Page images
PDF
EPUB

us. Is it not wiser cautiously to investigate a matter before we believe or disbelieve? And when we find a fact well authenticated, should we reject it because our finite minds cannot make out how it is so?

When I first heard Swedenborg mentioned he was spoken of as a visionary-an insane person-and the accounts of him were so ridiculous and contradictory, that I of course took no interest in acquainting myself with his doctrines.

But, in the autumn of the year 1842, I became acquainted with a gentleman who was better informed on this subject. What he related of Swedenborg excited in me a desire to know the truth of his assertions. With this view I read a number of Swedenborg's works, but as I was guided only by the titles, my selections were injudicious, and retarded my progress in acquiring a knowledge of his doctrines. I misunderstood many passages, and was led into erroneous opinions of the New Church; and because I was unacquainted with the meaning of many terms which he uses, I was in the same state as any person might be, should he open a deeply scientific work in the middle of the book, or at the last pages, and thus judge of the science before he had learnt its rudiments.

In this manner I read eighteen months without being able to make up my mind as to the truth or fallacy of what I perused. Had I proceeded in a different manner, I should more readily have come to a conclusion. The following is a list of books which I would recommend to the perusal. of those who are desirous of investigating Swedenborg's doctrines; and I have arranged them in the order in which they should be read. "Barrett's Lectures of the winter 1840-11." "Objections against the claims of Swedenborg examined and refuted, New Church tract No. V." "The End of the World &c. tract No. VI." "The Second Coming of the Lord, tract IX." "The Resurrection, tract No. VIII." "The True Object of Christian Worship demonstated, and the doctrine of the Trinity elucidated and cleared of the difficulties in which it is commonly involved. Revised and recommended by a committee of the Massachusetts' Association of the New Church, No. 1." Holy City New Jerusalem, or Doctrines of the New Church. A sermon preached at the dedication of the New Church Temple in Providence, R. I., Oct. 14, 1843, by B. F.

"The

Barrett." "Noble's Appeal in Behalf of the New Church," and" Noble's Plenary Inspiration." After these, the following works of Swedenborg, viz:

"The Wisdom of the Angels concerning Divine Love and Divine Wisdom," 1 vol. "The Delights of Wisdom Concerning Conjugial Love," 1 vol. "The Apocalypse Revealed, &c." 2 vols. "Heavenly Arcana, which are in the Sacred Scriptures, or the Word of the Lord Laid Open, &c." in 12 vols.

Had I read the above works in this order, I should soon have been fully convinced that the internal sense of the Bible, as explained by the Science of Correspondences, is the true and important sense, and that this was revealed to Swedenborg by the Lord himself, for the purpose of making Swedenborg the means of enlightening the world, and establishing a true Church, to take the place of the old, just as the first Christian church was also ordained to take the place of the Jewish, and that this Science of Correspondences was truly revealed by God, and that it is not, and could not be the work of any human ingenuity. And having once become fully convinced of these facts, was it not equally my duty and my desire to belong to the existing True Church? Feeling that it was so, on the 6th of May I was baptized, and on the 7th of July, 1844, partook of the communion in the New Christian Church, and thus became a full member of the New Jerusalem Church.

If those who condemn me were free from prejudice, would they not examine these works before they so severely censure the step which I have thus deliberately taken? Would not such a course be more charitable, more Christianlike, and wiser? Could they but be convinced that they were opposing the truth, and acting as unwisely as the Jews of old, who refused to become Christians though they saw the Saviour and His miracles, would they not think it worth their while to inquire what are the pretensions and doctrines of the New Church? They would then find, that upon the Holy Writ our whole belief is founded. That we are not the followers of a man, but the receivers of the Word of God. That we do not look upon Swedenborg as the founder of a New Religion; but merely as an instrument in the hands of God, to expound His Word, by publishing to the world that Internal Sense of

*

B

the Holy Scriptures, which heretofore was not understood. To this the objectors naturally say, "Can it be that God would permit the world to live eighteen hundred years in ignorance of the true meaning of the bible?" With equal justice, might not the first Christians have asked, "Can it be that God would permit the world to live four thousand years in ignorance of Christianity?" The answer to these. remarks is, that Infinite Wisdom knows best what is the fittest time for all things. He judged that at the time of the establishment of Judaism, that religion was best adapted to the then existing state of the world; that had Christianity then been taught, men's minds were in such a state that they would not have received it, and therefore Judaism was made the stepping stone to Christianity. And also, at the establishment of the latter, the minds of men were not prepared to receive the internal sense the Scriptures, and therefore the literal sense was given them, that it might become, in the process of time, thestepping stone to the Internal Sense, which is the foundation of the New Jerusalem Church foretold in the Revelations of St. John.

The objectors say, if this be so, how is it that the progress of that church, which it is predicted will spreadover all the world, is so slow? The progress is slow, because of the deep-rooted and far-spread evils of man. The majority of human beings are not wise and good. And the standard of right in the New Church is so high, that those who are not prepared to look upon religion as the first and most important concern of life, prefer a lower standard, because their conscience is then lessdisturbed. Others are too much in love with antiquity, and fear innovations. Others are either too indolent, or too indifferent about the truth to investigate the subject. Notwithstanding all this, the number of New Church members is greater than is generally supposed. But little could be expected during the life-time of Swedenborg-he died in 1772,-in the space, then, of only seventy-two years, the doctrines revealed by him have spread very generally throughout the Christian world, more particularly in England and in the United States-in France, Germany, and Russia, and in many other parts of Europe, New Church people are to be found. In the United States the number

has doubled within the last six years; and there are some in every state in the Union, and in almost all the principal towns; also in the British Provinces and the West Indies. The number of New Church ministers in the United States at present is nearly forty. In the two States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island there are upwards of 2000 persons who are interested in the doctrines of the New Church, being more than twice the number that were interested threeyears ago. Besides, the slow progress of the New Jerusalem Church is rather in its favour, for that which is to be of long endurance is always of slower progress than that which is transitory. Moreover, Christianity in the early ages was still slower in its advancement.

CHAPTER III.

Opening of Swedenborg's Spiritual Sight-Swedenborg's Claimsexamined-Was he an Impostor, or himself Deceived, or Insane?—The Answer to these Questions-Arguments—Swedenborg's mode of Life-Elevated Character-Piety-Liberality.

My convictions with regard to magnetism, prepared my mind to believe in other extraordinary facts. It is generally thought that in natural somnambulism, or what is usually called sleep-walking, persons are capable of performing what they could not accomplish awake; and yet it is evident, that in many cases they have not the use of their natural eyes. That our faculties, then, are capable of being developed to a degree which may be deemed supernatural, must be a settled fact. In the Bible we have many instances of most extraordinary gifts to men, and of their being permitted to perform miracles. When, then, I heard of an extraordinary gift being granted by Providence to Swedenborg, I could not deem such an event impossiblefor there were precedents of a similar kind. All I needed, was to know, whether the facts related of this extraordinary man were well authenticated; and finding that they were so more perfectly even than most events in history-I was forced to believe that Swedenborg was endowed with an extraordinary gift by the Lord.

And now let us examine into these pretensions, and see if they are so wild and unreasonable as some suppose. "Swedenborg, if he is to be believed, was divinely illuminated by God himself, to declare his doctrines to the world; and those who ridicule his pretensions, can only account for them on one of the following grounds: either, 1st, he was a deceiver who imposed upon the people—or, 2d, he was himself deceived by the adversary of man-or, 3d, he was insane, and his doctrines are but the ravings of a madman.

"We will consider each of these positions in its proper order.

"1. Let us allow, then, for the sake of argument, that he willingly deceived. If this be the case, he must have been one of the most unprincipled villains that ever cursed the world-a vile wretch, who took the name of God into his mouth as a means of imposture, and who, under the pretended sanction of heaven, endeavored to inveigle men into the belief of an absurd and blasphemous heresy. In the character of such a man we must expect to find deep cunning, blended with open or concealed wickedness; for having cast off all reverence for God, it is not to be expected that he should obey him any farther than such obedience would serve his own purpose, and conduce to the success of his imposture. Does this description of the character of an impostor agree with the life and conduct of SWEDENBORG? His very enemies acknowledge that his character was irreproachable, and his practice such as became a holy and humble Christian! Those who had every opportunity of being acquainted with him, speak in the highest terms of his humility, his reverence for God, and his deep and uniform piety. A talented and firm minister of the Church of England, who knew him intimately for some years, says, 'He was a man of uncommon humility, a good man, a deep philosopher, a universal scholar, and a polite gentleman.* In similar terms a former prime minister of Sweden (Count Von Hopkin) describes his character: I do not recollect,' says he, 'ever to have known a man of more uniformly virtuous conduct than SWEDENBORG! He was a pattern of sincerity, of virtue, and of piety.' In

6

* Rev. James Hartley, Rector of Winwick, Northamptonshire.

« PreviousContinue »