The Importance of a True Religion.
Reader, are you a busy man, with many things weighing upon your mind ? Does the improvement of your business or the call of your profession seem to require nearly all the serious thought of which you are capable ? What of religion ?
Many, at times, have a feeling that possibly they are not doing their duty towards religion. Yet the hope of finding a satisfactory answer to the questions that are raised in connection with it seems futile. The endless controversies between Modernists and Fundamentalists, and the divergence of sects, weary them and make them almost disgusted with the whole subject. Many feel, when they go to church, that the preaching is not satisfactory to the intelligent and practical man. They find that it is either so emotional that it does violence to a man's intelligence, or it is rather cold and formal.
And yet the problem of why we are here on earth is a most important one, the solution of which would have vital results. If a man found himself in another country, and did not know for what reason he was there, he would certainly feel ridiculous, to say the least. And yet here we are, and most people do not know the reason why, and, what is still more strange, seem to care less.
If the question be asked, For what purpose are we here on earth? one of two answers is usually forthcoming. The answer of the religious man is often that God created men in order that He might have someone to praise and worship Him; the answer of the non-religious, that there is no purpose, but that man is the chance development of protoplasm due to heredity and environment. Neither of these answers seems in the least satisfactory. The first makes God a self-loving and self-centered potentate; the other, on reflection, is seen to be contrary to all probability.
THE REASON FOR CREATION.
A wise man must recognize that the reason for creation is that God is love, and that the object of creation is that God may love men, and that men may love God, and that men may love one another.
This idea is expressed by Swedenborg as follows: "It is the nature of love, not to love self, but others, and to be joined with them by love. It is also the nature of love to desire to be loved by others, for from this there is conjunction. Love consists in this, that its own should be another's. In God there is nothing of self love." (Divine Love and Wisdom, no. 47.)
If God did not create us from love, and in order that we might love Him, and that He might love us, we are hut puppets in a meaningless pantomime.
We take it for granted that all but the gross materialist will agree that God must have created us from love, and with the object that we might love Him, and that He might love us. But there is one essential requirement to all genuine love, namely, knowledge. It is impossible to love some one of whose nature one is ignorant.
Suppose you have met some one, but do not know anything of his feelings, nor understand anything of the motives of his actions; you certainly cannot love such a one. If we have no knowledge or understanding of the nature of God, it is impossible to love Him.
If one cares very much for another, it will be his greatest desire to be known and understood by his friend. If God loves mankind, He must surely desire that men should know as well as love Him.
KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF GOD IS ESSENTIAL.
But how can we know and love God? Some say we can know and love Him from what we see of Him in creation; that we can see His hand in the beauties of nature. But can we truly love Him from this alone? I f a man were to go to a far country, and there see a city containing beautiful parks and also slums; if he saw that part of the city was orderly, and other parts lawless; if he heard not a word as to whether the ruler was a man or a woman, a president or a king; could that man, from what he beheld of the effect of the government, love the ruler of the country with all his heart ? Surely not. How much less can we love a God of whom we know absolutely nothing, not even as to whether He has a form or is formless? The very notion is absurd.
WHERE GOD MAY BE FOUND.
If, then, we are convinced that God created man from love, and in order that men might love Him, where are we to find Him? And how can we know Him if nature is entirely inadequate to reveal Him to us? Certainly nowhere but in Religion. But when we look out upon the world, we find that many religions have flourished, and many still flourish, and that each claims to be of God. How, then, are we to know which is the true Religion, or whether one is more true than another? That there is some truth in all religions, we admit. But if God truly loves man, and desires that man should love Him, it necessarily follows that He must reveal Himself perfectly, in so far as man is able to receive. And all enlightened men may see that nowhere has God revealed Himself to man in His perfection as He has in the Four Gospels. All " holy books," with the exception of the Bible, contain things which obviously prove that they are not directly from God; no other book could be immediately from God. We are aware that there are difficulties in believing that the Bible is Divine. These difficulties will be considered shortly; but no matter how great these difficulties may appear, it remains a fact that love, especially Divine Love, must reveal itself perfectly; and it can be seen that the Bible, or the Word, as we prefer to cull it, is the most perfect revelation of God's Love and Wisdom.
THE SEARCH FOR NEW LIGHT.
This little book is not addressed solely to the busy man who has not been actively interested in religion. Reader, if you have been brought up in a faith in the Catholic Church, or in one of the Protestant Churches, and, feeling an affection for your Church, have worked for its welfare, and have been a faithful attendant at its administrations, still do you not feel that it has left many questions unanswered? Because you feel an affection for your Church, is this any reason why you should not continue to search for a greater light ? That your parents before you have found solace in the Church, and have, by their tender care, instilled into you from your infancy an affection for your religion, is indeed a reason for loving the Church in which you have been born and brought up, but it is by no means a reason for slackening in your search for all the truth that comes from God. If your distant ancestry had ceased to search for truth, you would still be a worshipper of Odin. If the Apostles of the Lord had remained in faithful obedience to the instruction of Jewish priest and scribe, the Christian Church would never have been founded. If the heathen were to remain faithful to the teaching of their childhood, the Christian Church could not spread.
But, what is of greater importance, the Gospels themselves point to a time when new light would be given. The Lord Himself declared: " I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He shall show you things to come." (John 16: 12, 13.) "In that day I shall show you plainly of the Father." (John, 16: 25.)
Are there not many things in the Gospels difficult to understand—things which no one has explained to you ? For example, do you understand the most important of all truths,the nature of the Divine Trinity? Many believe that such things are not meant to be understood, but listen to the words of the Lord: " He that heareth the Word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which is hid in his heart." (Matt. 13: 19.) Has this not happened with many? That it is not the will of God that there should be a lack of understanding is clear from the words of the prophet Jeremiah, " And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." (3: 15.) God is a " God of light," and giveth understanding ; and those who do not encourage us to seek knowledge and understanding do not teach the Word of God.
God, when He created man, gave him two great gifts, the power to love, and the power to understand; and if these two faculties are not directed towards God, man ceases to be in the image and likeness of God. Understanding, without love, is cold, formal, and lifeless; love, without understanding, is sentimental, emotional, and lacking in truth and power. These two great gifts of God must be united if we are to worship God in spirit and in truth.
GOD IS IN THE GOSPELS.
In spite of the many obscure passages and hard sayings in the Gospels, he that hath eyes to see can discern the hand of God in these holy books. But some will say, " We indeed acknowledge that the Gospels are inspired from heaven, at least in parts; but does this necessarily mean that every word is from God? " Friend, if God is love, and wishes to reveal Himself to mankind, He must necessarily do it in a Divine way. This most important of all works could not have been done in an imperfect and fragmentary manner. If one writes to another whom he loves, does he not take pains that the letter may contain nothing but his own sentiments? If the letter were in any way changed, would he not feel indignant, and immediately do all in his power to see that the true version should reach the one dear to him? How much more is this the case with God ? That the Lord spoke in parables, and spoke things which still had to be explained, He Himself declared. Yet the Gospels are as He intended, and wait for nothing but the promised testimony of the Spirit of truth, in order to be understood plainly.
THE OLD TESTAMENT.
But if we accept the Gospels as being of God, what of the Old Testament, that unique book which so many are now coming to doubt ? Is this history of the Jewish people, with its descriptions of battles, of cruelty, of ignobleness,—this curious scripture which at times appears to make of Jehovah a cruel and partisan God,—is this the Word of God ? Reader, one cannot accept the New Testament and deny the Old. These two Testaments are so united that they cannot be separated. Deny the Old Testament, and you undermine the New. There is no teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ which is more emphatic than His teaching that the Law and the Prophets are the Word of God. " Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall not pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Math. 5: 18.)
How many times we read in the Gospels that Jesus did such and such a thing that a prophecy might be fulfilled. And when speaking to the apostles after His resurrection He said: " O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory ? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Luke, 24: 25-27.)
The more we consider the matter, the more evident it becomes that the Law and the Prophets were given, in order that they might reveal, in types or representatives, the Messiah who was to come. The whole of the Old Testament is a great parable, as said the Psalmist: " I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old." (Ps. 78: 2.) The Israelites were a people chosen to enact a Divine Drama which in every respect should prefigure the Christ who was to come. But men have been unable to interpret the Book, and it has been, as it were, sealed, as said the Prophet Isaiah: " And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I am not learned." (29: 11, 12.)
If we do not elevate our minds, if we do not interpret the dark sayings, if we cannot unfold the parable, but instead interpret literally this Divine story, we fall into hopeless doubt and obscurity; our faith becomes weak, and we fail to perceive the spirit; as Paul said to the Corinthians: " Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth light." (2 Cor. 3:6.)
THE SEALED BOOK.
But who is able to interpret this Book? Who can read the Old Testament, aright, or even the New? And who can reveal the things which are contained therein? This is, in truth, the Book seen by John in vision: " And I saw in the right hand of Him that sat on the throne a Book written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the Book, and to loose the seals thereof ? And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the Book, neither to look thereon. And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the Book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders said unto me, Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the Book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." (Rev. 5: 1-5.) Is not the same thing meant by these words as by the words of the Lord Himself ?" I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. When He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth, and He will show you things to come." (John, 16: 12, 13.) "In that day I shall show you plainly of the Father." (John, 16: 25-)
To some, the declaration that the Bible, or Word, contains secret and hidden things will seem like a fanciful idea. Many will not comprehend it, but will say within themselves, as did the Disciples of the Lord when they heard Him speak in dark parables, " Who can hear it ?" These words of the Lord were: " Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said: This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" (John, 6: 54-60.)
It may, indeed, seem hard to believe that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God Himself. It may be difficult for some to believe in the Virgin Birth and the resurrection. The miracles of the Lord may prove a stumbling block to others. But think of the only alternative, namely, that the Bible is not the Word of God, that Christ was not God on earth! God then becomes once more an unknown God, an invisible Being, of whom we know, of assurity, nothing—a far distant God, whom none can love; and the world is reduced to a puppet show, in which men play their little parts to no purpose.
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH.
The vital and most important question is: Has the Lord given unto us " the spirit of truth which shall lead men into all truth" ? Has He shown us " plainly of the Father " ? Has the " Lion of the tribe of Judah prevailed to open the Book " ? and has He " loosed the seven seals " ? And if the Lord has done so, where and how has He done it ?
What would be the natural way for Him to do this ? It would indeed be, as always in the past, by putting His words in the mouth of a man, and filling him with His Spirit, so that he might reveal things which are to come. But has the Lord done this? And if so, by whom?
More than a hundred and fifty years ago, a learned man, Emanuel Swedenborg, wrote that through him this prophecy had been fulfilled; that he, the humble servant of the Lord, had been called to this mighty office. A strange and wonderful claim! A claim which no thinking man can accept without a careful investigation and a deep searching for the truth. On the other hand, a claim which no one has the right to reject without serious consideration and a careful weighing of what Swedenborg presents in substantiation of this remarkable statement. For the man who uttered it was a man held in universal respect by all who knew him; a man who was known throughout the learned world; a man honored by nearly all who have studied him.
Swedenborg was a member of the Swedish House of Nobles, and an acquaintance of the King of Sweden, who evinced great respect for him, both as to his character and his learning.
Swedenborg is universally honored on account of his works on philosophy and science, particularly on account of his masterful works on cosmology and anatomy. He was well past fifty years of age when he first declared to the world that he had been called to his holy mission. From a personal standpoint, by writing as he did, he had much to lose and nothing to gain. He had been assured of an honorable position in the history of human development. There was no one in Sweden more highly honored or more greatly respected, 110 one whose integrity was less open to doubt. He realized that the greater part of the skeptical world would look upon his claim as preposterous, without even seriously considering it. Yet this venerable and learned man wrote as he did with no expectation of being honored for it; he did so at great expense to himself, and without hope of reward; in fact, he requested his publisher to contribute to the spreading of the Bible any profit which might accrue from the sale of his works. He sought for no personal following, nor did he attempt to organize a Church; although he foretold that a Church would be established on the basis of what was written by him.
But while these considerations are good reasons for making a serious inquiry and study of his works, they are in themselves not sufficient to convince us of the truth of what he wrote. We will later take up this claim, and will prove that what Swedenborg said about his mission is a certain fact, and that the evidence is sufficient to show all who search eagerly for the truth that, in his writings, God has revealed to mankind the ultimate truths of religion so long sought for. But, before examining the ground of belief in his declaration, we will quote the words of Swedenborg himself, in which he proclaims his Divine mission. For to him that searcheth for what is right the words of truth ring clear, like the tone of a bell in which there is no crack or flaw; while the words of a deceiver, though most artfully arranged, reveal their falseness to the sensitive ear.
THE TESTIMONY OF SWEDENBORG.
In a work entitled The True Christian Religion, Swedenborg writes as follows:
" The Second Coming of the Lord is effected by the instrumentality of a man, before whom He has manifested Himself in Person, and whom He has filled with His Spirit, to teach from Him the Doctrines of the New Church by means of the Word.
" Since the Lord cannot again manifest Himself in Person, and yet He has foretold that He would come and establish a New Church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that He will effect this by means of a man, who is able not only to receive the doctrines of that Church in his understanding, but also to publish them by the press. That the Lord manifested Himself before me, His servant, that He sent me on this office, and afterwards opened the sight of my spirit, permitting me to see the heavens and the hells, I testify in truth; and further that from the first day of my call to this office, I have never received anything relating to the doctrines of that Church from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I was reading the Word.
" To the end that the Lord might be constantly present, He revealed to me the spiritual sense of His Word, in which sense Divine Truth is in its light, and in this light the Lord is continually present." (No. 779-80).
In the opening words of the work Conjugial Love, Swedenborg states: " I foresee that many who read the things which follow, and the memorable things related at the end of the chapters, will believe that they arc inventions of the imagination; but I asseverate in truth that they are not inventions, but things actually done and seen; nor were they seen in sleep, but in a state of full wakefulness. For it has pleased the Lord to manifest Himself to me, and to send me to teach the things which will be of the New Church. To this end He has opened the interiors of my mind and spirit, whereby He has granted me to be in the spiritual world with the angels and at the same time in the natural world with men, and this now for twenty-five years." (No. 1.)
These words, coming as they do from one whose integrity cannot be doubted, as is proved by the overwhelming testimony of his contemporaries, must be true. During his lifetime even his strongest opponent said that Swedenborg " has at all times been universally honored, and besides has been distinguished for his learning in the sciences of mining and physics." Words coming from one whom even his antagonist praised, and whose opponents, in respect to his life, could find nothing to criticise, must surely be sincere. Many will say to themselves: "Yes, possibly sincere, but the man must have been mad! "
NO REASON TO DOUBT SWEDENBORG'S DECLARATION.
What great prophet or seer has not been considered mad by the worldly wise ? Festus said to Paul, " Thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad."
But Paul said, " I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth words of truth and soberness." (Acts 26:24, 25.) The Pharisees and Sadducees said of John the Baptist, " He hath a devil." (Matt. 11: 18.) And of the Lord Himself, we read: " There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, ' He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye Him?' Others said, ' These are not the words of him that hath a devil.'" (John 10: 19-21.)
That Swedenborg spoke in perfect soberness, and was very far from being mad, is proved by his life. He had been publishing numerous theological works anonymously for many years before he declared that He was their author, and during this time no one saw anything strange in his conduct. At the same time he was taking part in the discussions of the Swedish House of Nobles, and Count Hopken, at one time Prime Minister of Sweden, said of him: " He possessed a sound judgment upon all occasions; he saw everything clearly, and expressed himself clearly on every subject. The most solid memorials, and the best penned at the Diet of 1761, on matters of finance, were presented by him." (Tafel's Documents concerning Swedenborg, Vol. III, p. 408.) Swedenborg's claims caused people to question his state of mind, and the above statement was made in answer to a letter which someone had written to the Count. Such testimony might be increased indefinitely; but the real proof of Swedenborg's soundness of mind is in the books he wrote, works written throughout with the forcefulness of truth, and with a clarity and penetration of mind that is nothing less than marvellous.
In a letter addressed to the King of Sweden, Swedenborg wrote as follows:
" That our Saviour visibly revealed Himself before nir, and commanded me to do what I have done, and what I have still to do, and that thereupon He permitted me to have intercourse with angels and spirits, I have declared before the whole of Christendom, as well in England, Holland, Germany and Denmark, as in France and Spain, and also on various occasions in this country before their Royal Majesties, and especially when I enjoyed the grace to eat at their table, in the presence of the whole royal family and also of five senators and others; at which time my mission constituted the sole topic of conversation.
" Subsequently I have revealed this before many senators; and among these Count Tessin, Count Bonde and Count Hopken (a gentleman of enlightened understanding) have found it in truth to be so; without mentioning many others, as well at home as abroad, among whom are both kings and princes.
" All this, however, the office of the Chancellor of Justice, if the rumor is correctly stated, declares to be false, when yet it is truth. Should they reply that the thing is inconceivable to them, I have nothing to gainsay, since I am unable to put the state of my sight and speech into their heads, in order to convince them; nor am I able to cause angels and spirits to converse with them; nor do miracles happen now; but their very reason will enable them to see this, when they thoughtfully read my writings, wherein much may be found which has never before been discovered, and which cannot be discovered except by real vision and intercourse with those who are in the spiritual world. In order that reason may see this, I beg that one of your excellencies may peruse what has been said on this subject in my book on Conjugial Love.
"If any doubt should still remain, I am ready to testify with the most solemn oath that may be prescribed to me, that this is the whole truth and a reality, without the least fallacy.
" That our Saviour permits me to experience this, is not on my own account, but for the sake of a sublime interest which concerns the eternal welfare of all Christians. Since such is the real state of things, it is wrong to declare it to be untrue and false; although it may be pronounced to be something which cannot be comprehended." (Swedenborg Documents, Vol. III. pp. 373, 374.)
These are certainly not the words of a man whose mind is not clear; nevertheless many will not believe; they will say the thing is impossible. We can only answer in the words of Swedenborg:
" I am aware that few will believe that anyone can see the things which exist in the other life, and thence be enabled to give any account of the state of souls after death, because few believe in the resurrection ; and, in fact, fewer of the learned than of the simple. They affirm indeed with the mouth that they rise again, because it is according to the doctrine of faith; but still they deny it at heart. Nay, some openly avow that if anyone should rise from the dead, and they should see, and hear, and touch him, they would then believe. Were this, however, to take place, it must take place for every individual; and, after all, not a single person who denies in heart would thus be persuaded, but thousands of objections would arise in bis mind which would confirm him in his negative conclusion.
" Some, nevertheless, say they believe that they shall rise again, but not till the day of the last judgment, with respect to which they have formed the opinion that all the things in the visible world are then to perish, But as that day has been expected in vain for so many ages, they still have doubts. But what is meant by the last judgment, spoken of in the Word, will be briefly stated later. From this it may appear what sort of persons there are at this day in the Christian world.
"Lest, therefore, men should any longer confirm themselves in this false opinion, it has, by the Lord's Divine Mercy, been given me, while I am in the body in this world, to be in spirit in the other life, and there to speak with souls who have risen again not long after their decease, and indeed with almost all whom I knew in the life of the body, but who have since died; and to see stupendous sights, which have not entered into the idea of any man. Since very many say that they would believe, if anyone should come to them from the other life, it will now be seen whether they will be persuaded in spite of their obstinacy of heart." (Arcana Celestia, no. 1886, Preface.)
THE TOUCHSTONE OF TRUTH.
But how can we tell whether this revelation of the New Church is true or not ? What is the test by which we can verify it? The proof of a religion is this: If it is true, it will appeal to the intelligence of those who are genuinely seeking for truth, and it will also be satisfying to the heart. A genuine religion must be rational and consistent; it must shine with light, so that those who are searching may see truth in its own light,see it clearly so that the clouds of doubt are dissipated; it must also agree with the former revelation, as given in the Word of God, when clearly understood. Besides this, it must stir a man's love of God more deeply; it must raise his mind to heaven, and bring into his heart a fuller love of his neighbor; it must help him in struggles and temptations, and must bring consolation to those who seek it. If it fulfills these requirements, it is truly of God. That the New Revelation fulfills these requirements, yea, that it does far more, will be found by those who love truth for its own sake.
A SPECIFIC PROOF.
But there is also a more specific proof, a proof that is so sure that, when once seen, further doubts are impossible. To illustrate what we mean: Reader, if a man taught you a new language, taught you to read it so that you could take delight in its literature, there would be three things that you would be certain of, three things which no one could make you doubt. The first of these would be that the language you knew was a real language, and not a meaningless lot of letters; secondly, you would be sure that you could read the language; and thirdly, you would be certain that the man who taught you the language knew it, and had taught you correctly. On none of these points could there be any doubt.
Swedenborg tells us that the Bible, or Word of God, is written according to the language of correspondences, and if once we know this language, all the obscure parts become clear, and the Love and Wisdom of God shines through in every verse.
After publishing the Apocalypse Revealed,—a work explaining the Book of Revelation,—Swedenborg wrote to a friend as follows: " This year there has been published the Apocalypse Revealed, which was promised in the treatise on the Last Judgment, and from which it may be clearly seen that I converse with angels, because not the smallest verse in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) can be understood without revelation. Who can help seeing that by the New Jerusalem is understood a New Church, and that its doctrines can be discovered by the Lord alone, because they are described there by mere typical things, i.e., by correspondences; and, likewise, that these can be published to the world only by means of someone to whom revelation can be granted?
" I can solemnly bear witness that the Lord Himself has appeared to me, and that He has sent me to do that which I am doing now; and for this purpose He has opened the interiors of my mind, which are those of my spirit, so that I can see those things which are in the spiritual world, and hear those who are there, which privilege I have now had for twenty-two years.
" The mere bearing witness, however, does not suffice at the present day to convince men of this; but anyone of sound understanding may be confirmed by the testimony of my writings, and especially by the Apocalypse Revealed. Who has heretofore known anything about the spiritual sense of the Word; and about the spiritual world; or heaven and hell; also about man's life after death? Should these and many other things be perpetually hidden from Christians? They have now for the first time been disclosed for the sake of the New Church which is the New Jerusalem, and that they, its members, may know them; others, indeed, shall also know them, who yet do not know them on account of their unbelief." (Swedenborg Documents.)
SWEDENBORG NOT A SPIRITIST.
Before proceeding further we must note that Swedenborg was not what is called a spiritist, and that he condemned spiritism. He himself had never striven to tear aside the veil that separates the two worlds, and he was as surprised as anyone that God had called him to this mission. In answering a letter addressed to him, he said:
" The Lord, nevertheless, so disposes it that spirits and men are seldom brought together so closely as to converse with one another; for by intercourse with spirits men are brought into a condition as to their souls, that they are speedily in danger of their life; wherefore I would dissuade all from cherishing such desires. The Lord Himself has been pleased to introduce me into converse and intercourse with spirits and angels for the reasons that have been explained in my writings; wherefore I am protected by the Lord Himself from the many desperate attacks and attempts of the evil spirit." (Swedenborg Documents.)
THE SPIRIT WHICH GIVETH LIGHT.
Let us now turn to the explanation of the Word of God, as given to us in the Writings of Swedenborg. Let us examine this language of correspondences by which all things are made plain. But first we must warn the reader that learning a language is not an easy task, and that a hasty judgment cannot be made. Certain difficulties may arise which can only be solved by earnest study, but to him who perseveres the truth will be seen.
The language of correspondences is a very ancient language—a language which, to a certain degree, is imbedded in all other languages. It is not something artificial, but is inrooted in the very nature of the human mind. Everyone knows something of this language, but the greater part of it has been lost.
For example, everyone realizes that when the heart is spoken of in the Word, love is meant; but few know that by the stomach is meant the memory, as when it is said, " Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (John 7: 38.) Everyone knows that by light in the Word is meant the truth by which a man sees the things of the spirit; yet few know that by the sun is signified God, from whom that light comes, although it is written in the Psalms, " For the Lord God is a sun and shield." (84: 11.)
All know that by washing is signified the removal of evil, but all do not realize that the water with which man washes stands for the truths by which evils are removed. It is common knowledge that a fox is the symbol of cunning, but it is almost unknown that the horse is the symbol of understanding, and in the Word it means especially the understanding of the Holy Scripture. (See Rev. 19: 11-13.)
That to advance or go forward means the increase of intelligence, is imbedded in the very nature of our speech; yet, strange to say, few know that in the Word by journeying from one place to another is signified a change of state or point of view in regard to something of the Church.
Who cannot see that, when Isaiah said, " And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it," (2: 2), that he did not refer to the mountains of this world? Nor was it merely a poetic fancy, but that mountains signify all that is exalted, all that is above the commonplace things of our life, and especially the love of God.
There is nothing more natural than the correspondence that exists between the things of the spirit and the things of nature. We can see this correspondence most dearly manifested in the relation of mind and body. If a man is sincere, every expression of his face corresponds to the state of his mind; it is evident that there is a most close and natural relation between a happy frame of mind and a smile, between a weary mind and a sigh. The relation of the natural images used in the Word to the spiritual things which they signify is quite as obvious when one comes to understand and see them.
If we study ancient history, we find that in those times symbolism played a much greater part in men's lives than it does at present. Every thought and feeling was represented by some object in nature; tribes were universally represented by animals, which were railed their totem. This attitude of mind has not entirely ceased; for England is still thought of as symbolized by a Lion, and America by the Eagle.
Recent studies in psychology have tended to emphasize the symbolization that takes place even in dreams. There is nothing in one's mind which may not be symbolized in dreams by some person or object. Swedenborg discovered many years ago this relation of mental states and objective appearances in dreams which is just now coming into prominence. He also showed that the whole Word was a symbolization or representation of the Divine Mind.
To understand the general misapprehension of the Bible, or Word, let us put ourselves in the place of a future race which has no symbolism. A race of this type, seeing men such as Uncle Sam and John Bull, which were obviously connected with countries, could not make head or tail of the cartoons they dug up, and would arrive at strange conjectures.
To the ancient men who wrote the Word, the modern literal interpretations would appear equally absurd. It is a repetition of the story of the woman of Samaria. The Lord spoke to her spiritually and she could only understand His words naturally or literally. He said to her: " If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." The woman said unto Him: " Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast Thou that living water? " (John 4: 10, 11.)
In a short work such as the present one we cannot fully demonstrate the spiritual sense which everywhere lies concealed in the Word. We can only give a few illustrations of the Divine meaning that lies hidden beneath the letter, and then refer our readers to the two great works of Swedenborg which present this sense, the Arcana Celestia and the Apocalypse Revealed, where anyone who is in search of the things of God can find the mysteries of the Holy Scripture fully revealed.
The Bible, or Word of God, is a body in which the Spirit resides. The literal or natural sense clothes the Mind of God as a garment clothes a man. But the Word has in it passages in which the Spirit and internal sense shine through the letter, and appear openly to the eyes of man, in the same way as a man's face and hands are not covered by clothing, but reveal to others his personality. The "Golden Rule" and the " Two Great Commandments " are examples of the numerous places in the Gospels where the spiritual sense stands uncovered and open to view.