« PreviousContinue »
one, I do not believe it to be either an Apostolic or prophetic book.” To apply Wetstein's remark upon this slashing piece of sacred criticism:— Swedenborg is condemned for the judicious discrimination he makes between some books and others without rejecting any : Luther is venerated as an oracle, notwithstanding he, without discrimination, rejects some books altotogether, and prefers some of the others to the rest merely as they seem to favor, or otherwise, his favorite notions : – "Let them who can decide thus, consider, whether they are not straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel !"
On the whole, it is abundantly plain to all who know what Swedenborg teaches on the subject, that he neither attempts to add anything to the Word of God, nor to take aught from it : and to think of raising, out of his sound and truly learned doc. trine on this point, a plea against his perfect sanity and solid wisdom, is little short of insanity and weakness of the most preposterous description.
I beg still to add a word on the charge against Swedenborg of mental derangement, to introduce a desperate accusation that has been brought against him.
It may, I believe, be said with truth, that no one can seriously read much of his works, possessing, at the same time, an adequate knowledge of his history, and continue to think him in
This has been evinced by the conduct of some of the most inveterate of his adversaries. Men prejudiced against him in the strongest degree, and determined to find in his works nothing to approve, have yet felt that the imputation against him of mental derangement could not be supported. None, for instance, would think of casting on a man distinguished through a long life by every virtue, the charge of intentional deception, unless, while anxious to suppress his opinions, they despaired of rendering probable the imputation of a perversion of intellect. The Abbe Barruel one of the most acrimonious of his assailants, was well aware of this; and, accordingly, the accusation of imposture, rather than that of insanity, is that which he chiefly labored to render plausible.* So the author of the “ Trial of the Spirits,” noticed above,t who exhibits throughout his work a more intemperate hostility and utter disregard of truth than almost any other of Swedenborg's enemies, is constrained to acknowledge that the charge against him of insanity cannot be maintained : so he substitutes for it that of diabolical possess.
* Of which see a most triumphant refutation in Letters to a Member of Par liament on the Character and Writings of Baron Swedenborg in answer to the Albe Barruel: by the late Rev. J. Clowes, M. A.
† Having repeatedly mentioned this publication, I would refer the reader, for a just account of it and its author, to “the Intellectual Repository." Vol. i. Second Series, p. 590, &c., p. 648, &c. and Vol. ii. p. 59. &c., j). 156, &c. It is there proved, that the author is the Rev. W'. Ettrick, M. A., of High Barns near Sunderland,
ion ! “Swedenborg does not,” he says, “seem to have really labor:d under any natural derangement of his “interiors,' or vulgar insanity ; — but if we acquit him of lunacy or hydro. phobia, we cannot absolve him of diobolomania.' 66 If mad. ness of any kind can be rationally imputed to Swedenborg, it can be no ordinary insanity, or mere derangement of intellect, from bodily or even mental disease ; but must be truly of thal species which was also impiously attempted to be charged on the blessed Jesus a demoniacal madness, (Matt. xi. 18.) he hath a devil.”+ The parallel, in this respect, is, undoubtedly a just one, and the charge is as true in the one case as in the other. We have seen above how exalted and amiable the character of Swedenborg is universally allowed to have been, - how completely serene and happy were his life and death : could such be the state of a man who was the organ of evil spirits ? Yet there is no alternative, according to this adversary, (in which we fully agree with him), between believing Swedenborg to have been such an organ, and believing all his writings to be true. Which is the more probable, let the candid reader decide.
Here, then, I close this SECTION on Swedenborg as the Human Instrument for announcing the Second Coming
of the Lord, and for communicating the truths then to be discovered ; and I trust it has been shown, that there is much to authenticate, and nothing of any validity to impugn, his claims to be accepted in that character.
Why is this not generally seen? Because Christians in general now, like the Jews at the Lord's first advent, have their minds preoccupied with erroneous conceptions respecting spiritual subjects : because, as the Jews were possessed with gross but darling notions respecting the earthly kingdom of the Messiah, and the perpetual carnal observation of the ceremonial law, and thus were disqualified for relishing the spiritual things which he declared were contained in that law; so Christians are possessed with external but fondly cherished sentiments respecting all the great points of the religion of Jesus, and with the persuasion that it is to continue unaltered, as professed by them, till the end of the world; and are thus disqualified for relishing the truly heavenly doctrines and really spiritual ideas which are now shown to be contained in the Word of God. Perceiving, on a slight inspection, that the views presented by Swedenborg oppose their prejudices, few take the trouble to make themselves sufficiently acquainted with his writings to be able to form anything like a correct judgment respecting their truth and credibility: yet I apprehend, even the most prejudiced will hardly deny, that the spiritual sense opened by his
† Pg. 6, 7.
* P 177.
instrunientality, if true, is a discovery of such importance as to be worthily referred to God. But let us hope that the reign of prejudice, though it has lasted long, will soon, in this as in so many other instances, be broken down. The Lord at his coming in the flesh was crucified ; no wonder then that, when appearing again in the opening of a higher order of Truth in his Word, he should be rejected : but as he then rose again, and from his throne in heaven extended his reign over multitudes who then first began to acknowledge him, so, doubtless, the hour is coming when an influence from himself in heaven will accompany his Word as opened, - when the prejudices which oppose its reception will be abolished from the minds of multitudes, — and when they will again “ look upon him whom they have pierced,” and accept the truth they have denied. Begin then, I intreat you, ye Candid and Reflecting, to use the freedom which, by the accomplishment of the Last Judgment, is restored to the human mind. Suffer, in your own breasts, the power of prejudice to reign no longer. Take the pains fairly to estima‘e ihe views of, and from, the Word of God presented by Swedenborg, not rejeeting the whole as soon as you find something that differs from your previous opinions, or that you do not imme. diately understand : and the result, I trust will be, that you
will find them, as compared with the Word of God, testifying their own truth by evidence far more convincing than that of mira. cles, because by evidence that does not merely strike the senses, but reaches the understanding, and affects the heart. will see that the illustrious Swedenborg must indeed have been the Human Instrument for communicating the great truths connected with the second coming of the Lord. If, with any de. gree of candor, you look at his character and writings without admitting this, you will find the whole an inexplicable riddle.* His writings, you will see, are far too replete with superior views of Divine Truth to be the productions, in its ordinary state, of the human mind: in addition, you will perceive, that they are far too methodical in their form, too soberly as well as sublimely rational, to be the imaginations of a lunatic; and, in suriher addition, you will acknowledge, that their excellent moral tendency, together with the eminently amiable and virtuous character of their author, render ridiculous the notion, that they can be the offspring either of wilful imposture or of diabolical illusion. What remains, but that you accept them as the result of divine illumination, the communications of a writer who had really been called to a holy office by the Lord ? Admit this, and the mystery is solved. You will be satisfied, that this much calumniated and much mistaken man was as consistent and exalted a character as the world has ever seen: you will confess, that having been selected as the Human In.
* See the remarks on this subject above, pp. 233, 234.
strument for announcing the last great dispensation of gospel truth, though differing from former similar Instruments as much as this differs from former dispensations; and being, as one of his illustrious predecessors says of himself, “not disobedient unto the heavenly vision ;'** he pursued the course appointed him with as much steadiness and consistency, self-devotion and zeal, as marked the career of a Moses or a Paul: and your hearts will tell you, that, like them, he deserves to have his memory forever embalmed in the grateful recollections of mankind.
HEAVEN AND HELL.
HEAVEN AND HELL ; AND THE APPEARANCES IN THEM, AND IN
THE INTERMEDIATE REGION, OR WORLD OF SPIRITS.
The Human Instrument for opening the Truths to be rerealed at
the Lord's Second Advent, should be enabled to remove the prevailing Darkness on these Subjects.
If the character of the illustrious Swedenborg, as the divinely selected Human Instrument for annourcing the second coming of the Lord, and for communicating the discoveries of Divine Truth to be then afforded, be satisfactorily established; and if the reality of his intercourse, in that character, with the spiritual world, be confirmed, as we have seen it is, by indubitable evidences of his supernatural knowledge; all the objections which are made against him on account of the particulars brought to light by him respecting the hitherto unknown state of man after death, fall at once to the ground. If those particulars are in harmony with his general system of doctrine, and his general system of doctrine, including that part of it which relates to this subject, is securely founded on the Scriptures, it is the height of absurdity to reject them, and with them the whole of his system, because they clash with some unfounded prejudices of our own. Most men avow, that, in regard to all which relates to the life of man after death, beyond the simple fact ihat there is a future existence, they are involved in the deepest ig. norance: yet offer them any specific information on the subject, and they reject it as untrue, with a decision which would only be justifiable, did they already possess respecting it the most
* Acts xxvi. 19.
accurate knowledge. Supremely interesting to an immortal being as is the nature of the state on which he enters at the death of the body, the opposers of the New Church act as if it were here a high privilege to be in the dark. Allow me, then, now to appeal to you my Candid and Reflecting Readers, on this much misrepresented and much misunderstood part of our Author's testimony and writings.
It is, we are all aware, (and it may be expedient, first, to meet that objection with a few remarks), a great offence with many in this Sadducean age, that our Author should profess to have had open communication with the spiritual world ; to have been so in the spirit, and this, as he declares, not when he was asleep but when he was wide awake, -as to be able to communicate with those in the world of spirits, or the first receptacle of souls after death, and occasionally with those in heaven and with those in hell; as also to behold the appearances which exist in all those places and states respectively. The writer of this Appeal can here speak feelingly; for it was this which he found most repulsive, when first, by the kindness of Providence, the writings of Swedenborg came into his hands. Permit me, then, here to appeal to you from my own experience.
Accustomed, as is so commonly the case at this day, to con. sider the other world and this to be separated by an impassable barrier, I could scarcely believe it possible for an inhabitant of the natural world to have any open communication with the spiritual, - not even by the special gift and providing of the Lord. Hence I at first ridiculed what I read (for the first book I opened was the Treatise on Heaven and Hell), beautiful, sub. lime, and affecting, as were the views presented. But examin. ing further, the superior views on all the subjects of religious doctrine which the writings of Swedenborg every where exhibit
, and the luminous explanations they offer of the Word of God, entirely convinced me, that, in these respects, he was truly an enlightened and safe guide. And then such thoughts as these occurred: “I am able, by the faculties with which God in mercy has endowed us, and by recurring to the standard in the Word of God, to form a judgment of the theological sentiments contained in these writings : and I feel with the utmost conviction, - I see in the clearest light, — that these are cer. tainly true. But can he who is faithful in much, be unfaithful in that which is least? If his statements respecting his spiritual intercourse are unfounded, they must either be the offspring of derangement or of a systematic attempt at deception. But to suppose that a man who communicates, on many most important subjects, such superior ideas, and who always writes with such perfect order and consistency, could have lost his reason, is a violation of all reason and sound judgment. If,