« PreviousContinue »
nificent, but in the spiritnal kingdom they are more or less magnificent.” “All the preachers," he says (H. H. 225), “belong to the Lord's spiritual kingdom, and none to the celestial kingdom, because the inhabitants of the spiritual kingdom are in truths derived from good, and all preaching is from truths." Three times, in the T. C. R. (4, 100, 791), the twelve Apostles are described as commissioned by the Lord to preach in the spiritual world the gospel of His Second Advent. At the same time it must be remembered that “real divine worship in the heavens does not consist in frequenting churches and hearing sermons, but in a life of love, charity, and faith, according to doctrine ; and sermons in the churches only serve as means of instruction in the conduct of life” (H. H. 222).
Besides the occupations already glanced at, Swedenborg refers to many others as engaging the activities of angels; indeed, there seems no pursuit which interests mankind and develops human excellence which has not some equivalent in the heavens. Take, as an illustration, the delights of travel, so absorbing to many minds, and productive upon earth of such powerful aid to civilization and enlightenment. These pleasures may be enjoyed hereafter on a scale and with a perfectness of which the most daring explorers can now form no conception. For in the spiritual world also there are climates and zones, dependent, not as here, on distances from the equator, but on variations in the state of love and thought (T. C. R. 185), and all marked by peculiarities as distinct and real as those which discriminate between the various regions of the earth. More than this, the men of antique remote periods, entirely different in genius from the present, and who still perpetuate the characteristic qualities of their respective circles, whether known as the Golden Age, the Silver, or the Brazen, may be and are visited by all who desire a friendly intercourse and an acquaintance with their wisdom (C. L. 75, 76, 77). Even those living before the revelation of the existing Word, who possessed the more ancient Scriptures, now extinct, or preserved only in some at present undiscovered part of Tartary, lie open to the inquiring research of the spiritual traveller, who may perhaps learn somewhat of those venerable sacred books which they still retain, but the very names of which, except for a few obscure allusions in the Bible, would be unknown (T. C. R. 279). Yea, every inhabited planet of the stellar universe, separated from us by distances whose stupendous vastness the mind aches in vain to realize, may, in the eternal future, become an object of familiar knowledge, on whose strange, novel marvels the mind may delight to range.
For, says Swedenborg (A. C. 9438), “Those who are in heaven can discourse and converse with angels and spirits, who are not only from the earths in this solar system, but also with those who are from earths in the universe out of this system ; and not only with spirits and angels thence, but also with the inhabitants themselves, whose interiors have been opened, so as to be able to hear those who speak from heaven." Those also who have lived together in friendship upon earth, although of different characters and genius, insomuch that in the after life they dwell in separate heavens, are not, on that account, for ever parted, but are permitted to visit one another, and from time to time to renew the happy intercourse begun below (T. C. R. 386 ; A. R. 875). Yea, angels can change their societies, according to the Lord's pleasure, from one to another, into thousands and myriads, and
can converse with all throughout the whole of heaven” (S. D. 2091, 2096).
Neither are those artistic manual occupations which delight the soul, and fittingly embody its qualities and aspirations, there interdicted. Angelic skill executes wonderful and beautiful works, feminine taste still produces exquisite embroidery and needle-work, which form graceful presents and adornments (C. L. 207), and takes pleasure, as here, in weaving flowery garlands (C. L, 293). It is stated (A. C. 552), "I observed some angelic spirits busily employed in forming a candlestick with its sconces and decorations, all after a most exquisite taste, in honour of the Lord. It was given me to attend to them for an hour or two, during which time I was witness to the pains they took, in order that the whole and every part might be beautiful and representative.” Thus there is reason to believe that the glories of art also number with the beatific employments of the angels, that Raphael, and Michel Angelo, and other potent wizards with the canvas or the marble are there producing works of loveliness and grandeur transcending their loftiest inspirations here.
So also, although mere science for the sake of natural research is always spoken of by Swedenborg with great contempt, still, it seems evident, that science studied to elucidate the divine beneficence and wisdom is not despised in heaven. He tells that all angels are most intimately versed in the secrets of anatomy (A. C. 3626), learning them not by the painful processes forced upon earthly students, but by the living truths of correspondence (A. C. 2992). He sometimes represents them as acquainted most profoundly with natural history (T. C. R. 335), and as skilled in geometry (T. C. R. 387, and A. R. 875). Botany, also, is mentioned as a science which those who loved it here delightedly resume in the other world, and find facilities and rewards for its pursuit of which they had previously no idea (A. C. 4529).
But the angels are not limited, in the exercise of beneficence and usefulness, to heaven and the world of spirits. They also visit the hells, always on messages of mercy, to restrain the evils of the unhappy beings there from breaking out with unrestrained violence, and, when the pains necessary to maintain such order as is there possible are in process of infliction, to mitigate their violence to the utmost, and prevent the cruel fiends who delight in administering torture from exceeding the permitted limit (A. C. 967).
Oh, gracious Lord, Who grant'st to all
Whate'er their life will bless,
Thy goodness to confess.
Their joys may I disclose;
In cheerful cadence flows.
Thou triest my content to prove
With all I may contain ;
The fulness doth remain;
And leavest me the wine :
And all the gold is Thine !
Or wrongs my gain impair?
Than affluence to bear.
Revive the fainting breast;
Soon sinks the life opprest.
On whom my hopes relied ?
Their failure hath supplied.
Doth sickness bind with fett'ring hand
To feeble frame my soul?
Can make my spirit whole.
With mirage false and fair,
Have melted into air;
Their chosen course should bend,
My one eternal Friend.
Should hopes be dimmed, or new delight
In troublous time be born,
The wrongful need of scorn ;
And still, though life be long,
The night receive my song.
Though adverse waves prevail,
A refuge from the gale;
In passion's angry moans,
Contentment's tuneful tones.
RELIGION AND MORALITY.
It has been said that “the doctrines of the New Church lead to a greater purity of life, and promote a higher standard of morality.” To New Churchmen this statement is the simple truth. We know that, carried into practice, the New Church Doctrines do lead to greater purity of life, and promote a higher standard of morality. Not that morality does not exist in the world, apparently apart from those doctrines; but that the kind of morality they inculcate involves more than that which is usually defined as belonging to it. It is not for us to impugn the quality of the morality which is practised in the world about us; but rather to show that all morality is spurious which is not based upon the recognition of God's existence, and of His Divine Love and Wisdom as its only source.
We know that every day masses of men and women fulfil the rules of morality: they obey strictly the duties and amenities of civil and social life; they neither steal nor commit adultery; they do no murder, nor bear false witness against their neighbour; and in so refraining they show propriety of conduct and respect for the laws which regulate society; they moreover acknowledge that the infraction of these laws involves criminality, and must subject them to the punishment of the civil courts. But what kind of morality is that which is exercised solely from a dread of consequences? or from the scarcely higher motive, founded upon the belief that because the observance of these laws is necessary for the well-being of the community, it is expedient that men should be moral! Does such morality sink deeper than mere surface observance? does it do more than affect the external conduct of the actor, suggest more than the desire to be supposed moral in the sight of others? It is easy to see that such morality is perfectly compatible with selfish motives, nay, that it may coexist with the deepest corruption of heart and perversity of nature. And let it be said that it is well for man that the laws of civil and social life, which are recognized by Governments, are of the Divine Providence of such a character when enforced, as to secure external propriety of conduct; otherwise, the inborn selfishness and evil of the human heart would impel man to burst all bounds, fill the world with robbery, rapine, and murder, and destroy the very foundations of society. Now it is the mission of the New Church to show to the world the relation which should exist between purity of heart and motive, in a word, between regeneration of the internal man and the outward observance of the laws of morality. And more than this, to show, as I said before, that they both, inward and outward, spring from the same source, viz.,—the Love and Wisdom of God. Whence, let me ask, has originated the code of laws by which Governments have been enabled to repress crime, to sustain morality, and to secure the greatest external liberty and good to the greatest number? Search, and you will find that whether in the records of heathen sage, of Jewish prophet, or Christian Apostle, they are wholly and entirely the direct products of Divine Revelation. Summarize them all, and you will discover that they are included in the commandments of the Decalogue, given to Moses on the heights of Sinai. Every affection of good, and every principle of truth in the universe, comes alone from Him who is goodness itself and truth