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and into that perception the Lord flows in and testifies. To receive them on authority is an external and Jewish mode of receiving. I have no relish for it, nor for the efforts of those who are endeavouring to compel us to receive in that way.”
Those who at this day maintain the finite and therefore fallible character of Swedenborg's writings, only follow eminent witnesses who have been before them. Dr. Immanuel Tafel has said :
“Dr. Mæhler has entirely misrepresented Swedenborg's standpoint, or his true position in respect to the source of knowledge in the Church; inasmuch as he has falsely alleged that Swedenborg received immediate revelations from the Lord. . If Swedenborg had received immediate revelations from the Lord, his writings would have been placed on an equal footing with the Holy Word itself, and would have formed a third Testament. But he gives a list of the Divinely inspired books of the Word in which his own writings are not enumerated. On the contrary, he announces a principle of canon by virtue of which neither these nor the Epistles and Acts of the Apostles can be reckoned with the books which really constitute the Word of God ; inasmuch as that is only the Word of God which was spoken by God Himself, that is, which God has taught or inspired immediately from Himself, and in which there is consequently, in every part, a spiritual sense.
“Swedenborg and the New Church by no means maintain that there can be a new revelation which can place itself on an equality with the Word of God. . . But a mediate revelation, that is, an illustration by the Holy Spirit, whilst reading the Word of God, is not only promised in the New Testament, especially at the end of the Old and at the commencement of the New Church, but is declared in these words: “That the Son of Man will then manifest Himself' (Luke xvii. 30), and ‘make all things new' (Rev. xxi. 5).
“Swedenborg maintains that only the Scriptures of the Prophets and Evangelists are the Word of God, and places them on an infinitely higher pinnacle than his own writings.” 1
One who is too near the source of information to be mistaken in what he says, thus speaks: “The contention of the Academy is that those works which we call ‘the writings are an immediate revelation from the Lord, and on that account (and not in any sense because Swedenborg wrote them), they contain, nay, they are Divine truth, and therefore infallible.”
It is a curious circumstance that what Swedenborg was formerly accused of by one of his adversaries should now be claimed for him by some of his friends; and that the same vindication should be an answer to both.
1 A Vindication of the Doctrines and Statements of Swedenborg against the Perversions and Attacks of Dr. Mæhler and Professor Perrone. English edition, pp. 21-24.
To the Editor of the “ Intellectual Repository."
WHAT DOES SWEDENBORG TEACH ON THE DOCTRINE
OF THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD ?
In the present aspect of the New Church we have presented to us the anomaly of a Christian community, justly claiming to be in possession of a new and special revelation of truth from the Lord, agitated by conflicting opinions on the above important doctrine; this divergence of opinion extending not less to the clerical than the lay element of the Church. To a certain extent this may not afford ground for regret
, because entire unanimity of thought is ordinarily the result of mental stagnation or a defect of mental perception, rather than of earnest search after truth. Still the thoughtful mind asks, Why is it so? If truth be light to the mind, why do not all men, who equally enjoy the light, see alike the primal doctrines of the Church? Our present purpose is to answer this inquiry, and to show that this diversity of opinion has arisen, not from any obscurity in Swedenborg's teaching, but is rather traceable to misapprehension, the result of an imperfect estimate of what he has written for our guidance and instruction.
In reading the writings of the Church, as in reading the inspired Word, there is a liability of unguardedly attaching an undue weight and importance to some one text or statement, apart from other portions of the Word or writings, which express more broadly and lucidly their fundamental teaching. Thus, by those holding a one-sided view of the Divine Word, the text John iii. 36, “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life,” is believed to teach that faith alone will save man.
In the effort to ascertain what Swedenborg has written upon this distinguishing doctrine of the New Church, we should endeavour to grasp the broadest possible scope and teaching of his enlightened exposition.
Referring to the question in dispute-because Swedenborg informs us there was written on all his books in the spiritual world “The Lord's Advent,” the same words being inscribed by command upon two copies of his published works; and, further, because he has declared that the Lord made His Second Coming through the revelation of the internal sense of the Word as contained in his writings, it has been concluded by a section of the Church that this statement expresses the sum of Swedenborg's teaching on this doctrine, and that the Lord has made His Second Advent wholly through this one medium; withholding, as it would appear, other portions of his writings, to which we now invite the reader's attention, which present a much wider and grander view
the subject, and one that wi be more likely to commend itself to the unbiassed' novitiate reader of the writings. It has also been thought by such persons that to question the justness of the above conclusion indicates an unwillingness to abide by Swedenborg as a final authority. Hence has arisen the dispute on the subject of Authority and Infallibility, which, in its present aspect, seems little likely to receive a satisfactory solution. In a spirit of fairness, and actuated by a sincere love of the truth for its own sake, let us listen to Swedenborg's own evidence, the better to enable us to see clearly the harmony of his teaching in the elucidation of this doctrine.
CITATIONS FROM SWEDENBORG ON THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD.
A. R. 947. Rev. xxii. 7, “Behold, I come quickly," signifies that He will certainly come, that is, to execute judgment, and to build up a New Heaven and a New Church.
A. R. 187. “Behold, I come quickly," signifies the Lord's Coming, and then a New Church.
The Last Judgment is also called the Lord's Coming, as in Matt. xxiv. 3. ... The reason why by these words a New Church is also understood, is because after the Last Judgment a Church is established by the Lord; that Church is the New Jerusalem.
A. R. 145. “Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast until I come,” signifies that they should retain the few things which they know from charity and consequent faith from the Word, and live according to them, until the New Heaven and the New Church are formed, which are the Lord's Coming. The same words occur A. E. 151.
A. E. 706. By the consummation of the age is meant the last state of the Old Church, and by the Lord's Coming the first state of the New.
A. C. 3900. The Coming of the Lord is not according to the letter, that He will appear again in the world in person, but is His Coming in every one, which happens as often as the Gospel is preached and anything holy is thought of
T. C. R. 774. The presence of the Lord is continual with every one, whether he be wicked or good, for without His presence no man can live; but His Coming is with those only who receive Him, and these are they who believe on Him and do His commandments. . . . The Coming of the Lord is with such as conjoin heat with light, that is, with such as conjoin love with truth.
H. H. Introduction. It has been granted to me to be admitted into the society of angels, and to converse with them as one man converses with another, and also to see the things that exist in heaven and those that exist in hell. I have enjoyed this privilege for the space of thir
and it is now permitted me to describe the heavens and the hells from the testimony of my own sight and hearing, in the hope that ignorance may thus be enlightened and incredulity dissipated. The reason that such an immediate revelation is made at this day is because this is what is meant by the Coming of the Lord.
teen years ;
Such are some of the general statements contained in the writings of the Church on the nature of the Lord's Second Advent; from the sum of which we conclude that the Lord's Second Coming, like His First Advent, does not consist merely in one act—the revelation of the internal sense of the Word, but that it was and is a work which has its three distinct stages or degrees, and thence requires to be seen in its threefold aspect. It is clear from the above citations that the Lord's Second Advent consisted, in its first part, of the work of judgment effected in the spiritual world, doubtless as the means of removing the obstructions to His descent as the Divine Truth into the world. Secondly, it consisted in the revelation, through Swedenborg, of the internal sense of the Divine Word, and of the laws and phenomena of the spiritual world. And, thirdly, it consisted in the evangelization of the world, and the formation of a new and everlasting dispensation or Church on the earth. In the Gospels we have clearly unfolded to us the same threefold order of descent at the Lord's First Advent. First was the work of judgment; next was His glorification; and, finally, the evangelization of the world, and, through the descent of the Holy Spirit, the founding of the first Christian Church. The parallelism is complete. The first and second stages of the Lord's Coming were wholly Divine works; while the third and not less essential part, and which also is the end achieved, depends upon human co-operation. The two former stages of the Lord's Advent are of the past; the third is now progressing, and will be unfolding for ever, as the Divine Love and Truth find their abidingplace in regenerated hearts and minds.
In reply to those who think the Lord's Second Advent consisted only in the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, is it not self-evident, that if those expositions of the Word had been written and printed with infallible exactness, without man's reception thereof, they would have remained a dead letter, and there would have been no true Descent or Coming of the Lord into the world ? Hence, in the above citations Swedenborg shows clearly what that “Coming" is.
If we ignore this view of the subject, then we are necessitated to believe that the last recent Advent of the Lord was not his Second, but rather His Third Advent. In the Gospels we have the plainest predictions and promises of His again coming to His disciples immediately after His glorification ; and this was actually fulfilled in the descent of the Holy Spirit: and this Advent of the Lord was not less real than was His Advent in the flesh: according to His own words (Matt. x. 23), “ Verily, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come ;” (John xiv. 18), “I will not leave you comfortless : I will come to you.” To show His disciples that the Holy Spirit was Himself—His own Spirit—"He breathed upon
His disciples, and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit :” and after the day of Pentecost, the gift of His Holy Spirit was indeed His coming to His future disciples, the sincere members of His Church. When we know that this was part of His First Coming, then we are justified in speaking of His recent Advent, through the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, as being His Second Advent.
Evidently it could only have been in a restricted and prospective sense that there was inscribed on Swedenborg's books in the spiritual world, “ This is the Lord's Advent;” because, had those writings been seen only in that world, there would have been no Advent of the Lord to mankind : and this clearly indicates to us that the same words, Written by the Lord's command, upon some of his published writings, are to be accepted in the same metonymic, not in their literal sense. The meaning of the above words was, doubtless, that those books contained the very truth or wisdom by means of which the Lord was about to effect His Second Coming ; not that the writing itself was that Second Coming; for all words, whether of human origin or of Divine dictation, are in themselves dead : even the letter of the Word itself is vivified, as Swedenborg shows, only in its perception (S. D. 1877). It requires no arguments to prove that, if Swedenborg's expositions of the Word had been written and printed with infallible exactness, without man's reception thereof, they would have been but as a dead letter; and there would have be no Descent or Coming of the Lord into the world. Precisely as there is no coming of light to man except through the eye, and by its mental perception as such ; so there can be no coming of the Lord—the True Light-except into the eye of the understanding, as truth rationally perceived. The Lord comes to man truly, and the Church is formed in him, by means of faith in Him and obedience to His commandments, as revealed in His Holy Word; and this shows the futility of setting up a claim of infallibility for the very words of Swedenborg's writings, as though this was essential to man's salvation. It would perhaps be impossible to set up a claim on behalf of the heavenly writings that would prove more fatally deterrent of their perusal or acceptance by the outside world, one more alien to the genius of the New Dispensation, and therefore more detrimental to its interests and progress. Besides which, the reception of truth on authority only, when not perceived in its own light, has the effect of obscuring the rational mind, through the disuse of the rational faculty. The Second Coming of the Lord, both in and out of the pale of the New Church, is truly His Coming in and through man's conscience, and in his daily life and conduct, as these are formed and influenced by the Lord's inflowing Life of united love and truth; and the transcendent value of the writings of the Church is, that they are eminently promotive of this blessed end.
E. Swift, Sen.
SCOTCH SERMONS. 1880. Macmillan.
It is a remarkable if not startling fact, but at the same time a highly gratifying one, that
of sermons by thirteen different clergymen of the Church of Scotland, which we were wont to regard as the stronghold of Calvinism, there should be no place found and no favour shown, not