Imágenes de páginas
PDF

THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. 407

of Scripture, and Swedenborg's explanations only make it more intelligible. "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for the kingdom of God is within you."* John says merely that he was "in the spirit on the Lord's day,"—in the isle of Patmos,—and suddenly he beheld the wonderful sights and scenes which he proceeds to describe. He had not to go up or down, or move from where his body was, to see them. As soon as he was in the spirit, he beheld them. It is true, indeed, that Paul speaks of himself as having been "caught up" to the third heaven, and to Paradise ;f but up here has no reference to ascension in space, or among the stars, but to elevation of spirit, by which he was enabled to hear the " unutterable things" of heaven. In the spiritual world, as Swedenborg shows, heaven does indeed appear as above, and hell as beneath; but space, there, being only an appearance caused by difference of state, the heavens appear above, because they are elevated in goodness and truth, and the hells appear beneath, because they are sunk in evil and falsity.

London. 0. P. H.

(To be continued.)

DR. COLENSO AND THE NEGATIVE RATIONALISTS.

An Address by the Rev. J. H. Smithson, President of the Mancliester Printing Society of the New Church, delivered at its Annual Meeting, July 3rd, 1863.

Beloved Brethren,

The state of things, since our last annual Address, in respect to tho Theological world, has become more and more confused, and must be extremely distressing to all who have any faith in the Divine Word. The publications of Dr. Colenso in respect to the five books of Moses, in which he casts a dark cloud of unbelief over many of the divine statements in those books, ever held as most sacred by the Jewish and Christian churches, have caused many thoughtful minds to examine the grounds of their belief in the divinity of the Word. These objections to many of the literal statements of the Word, in which it is endeavoured to disprove the Truth and Authenticity of the Pentateuch, have caused, and are still causing, much agitation in the Church at large. But instead of allowing these commotions to cause the members of the New Church any dismay, or to weaken their faith in God's Word, we have had every reason to conclude that, sooner or later, this kind of "offences must needs come" to awaken up the rational energies and * Luke xvii. 21. 12 Cor. xii. 2—4.

403 ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF

inquiries of human minds in respect to the true nature of God's Word and the mode of its inspiration, and we, therefore, feel a cause of rejoicing rather than of sorrow, that the human mind is, at length, by these events, beginning to investigate the nature of the literal sense of the Divine Word, as the foundation upon which everything divine and spiritual in heaven and in the church must for ever rest. For, as the Psalmist says—" If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do," (Psalm xi. 3.) that is, if the literal sense be doubted and denied, or broken and destroyed, all interior spiritual and divine principles will have no foundation for their support, and will consequently be scattered and destroyed. Moreover, we are assured by Swedenborg, and are rationally convinced of the fact, that the Word, in its literal sense, is the medium of conjunction between man and the Lord, between heaven and earth, and the blessed means of consociation between men and angels. It is our great protection and defence against evil and hell, and the divine channel through which the Lord, in His mercy, conveys everything heavenly and spiritual into the human mind, and implants it into the heart and life of man; and, further, by the Word, in its literal sense, the Lord nourishes, strengthens, and, as just stated, protects the spiritual life of love and of faith against what is evil and false from hell. Moreover, the Word, in its literal sense, is the source of our civilisation, and of the refinements and comforts of our earthly life. Such is the estimation in which the members of the New Church hold God's Word in its literal sense. How great, then, would be the calamity to mankind if infidel objections were to prevail against the literal sense, or against the foundations and walls of the Holy City of Truth.

Thus, it must be admitted by all who duly reflect, that no progress can be made in theology, or in the knowledge of spiritual and divine things, until the nature of the literal sense of the Word is understood. This is the greatest desideratum of the age. And we rejoice to think that, under the dispensation of a merciful Providence, this is now being accomplished. For the human mind will now claim and assert its rational freedom, and will no longer be led blindfold by the authority of Popes and bishops, but will examine for itself the grounds of its belief, and be led by the authority of Truth only when rationally discerned, and thus by the Lord Himself who is the Truth and the only Authority admitted by the members of the New Church.

It must be obvious that when God speaks, and causes what he speaks to be written, His language must in itself be essentially different from the language or speech of man. No proposition, it is supposed, can be more reasonable than this. We accordingly read, that "the Lord's THE MANCHESTER PRINTING SOCIETY. 409

thoughts are as high above man's thoughts, as the heavens are high above the earth." (Isaiah lv. 9.) It will consequently be found that God's Word is in harmony with His works, and that as His works involve innumerable things, not obvious on the surface, so must His Divine Word involve innumerable things not obvious in its literal sense. These innumerable things contained in the Word are called by the Lord " Spirit and Life," which He distinguishes from the literal sense, which he calls the "flesh." For the Lord said to the Jews who apprehended His words according to the flesh, that is, according to the merely literal sense—" It is the spirit that quickeneth [or that giveth life]; the flesh [or the literal sense] by itself profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John vi. 63.)

Thus, in order that we may know the true nature of the Word, the first principle to be admitted is, that the Word has a spirit and a life, or a spiritual sense, totally distinct from its literal sense, as the soul is distinct from the body. When this principle is admitted, which is abundantly confirmed not only by the Scriptures themselves, but by the analogy of God's works in nature, we lay the foundation stone upon' which a true intelligence of the nature of God's Word can be established. This is not the place to adduce the numerous proofs of this statement; but they can be easily gathered from the various works, especially by Swedenborg, Noble, Clissold, and others, in which they are abundantly treated.

Now, when this proposition is fairly considered, it will be found, that as the body clothes the innumerable things of the soul, so the literal sense clothes the infinite,things contained in the Word. Or, to some minds the following illustration may be more striking and convincing, namely, that as the skin covers the innumerable things contained in the body, so the literal sense covers the innumerable things of spirit and of life contained in the Word. Hence the divinity and sanctity of the Word, which in its bosom treats primarily and universally of the Lord Himself, of His works of Redemption, and of the Glorification of His Humanity, and secondarily of His kingdom, or of His church, both in heaven and on earth, and of the regeneration of man, or of his preparation to become an inhabitant of the Lord's kingdom. The Lord expressly says that " His kingdom is not of this world;" (John xviii. 36 ) and nothing can be more certain than that His Word treats, from beginning to end, of Himself and of His kingdom, and that there cannot be a greater mistake than to suppose that it treats, in its proper sense, that is, in the sense intended by its Divine Author, of the nations and kingdoms of this world, or of the things of man's merely bodily and 410 ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF

earthly life, but especially of his spiritual and eternal life; for this is the life which is essentially worthy of the Divine Word, which in itself is eternal, to contemplate, and thus to provide for the eternal salvation of mankind.

But in order that the Word might be fully revealed, so as to be the source from the Lord of all spiritual intelligence and wisdom, both to the angels in heaven and to the man of the church upon earth, the Lord instituted the Jewish Church, in which everything was representative of divine and spiritual things; shewing us by external types and shadows, as the apostle says, the things of love and of faith, which really constitute the church and the salvation of man. The institution of the Jewish Church as the representative or type of a church, rather than a church itself, was thus chiefly for the sake of the Word, which was revealed in that church. It was on this account that the Jews were called the Lord's peculiar people and a "holy nation," (Exod. xix. 5, 6.) not because they were more His people, or more holy than the people of other nations, but because they had the Word revealed amongst them, and were on this account " a peculiar people and a holy nation." The history of this people, therefore, formed the basis or the literal sense, upon which and through which the Word could be revealed as we have it now amongst us. But we must not look upon this divine history as we would upon a mere secular history as written by any distinguished worldly historian, such as Livy, Gibbon, or Macaulay, whose object it is to convey to us, in a correct and pleasing form, the facts and events of earthly history; on the contrary, we must look upon the history of the Jews from a higher standpoint, even from heaven, and see therein the states of the church represented, and the divine laws and conditions of salvation revealed and established. For to reveal these laws and conditions of salvation is the primary object of the Divine Word; and the principal facts—not taken in consecutive order—in the history of the Jewish people, are the external means by which the divine Revelation was effected. Herein Dr. Colenso and others have erred, in looking at the history of the Jews from a merely earthly stand-point, and not as a typical and representative statement of divine truths relating to man's regeneration and the establishment of the church.

Now, as the theological works of Swedenborg, and the writings published by this society, are alone capable of delivering the mind from doubt and infidelity respecting the Word, and thus of placing the disciple of Revelation upon a rock of security against the attacks of a negative rationalism, we have every motive and every urgent inducement to proceed with the publications of this institution. For there is no

THE MANCHESTER PRINTING SOCIETY. 411

period in the history of the Manchester Printing Society in which the lovers of the Bible make a more earnest appeal for the aid, which of the Lord's mercy, we can supply. For so long as the nature of God's Word and the mode of its inspiration are not understood, there can be nothing bat obscurity and confusion as to theological and spiritual things amongst men.

The inspiration of the Word, according to Swedenborg, is plenary,— that is, as to every word and every expression, yea, as to every syllable, and, in the original, as to every iota and as to every tittle. If it were not so, the correspondences, according to which it is written, would not be complete, and the Word could not be the medium of conjunction between man and the Lord. We are consequently glad to find that a numerous party at Oxford, headed by the Rev. Mr. Burgon, are now advocating the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, according to the statement of Swedenborg, as the only ground upon which the Word can be vindicated against Dr. Colenso and the entire school of negative rationalists, who admit of only a partial inspiration, to be decided by rational investigation, and by what they Call a Biblical criticism; and in this way they pretend to decide which portions of the Divine Word are truly inspired and which are not. It is obvious that this idea of a partial inspiration opens wide the door to every phantasy which the rationalist may entertain, and entirely destroys the basis upon which a divine Revelation can stand.

In conclusion, we must not relax our efforts in promoting the object of this Society, which is to make known the true doctrines of Christianity as developed from a right understanding of the Word, and to shew the nature of the Word itself, and of its spiritual sense, and thus to vindicate it against the attacks of a negative rationalism, and of a rampant infidelity. This is the great mission of this Society, and may the Lord, in His mercy, grant us strength, and supply us with means to accomplish the glorious objects of this heavenly mission.

THE PURPOSE OF LLFE. No. I. Carried on by the rushing stream of action—roaring, eddying, foaming as it goes—how few of us have the courage to anchor aside for a brief space and ask—Why? Whence? Whither? How few so far steady themselves as to be able to look life in the face, and strive to understand the spirit that lies within it! Most of us are with emphasis the creatures of our circumstances, and in place of forcing these into our service to

« AnteriorContinuar »