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altogether insufficient in themselves for securing positive truth and producing absolute conviction. Only God Himself can give the full assurance of certitude with regard to interior things : and the secret of the weakness of modern Spiritualism ; the reason of its spasmodic quarrellings and reconciliations with Spiritism; the causes of its indeterminateness and unrest—these are explained by what follows. Swedenborg continues, after a few lines we pass over:
“I cannot so confirm those things I have written as to be able to call God to witness; for I cannot tell yet whether the several words of the description are such, and to that extent exact, as truly to coincide. For this reason, they shall undergo such emendation some other time as shall leave me satisfied I have spoken what is strictly true" (475).
If Swedenborg had not seen this as soon as he did, we should have had volumes of poetic description, and startling history, instead of the soul-searching truths and Christ-revealing science of the new theology. Appearances are to be judged not by themselves but by their causes. Thomas saw his risen Saviour, as only a doubter could see Him, in an imperfect guise. Swedenborg's wisdom, as the above extracts show,
, would have counselled a longer waiting, a purer light, and a greater elevation of state, ere the risen Lord could be seen in that beauty of perfection from which He never departed, and towards which the pure in heart are forever to rise.
Twenty-five years later we find Swedenborg writing : “From the first day of my call to this office I have never received anything relating to the doctrines of the New Church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while I was reading the Word” (T. C. R. 779); the above gives the reason! Had Swedenborg continued to report only angeltalk, had he been content to let himself remain a mere pipe for any spirit to touch and intune, he might have become the organ of a sect, but could never have been the announcer of the creation of a new heaven which, in time, should give us a new earth, and from which he should bring us all needful doctrines and laws, each stamped with the One King's image and superscription. “All I have received has been from the Lord alone, Who has been revealed to me, and afterwards has appeared (and still continually appears) before my eyes as a sun in which He Himself is, precisely as He appears to the angels” (D. P. 135). We thus see why Swedenborg never published the “ Adversaria;” it was not for the angelic teaching but for illustration from the Lord that his interior sight was chiefly opened. Indeed, Swedenborg had not proceeded half way through the first volume before he found that the
work could probably only serve for further use under the light of absolute certitude. He had begun it as a book for the public (“Credite, Lectores !” No. 210); at the head of each succeeding chapter, for a while, two translations—Castellio's and Smith's—are given in full; an orderly exposition follows; places are marked for lengthy philosophic notes, such as in the book on the “Worship and Love of God,"
“ 6 but
With this word (“ sed—”) the scheme broke down at page 217 of this first volume. From this time one translation often suffices, sometimes only a portion of that, occasionally three translations are appealed to. But instead of the public getting a book of beautiful immaturities it is made a private commentary and theological note-book,--a register of divine and angelical instructions continually raising Swedenborg nearer The TRUTH. His subsequent writings show that in after years he found it a safe and a wise course to return at times to this book, take forth from it what was at first imperfectly set down, nay imperfectly given, re-read it for confirmation from the Divine, and finally eternize what was thus sanctioned as God's thought in man's.
This shows us what our attitude towards Spiritualism should be: not to brand with ungenerous contempt its exquisite imagery, delicate sentiment, and oftentimes inspiring thought, but, in the light of New Church Doctrine from the Lord, to use it as Swedenborg used it while ever rising above it. The unifying principle of Humanity transcends the beautiful but forms it; the law of progression is to advance from this to that: but every grace with which our idealizing faculty has adorned its conceptions, every charm with which ästhetics have. dowered our fantasy, is another power for Use, an additional ornament for Culture, a further means to higher Good, a new mirror in which the All-Beautiful Himself may be contemplated by the truth-trusting student.
This leads us to another interesting point in Swedenborg's heavenly education. While he was so strangely balanced between Trinitarian and Monotheistic spiritual societies, not only was there the wise innocence of the first Church to raise him higher and higher, but there was also the innocent wisdom and warm affectional companionship of heaven-taught angel-infants to temper his thought with blessedness. “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Swedenborg was a great lover of children; and often did Mr. Hart, the printer of the “Arcana Cælestia,” pause to gaze upon the venerable man of eighty years, as the
latter toyed with the other's little maiden of three summers. What a subject for a poem that heaven-walker's thoughts as he rested awhile to look upon the mirthful
of that innocence of earth ? “ Heaven hangs about us in our infancy,” and no doubt the old man felt himself still in heaven while within the sound of that infant's laugh. "My children will miss him most," said his landlady to the Amsterdam merchant, Cuno, "for he never goes out but he brings them something nice : the little things are fonder of him than of me and their
We now, at the period to which the present article refers, find Swedenborg among a band of such little ones in the Spiritual World. They instruct him respecting that Divine plan whereby the line of David was permitted to remain intact until He was born who should seek to bring back Paradise among them, and restore the tree of Life. The passage, with others named, was, he says, “ told, and indeed expressed to the very words themselves, by children who were with him at that time, and who both spake by his mouth and directed his hand" (459).
If this state of passivity had its uses, so also had that tranquillity he discourses of some pages further on, where he pictures those “innumerable celestial spirits (departed saints among them) so associated together in one body that they formed, as it were, a man, and flowed in thus with such unanimity that not the least sense of discord was perceptible.” “An image of God's kingdom, the sweetness and felicity proceeding thence were so great, that no words could convey the feeling: it penetrated and affected every fibre and the inmost of my frame in a way altogether ineffable” (541).
What a happy alternation of life must now have been experienced by this man of “plain living and high thinking !"—to follow out the old duties of Assessorship, the new duties of Seership,—business converse and angelic intercourse! Travellers tell us of his favourite summer-house or study—“ to him dukedom enough”—cheerful as it must then have looked in its “ dark red lines on yellow ground, white window-frames and black roof," all contrasting so well with the green of the vine which clambered about it. We can fancy we see the
rays of a setting autumn sun throwing its golden bars athwart the leaded geometrical lights, and falling upon the little organ of white and gold, the smooth and shining panelling, the table and the desk, as the door is opened by Swedenborg himself. “Of a stature a little above the common, of very perfect form, erect and easy in his gait, 1 See White, ii. 581.
3 Ibid. ii. 422.
with a placid expression of dignity beaming from his countenance, he sits down to his simple meal, and—while sipping the coffee he was so fond of having sweet—he goes back, in imagination, to that England he had so recently left. Then his thoughts would recur to earlier visitings; his boyhood would come into memory's sight; and then that Home of childhood wherein those hopes of travelling were first indulged. How different this new home compared with that old one, in which the first deep thoughts of angel-land were aroused in his mind while engaged. in family converse. That wise father of his, Bishop Jesper Svedberg, would again be throwing out his bold figures of speech, his apt texts, his learned conjectures, while they spake of that mysterious Heaven above and its Omnipotent Supreme. In such converse one hymn of the father's, that “Of Good Angels,” 2 would come in for talk; it was so strange! so beautiful! and it ran as if there were but one God “OUR FATHER," and that He should come in the clouds to judgment. In the long interval between youth and ripe manhood Swedenborg had seen much, had learned more than most, but only now was he finding that heaven was indeed very near, was rich in human ministrations, and truly an image of One Supreme God, coming to him now as the Lord Jesus, and gradually dispelling the old creedisms and hopes. A prayer is breathed that all may become still clearer and lead to a consummation worthy of its solemn import, “it will ! the promise has been given, and, the Lord aiding, His will shall be done !" Warm with the glow of confidence and love, Swedenborg turns to the organ, and in the first shadows of evening-while the swallows are pausing in their flight to a sunnier clime—he sings that trustful song of his father's, that song so doubly true of himself :Be thanks and honour Thine, O God, for secret watch and favour;
Thy angels move in gladness near and screen from Satan's power. 'Tis Thine to speak and swift they seek Thy vineyard, O my Saviour,
And shelt'ring shield Thy chosen fruit in peril's darkest hour. Along my rude benighted way they guide the lonely stranger;
In hero-strength they aid my feet when fears would else increase. In hosts they glide and far and wide repel each threat’ning danger;
Now round my silent cottage-door they pitch their tents in peace. They come to me with benison as once to Israel dreaming;
Like Daniel, me they save and bless when cruel foes would kill ; Like Lot, they me would warn, would free from doom with vengeance teeming,
Like Peter's chains my thralls they break; my woes, like Paul's, they still.
i See White, ii. 346.
2 Swedish Psalter, No. 36, “Gud ware tack,” &c.
They joy where'er a slave of sin repents, and homeward wending,
Reflects, while many a sorrowing sigh reveals his thought, his state ; Then streaming near from heaven's bright sphere, sweet angel strains descending,
Tell “He, like us, is saved through grace: hosanna! God is great." Be mine, O Lord, the blessedness to rise towards their greeting ;
Be mine to swell those seraph-hosts that fill Thy realm above; O would they bear my soul from care Thy mercy still intreating,
Then let not sin avail, my King, to part me from Thy love. Thine, Father, is that soft repose which follows mortal sorrow;
'Tis Thine to let good angels guide redeemed ones to Thy knee ; And thine, at last, with judgment's blast to make the heavenly morrow, Then may I rest an angel blest for ever Lord with Thee.
THE PROPHETIC SPIRIT. 1
The object of the erudite and exhaustive work before us is critically to compare the spirit of prophecy, as manifested both in ancient and in modern times, with all forms of madness or mental aberration, to analyze the respective phenomena of both, and to point out the characters by which one may be distinguished from the other. We may at once say that Mr. Clissold has admirably discharged this task, and few will be disposed to doubt that the time had arrived when some such vindication of the prophetic character was urgently needed. The tendency of modern psychology, as of too many of the sciences, has been towards a gross materialism, the logical end of which can only be the complete destruction of revealed truth, not to speak of the weakening or annihilation of all those higher beliefs as to his nature and mission which seem inherent to man, apart from any direct revelation. Thus, it has been gravely asserted by eminent authorities, that life is a property of certain forms of matter; that thought is a secretion of the brain, as bile is a product of the liver; that forethought or presentiment is inherent in organized matter; that poetry and religious feelings are a secretion of a portion of the digestive canal; and, in short, that man's superiority over the brutes is wholly due to the possession of a more cunningly-devised mechanism by the complex working of which all his psychical characters and endowments are elaborated. It is needless to point out that such doctrines must inevitably lead to the rejection of
The Prophetic Spirit in its Relation to Wisdom and Madness. By the Rev. Augustus Clissold, M. A. London, Longmans and Green, 1870.