網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

entirely different!' To these exclamations it may be replied - Your last remark is but a begging of the question under consideration. We affirm that though indeed unfrequent, yet there are occasionally spiritual visions in these times, as well as in former, and that there is good and very strong testimony that a remarkable case of the kind exists in the instance of this philosopher Swedenborg, not by any means on account of his own declaration merely, but from the nature of the truths and statements brought forth by him, of which our own minds, enlightened, we trust, by reason and God's Word, are the judges. The burden of proof—it may be continued in answer,-falls upon you to shew by what law of Divine order, by what change in the character and structure of man's mind, a spiritual vision cannot exist now, as well as in the time of Paul,—in the eighteenth or nineteenth, as well as in the first century. The truth is, antiquity has a wonderful charm for the mind, and a great power over it : distance lends enchantment to the view. It is not difficult to believe anything, however wonderful, to have taken place in that misty and mysterious region, the distant past; but now in these dull, common times, to believe such strange things to be capable of happening, seems absurd. But do you not suppose that those times, to the men then living, appeared as dull and common-place as our times to us? Did not the regardless rain fall on Paul's head, as well as on yours and mine ? and this very sun and moon light his steps as well as ours ? Did not Paul, do you think, rise often in the morning with a heavy heart, and after breakfast, go forth to his duties, or sit down to write his epistles, sad and oppressed in spirit, dejected at the thought of the heavy responsibilities upon him, and awed with the idea that he must address the Athenians to-morrow. And when at length he stood before them and began, did they not ask? Who is this? Think you that gaping crowd knew anything about any great and celebrated Paul, whose name has become so familiar to our ears? They had not heard of such a person. And some said, What will this babbler say ? others, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods; because he preached to them Jesus, and the resurrection. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked ; and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed ; among whom was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.' (Acts 17. 16–34.) Here we have a picture of human nature, as it was, and as it still is. A new person comes forward, a stranger, unheard of before, and utters strange ideas, something new and unusual, something different from what men have been accustomed to hear, and think of, and believe; most of the hearers jeer and mock, and turn away, calling him a babbler ; some are rather pleased at some things they have heard, but the interest has not taken sufficient hold of them to make them anxious to pursue the subject

[ocr errors]

farther just then, and they go away and forget what they have heard; a few, whose minds were in a receptive state, whose hearts had been prepared perhaps by torturing doubts, and secret meditations, and by trials and sufferings of spirit—these at once perceive and seize upon the truths they have heard, clasp them to their bosoms as something long looked for, as precious treasure, and go away rejoicing in their new faith, and resolved to sell all they have and follow the Lord. Gradually the truth spreads; these few tell what they have heard to others, their friends, who they know have been troubled with similar doubts and difficulties. By and by, these believers meet together, and form a little congregation, and appoint the ablest of their number to preach to them in regard to these new truths, both for their own fuller instruction and for the information of strangers. Years roll away. It becomes an established religious society. Similar societies in neighbouring cities league with them, and they form a General Church-which begins to have a name, the Christian Church.' Ages roll on, and this becomes a vast establishment, extending over whole nations, and reaching to distant quarters of the globe. This Paul, who was once a nameless preacher, ‘ a babbler,' and 'mad, is now looked back upon with the utmost veneration ; his words are oracles of truth; whatever he affirmed, whether in regard to himself or others, is implicitly believed. Custom, general acceptance, the belief of ages, undoubting confidence in the opinions of our parents and friends, all go to render the mind perfectly ready to believe those things. Faith is now an easy and natural thing, and we wonder at those strange and hard-hearted unbelievers of Paul's own time, who had the glorious opportunity of listening to him with their own ears. ‘Oh! that we could have enjoyed such an opportunity,'exclaim many, how gladly would we have listened !'

* But these persons know not what they say, nor the nature of the human mind. If they are so anxious to have such an opportunity, so ready to be tested, and to shew that they would have discernment enough to see genuine truth, though heard for the first time, and to acknowledge a great teacher and apostle, though yet unknown to the world--that opportunity is now before them. A Paul is again preaching to the Athenians and to the world ; a great teacher is again uttering new and sublime truths. The Lord Himself has come a second time,—not in Person, but in Spirit; not as the 'Word made flesh,' as before, but as the essential Word, by the opening of the interior truth-the spiritual sense, which it contains. Those who believe that, had they been on earth, they would have acknowledged the Lord at His First Coming, or would have readily received the teachings of His Apostles, have now the opportunity of making trial of their faith ; of showing whether they are able to overcome the inveteracy of custom, the natural opposition of prejudice, the fear of public opinion, the love of the world and its powers and pleasures, (all which difficulties the first Christians had to encounter,) whether in the face of all these, they can, looking for the truth with a single eye, discern it now at its feeble dawn, and advancing steadily and earnestly towards it, be among the first to hail the rising day.”

What more can be said on the subject ? The Christian has no choice but to acknowledge, or refute, Swedenborg's claims on their own merits.

Swedenborg was gifted with peculiar powers of respiration. From early childhood, when on his knees at prayer, and afterwards when engaged in profound meditation, he found that his natural respiration was for the time suspended. As we have seen in his work on the “ Animal Kingdom,” his attention to the correspondence between thought and respiration had been of long continuance,--probably from the fact that his own system supplied him with such constant illustrations of its nature. This power of suspended respiration ander deep thought, common to all men, was preternaturally developed in Swedenborg. At this period he discovered the use to which these peculiar powers of his were to be applied, for he writes, “my respiration has been so formed by the Lord, as to enable me to breathe inwardly for a long period of time, without the aid of the external air ; my respiration being directed within, and my outward senses, as well as actions, still continuing in their vigour, which is only possible with persons who have been so formed by the Lord. I have also been instructed that my breathing was so directed, without my being aware of it, in order to enable me to be with spirits, and to speak with them." Those who have studied mesmerism and clairvoyance know many facts that contirm and illustrate this position of Swedenborg's with regard to respiration ; and it is quite evident that the Hindoo Yogi are capable of a similar state. There is this great difference, however, between such instances and the case of Swedenborg, that his powers were natural, and continuous in their exercise, and not sought after and induced by himself, while theirs are only occasional, and are frequently brought about by artificial means.

Swedenborg's intromission into the spiritual world was a gradual process, and for this reason the date of his illumination is variously given, ranging between 1743 and 1745. It appears, however, that he came into the full exercise of his spiritual seership while living in London.

Of late years it has become common to talk of Swedenborg as a clairvoyant, to associate him with mesmeric subjects, and make him a kinsman of French and American spiritualists, such as Cahag. net, and Andrew Jackson Davis. This mistake is made through ignorance. It is a law of the spiritual world that every man is associated with his like ; and thus supposing that any man's spiritual sight

a

were opened, he would come into conjunction only with spirits like himself; that is, with those who would echo his own ideas and opinions, and repeat his own feelings. It is evident, then, that in such a case the nature of the revelations made, are entirely dependent upon the character of the revelator, and in all cases must be suspiciously received by the lover of truth. Now Swedenborg claims to have been under the special protection of the Lord, and to have received the doctrines he promulgated, directly from Him, and not in any case from spirits. Of course, everyone will decide for himself as to how far he can receive this assertion, but it is well that all should be informed of the precise character of Swedenborg's claim, and of his own testimony as to the source of his information. In his Diary, writing about this time, he says that“ spirits narrate things wholly false, and lie. When spirits begin to speak with man, care should be taken not to believe them, for almost everything they say is made up by them, and they lie; so that if it were permitted them to relate what heaven is, and how things are in heaven, they would tell so many falsehoods, and with strong assertion, that man would be astonished; wherefore it was not permitted to me, when spirits were speaking, to have any belief in what they stated. They love to feign.

Whatever may be the topic spoken of, they think they know it, and form different opinions about it, altogether as if they knew ; and if man then listens and believes, they insist, and in various ways deceive and seduce.”

Anyone who has paid attention to the phenomena of spirit-rappings, and to the communications received through clairvoyants from the world of spirits, and has observed the very Babel of contradictions uttered by these “mediums,” will be able to appreciate the truth of the passage we have qnoted, as well as our desire to draw a broad and distinct line between such and Swedenborg.

It is a very natural question, and one often put by those unconversant with the nature of spiritual intercourse, how it happens that a man, such as Swedenborg, sitting quietly in his chair, could see and speak with angels and spirits, and travel through vast spaces in the spiritual world. It is thus. Space and time are attributes of mat. ter alone. Their appearances do, indeed, exist in the spiritual world, but not as the firm, and unalterable realities of our material sphere. Did not our subject forbid digressions, it would be easy to bring this truth down to the comprehension of everyone, by reference to a few items of experience which must at some time have fallen to the lot of all. We are all, as to our minds, in constant, though insensible, communion with spirits, and from them we receive thoughts and feelings of every kind. A good man and a wicked man may be, as to the body, in the same room, while between their minds there may be the wide gulf that separated Dives and Lazarus. Now if the spiritual sight of these two men were opened, where would they be ? One would be in heaven, and the other in hell, and that without either moving from the place where he stood. It was in virtue of this principle of the spirit's perfect independence of space, that Swedenborg, under the Divine guidance and protection, was led through spiritual societies of all kinds, and in his various works we have the record of the wondrous things thus heard and seen.

Again, it may be asked, What is the nature of this spiritual sight

often referred to ? In the words of Paul, we answer, “there is a spiritual body, and there is a natural body," and as a consequence, there is a spiritual sight, and there is a natural sight. The natural body lives from the spiritual body, and derives its form and parts from it. The natural body is the instrument of the spiritual body, and through it as a medium, it is enabled to exist in this lower world, and in constant contact with matter. Now it is possible for the spiritual body to be raised partially above the natural body, without causing death, or the entire withdrawal of its life from the natural body. This partial withdrawal of the spiritual body, and the enjoyment of sight into the spiritual world, is what is meant by the opening of the spiritual sight. Time forbids us to draw upon the innumerable illustrations of this fact which the history of the past and the experience of the present, in conjunction with the Word of God, afford. Let one instance from the Bible suffice. In II Kings, 7.8-17, we read that Elisha, compassed about with horses, chariots, and a great host, sent by the king of Syria to seize him, was on a mountain, with his servant, who, full of terror, exclaimed, “ Alas ! my master, how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” Here is a case quite to the point. The natural eyes of the young man were open, for how otherwise could he have seen the Syr. ian bost, and have been afraid? Elisha prayed that his eyes might be opened. What eyes ? Why simply the eyes of his spiritual body, which done, he was enabled to perceive the heavenly guardianship which was extended over his master. Everyone will now understand what we mean, hereafter, when we shall have occasion to speak of the opening of man's spiritual sight.

Having thus defined the conditions of Swedenborg's spiritual vision, and cleared away some questions which, if unanswered, would have impeded our narrative, we will now proceed with our history.

« 上一頁繼續 »