Page images
PDF
EPUB

then, his representations respecting the other world are not true, it cannot be because the Author was himself deceived: he must be a wilful deceiver, or none. But how could a man of bad intention, which always darkens the understanding on spiritual subjects, deliver views of truth so truly heavenly and glorious ? Besides, how could a man of the irreproachable character which all testimony, of friends and foes, equally allows him, of the genuine piety which all his writings breathe, - invent such stories to deceive? The idea is monstrous. I must take then the whole of his writings together, and interpret the one part by the other: and as I can see that everything in them, of which it falls within the province of reason to judge, is certainly true, I may safely take those mere matters of fact, of which my reason can go no farther in its judgment than to see that they are not impossible, upon his authority. Besides, why should they not be probable as well as possible? He does not in the least resemble the common herd of pretenders to supernatural communications: the importance of his information is fully equal to its singularity. His writings explain the nature and meaning of the second coming of the Lord, and of the New Jerusalem which is to accompany it. They prove, also, that the state of religion in the Christian world at this day, is precisely such as, it is predicted, would be the case, when those great events should arrive. Arrive at some time they must. Suppose then this should be the time, and he really is the appointed instrument for declaring them : in this case, that he should be admitted to the privilege of an intercourse with the spiritual world seems a matter of necessity. Besides : What subject is there in which the human mind at this day is enveloped in greater darkness, than in all that concerns the nature of the eternal world? JVhat then can be so reasonable as to expect, that, among the communications which would be imparted to mankind in the day of the second coming of the Lord and appearing of the New Jerusalem, information respecting the eternal world, its appearances and its laws, would form a prominen« subject? And how could this so naturally be imparted, as by opening the spiritual sight of some inhabitant of the earth, and permitting him to report what he had witnessed ?" It was thus that I then reasoned, and in deciding accordingly I found peace and joy: and the forty years which have since passed have only added strength to the conviction, that I then reasoned and decided aright. My experience has been that of many, and will be that of many more.

But what is there in Swedenborg's pretentions on this subject which is not sanctioned by the experience of those who have formerly filled a similar office? Did not the Apostle Peter behold as extraordinary a vision as any that is detailed in the “Memorable Relations” of Swedenborg, when he beheld"

а

He says,

certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet, knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth ; wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. · And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter, kill and eat."** Does not the Apostle Paul declare, that to him, revelations from heaven were things of common occurrence ?

and states it among his claims to respect and attention, not as what ought to involve his pretensions in doubt and denial, 66 I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ, [meaning himself ], about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell; God knoweth); such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man (whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell ; God knoweth); how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not possible for man to utter. Of such a one will i glory. — And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”+ Communications with the spirit. ual world, then, were common with the apostles, and were regarded by them as properly belonging to their office: and specific examples of them abound throughout the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament. So, if we are to. give any credit to the unanimous assertion of all the primitive fathers, similar communications were extremely frequent in the early ages of Christianity. But, without adverting to these, the possibility of such communications cannot be denied by any believer of the Scriptures. Surely then we may say, that, standing in the situation in which Swedenborg asserts he did, he would have been but half qualified for his work had he been without them. His pretending to them does not, indeed, afford proof that his other pretensions are true ; but it makes the whole consist. ent, and thus it gives to the whole the character of higher prob. ability. In him, as the instrument for restoring the true knowl. edge of religious truth, they were entirely in place. Without them, all that he advances besides would have lost half its claims to attention. And if the information communicated by him is far more distinct than had ever been made known on such subjects before, this, also, is precisely what, under the circumstances, was to have been expected. If the knowledge respecting life and immortality, brought to light at the first promulgation of the gospel, greatly exceeded in clearness what the world previously possessed; it surely was to be expected, that the knowledge on the same subjects unfolded at the Lord's second advent, would rise in distinctness above that communicated at * Arts x. 11, 12, 13.

+ 2 Cor. xji. 1-5, 7.

his first, in the same ratio as this transcended the mere shadows afforded under the Mosaic dispensation. Is it, then, the part of sound reason to reject the information communicated, for being what, if true, it assuredly ought to be ? Is it the part of sound judgment to conclude, respecting Swedenborg, from the mere fact of his asserting that he had such communications with the spiritual world, as, if his pretensions were true, he ought to have had, that therefore his pretensions were false ?

We sure ly cannot justly come to such a conclusion, till, after having weighed all that he offers as the result of his communications in the balances of Scripture and Reason, we have found them wanting. The principal of the discoveries thus imparted, and of the objections made to them, shall be examined in distinct PARTS of this SECTION.

SECTON VI.

HEAVEN AND HELL; AND THE APPEARANCES IN THEM, AND

IN THE INTERMEDIATE REGION, OR WORLD OF SPIRITS.

PART II.

The Inhabitants of Heaven and Hell are all from the Human

Race.

Nothing can be of greater importance, in order to our forming just conceptions respecting the eternal world, than to be acquainted with the nature and origin of its inhabitants. On this subject, very wild imaginations have existed; and persons of fertile invention, in all nations, have deemed themselves at liberty to people the invisible worlds ad libitum. Various families of spiritual beings have been dreamed of, from angels and genii only inferior to deities in not being self-existent, to fairies and brownies, the familiar visitants of the rustic's haunts; all of different race from the human. Christian theology, indeed, has rejected many of these tribes, as the mere offspring of heathen superstition ; but Christian theology, as generally received, has exempted one class of such beings from the general proscription, and has authorized the belief of a race of celestials, originally created such; including a race of infernals, originally created angels of light, but changed, by rebellion and forfeiture, into angels of darkness.

Swedenborg, having been admitted to the privilege of intimate communication with the inhabitants of the spiritual world, has done more towards rationalizing our notions respecting

them than any other writer that ever exis'ed. Being commissioned to make known the truths respecting the eternal world necessary to remove the darkness at present existing on that subject, and to impart such knowledge respecting it as the present state of the human mind requires, and which, therefore, it was fitting should be revealed at the Lord's second advent; he has been enabled conclusively to show, that the prejudice in favor of the existence of angels, originally created such, has no more title to indulgence, than the superstitions about genii and fairies; and that there does not exist in all the heavens a single angel, nor in all hell a single infernal, nor in any region of creation a single spiritual being (the Divine being alone excepted) who did not first come into existence as a man, upon this or some other of the earths in the universe.

This discovery is one, which ought equally to recommend itself to acceptance by its sublimity and its simplicity. But the common systems of doctrine, if they might be supported without the belief of good angels originally created such, cannot stand a moment without the notion of a mighty personal Devil, of power to act as the antagonist of the Almighty. Accordingly, the assailants of the heavenly doctrines of the New Church, have zealously labored to overturn our views on the origin of angels and devils. This being a general subject, a just conception of which will tend to throw light upon many more particulars relating to Heaven and Hell, shall be considered, therefore, before we proceed further.

The opponent whom, in this work, I have taken as my chief guide as to the subjects to be considered and the objections to be answered, here evidently expects to have the prejudices of his readers on his side; as will doubtless be the case with those who adopt as their Bible, on this subject, Milton's Paradise Lost; in which work is supplied that information respecting the pre-existence and fall of angels, which the Scriptures have withheld. Eager to anticipate a triumph, he indulges in a modest and elegant philippic against the enlightened Author who has exposed the error.

- This extraordinary man (says he) is not content with changing times and seasons in this world, but he will needs revolutionize (at least reform) the two invisible worlds ! He first rectifies the person of the Divine Being then he new-models the atonement then again he makes a new thing of the mediatorship after which he proceeds to abolish the resurrection — onward he goes to the day of judg. ment, and having snugly set that aside, he proceeds, Jehu like, to shove all the angels in heaven, as well as all the devils in hell, out of existence !"**

[ocr errors]

* Anti Swedenborg, p. 62.

They who have recourse to ridicule, ought first to consider whether it can be retorted. Now wha' ampler field could be found for its exercise, than in the common notions of pre-existing (I use that term in reference to the creation of man), warring, and falling angels? I will not however resort to it

. I will merely state the circumstances as commonly described, and leave the reader to judge whether the holders of such sentiments are entitled to ridicule those who reject them.

The Creator, it is conceived, having produced an immense but definite number of angels, remained satisfied in the midst of his work, till the most exalted of them became his rival,

“ And durst defy the Omnipotent to arms ;" whereupon (astonishing to relate !) a third part of the angelic host, — beings of the highest communicable goodness and intelligence, — ranged themselves under the banners of the apostate, and waged battle with their Maker. This was the occasion of the creation of the world : for after the ejection of the rebel angels, the Victor determined to produce another race of beings to supply their place in his affections. The case is thus stated, according to Milton, by the vanquished chief; who merely delivers the popular belief, adding nothing of his own but a very natural reflection :

“HE, to be avenged,
And to repair his numbers thus impaired,
Whether such virtue spent of old now failed
More angels to create (if they at least
Are his created), or to spite us more,
Determined to advance into our room
A creature formed of earth, and him endow

With heavenly spoils (our spoils) :'* Now, can any thing be more puerile than the whole of this story?

Does the mythology of the heathens contain a tale more extravagant? Are common theologians to be at liberty to people a third part of heaven, and a much greater proportion of hell, with men, and is Swedenborg to be described as

shoving all the angels in heaven and all the devils in hell out of existence,” because he affirms they all originally, were

* Take the following as an appropriate comment upon the above text. assured that the opponent with whom I have here to deal, has sometimes, in his sermons, undertaken to inform his hearers, how the saints are endowed with the "poils' of the fallen angels. When the latter, he avers, were cast out of heaven, they left their thrones vacant behind them, with their crowns hung above them on pegs: every saint who dies enters on possession of one of the vacant throne-, and taking the crown over it from its peg, places it on his head: and the occupying of the last throne and unloading of the last peg, will be the sige aai for the sounding of the last trumpet and the end of the world.

I am

« PreviousContinue »