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372 MENTAL EXCITEMENT.
of excitement has an effect on some persons altogether for the worse, just as, when a braggart boy is beaten by another at school, his subsequent submissiveness is attributed altogether to his cowardice, and is therefore treated only with contempt and derision.
It is strange that, although obviously a guard against the evils of excitement is most urgently called for when we have to deal with the ignorant who have not attained self-government, being unacquainted even with its laws—and such persons are servants and uneducated persons in general—there is the greater proneness to give way to excited feeling and unguarded expressions. People will commonly guard against betraying excitement in the company of well-bred persons, who would be able to refer it to its proper source, and would not therefore be so likely to be affected by it, while in dealing with the low minds of their inferiors and dependents, they yield themselves up to the pernicious influences of excited feeling. Surely, the more ignorant the parties we have to deal with, the more circumspect we ought to be in our matter and manner,—in what we say, and how we say it; and that on the grounds both of duty and policy. It is by this means—adopting the simile applied to servants, that "a new broom sweeps clean"—that the broom which sweeps clean at first, may not only be kept from wearing out, but be caused to sweep cleaner and cleaner the whole time that it remains in use.
Even the mere appearance of excitement is injurious, when, in reality, nothing is felt but a legitimate earnestness of purpose. The observer easily mistakes the latter for the former. Strong intellectual convictions are urged with an imprudent degree of vehemence; and what may be, viewed in themselves, calm and sober deductions, pass with others for heated, and perhaps angry expressions of passion and excited feeling, and nothing more.
In conclusion, it may be observed, that if a person be found frequently "at outs" with his friends or his servants, it may safely be calculated, on general principles, that excitement has done the mischief. Great matters originate from trifles, and spread and increase like the plague; and on taking a calm and clear retrospect, it is found that the whole "great matter " originated at the first from a "little fire !"—a little of that fire of hell by which the natural man is actuated in every one, immediately the Lord's precept is forgotten—" Watch and pray, lest ye fall into temptation."
Every good man desires to live in peace,—desires to possess and preserve, as well as to merit estimation,—desires to be rightly understood, and rightly to understand,—desires to recommend his principles MENTAL EXCITEMENT. 873
by the force of his example,—desires to possess influence over the affections of others that lie may use it to their advantage,—desires to inspire confidence in the purity of his motives and the cautiousness of his judgment;—let him, then, if he would see the accomplishment of his laudable desires, morning, noon, and night, beware of excitement!
FALSITY OF DOCTRINE AND FALSITY OF EVIL.
Falsity has a two-fold origin; there is falsity of doctrine and falsity of evil. Falsity of doctrine does not consume goods, for man may be in falsity of doctrine and yet be in good,—hence it is that even the Gentiles are saved in all doctrine. But falsity of evil is what consumes good, evil itself being opposite to good; yet it does not consume good by itself, but by falsity, for falsity assaults the truths which are of good,—truths being, as it were, the outworks, within which is good; and by falsity the outworks are attacked and overthrown, and when they are overthrown, good is given to the curse. (A. C. 6149.)
M. Matter's "life And Writings Of Swedenborg."
The first general impression the religious world received of the character of Swedenborg and his theological writings, was through the representations of their adversaries. These were men strongly attached to the prevailing system, who rose against him as a bold and dangerous innovator. He was not simply a heretic or schismatic, one who unduly magnified some unimportant point of doctrine or discipline, and made it the foundation of a new symbol, or the standard of a new sect. He claimed to be a.Divinely commissioned messenger, a privileged seer, and an illuminated scribe. And these claims, though modestly asserted, and indeed chiefly by their results, instead of obtaining for him a respectful hearing, only brought upon him the reproaches which the worst ages have heaped upon the heads of their best and wisest teachers. An independent examination by minds similarly conditioned, would, no doubt, at this day end in a similar conclusion; yet much of the prejudice still connected with the name of Swedenborg is an inheritance of the last generation. This prejudice is gradually giving way.
A re-action has long since commenced- in the public mind and in the minds of public teachers, and the work before us is a result and sign of its progress, though it does not indicate it by rapid strides. It is one
of a series issued by an eminent Parisian publishing house. The demand has created the supply; and the quality of the work produced is almost of necessity adapted to the wants of the public that desire it. Tts origin helps us to guess the kind of work that we may expect to find it. The "Library" of which it forms a part is another indication. In it we find "The Theosophy and Mysticism of the School of Descartes, Malebranche, and Fenelon," "The Beliefs and Legends of Antiquity," "The Magic and Astrology of the Ancients and Moderns;" but we also find "Apollonius of Tyana, his Life, Travels, and Prodigies," and Bunsen's " God in History." If this list leaves any doubt of the place the author assigns to Swedenborg among the religious of Christendom, the first sentence of the book removes it. Swedenborg "succeeded Jean Ledde and preceded Claude de Saint Martin." Placed between these two visionaries, he is regarded as one of their school. Yet he is an eminent one. He is "the prince of seers and theosophists." But ought we not to be thankful to find Swedenborg introduced to the reading public of France, and of other countries where French literature is read, as having a share in the progress of religious improvement? In Bunsen's " Philosophy of Universal History," Swedenborg finds no place among those connected with the progress of development in religion, although Zinzendorf and Wesley, Carlyle and Maurice do. It is something, therefore, to find him brought under the notice of the public as a great and good man, and a wise, if not an illuminated, teacher.
M. Matter is not all that we could desire in an author of "The Life, Writings, and Doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg." He does not manifest that deep religious feeling necessary to receive and convey an adequate impression—we dare not say of his mission—but of the importance of the facts and doctrines contained in his writings; although, on the other hand, this circumstance prevents him from giving them a strong religious colouring of his own. He examines them as a savan and a philosopher. So far as regards Swedenborg's literary and scientific works, we may therefore expect a sound judgment; on the theosophic subjects we need not expect so much. "A camel cannot go through the eye of a needle: a rich man cannot enter into the kingdom of God." No " scientific" search into Swedenborg's writings, where a man has no ulterior object beyond that of knowing that he may help others to know, can enable him to see into their true nature. It may seem that one not committed to the belief of his doctrines, should be able to take a more impartial view of them than one who is. On this principle we might suppose that one not committed to the belief of the Bible would be better able to judge of its truth, and know the mysteries of the kingdom it reveals, REVIEW. 875
than one who examined it from a neutral ground. Scriptural truths, wherever found, whether in the Bible or in the Commentary, require the same conditions to perceive them. While we regard this as a certain truth, we do not by any means deprecate any attempt to understand and describe them, if this attempt is made in honesty and good faith. This, we believe, is the case with M. Matter. He has evidently read extensively and studied carefully the Writings of which he undertakes to write an account and acriticism, and he has brought to his task not only great talent and learning, but strict integrity and impartiality. Can we ask more? An author cannot be expected to describe otherwise than as he sees, or pronounce otherwise than he judges. Seen from M. Matter's point of view, "The Life and Writings of Swedenborg" is perhaps as good a work as we have any reason to expect. If it does not give the right view of Swedenborg's condition and bis mission, it will convey much information, partially correct, about the character of the man and the nature of his teaching.
A chapter devoted to the early life of Swedenborg, consists of the few particulars generally known of his childhood and boyhood,—the precocious child meditating on religious subjects, and conversing with the clergy, and uttering such marvels of spiritual wisdom as made his parents say, in their amazement, that "the angels spake through his mouth."
Taking up his history again at the period of his manhood, M. Matter considers the life of Swedenborg under three phases—the literary, the scientific, and the religious.
Under the first we have the facts generally known of the young Swede, from the time he commenced his studies at the University of Upsala, till his return from his foreign travels to Sweden in 1715, with a notice of the few literary productions which belong to this period.
The scientific phase is much more abundant in materials for the biographer and critic; and we only regret we cannot follow him in his brilliant treatment of this interesting period of the great man's life. Perhaps some of our readers may thiuk it the less necessary, seeing that the great man himself came to attach little importance to those achievements which many regard as the foundation of his highest reputation. His biographer bears the highest testimony to his genius, and to his scientific and philosophic greatness, although he does not accept all the results of his speculations. Although, according to him, the system which Swedenborg built up has lost its value, yet, he says, we still admire its brilliant indications. M. Dumas has signalized the rare happiness with which Swedenborg has created crystallography, and
preluded the discovery of Wollaston in the rule of the spherical form in the composition of crystals; while others have pointed out his ingenious anticipations of the fine theories of Dalton and Berzelius. But what sheds still more glory on his name, is his sharing with Sir John Herschel the honour of discovering the place of our sun and his system in the Milky Way, and, with La Grange, a magnificent theory. The change observed in the orbits of the planets seemed to authorise the belief of a general destruction, and a return of creation into chaos, when La Grange saw that at the end of a certain time, the deviations would be brought back to the regular course. The germ of this brilliant discovery, of this beautiful periodicity, is in the Principia of Swedenborg, whose genius sounded the depths of the earth and tho altitudes of the spheres, before passing to the study of the mysteries of heaven.
But a testimony still more valuable in our eyes, is that which his biographer bears to the moral character of Swedenborg, the singleness of his mind and the purity of his life, his disinterested patriotism and his enlightened views of government; but, above and pervading all, a strong religious faith and fervent piety.
We now come to the religious phase, to us the most important period of his life, and that on which it mainly concerns us to know what our historian has to say. He introduces it by repeating the account given by Bogue and Bennet of Swedenborg's call to his holy office. Sitting in his private room in the inn where he was accustomed to dine, strange sights were presented to him, which, with some variation, were repeated more than once. At last a bright light succeeded obscurity, and hideous objects were replaced by a man who spoke out of the midst of the light. Addressing the person who had beheld these remarkable sights, He said to him—"I am God the Lord, the Creator and Redeemer; I have chosen thee to be an interpreter to men of the spiritual sense of the Scriptures, and I will dictate to thee what thou shalt write," &c. We have no reason to doubt the general accuracy of this account; at the same time, we must recollect that, in repeating a verbal statement, as this account purports to be, in which a single word may make an essential difference in the meaning, or affect an important principle, we must not bind ourselves to its literal correctness. But taking it as it is, there is no great danger of drawing any wrong conclusion from it, provided we are rightly informed, from the general testimony of the writings, as to the real state of the case. M. Matter raises a serious objection to the assumed character of Swedenborg's writings on the word "dictate"— "I will dictate to thee what thou shalt write:"—
"But is not this (he exclaims), a strange privilege I The sacred text itself was not dictated to the sacred writers; it was but the production of inspiration