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Even however in this case the truth is obscured, when too much attention is given to controversy; for it is not possible that in every given general truth all difficulties should be dispersed. For some there are which are but very remotely connected with the subject, which yet the human mind presents to itself as closely investing it; some there are which beset the subject more immediately. This may be known from the case of a single truth for example; as that the Lord governs the universe, both the heaven and the earth, and that He doeth evil to no one,-myriads of myriads of objections may be urged against these things which can never be dispersed by the human mind; and if for any length of time the mind inheres in these objections, it becomes obscured, it doubts, at length it denies ; as it as been granted me very frequently to learn from spirits. For no universal truth can be assigned in which are not contained myriads of myriads of other truths, consequently as many objections, because as many contraries; for every truth has its own contrary, which the mind favors when it sees things in an inverse order. Thus it is that disputants are blinded.”
We have now said enough to guard the reader against the principle of classical criticism as applied to Scripture. Our remarks, however, have been applicable chiefly to the Hebrew language, thus to the Old Testament. But what shall we say of the New, which is undoubtedly written in a classical language, namely, the Greek, and to which therefore classical principles of grammar and interpretation might seem to apply, especially in determining a choice among various readings? In answer to this question we observe first, that with respect to the various readings in the collection of books commonly called the New Testament, as the New Churchman will exclude the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles from forming any portion of the Word of God in the primary sense of the terms, the number of various readings will of course be proportionably diminished, being confined to those of the Four Gospels and the Apocalypse. Here again he has an advantage over the ordinary critic, for in the case of any doubtful reading he can appeal to the spiritual sense of the passage. In comparing, however, the Gospels with the Apocalypse, there is one characteristic of the latter which is not quite so clear with regard to the former,—we mean the observance of exact series and order. In this respect there is no difficulty with regard to the Apocalypse ; but the series and order both of the Gospels themselves and of their respective contents, are subjects which seem to require more attention than they have yet generally received ; and moreover they are subjects which invite more especially the attention of the New Church, for no other church possesses the means of studying them effectually.
It is true that in the Christian church there have always been, more or less, apprehensions of some mysterious relationship between the
Four Gospels. Irenæus and others in ancient times, Dr. Wordsworth and others in modern times, have compared them with the Four Cherubim mentioned in the Apocalypse ; but we are not aware of any writer out of the New Church who has proceeded in the investigation of the subject beyond general surmises.
In the case of the New Church the two eminent writers who seem to have given a more than usual attention to the subject are Mr. Noble and Mr. Clowes. Mr. Noble, in his sixth lecture on Plenary Inspiration, has the merit of having sketched a general outline of the relation of the Gospels to each other, and this he has done by classifying their general characteristics, two and two, or Matthew and Mark as relating more especially to the external degrees of the mind of Jesus, and Luke and John as relating more especially to the internal. On the other hand Mr. Clowes has not dwelt upon the general characteristics, but has ventured into the particulars of the Gospels, and elicited an orderly internal sense, even where in the external record no signs of order seemed to exist. What then is wanted in the New Church is a work embodying these two principles, thus developing the order and series of the Four Gospels and their contents, both in general and in particular, to the fullest extent. When this is accomplished, and not till then, the Four Gospels will be properly understood, and, supposing the order and series to be shown, there will arise an evidence of their Divine inspiration which, it appears to us, none but New Church writers are capable of undertaking; and indeed already none have gone into the subject so far as these have.
Unless the general principles of the connection between the Four Gospels are first laid down and clearly elucidated, the particular connection of their contents, as arising from the series and order of the contents themselves, will by no means be so clearly perceivable; and this is one reason, perhaps, why the internal sense, as explained by Mr. Clowes, seems to have attracted so little attention. Indeed when he originally propounded his explanation, it seemed to give rise to no little objection; as is evident from the close of his Preface to the Gospel of St. John.
Now there is no doubt that the general subject of the Four Gospels is the incarnation of our Lord and the glorification of His Humanity, thus also the full conjunction of the Humanity and Divinity ; but it is remarkable that the number four signifies fullness and conjunction, and thus the Four Gospels treat of the full conjunction of the Divinity with the Humanity in all the degrees of natural, spiritual, celestial, and
Divine, or otherwise, the Divine sensual, the Divine natural, the Divine spiritual, and the Divine celestial.
It is true, indeed, that externally viewed, the history of our Lord was one and continuous, corresponding to the continuous narrative presented by what are called Harmonies of the Gospels, but these Harmonies seem all to be founded on the principle that the Four Gospels present one and the same aspect of Divine Truth ; whereas one and the same mountain may present four different aspects, according as it is viewed from the east, west, north, or south ; and we might write four different narratives giving four different accounts of the same mountain, which could not be incorporated the one into the other without creating considerable confusion.
With regard to the Gospels individually one general arrangement is obvious; inasmuch as they begin with the earlier periods of our Lord's life in the flesh and the attendant circumstances, or with his public ministry, and terminate with the Ascension. But the question is, whether between these two extremes, each particular Gospel carries out a principle of series and order into its several contents. That in some cases a principle of order prevails in the internal sense, even when in the external sense there is none apparently, seems to be obvious : but it is important to inquire whether it exists in all cases. As a particular instance let us refer to Luke xvi. 16, 17, 18, &c.,
“(16.) The Law and the Prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it. (17.) And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the Law to fail. (18.) Whosoever putteth away his wife and marrieth another committeth adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. (19.) There was a certain rich man,” &c. It is not easy at first to discover any connection between the 17th and 18th, or perhaps between the 18th and 19th verses literally interpreted ; and accordingly some have denied any connection, and regarded the whole passage as a disjointed record of our Lord's sayings, belonging to the class of isolated memoranda, thus not as a continuous narrative.
It is however to be remembered, that our Lord addressed Himself to the thoughts of men, even where those thoughts were not verbally expressed ; hence in many parts of the Gospels there is a tacit or mental connection even where there is no expressed or grammatical connection. The Jews, it is said, were notorious for putting away their wives for slight causes, and excusing themselves on the ground that they were allowed by Moses a bill of divorcement. Our Lord therefore alludes to this circumstance as a breach of the original law of marriage;
thus showing that it was they who broke the law and not Himself. In the spiritual sense, the connection is still stronger. For the Pharisees were covetous; even their own Talmud accuses them of loving Mammon and hating one another without a cause; they were wedded to this world, and in this respect they had put away their true wives, had married another, and thus committed adultery. In this respect, the connection between the 17th and 18th verses is obvious, for it is an instance of their spiritual infraction of the Law.
Nor is the sense interrupted by the parable which follows concerning Dives and Lazarus. For if Dives represented the Jewish people, and these people were spiritual adulterers, the parable shews that where the affections of the mind are wedded to worldly things, miracles are of no avail; and that, so far from the teachings of the Law ceasing at death, it is as true in the Spiritual World as it is in the natural, that “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead."
We shall conclude this article by showing the relation of the spiritual sense of the Gospels to the recent remarkable controversy in the Guardian, between “ M. C. W.” and Mr. Burgon.
At the institution of the Lord's Supper St. Matthew and St. Mark relate that our Lord said—“ This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many.” On the other hand, St. Luke relates that our Lord said—“ This cup is the New Testament in my blood which is shed for you.” These two statements are called by “M. C. W.” contradictory; by Mr. Burgon, not contradictory but varied, and he particularly dwells upon the fact that the doctrines of transubstantion and consubstantion are founded upon St. Matthew's and St. Mark's version, not upon that of St. Luke; for no church pretends to say that the cup is changed into our Lord’s blood. Moreover, as all the statements are inspired, he considers that the variation presented by St. Luke was designed by the Holy Spirit to counteract the misinterpretation of those of Matthew and Mark.
But the interior sense of the two passages, as given by Swedenborg, shows us, that there is a deeper reason for the two different versions. For blood has reference to the celestial church; cup to the spiritual. The doctrine of transubstantion is therefore a perversion of the meaning of the celestial church ; and this corresponds to what Swedenborg has said in the Apocalypse Revealed, that the Roman or Latin Church is a perversion or inversion of the celestial, or of Celestial Love.*
* It is a singular coincidence that AMOR spelt inversely is Roma.
The variation of statement by Matthew and Mark from that of Luke has not passed unnoticed by Mr. Clowes, whose observations seem to suggest, that variations of statement, so nearly allied to various readings, may nevertheless have a Divine origin. See his Notes and Observations on Matthew xxvi. 28 :
“What is here called by the Lord the blood of the New Testament' is called by Him in Luke xxii. 20, 'the New Testament in my blood. Both expressions are of difficult apprehension, and not easily to be reconciled with each other, if they be interpreted only according to the sense of the letter; but when interpreted according to the spiritual sense, they amount to the same thing, and are perfectly intelligible. For the blood of the New Testament,' as it is here expressed, means the Divine Truth of the Divine Good, blood having respect to Truth and Testament to Good; and the New Testament in my blood,' as it is expressed in Luke, means the Divine Good in its union with the Divine Truth.”
A. C. WHO TOOK THE BABY?
From the “ New Jerusalem Messenger.” Once in a happy home a sweet bright baby died. At evening, after the funeral, when the family were sitting sadly together, little Ellen said—“Mamma, who took the baby on the other side ?” “On the other side of what, my child ?” “Of death, mamma. You always took care of her here, and she was too little to go alone. Who took her on the other side?'
“What will the baby do without you, mother ?
You used to watch and tend her all the day;
Until God came and took her life away.
Watching her waking, as you used to do ?—
Will she not mourn, mamma, and look for you ?
Than ever mother bent on her or thee ;
My angel-babe will never mourn for me.
M. S. c.