« PreviousContinue »
impose restraints on his natural evils. And, in order to evade them, the conditions of salvation have been changed by him to favour his evil propensities. They have been changed from the precepts of the Lord to the various doctrines to which the various evils in the mind of man correspond: for the various doctrines which have finally consummated the christian church, are but so many outward manifestations of inward opposition to the commandments of God. The members of the New Jerusalem profess no personal exemption from temptations of those evils manifested in these various doctrines and sects. They find the path of regeneration alternately brightened by the rays of the spiritual sun, and obscured by the clouds of false persuasions. In states when conscience and duty are operative, the Lord appears as one in essence and person, as divine in the humanity: but when they are inoperative, the person of the Lord appears divided, and the divinity of his vanishes, just in proportion to the decline of conscience and duty. Under such views of their own condition, they are not disposed to hold the various sects of the christian church as antagonists: nevertheless, opposition from the christian church is expected; but this opposition, under its various doctrinal forms, is only an image of the opposition, which the members of the New Jerusalem experience in their own minds, to the commandments of the Lord.
For the New Jerusalem Magazine.
REVELATION AND REASON.
When our Lord was in the world, the authority with which he spake and taught, was often manifest to the astonishment of the people. And the authority with which he now teaches in his Word, is still manifest to those who are disposed to see and feel it. But this can be perceived to any useful purpose, only in proportion as we cooperate with his spirit
, by obedience to his commandments. It is in vain that we seek from him a mere manifestation of his power—a sign from heaven: for this is seeking to invert the order of his providence. His omnipotence is but the effect and operation of his love and wisdom. It sometimes assumes among men the external form of miracles and mighty works; but then, as well as at all other times, the principal design is not the wonder and astonishment which the external work produces upon the natural man: for the external work itself is but the incidental effect of the operation of divine love. If then the miracle be but the external covering or manifestation of divine love,—a messenger of mercy,—its principal object must be to reveal the love it bears. It is not the mere operation of divine power, nor even of divine wisdom, but of divine love. The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. It was for this reason that our Lord required faith in those for whom a miracle was to be wrought. That is, he required some degree of acknowledgment that he was able to do the thing—that he proceeded forth and came from God, and was entitled to the honour which is a prophet's due. His life being a course of perfect obedience to the Father within him, he became an unresisting medium of divine love, and could act in no other way. Verily, verily I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. When, therefore, our Lord taught in his own country, though many, hearing him, were astonished; yet, because they did not give him the honour that was his due, and acknowledge the Father to dwell within him, but said, whence hath this man these things? is not this the carpenter ? and were offended at him; it is written, he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands on a few sick folk, and healed them. Their incredulity was sufficient even to stop up the issues of his miraculous power; for the divine love, the sole fountain of it all, could find no abiding place in their unbelieving hearts. To work miracles for the conversion of such men, would be to act contrary to the laws of divine order; and therefore he could not do it. For he was himself the way, the truth, and the life; and came not to do his own will, but did always those things which were pleasing to the Father who sent him.
The relation in which human reason should stand to the authority of such a teacher, is that of profound submission and obedience. And the only office which reason has in the business, is in ascertaining what is the import of the divine commands. This being done, reason has no right to demur, because it does not square with her preconceived opinions; for the Lord's ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts. The incompetency of reason to the discovery of spiritual truth, is supposed in the very idea of a revelation. The truths of revelation are not the result of human research and inquiry, but a ray of light from the Supreme Intelligence, the Father of Light, descending into the world, and addressing itself even to the reason of mankind. For we have not chosen him, but he has chosen us. But revelation does not descend so low, and so accommodate itself to the reason of man, that he may sit in judgment upon it, and turn what light there may be in him into darkness, by pronouncing it absurd, and rejecting it as irrational. It descends into the human mind that it may again ascend unto the Father and Fountain of all right reason; and, in its ascent, it would fain draw all men unto it. It would elevate them above the reason of the natural understanding, and illuminate the mind with the light of life. The elevation and illumination of reason then, is the very object of revelation; and he who should reject its doctrines because they are at variance with some of the dictates of his reason, would act like the tiger, who should hastily destroy the hand in kindness stretched out to feed him. Far happier is the lot of those, who, being satisfied of the authority of revelation, exercise their reason merely in ascertaining what it means, without presuming to gainsay or resist its doctrines.
On this subject of arriving at a true knowledge of the doctrines of revelation, there is an appointed way, which is through obedience to the commandments. There is no promise that we shall ever know the doctrine of the Lord, but by doing his will. It was by obedience, perfect indeed, that our Lord was glorified and made divine. It is by obedience that man must be regenerated, and made like unto the angels. This brings us at once to the grand test of truth—its practical character, its capability of being united in the understanding with goodness in the will, whence flows a clearness of perception, and a fulness of joy, known only to those who have experienced it. The effect of obedience is to qualify a man for new victories over himself. This is the strife in which he desires to go on conquering and to conquer. He does not seek for truth to be delighted with its splendour and beauty, but to obey it as his lord and master. His prayer is, that his eyes may be opened; but he does not forget that the wondrous things which he is to see, are out of the law of the Lord. They are not revealed to him, except in the form of a law and rule of life. All the obedience he can yield, does only prepare him for obedience still more perfect. His duty becomes his delight, and he finds it ever ready before him. And, were it possible for him to render his obedience perfect, and finish the work that is given him to do, he would become an unresisting medium of divine love; and the continual language of his heart would be, not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Indeed, every one must know, from his own experience, that what is called our reason, is continually changing its character and complexion. What once appeared to us irrational, we should now consider it the height of folly to reject. These changes are often so sudden, that they may almost be called instantaneous. A friend, for instance, states a proposition which we feel inclined to pronounce absurd and irrational. But our respect for his character and attainments checks our impetuosity and humbles our pride, and we ask for an explanation. We submit to his guidance, while he takes us by the hand and leads us through the preliminary steps, till we stand on the vantage ground by his side, see for ourselves, and are ready to adopt his very words. And we henceforth not only regard the former state of our reason on this subject as comparatively obscure, but our hearts fill with gratitude to him who has shown us our error. If this be but reasonable treatment to a fellow man, what apology shall he find who refuses the same courtesy to the Lord of glory? Is his truth so inferior to man's wisdom, that we shall always presume ourselves qualified to pass upon it? Has his law no design of elevating us above the fogs and darkness of natural reason, or is there no reward in keeping his commandments? Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, 0 ye heavens! at this; and be ye horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the Fountain of Living Waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
Our Lord came not into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He came to establish no temporal kingdom, to gratify no national pride; but even from childhood he was about his Father's business. Though he descended into the very ultimate of his dominion, his end was to reduce the spiritual, rather than the natural world to order. The order of the natural world must be the effect of, and flow from order in the spiritual world, before it can be true order; and a preparation for this was made at the same time that our Lord assumed and glorified his humanity, and prepared the way for man to follow him in the regeneration. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. When one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me; he said unto him, man, who made me a. judge or divider over you? And he said unto them, take heed and beware of covetousness ; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Thus, our Lord, when inquired of respecting temporal things, and those disputes which originated in the selfishness of mankind, declined giving any specific direction on the subject. When two were disputing about a division of goods, he cautioned them against covetousness, the cause of all their difficulty; and which being once removed, a right division would be a mere matter of course; because each would then claim his own and no more. His object always was, to strike at the root of the evil—to take away the sin of the world. The law which he came to fulfil, was not the law of man, but the law of God. When Judas, with his band, came to take him, and one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest, and smote off his ear; then said Jesus unto him, put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels ? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? The mere effect of arbitrary power alone could afford no aid to Him who came to establish his kingdom within man—to put his law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. Jesus answered, my kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered unto the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.
And as it was with the Lord himself, while in the world, so is it with his Word, which is still in the world, and in the life and spirit of which he is himself with us always, even unto the end of the world. It is not enough that we form our opinions and sentiments from our own natural reason, and then, in our disputes with each other about what is true, inerely appeal to his Word as the umpire to settle the difficulty, and award the palm of victory. The words of the Lord are spirit, and they are life; and it is not their office to decide which of the conflicting claims of human reason is the best founded, but to fill the heart with true wisdom, when human reason will humble itself in the dust. It still seems good in the sight of our Heavenly Father to hide these things from the wise and prudent, and to reveal them unto babes. When, therefore, human reason presumes to arraign at its bar the oracles of the living God, and to judge them by its own measures, they stand mute before it. Though we question with them in many words, they answer us nothing; for if they tell us, we will not believe; and if they ask us, we will not answer. The only response that can be made, is an assertion of their own divinity; and wretched must be the state of those, who, like the chief priests of the Jews, hear nothing in it but blasphemy.
For the New Jerusalem Magazine.
ON THE OBSCURITY OF SWEDENBORG'S WRITINGS.
THERE is no charge more frequently brought against the works of Swedenborg than obscurity. This charge is, indeed, commonly made by those who have read little, and that little superficially; and who, feeling no interest in the subjects treated of, are glad of any excuse to lay down his books. Still, as there are so many more careless than attentive readers, the charge has become popular, and is seldom contradicted.
He who is not intelligible, says Jortin, is seldom intelligent. This is a good pun, and a tolerably safe maxim. And it will be
VOL. 1.-NO. II.