« PreviousContinue »
from which all things that are can exist; and as God is substance in itself, it is evident that the existence of all things is from no other source.
Many have seen this, but feared to confirm it, fearing lest they might come to think that the created universe is God, because it is from God, or that nature exists from itself, and thus that the inmost principle of nature is what is called God." The great difficulty which is likely to present itself in regard to this view arises from thinking that, on this principle, nature is continuous from, and therefore a part of God. In God, however, all is uncreate and infinite; in nature all is created and finite. And in considering creation as the work of God, we ought to contemplate it as the effect of the Divine Life, producing for itself first spiritual and then natural things for its reception and manifestation.
With such views as these we may be enabled to see that creation, in all its gradations, must bear such a relation to the Divine Being as a work must bear to the end from which, and the intelligence by which, it is produced. The one great end which God undoubtedly had in view in creation was, to people heaven with happy beings, that His own perfection and bliss might be perpetually exhibited in, and enjoyed by His created image, man. All creation must be considered as a means to this end ; and everything existing must, as it were, include it. All things in creation are not only subordinate and subservient to man as a natural being, but are actually effects, and consequently types of the moral qualities existing in his own mind, and are therefore auxiliary to his moral improvement, as well as conducive to his bodily support and temporal happiness. Man was indeed the last of the Divine works, and it may seem inconsistent to assert that all the lower subjects of creation are not only types of his moral qualities, but effects from them. But although man was the last created, he was the first in the Divine Mind in the beginning and progress of the Divine work; and into man were collected and concentrated all the elements, so to speak, of both the natural and spiritual worlds. In man, therefore, heaven and the world unite; in him the worlds of mind and of matter exist in epitome; and man is at once a subject of the spiritual and of the natural world.
When we assert that the spiritual world is a world of causes, we speak of it in its connection with the spirit of man, and thus consider it as the world of mind, as distinguished from the world of matter. This is not to be understood as implying what naturalists sometimes maintain, that there is no spiritual world, and no heaven as a place.
If the Scriptures are true, there is a world, the future conscious abode of man as a purely spiritual being, as real at least as that which he inhabits while in the body.
In whatever form or condition matter may be supposed to exist, it is in itself dead ; and all the life by which it is animated is in its nature spiritual, and is derived continually from spirit. The sun indeed, by its heat and light, seems to animate the whole creation, and not only to delight our senses, but to exhilarate our minds. But in these effects the sun is but the medium by which life from God, through the sun of the spiritual world, operates those effects. The sun of the natural world is pure fire, and incapable of producing those effects independently of a continually operating spiritual cause. Nor can organization give to matter any power of operating independently of a living and active spiritual cause. Life and organization are two distinct things, and organization is not the cause, but the effect of life. There is, in. deed, but one Life, and God is that Life; and this by influx is the life of all that live. To ascribe any cause to nature is to ascribe a living power to a dead form ; for whatever is merely natural is dead, and all the life which it possesses is not from itself, or in itself, but from above. One grand distinction between the Creator and His creation is this, that the Creator is Life, and the creature is a recipient of life. Life is uncreatable. Life is not given by creation, but by influx. Life is no more a part of the organism than light is a part of the eye, or sound of the ear. In God we live and move, and have our being. But while the Creator constantly imparts life to us, which is as the sun that warms us and the air we breathe, He gives it by an influx that leaves us the sense of independent existence. He does not oppress us with a sense of obligation. This would take away our freedom, and leave us no exercise for our reason, and no choice for our will. But while taking away the sense of our dependence, He has given us the faculty of discernment, and taught us by Revelation the nature of the relation we bear to Him. And not only so, but He has shown to us that our true welfare and happiness depend on our recognising Him to be the author of our existence and the sustainer of our life.
When we regard creation, not as called into existence by a mere fiat of the Divine will, but as an outbirth from His Love and Wisdom, we can see that it must be in a certain sense an image of the Divine Mind which produced it. Not indeed such an image as man is—not, as he is, a likeness. But that which is formed must bear the impress of the mind which formed it. And that Mind which formed the universe must still inform it. The Divine must animate and direct that which it produced. And thus while we see in the immensity of creation an image of God's infinity, and in its endurance an image of His eternity, we see in its harmonies and beauties and uses, not merely the presence of His directing mind, but the unfoldings, and therefore the expressions, of His wisdom and benevolence. And when we see that there is a harmonious relation between God as the First Cause, and the spiritual world as the instrumental cause, and the natural world as the effect, and that the First Cause must be in the instrumental cause, and that both must be in the effect, we know that both the Lord and His kingdom must be near us, and even within us—near us in the creation, which is sustained and animated by them ; within us the created recipients of Divine and spiritual life, which gives us the capability, and as far as possible inspires us with the desire, of realizing the great end of our creation—a life of usefulness and happiness.
THE EMPLOYMENTS OF ANGELS.
WHEN children in heaven have so progressed that the first infantile training is no longer suitable, they receive more advanced teaching from masters properly qualified for the work (H. H. 334), and so proceed, from nursery, as it were, to school, and school to college, until duly versed in the essentials of angelic wisdom. And there, as here, learners are encouraged in their studies by appropriate rewards, consisting sometimes of beautiful caps and garments (T. C. R. 113 ; A. R., 830), whose forms and colours doubtless reflect the qualities which the young students are acquiring. Indeed, I remember to have read somewhere in Swedenborg (though I have failed to find the passage), that children in the other world are admonished as to the nature of the affections and thoughts they cherish, by changes in the appearance of their clothes ; every selfish tendency causing some disfigurement or stain, which only vanishes on the removal of the quality which caused it, while love and usefulness give their robes a brighter lustre. Nor is the school-time of the angels a period of uninterrupted study. Like boys and girls on earth, they have their play-hours. Thus it is written (T. C. R. 745; C. L. 17): "At noon the gates opened, and in the afternoon the windows also in
some houses, and the boys and girls play in the streets, while their masters and governesses sit in the porches of the houses, watching over them and keeping them in order. On the sides of the city, at its extremity, there are various sports of boys and young men, such as running, hand-ball, and tennis : there are besides trials of skill among the boys in order to discover the readiness of their wit in speaking, acting, and perceiving ; and to those who excel are given some laurel leaves as a reward ; not to mention other similar things, designed to call forth and exercise the latent talent of the young people."
The subject of education in the heavens naturally excites inquiry as to the means of mental culture employed there, respecting which Swedenborg is full of specific and most interesting information. Thus, besides the tuition by representatives, to which we have already referred, he states that there are libraries, museums, gymnasia, and colleges ; with pens and ink, books and writings, scribes who copy most elegantly the works of the wise (T. C. R. 694; C. L. 207), and literary men walking, as on earth, with their dearly cherished volumes under their arm and pens behind their ears (C. L. 151). But here, also, the cumbrousness now attending the corresponding activities is entirely removed. “It is worthy of remark” (H. H.262) “ that writings in the heavens flow naturally from the very thoughts of the angels, and are executed so easily, that it is as if thought went forth into form ; nor does the hand pause for the choice of a word, because the words themselves, whether written or spoken, correspond to the ideas of angelic thought; and all correspondence is natural and spontaneous. There are also writings in the heavens produced without the aid of the hand, derived from mere correspondence with the thoughts, but these are not permanent." The Memorable Relations abound in allusions to angelic writings, often described as received in the spiritual world for the instruction of novitiates, or to suggest questions for their consideration. It even probable that some of the books used upon earth are not entirely unknown in the other life, for in a region occupied by those undergoing vastation previous to their entrance among the lost, Swedenborg was shown several infidel works which were at that time the admiration of many in France, Germany, Holland, and England (C. L. 380); and on another occasion, under somewhat similar circumstances, he saw the Formula Concordiæ (T. C. R. 503), one of the great bulwarks of that Solifidian theology against which he was divinely
commissioned to publish the pure doctrines of the Second Advent. If, therefore, the mischievous books of this world exist there among the evil, it seems not unreasonable to suppose that its salutary literature may have an analogous position with the good. Indeed, Swedenborg describes his own works on the Divine Love and Wisdom and the Divine Providence as lying on a table of cedar wood, in a beautiful garden surrounding a temple of Wisdom, and evidently belonging to a very exalted quarter of the Intermediate World (A. R. 875; T. C. R. 386); and these volumes were apparently placed there for the perusal of angelic spirits, i.e. of good men undergoing final preparation for admission into their eternal home. In another place he states (H. H. 463), “I once saw some books with writing in them, similar to those in the world, and was informed that they were taken from the memory of their authors, and that not one word contained in the original works was omitted.” Whether such reproduction of the earthly fruits of genius is common in the other life, or whether it exists in the heavens, or is limited to the world of spirits, are questions of considerable interest, into which, however, we cannot at present enter. Probably the more books abound in interior truths, and the less in mere temporal and material ideas, the greater their prospect of achieving this literary immortality. And certainly all who have here loved literature, and worthily employed their powers to increase the stock of happiness and wisdom, will there resume the congenial employment, and dispense similar benefits; for (H. H. 461) " he who is delighted with studies, reads and writes as before.” One revels in the thought of the results flowing from the angelic industry of Shakespeare, and Milton, and Swedenborg, and Scott, and Macaulay; the legion of the great and good, whose volumes, written in their imperfect state of pupilage, are even now the joy and marvel of our life.
One at least of the books which ought to be our present delight and counsel will remain with us hereafter, with undiminished authority and power. I of course mean the Divine Word. The statement (Ps. cxix. 89), “For ever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven," is most precisely and gloriously true. Its sacred verities are, to eternity, the welcome study of every angel; and no one, not even the most enlightened, can exhaust its infinity of wisdom (T. C. R. 290, 350). Various interesting and curious particulars are related as to its existence there. “Kept in the most sacred recesses of the temples in that world, it shines in the sight of the angels like a great star, and sometimes like a sun, and from the bright radiance with which it is