« PreviousContinue »
THE SWEDENBORGIANS, OR THE CHURCH OF THE
This sect, like the preceding, derives its name from its founder, who was Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish baron. His followers, however, disclaim this personal appellation, preferring the name of Christian, and choosing to be distinguished from others by the title of “ the New Jerusalem church?.
Were we to commence with that which appears to the eye of a stranger the most important distinction of this communion, we should first describe its splendid temples, vestments, and modes of worship; but with the disciples of Swendenborg these are minor objects, which many of them sacrifice, continuing to join in the worship of other Christians, and satisfying themselves with their faith in the doctrines of the new church. The first and principal of these is, that baron Swedenborg was honoured with a divine mission to men; not, indeed, to make an entire new revelation, but to give, by means of visions and intercourse with the world of spirits, such an exposition of the sacred Scriptures as should lay the foundation of a new dispensation of religion. Those who maintain this first principle, firmly believe the Old and New Testament to be written under the highest
p Swedenborg's “true Christian Religion, according to the doctrine of the New Jerusalem church, which was foretold by the Lord in Daniel vii, 13, 14. and in Rev, xxi, 12.”
species of inspiration, which has so curiously indited these writings, that they contain three distinct senses, the celestial, the spiritual, and the natural. Four different kinds of style also are distinguished; the figurative, which was that of the most ancient church; the historical,, suited to the next age; the prophetical, which belonged to the precussors of Christ; and the mixed style, adopted in the psalms of David. Each of the different senses of the Scriptures is accommodated to the angels of a distinct heaven, and to men on earth. The divine wisdom and will, which are reposited in the sacred volume, are not always discoverable from the letter, but lie concealed under it from those who are not furnished with the key to the internal sense. To speak, however, in the language of this sect, which is foreign from that of ordinary mortals, the sense of the letter is the continent, the basis, or firmament of its spiritual and celestial senses, being written according to the doctrine of correspondencies, which furnishes the key to the spiritual or internal sense ; so that they equally err who, on the one hand, neglect the natural sense, or who, on the other, rest in the letter. But the baron must speak for himself.
“I was once, raised up, as to my spirit, into the angelic heaven, and introduced to a particular society therein, and immediately some of the wise ones of the society came to me and said, what news from earth? I replied, this is new, that the Lord hath revealed arcana, which, in point of real excellence, exceed all the arcana heretofore revealed since the beginning of the church. They asked what arcana ? I answered the following, 1. That in all and every part of the word there is a spiritual sense corresponding with the natural sense, and that the word by that sense is the medium of conjunction between mankind and the Lord, and also of consociation with angels, and that the sanctity of the word resideth in that sense. 2. That the CORRESPONDENCIES, of which the spiritual sense of the word consisteth, are discovered. . And the angels asked, had the inhabitants of the earth no knowledge heretofore concerning correspondencies ? I replied, nóñe at all, and that the doctrine of correse pondencies had been hidden now for some thousands of years, viz. since the time of Job; that at that time, and in the ages before it, the science of correspondencies was esteemed the chief of sciences, being the fountain of wisdom to man, because it was the fountain of knowledge concerning spiritual things, relating to heaven and the church; but that this science, by reason of its being perverted to idolatrous purposes, was so obliterated and destroyed by the divine providence of the Lord, that no traces of it were left; that nevertheless at this time, it was again revealed by the Lord, in order to effect a conjunction of the members of the church with him, and their consociation with the angels, which purposes are effected by the word in which all and every thing are correspondencies.” · This doctrine of correspondence between every thing in the natural world, and its counterpart in the spiritual, as also between the parts of the human body and soul, is continually referred to in all the writings of this mystagogue, as essential to the right understanding both of the sacred Scriptures and of his inspired comments. Thus expounded the
I Swedenborg's true Christian Religion, translated from the Latin by the Rev, T. Hartley, Rector of Winwick, Northamptonshire, Sec. 846.
Jewish and Christian Scriptures are admitted to be the word of God, “ the only medium of communication between God and man, the only source of genuine truth and knowledge concerning the divine nature, kingdom, and operations, and the only sure guide to men in their spiritual and eternal concerns.” On this reverence for the Scriptures, the Swedenborgians found their claim to be distinguished from enthusiasts; in this they say cousists the superiority of the baron to all fanatics and impostors; ".since it is notorious that the latter are perpetually leading their deluded disciples to depend on the dictates of spirits in preference to the precepts of eternal truth; while Swedenborg is perpetually pointing out the great danger of such leading, and calling all his readers to be taught of God by and through the precepts of his holy word intellectually and rationally comprehended.”
In the theology of this sect, the unity of God is inculcated, together with a divine Trinity ; but essentially different from that taught in the Scriptures, which is branded by Swedenborg with the most odious epithets. He condemns the use of the expression three persons, as conveying to the minds of all who use it a tritheistic idea, which, he says, originated in the first council of Nice, and is the abomination which maketh desolate, spoken of in Daniel, and referred to by Christ. The divine Trinity which he teaches, is not supposed to have existed from eternity, but to have commenced, if we understand him, from the creation ; and though he sometimes calls it by the scriptural expression, Father, Son, and Spirit, he more commonly speaks of the divine begetting, the Father ; the divine human, the Son; and the divine proceeding, or Holy Spirit. As VOL. IV.
body, soul, and operation are united in man, the Swendenborgian Trinity is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is therefore the God of heaven, and alone to be worshipped. Hence they say, that Jesus Christ is Jehovah manifested in the flesh; that he came into the world to glorify his humanity by making it one with the divine nature, so that the humanity is itself divine, and that there is no other way of access to God, but by this divine humanity, in which dwells the whole Trinity. For this again we have a visionary revelation. “ As I listened to the angels, they perceived in my thoughts the common ideas concerning a Trinity in unity, and they said to me, what notions are these which thou entertainest ? Are they not the offspring of natural light wherewith our spiritual light hath no agreement ? Unless, therefore, thou removest these ideas from thy mind, we must shut heaven against thee, and take our leave. But I replied, enter, I beseech you, more thoroughly into my thoughts, and possibly ye will discover its agreement with your own. They did so, and perceived that by three persons I understood three proceeding divine attributes, which are creation, redemption, and regeneration ; and that these attributes belong to one God, and that by the birth of the Son of God from eternity, I understood his birth foreseen from eternity. Then said the angels, it is well, and they desired me to declare upon their testimony, that whosoever doth not approach the true God can. not have entrance into heaven, and that God is Jesus Christ, who is Jehovah Lord, from eternity, Creator; in time, Redeemer; and to eternity, Regenerator.”
To these notions of the Trinity and person of Christ, they add sentiments as peculiar concerning redempo