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400 ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE, ETC.
angelic societies of these new heavens, can we become dispensers of the benefits they desire to communicate.to man. The sun still shines the same, though out of the rank germ it develops a poisonous weed and out of the good seed it educes the healing plant; the heavens will still operate, whether out of the forms we present for their operation they develop a sorrow and a desolation or a means of benefit and an instrument of use.
The New Church organizations can herein see their mission, their privilege, and their danger. Firstly, to be holy that then they may be useful; firstly, to seek for the establishment of the internal church in themselves, that then they may become instruments in promoting the establishment of the church in others—instruments employed by the Divine Providence, honoured by that employment, who in assisting in blessing others may find their glory and their joy. And the danger is that we forfeit our privilege by failing in the mission.
The New Church, regarded in its universal and spiritual aspect, must triumph. Infinite Love desires its success. Infinite Wisdom has predicted its stability. Infinite Power is on its side. The mighty movements now trembling along the age, are only indications of Divine Operation through the new heavens on the souls of men; testimonies are they to the ultimate certainty of the final establishment of the church. But whether we, as an external organization, shall share in the glory of that triumph, must depend on whether we receive of spiritual influences from the heavens, whether we bear our portion in the earth-part of the conflict and the toil, whether we fit ourselves to be the communicators of its blessings, and the ultimaters of its work,— whether, in brief, we enter into harmony with the Divine Will, and thus become instruments of the Divine Providence. Should we fail in our duty, other instrumentalities will be raised up. God's great purposes will find and fashion their own implements.
The work will be done by some one, whether it be by ourselves or others; the results will be realized, whoever be selected as instruments. The certaiuty of the triumph would not be impaired by our forfeiture, and our success cannot render it more certain. To us is committed the privilege of cooperating with the Lord for the promotion of His purposes. God has a work for us to do, and if we will cooperate, He will do it through us. This is our crown; let no man rob us of it, till, by performing the work below, we may wear that crown everlastingly above! And to Jesus Christ be all glory and dominion. Amen!
On behalf of the General Conference, your affectionate servant and friend, John Hyde.
Theological Essays.—No. IT.
THE SPIRITUAL WORLD.
"the very end of the creation of the universe," says Swedenborg, "was no other than that an angelic heaven might be formed from men, in -which all who believe in God may live in eternal blessedness. For the Divine Love, which is in God, and which essentially is God, cannot intend anything else; and the Divine Wisdom, which also is in God, and is God, cannot produce anything else."*
Here is set distinctly before us the great end of creation,—that there might be a heaven in which human beings should dwell together in all joy and happiness for ever. And this is, indeed, an end worthy of the Divine Love to desire, and worthy of the Divine Wisdom to accomplish. All things in the universe are but means to this end. All things are created for the service of man, aud man is created for heaven. The earth itself, and the sun and moon to warm and light it, and all things upon and within the earth,—the things of the mineral kingdom, and of the vegetable, and of the animal,—are all, to the minutest particular, intended to aid in this great work, namely, to prepare man for his eternal abode in heaven. While engaged in this work of preparation,— while travelling on this journey of life, man must have food, clothing, and habitation for his material body: a great part of the business of life consists in supplying these wants, and all the three kingdoms of nature contribute to this supply. But the body itself, with all its wants, is still only a means, not an end; a means for the formation and perfection of the spirit, the soul, which is the only part of man that is immortal, the only part that goes to heaven. The mind, too, must have its food, in order to its sustenance, growth, and perfection; and the supply of this higher want occupies another great department of the business of life. The composition, manufacture, and sale of books, together with the professions of the author, the teacher, and the preacher, are intended to fulfil this great use, and discharge this important function in society. The physician seeks to keep the body in health, or to restore it when disordered; and the lawyer's use is to guard the rights of individuals, apt to come into collision in the bustle of the journey of life. But amid all this turmoil,—amidst all the various occupations, duties, and businesses of worldly existence,—the wise man will never forget— God never forgets—the one great end to which all these activities tend, and for which alone they exist, namely, to prepare man for his eternal dwelling-place in heaven.
• Universal Theology, n. 773.
402 THE SPIRITUAL WORLD.
But it may be asked—Why is man's end and destination the spiritual world, rather than the natural? Why should he not live and be happy for ever here? The answer is—Because the natural world is vastly less perfect than the spiritual world, and consequently far less able to afford happiness to man. Matter, being the lowest created existence—only the shell or crust, as it were, of the universe—is a heavy, inert thing, and very gross in its qualities, compared with spirit. God, the Infinite Divine, created the universe from Himself—by an efflux or outpouring from His own infinite Substance. The first emanation from Him—as Swedenborg describes it—appears as a luminous sphere around His Divine Person, and constitutes the Sun of the spiritual world, whence angels and spirits derive their light and heat; and whence also, it may be added, the fire of the natural sun is continually sustained and fed. This first emanation is pure love, and the light thence flowing is pure wisdom; for love is spiritual heat, and wisdom or truth is spiritual light. Then, from this spiritual sun the Creator sent forth successive spheres or circles, constituting the atmospheres and substances of the spiritual world. Then, from these again, were derived or produced lower and grosser spheres and emanations, constituting the natural sun and the matters of the natural world. And here creation rested or terminated. Consequently, matter or nature is the lowest and grossest form of created existence—the very ultimate of creation, on which all interior things rest, as it were, on their basis. It is thus, as before remarked, the shell or crust of the universe. *
This being the origin of the material world, it will be seen that, in its very nature, it must be grosser and less perfect than the spiritual world, because farther removed from the Divine, who is Perfection itself. What is nearer Him, has more of His perfections, and what is farther from Him has fewer. The spiritual world, consequently, being nearer the Divine Source, is more excellent and perfect than the natural world.
A little reflection on the nature of spirit, as compared with that of matter, will show the truth of this view. While in this world, man is composed of two parts, spirit and matter, and how gross and heavy a thing is the latter in comparison with the former! How often is "the spirit willing, when the flesh is weak"! How liable is the material body to disease and injury! How chained and confined is it, too, by the laws of space! The heart hounds to meet a friend, but the heavy body compels us to move at its own slow pace. In spirit, we accompany a dear one going on a distant journey, and how we wish we could go
* See Swedenborg's account of the creation, in his sublime work, The Divint Love and Wisdom, n. 151, et seq.
THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. 403
with him in body also! but gross matter forbids; we are ill, or feeble, or have heavy earthly cares to attend to: the necessity, perhaps, of supplying food and clothing for our own and others' material bodies, constrains us to remain at home and labor. Matter, too, grows old, and is subject to decay. With age, the joints become stiff and the bones brittle, the hair loses its gloss and turns grey, the skin wrinkles, and the ejes become bleared and purblind, and the whole frame totters. These imperfections are inherent in the very nature of matter: they are not, as is mistakenly supposed, the mere result of the fall, and the punishment of sin. Sin, no doubt, by disordering the material frame, greatly hastens the decay, and induces painful disease; but, with or without sin, man would have grown old, and his material frame must have decayed, and come, at length, to its dissolution. It is a necessary consequence of the comparatively gross and inferior qualities of matter, that it is comparatively but a defective instrument, and becomes, at length, an unfit tenement for the spirit.
This, then, is the reason why man was not intended to live in this natural world for ever, but has a higher and far more perfect place and state assigned him for his eternal abode, namely, the spiritual world, heaven. There, none of these defects exist; there, none of these disturbing conditions are found. Spirit does not grow old; spirit is not limited by laws of time and space. There, those who love each other can be always together; and there, from the superior nature and constitution of a spiritual state of being, enjoyments and delights can be given, indefinitely beyond what are possible in this life.
The truth of this view will be seen by contemplating some of the laws, appearances, and scenes of that world, as made known by the doctrines of the New Church. It is a blessed thing that we are now no longer left to conjecture on this great subject, but have the certainty afforded by revelation. Innumerable books have been written on the probable nature of the spiritual world, and of the state of existence after death; but what are they worth? Anything less than certainty on a subject so dear to the longing spirit, is valueless: all man's speculations on such a subject go for nothing. We want revelation: we want certain knowledge. And now it has come; the want is answered. In the goodness of the Lord,—and as soon, no doubt, as the world was able to receive such a revelation,—it has been made. A human instrument has been raised up to be the medium for conveying this knowledge: a messenger has been sent with the glad tidings. For ages, good men have longed and prayed for such a revelation. But now that it has «ome, how has it been received by the great mass of the Christian
404 THE SPIRITUAL WORLD.
world? With cries of "a visionary," "a madman," directed against the revealer,—with unbelief and ridicule in regard to the truths revealed. But what did they want? what did they expect? Did they expect that the scenes of the spiritual world could be beheld without a vision—that is, without a supernatural opening of the spiritual sight? Or did they expect to see an angel fly down from the sky with a book in his hand, which should contain a description of that world?
The revelation has been made in the way, and in the only way, in which it was possible for a revelation to be made of the state and nature of the spiritual world, so as to be satisfactory to the reason and judgment of mankind. A book written in angelic language, which no one could understand—-"how would that have been satisfactory? Nor would a solemn and enunciatory series of declarations, in the style of the Prophets or the Apocalypse, be the thing desired. What was wanted, was a full and minute account and description of the laws and scenes of the spiritual world, given in familiar, human language, accompanied with rational statements and detailed explanations. Now such a work could be produced by no other than a man like ourselves; one who, while still living in the body, and writing in an intelligible earthly tongue, was yet superior to us, or to most of us, in the intellect and grasp, and the power to describe, the'laws and appearances of that higher state, and, still more, in the spirituality of character which should fit him for being thus made a medium of a revelation from God to man, a medium of communication between heaven and the world.
Such a man—such a medium—was Emanuel Swedenboro. If we are asked how we know that Swedenborg was really chosen by the Divine Being to be such a messenger of new truths to men, we answer— We believe it not from his own statements alone, but from the testimony of our own reason and Scripture combined. What he has revealed and declared, carries its own proof with it: truth is its own witness, as light is seen by its own brightness. Moreover, the Divine Word itself gives ample corroboration and confirmation of the truths he has made known, as his writings again furnish clear and lucid expositions of that Word. The description Swedenborg gives of the scenes of the spiritual world, are always combined with statements of the laws and principles in which those appearauces have their origin; thus vision and reason, appearance and principle, everywhere support and corroborate each other. The Lord, while in the world, said to His disciples—" I have many things to say uuto you, but ye cannot bear them now;" * plainly intimating that the time would come when men would be able to bear those things,
* John xvi. 12.