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There are indeed passages in the Word, we are told, where the vowel points are divinely inspired; where no consecutive literal sense can be elicited, and which are understood only by the Lord, and those to whom He vouchsafes to reveal their interior meaning. Are we then to suppose that there are passages in the Word which cannot be understood without a special revelation? Because if so, and any corruptions should creep into the text, so as to make it doubtful, it might seem as if a special revelation might be required in order to ascertain the genuine reading. But when it is said above, that there are passages the meaning of which is known to the Lord alone, and those to whom He vouchsafes to reveal it, the expression seems to be only the same with that in The Apocalypse Revealed—"And He had a name written which no one knew but He Himself"—signifying—"that what the Word is in its spiritual and celestial sense, no one sees but the Lord and they to whom He reveals it." It would seem, then, that no other revelation is meant for the purpose of understanding the passages above referred to in the Old Testament, than the revelation which is requisite to enable a person to understand other parts of the Word. Where no consecutive literal sense can be discovered, and yet the original text may be regarded as in any particular uncertain, we must still have recourse to the interior sense of the context to guide us in the selection of the right word or phrase: mere verbal criticisms in this case will be of no avail. For, secondly: when it is said that the Hebrew language is such that not the mere letter but the meaning ought to be attended to, does not this imply that as the Hebrew language was written at a time when the conventionalities of grammar and logic were unknown, we ought not to interpret it after the manner of modern criticisms? When a person speaks we do not attend to the mere words but to the sense, and consequently we have no recourse to mere verbal criticisms. We ought therefore to regard the Hebrew language in the Word as if it were spoken, and as such endeavour to find out the ideas meant to be conveyed. This the church will do in the course of its progress, in which case, when the letter is made a matter of debate, the transition will be from the spirit to the letter,—the inverse order of that which is pursued by modern criticism; for the church will be enabled then to select that letter, that is to say that word, phrase, or even sentence, which is the proper expression of the spirit. When to this we add a knowledge of the style in which the Word is written, as that the word Jehovah is used where good is spoken of, and God where truth is spoken of; that some
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words have more especial reference to the will, some to the intellect; that pairs of words have reference to a matrimonial union between the things signified; that some vowels are proper to the angels who are preeminently in love, and others to those who are preeminently in truth; in all these things, as members of the New Church, we have so many guides to determine us in doubtful readings, and so many safeguards against a mutilation or corruption of the text. We say mutilation or corruption, for many, if not most, of those pretended emendations of the received text which are put forth by certain modern critics, would, if adopted, be real mutilations or corruptions, arising from the rejection of the spiritual sense, and the consequent selection of words which do not properly express it—to say nothing of the futility of most of the Elohistic and Jehovistic controversies, arising from their authors not being acquainted with the principles above mentioned.
To illustrate this position still further: it is remarked in the Spiritual Diary, art. 2833, that—
"There are many words in the Hebrew language which contain a complex of many ideas in one word extending its meaning from one opposite to the other; so that the sense of the word cannot be understood except from the series, nor the series except from the interior sense. The case is otherwise in other languages; for the reason that the Hebrew language was that of representatives, so that numerous things were inherent in one common idea; whereas other languages did not attain to the expression of interior things, inasmuch as they were of such a nature as not to be the expressions of representatives."
Thus if we were to interpret the word Moses after the manner of classical languages, we should regard it as a name only of an individual. This being the case we should reject the received text as an interpolation, as in Deuteronomy xxxiv. 5—"So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab," &c. Regarded in the representative sense we are not bound to consider it as an interpolation. So again in Genesis xxxvi. 31—" These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel," &c. In the merely verbal or classical sense, king means only king, and consequently the passage is considered to be an interpolation. In the representative sense as signifying truth, we regard the passage as no interpolation; and so in numerous other instances.
A. C. (To be continued.)
In the deep midnight's sleep,
I'm visited in dreams ;—
Beneath the moon's pale beams.
Off houses high I fall,
But never reach the ground;
A dream!—I'm safe and sound.
Bright angels sometimes stand,
And speak with gentle voice;
And evermore rejoice.
And dark fiends sometimes come,—
Men that have lost their souls;
And drag me to their holes.
* "I was one night," says Swedenborg, "awakened out of sleep, and heard spirits about me, who were desirous to ensnare me in my sleep; and presently falling asleep again, I had a dismal dream. When I awoke, there suddenly presented themselves some chastising spirits, who inflicted terrible punishment on the spirits who had endeavoured to ensnare me in my sleep. The punishment lasted a long while, and extended around me to several troops; and, what was surprising, all who had endeavoured to ensnare me were discovered, although they wished to conceal themselves. I wondered that they were so severely punished, but it was perceived that their crime was of an enormous kind; for it is necessary that man should sleep in safety, otherwise the human race would perish: this was the cause of their being so severely punished. It was given me to perceive that the like is done about other men, whom these spirits endeavour by their artifices to assault in sleep, though man is ignorant of it: for unless it be given to converse with spirits, and to be with them by internal sense, it is impossible to hear such things, and still more, to see them; when nevertheless they happen alike to all. The Lord is particularly watchful over man during sleep."—Arcana Calestia, n. 957.
BELATIVE AND ULTIMATE, SPECULATIVE AND
It might be shown that our affections deceive us, by the false respect we have for others, as well as by an inordinate interest in and for ourselves. Our reverence for authority and antiquity illustrates this point. We look with superstitious reverence upon the greatness and wisdom of past ages, and with supercilious severity, if not apathy, on the most worthy works and wit of our own day. We adhere to the opinions of our ancestors, and to the theories of our forefathers, as though their mental inheritances were entailed upon us, and our conceptions and experiments were only second hand. Of course, while men permit this servile temper to rule their minds, and to govern their estimate of moral and spiritual matters, it cannot be a wonder if science and theology become no more advanced in their respective statures than they were a hundred years ago. The mathematical and mechanical arts have considerably advanced beyond what they were in ancient times, and their progress has not been retarded or postponed by any false reverence for former discoveries. It was never a heresy to outstrip or outwork the obelisks. Galileo, without crime, transcended all antiquity, and was not afraid to believe his reason, in reverence to Aristotle and Ptolemy. It is no disparagement to the famous optic glasses that the ancients never used them; nor are we suspicious or shy of their revelations because they were hid from ages. We credit the polar virtue of the loadstone, without a certificate from the days of old. Had authority and tradition prevailed in these cases, the fourth part of the
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earth would have been undiscovered, and Hercules' Pillars would still have been the world's ne ultra; Seneca's prophecy would have not been fulfilled, and one moiety of our globe remained an empty hemisphere.
We are greatly and agreeably indebted to the ancients for their helps and discoveries; but our reverence becomes superstition the moment we implicitly submit our judgment to their opinions, and forego that freedom of investigation, and that power of differing from our neighbour, which constitute a true and healthy action of the intellect. But we have a false notion about antiquity. As Lord Bacon says, we wrongly apprehend it, which, in common acceptation, is but the nonage of the world. Antiquitas seculi est juventus mundi. So that in our appeals to antiquity, we bring our knowledge from the cradle and comparative infancy of days. Surely, the present day is, in the truest sense, the greatest antiquity; and if that must govern and guide our judgment, let multitude of days speak. It is from this servile custom of referring to antiquity on subjects of great moment, that arose that cumbrous fashion of lengthy citations, the alleging authorities, in behalf of doctrines that neither require nor deserve them. No sooner is a doctrine disputed as to its intrinsic purity or correctness, than certain defenders of it rush to its defence with long array of citations from the fathers to authenticate and support its claims. This practice, ridiculous as it is, is very common with those who court the reputation of being learned, and it is resorted to by persons not peculiarly scholastic. Fewer truths need insisting upon more than this, that what a multitude of persons declare to be true does not make it true; and that a truth is above, prior, and independent of him who utters it. The multitude say that they see the sun rise and set; but this is precisely not the case, although the multitude affirm it to be so. It is not requisite that we should demonstrate the truth of this assertion, for intuition and observation must have confirmed its truthfulness in the minds of our readers.
Now, after these somewhat desultory remarks, it is incumbent on us to advance to the examination of our subject in a more minute and sustained manner. In so far as we have succeeded in destroying implicit confidence in the evidence of the senses, and in disengaging the mind from the entanglements of self-interest, education, custom, antiquity, and authority, in that measure we have prepared the way for establishing our footsteps more safely and firmly within the boundaries of the Ultimate and Certain Truths of Science and Religion.