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SPECULATIVE AND CERTAIN TRUTHS.
we are the dupes of our senses will show how inadequate they are to decide in the commonest of material things. A straight stick seems crooked in the water; a square tower appears round at a distance; the sun looks no bigger than the diameter of a cheese; all things look yellow to the jaundiced eye; and all meats are bitter to the disordered palate. To sense the sun stands still, for no eye can see its actual motion. So, likewise, the standing still of the earth is concluded in the same way.
The testimony of sense in many other remarkable matters is no sufficient argument for concluding that things are as they seem. It may be worth notice at this point to remark, that it is not only the vulgar and common understandings that have been deceived by the senses, but the most refined minds have been abused and misled by them. In a few cases, it is true that the senses amend their own blunders; as for instance, when they are at proper distances and in healthy disposition, the tower is square when near it, and objects have other colours and meats other tastes when the body and its tempers are in good condition. But still we have sufficient ground for asserting that they cannot and never do report “ the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
“Stubborn facts make stubborn souls.” Precisely so. The senses make stubborn souls. “Nothing is more common than for men on the strength of facts to fight against the truth. Dear outer man and their outer facts ! how proud and confident they are, how stiff and sturdy their opposition! They do see indeed. What do they see? A few facts. But what are the facts they do know, compared with those which they do not know? The facts pertaining to the physical universe, do not comprehend all facts.” A little of the truth and a few of the facts of the universe the senses see, but of the entire spirit they have no notion. How can they? They can but comprehend one class of truths—the apparent, relative; and in the captivity of this class they fain would keep, and thus effectually shut out the possibility of our perceiving the higher facts—the genuine and Ultimate ones. It is pitiable that we should quietly consent to our external bondage, and make no earnest protest against it. We have submitted to settle down in first perceptions and impressions. The insinuation—the lie-expressed in the loose logic of the protest that “ seeing is believing,” has been a most popular and pleasant delusion.
There is a way of looking clearly, and after a fashion, thoroughly, at the facts of nature, without even so much as touching the borders of the philosophy of the facts. It is to view those facts as the senses
RELATIVE AND ULTIMATE,
show them superficially related to each other, and as calculation may disclose them adapted to certain massive appearances and results, with a plea of ignorance that they have any beginning, purpose, or spiritual bond, and proclaiming the impossibility of having a knowledge of their causes. This is the attitude assumed by the disciples of sense in relation to spiritual science, and analogically this is the precise temper of those thinkers among the so-called orthodox sect who interpret the Divine Revelation by their “ first impressions.” Such remain satisfied with what is true in a near-at-hand sense, or apparent sense, but make no effort to reach the far off and genuine truth. It is somewhat remarkable that those who take up and become disciples of apparent and proximate truth, should so frequently be the bitter opposers of those who seek to know the ultimate truth. This circumstance, though peculiar, is true. To it we refer the greatest of evils arising out of theological and scientific controversies.
The best and most accredited theories of man, God, and the universe are sadly imperfect and unintelligible. After all the confidence we have reposed in the senses and in their inferences, truly our sum of attainment in secular or spiritual knowledge amounts to “vanity and vexation of spirit.” The cause of all our distrusting ignorance and harassing confidence is, as Lord Bacon notes, that “we judge from the analogy of ourselves, not the universe.” Many things are certain and genuine according to the belief and principles of one man, that are absurd and incredible to the apprehensions of another man; and some things appear impossible to the vulgar that are capable of easy execution to men of more improved understanding. That is extravagant in one philosophy which is an obvious truth in another, and that which is most difficultly realizable in thought to one class of thinkers appears otherwise to another class. The sum is, we conclude this to be certain and that to be impossible and uncertain, from our own narrow senses and little schemes of opinion. Hence the poverty and paucity of genuine truth and of reliable scientific theories. The favourite principles of science are still hypotheses which may or may not be otherwise. We conclude to day that such and such suppositions are true and final; but to-morrow these certainties of to-day turn out the thinnest and weakest of conjectures. It is allowed to affirm that things are in some sense as they seem; but we strangely forget ourselves and our reason when we argue a necessity for our continuing to think that they are as they seem. The ways of God in nature, and His wisdom in Revelation, are not as our senses and fancies imagine, nor the standards we frame by which
SPECULATIVE AND CERTAIN TRUTHS.
to account for and explain them in any way commensurate with their vastness and profundity,—they have a depth greater than the well of Democritus, and our senses have nothing to draw with, and “the well is deep." .
Most 'plain is it then what relation the senses bear to the finding of ultimate truth, viz.,-a very necessary but still only preliminary and not always a useful one. Besides the imperfect state of our senses as in several ways doing violence to our search after genuine truth, there are more interior but not less formidable obstacles to our reaching ultimate facts. We shall only note one or two of these, and we promise to do so briefly. Not the least important and significant circumstance which contributes to our acquirement of fallacy and error is the action which our affections or will have over our understandings, and by which they are the occasions of mistakes and errors innumerable.
“Jupiter cannot be wise and in love,” is a saying of the ancients, and may be understood in a wider sense than they meant. It explains that which indeed needs no explanation, viz., the fact of our feelings prejudicing our judgments and incapacitating them for their honest work. It would be unwise now even to suppose that the understanding by itself has any power to pass a just verdict on any subject: the will must play its part in all intellectual decisions. Not unfrequently the will is permitted to have the casting vote and voice in determining what is true or false. This is man's misfortune and his fault. It is his misfortune that the woman within still deceives him with a deceit like that begun in the allegoric Garden of Eden. It is his fault that being wedded to an Eve, fatal as the mother of our miseries, he should consent to her fascinations and eat of the fruit. The general truth is, we seldom see anything except through our passions, and these are blind and impulsive. They entice and engage our understanding to the hurt of their genuine energy. “The tree is pleasant to look upon, and good for food;" so pleads the woman in our souls.
The great variety of human speculations, and the complicity of religious opinions, are to be referred to this fact. The will colours and changes and creates thought. This fact explains that congruity between certain special opinions and special tempers or temperaments of minds which we see in every household, nation, and church. Doctrines that are suited to the genius and special disposition of the understanding find easy and rapturous welcome ; while those that are opposite, or uncongenial to the genius and disposition, are rejected with an amazing energy, contempt, and hatred. Hence we observe
RELATIVE AND ULTIMATE TRUTHS.
some men taking a strange and almost inexplicable pleasure in certain doctrines and theories upon their first presentation, and most violently prejudiced against other doctrines that have the advantage of reason to recommend their reception and adoption. Theories and doctrines are as seeds which lie and grow best in minds most congenial, and where the soil is in harmony with the quality of the seed. The temperament of the mind is pretty much what custom and education make it. These two things have a considerable influence over the affections and judgment. The soul may be, as one philosopher styled it, “an unwritten table in itself;” but custom and education scribble on it and render it unfit to receive the clearest and truest impressions. We judge of things by anticipation as custom and education prejudge, We condemn what does not agree with and applaud that which does agree with our first opinion. Without dwelling upon a consideration obvious to our readers, we may make a passing remark upon the power that interest has over the affections, and thence by them over the understanding. “We only see what we bring eyes to see,” says the shrewd but sometimes hasty Carlyle. Interest is at the back of the eye, rendering it double. When thus engaged by interest, men generally see and find truth where integrity fails to discover it-in fact, anywhere. What is thought convenient to be true, becomes at last to be believed in as true. It is well put by the author of the “Eclipse of Faith,” that a man must follow conscience when made, and that every man has a trifle to do with making it. Barrow, Jeremy Taylor, Stillingfleet, and Chillingworth allege, as Swedenborg teaches, that “ a conscience, however erroneous, obliges.” A conscience made by the action of interest, is obliged to follow interest, and to plead for Baal. To affirm that anything is done “conscientiously,” is not the same as to say that a thing is done morally properly. Man has much to do in the process of making his conscience; and, therefore, he is held responsible not only for the performance of good, but also for instructing and educating his conscience of the good. This much by the way.
(To be continued.)
RESPONSE TO THE WISH OF “C. E. R.”
REVIEW SERMONS ON THE LORD'S PRAYER. By the Rev. 0. PRESCOTT HILLER.
London : Charles P. Alvey. pp. 114. The Lord's Prayer is in regard to worship what the Decalogue is in regard to life,—the ladder which reaches from earth to heaven; the several petitions of this Divine prayer being, like the different commandments of the Law, the steps by which the angels ascend and descend upon the sons of men.
“As often,” says Swedenborg, (A. C. 6476) “ as I have been reading the Lord's Prayer, so often have I manifestly perceived an elevation towards the Lord, which was like an attraction; and on the occasion the ideas were open, and hence was effected a communication with some societies in heaven; and I apperceived that there was an influx from the Lord into singular the things of the prayer, thus into singular the ideas of my thought, which were from the meaning of the things contained in the prayer. The influx was effected with inexpressible variety, not being the same at one time as at another; hence also it was made manifest how infinite things were in singular the expressions of the prayer, and that the Lord was present in each."
Such being the fulness and perfection of the Lord's Prayer, and such the effects of its devout use, it must ever be regarded and employed in the New Church as the very perfection of the form of oral worship. Other forms, and of human composition, are not indeed to be excluded, either in public or private worship, but even then the Lord's Prayer teaches us what our prayers should be, both in their spirit and their scope. The devout use of this holy prayer, like the devout reading of the Word, is ever attended with spiritual benefit to our souls; for the Lord and heaven are present with us in it. But devotion, like action, is perfected by intelligence. We are required to pray with understanding as well as to act with judgment; and our prayers are efficacious, as our actions are beneficial, in proportion as the good of love is guided by the truths of wisdom. It is, therefore, not only necessary to address the Lord in the words of the prayer He has delivered to us, but to understand something of its most holy contents. Its literal sense is indeed easily understood, and expresses as many open truths as any other part of the Divine Word; but the spiritual sense discloses truths of a higher or more interior kind, that have the power of bringing the Lord and man into more intimate connection with each other, and may be made the means of forming a more interior conjunction between them. Some of our best writers have contributed the means of enlarging our ideas of the Lord's Prayer. Among these are Clowes, in this country,