmony with the statements of Scripture and with the dictates of reason;—that the true ground of offence must be admitted to exist solely in the unfounded prejudices of our opponents, — in the vague, shadowy conceptions, which, in the acknowledged absence of all specific knowledge, they had formed for, and from, themselves. But to make this examination in all respects complete; and being desirous that everything which our enemies censure as objectionable should be viewed in the fullest light; an Appendix shall be added, in which each of the remaining Sundered Scraps that the writer I chiefly follow has adduced to substantiate his calumnious imputations, shall be separately considered. At present I will conclude with observing, that if even they who have dreamed of angels, good and evil, as beings of totally different origin and nature from men, have yet been obliged, as we have seen, in effect to make men of them before they could form respecting them any determinate ideas; if, having made them men, they have been compelled to represent the world they inhabit as very similar, in appearance, to the world inhabited by men; thus if the great poet felt it necessary to suggest, as quoted above,
if the most elevated geniuses, though they assign to angels a nature different from the human, are constrained to represent them as speaking, acting, and existing in circumstances, only suitable to the nature of human beings, after all:—how far from ridiculous is it in Swedenborg, having rationally and scripturally evinced that all angels and spirits really are men, to place them in circumstances, and ascribe to them actions, suitable to the nature of men,—either of men little changed from what they are here, as is the case with all on first entering the world of spirits,—or of men exalted to high degrees of angelic wisdom and goodness, as is the state of those in heaven,—or of men degraded to awful depths of infernal wickedness and insanity, as is the state of those in hell ?