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This confession very vividly shadows forth the future man. We see how earnestly his sound, practical mind perceived and clung to the real and substantial in theology. His experience of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, finds parallels in the lives and experience of many eminent men. It was not until after many years' preaching, that the fact of the existence of such a doctrine was presented to the mind of Dr Chalmers, to whom also it was quite unintelligible; yet overcome by the sphere of learning and prestige with which the doctrine was environed, Chalmers yielded assent to it, and fancied, as thousands do, he believed what by no possibility he could ever understand. Swedenborg was too single-eyed in his pursuit of truth to be led aside by authority, however imposing ; and often, in the following narrative, we shall have to observe with what independence, yet with what humility and simplicity, he recorded the truths which it was his mission to reveal.
This excellent son of good Bishop Swedberg, received the best education that the times and his country could afford. In his twenty-second year, at the University of Upsal, he took his degree of Doctor in philosophy. The dissertation which he wrote for his degree, was afterwards published. It consisted of a selection of sentences from Seneca, Publius Syrus Mimus, and other Latin writers, enriched by comments of his own, and notes illustrating the obseurities of the Latin text. This work was so highly thought of, as to occasion a poetic eulogy, written in Greek, to be inscribed to its author. Swedenborg dedicated this his first literary production, to his father, in a prelude full of veneration and love. Its length alone prevents our gratifying the reader with the perusal of this beautiful tribute of filial affection. Among many virtues, it should not be accounted the least, that Swedenborg was a loving, dutiful son.
The same year he published, in a work of his father's, a Latin version of the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes, which proved in a high degree his mastery of the Latin language.
In 1710, was finished the strictly scholastic period of Swedenborg's life. He had now reached manhood, and must live as a man among
His youth manifests less precocity than solid and regular development of mind. The record of his life at this time, evidences a common-sense appreciation of life and its duties, an honest love of virtue, and a desire to be useful in his day and generation. The sequel will show that his day of life was not unworthy of its dawn.
CHAPTER 2. Travels, becomes Author, and is Crossed in Love. Having completed his university education, Swedenborg entered on his travels. In his journal, he thus briefly describes a four years' absence from Sweden.
“In the year 1710 I set out for Gottenburg, that I might be conveyed, by ship, thence to London. On the voyage, my life was in danger four times: first on some shoals, towards which we were driven by a storm, until we were within a quarter of a mile from the raging breakers, and we thought we should all perish. Afterwards we narrowly escaped some Danish pirates under French colours ; and the next evening we were fired into from a British ship, which mistook us for the same pirates, but without much damage. Lastly, in London itself, I was exposed to a more serious danger. While we were entering the harbour, some of our countrymen came to ns in a boat, and persuaded me to go with them into the city. Now it was known in London that an epidemic was raging in Sweden, and therefore all who arrived from Sweden were forbidden to leave their ships for six weeks, or forty days ; so I, having transgressed this law, was very near being hanged, and was only freed under the condition that, if any one attempted the same thing again, he should not escape the gallows.
“At London and Oxford, I tarried about a year. Then I went to Holland, and saw its chief cities. At Utrecht I tarried a long time, while Congress was sitting, and ambassadors were gathering there from nearly all the courts of Europe. Thence I went into France, and passed through Brussells and Valenciennes to Paris. Here, and at Versailles, I spent a year.
At the end of this time I hastened, by public coach, to Hamburg, and thence to Pomerania and Greifswalde, where I remained some time, while Charles the Twelfth was coming from Bender to Stralsund. When the siege began, I departed in a small vessel, together with a lady named Feif, and by Divine Providence was restored to my own country after more than four years' absence."
While traveling, he was not idle ; for we find that in 1715, while at Greifswalde, he published an oration on the return of Charles XII. from Turkey, and a small volume of Latin prose fables.
On his return to Sweden, he issued, at Skara, a little book of poems, written for the most part during his journeyings. These have been republished at various times; but, as poems, much cannot be said of them. Wilkinson, in his “ Biography of Swedenborg,” remarks, these poems display fancy, but a controlled imagination. If we may convey to the English reader such a notion of Latin verses, they remind one of the Pope school, in which there is generally some theme, or moral,
governing the flights of the Muse." Indeed, it was well that Swedenbory was but slightly endowed with the poetic faculty. Much of his future mission lay in fields which require the coolest and calmest of minds to describe; the sight and contemplation of which, would have sent a Shaksperian or Byronic temperament into extatic frenzies.
Swedenborg, himself the son of a bishop, was connected with high and influential families in Sweden. One of his sisters was married to Eric Benzelius, afterwards Archbishop of Upsal; and another to Lars Benzelstierna, governor of a province. Other members of the family held high and responsible oflices in the kingdom. A young man thus situated, would find little difficulty in settling for life in a sphere of usefulness adapted to all his tastes. While on his travels on the Continent, he wrote letters to Eric Benzelius, detailing every novelty in mathematics, astronomy, and mechanics, which came under his observation ; besides sending home models of all such inventions as he thought might be useful to his country. These letters and services won for him considerable notice; and on his return to Sweden, he assumed the editorship of a new periodical work, entitled “ Dædalus Hyperboreus.” Among the contributors to this magazine, was the celebrated mathematician Christopher Polhein, who has been called the Swedish Archimedes. Swedenborg's connection with Polheim seems to have led to his appointment to the office of Assessor of the Board of Mines, which he held with distinguished honour, for many years.
In the course of 1716, Polheim invited him to go with him to Lund, on a visit to Charles XII., who had just escaped from Stralsund. He was very kindly received by the King, and obtained from him his official appointment as Assessor. He was to assist Polheim in his undertakings, to have a seat in the College of Mines, and to give his advice, especially when any business of a mathematical nature was on hand.
Charles seems to have at once discerned the rare abilities of Swedenborg, and with a desire of uniting him in still closer bonds of amity with his favourite Polheim, he advised Polheim to give him his daughter in marriage. To this proposal Swedenborg appears to have been in nowise averse. He lived with Polheim, at once as his coadjutor, and as his pupil in mathematics; and having thus constant opportunities of seeing the fair Emerentia, Polheim's second daughter, had become enamoured of her graces. In one of his letters, he remarks, Polheim's eldest daughter is promised to a page of the king's. I wonder what people say of this in relation to myself. His second daughter is, in my opinion, much the handsomest." The attachment, however, was not mutual, and the lady would not allow herself to be betrothed. Her father, who deeply loved Swedenborg,
caused a written agreement to be drawn up, promising his daughter at some future day. This document, Emerentia, from filial obedience, signed; but, as ladies generally do, when forced to love in this way, took to sighs and sadness, which so affected her brother with sorrow, that he secretly purloined the agreement from Swedenborg. The paper was soon missed, for Swedenborg read it over frequently, and, in his grief at its loss, besought Polheim to replace it by a new
But as Swedenborg now discovered the pain which he gave to the object of his affections, he at once relinquished all claim to her hand, and left her father's house. This was his last, as it was his first, endeavour after marriage. In after years, when jocosely asked whether he had ever been desirous of marrying, he answered, " In my youth I was once on the road to matrimony." And on being asked what was the obstacle, with his characteristic simplicity he said, “She would not have me.” Considering the studious and abstracted life which he eventually led, it is not to be regretted that he remained unwedded. That he was no harsh despiser of the sex, we know well from his writings ; and that his life was in agreement with his books, we also know. The loveliest descriptions of female grace and beauty we have ever met with, are contained in his works, chiefly in his treatise on “ Conjugial Love." M. Sandell, a member the Royal Academy of Sciences in Sweden, who pronounced a magnificent eulogium on his fellow-member, Swedenborg, shortly after his death, says, “though Swedenborg was never married, it was not owing to any indifference towards the sex ; for he esteemed the company of a fine, intelligent woman as one of the most agreeable of pleasures ; but his profound studies rendered expedient for him the quiet of a single life.”
Swedenborg seems to have had much intercourse with the King. In one of his letters, he says, “I found his Majesty very gracious to me; more so than I could expect. This is a good omen for the future. Every day I laid mathematical subjects before his Majesty, who allowed everything to please him. When the eclipse took place, I had his Majesty out to see it, and we reasoned much thereupon. He again spoke of my 'Dædalus,' and remarked upon my not continuing it; for which I pleaded want of means. This he does not like to hear of; so I hope to have some assistance shortly." But assistance did not come, and “Dædalus” went the way of many such undertakings. Talking of mathematics one day, Charles remarked that “he who knew nothing of mathematics, did not deserve to be considered a rational man ; a sentiment which Swedenborg thought "truly worthy of a king.”()
1. The following account of Charles XII., written by Emanuel Swedenborg, was printed in the “Gentleman's Magazine,” for September, 1754. It is a portion of a letter which Swedenborg wrote to M. Nordberg, while the latter was engaged in writing his “L of Charles XII.,” in which work the
Charles XII was now engaged in the siege of Frederickshall, and Swedenborg's aid was called in. He very ingeniously planned rolling machines, by which two galleys, five large boats, and a sloop, were conveyed from Stromstadt to Iderfjol, overland ; a distance of fourteen miles. Under cover of these vessels, Charles was enabled to transport his heavy artillery under the very walls of Frederickshall; but it availed little, for at the siege of this town, on 30 Nov., 1718, (old style,) this inveterate warrior received the fatal blow which ended his troublous and eventful career. He was struck in the head with a
letter appeared at full length. It is too long to be quoted here; the following extracts contain the pith of it. It may be proper to observe, that it was written by the author prior to his being called to the sacred office which occupied the last twenty-nine years of his life. This accounts for his speak. ing of the celebrated Swedish hero with so much greater respect than he is known to have afterwards entertained for his memory.
Having been frequently admitted to the honour of hearing his late most excellent Majesty, Charles XII. discourse on mathematical subjects, I presume an account of a new arithmetic invented by him, may merit the attention of my readers.
“ His Majesty observed then, that the denary arithmetic, universally received and practised, was most probably derived from the original method of counting on the fingers; that illiterate people of old, when they had run through the fingers of both hands, repeated new periods over and over again, and every time spread open both hands; which being done ten times, they distinguished each step by proper marks, as by joining two, three, or four fingers. Afterwards, when this method of numeration on the fingers came to be expressed by proper characters, it soon became firmly and universally established, and so the denary calculus has been retained to this day. But surely, were a solid geometrician, thoroughly versed in the abstract nature and fundamentals of numbers, to set his mind upon introducing a still more useful calculus into the world, instead of ten, he would select such a perfect square, or cube number, as by continual bisection, or halving, would at length terminate in unity, and be better adapted to the subdivisions of measures, weights, coins, etc.
“ Thus intent on a new arithmetic, the hero pitched upon the number eight, as most fit for the purpose, since it could not only be halved continually down to unity, without a fraction, but contained within it the square of 2, and was itself the cube thereof, and was also applicable to the received denomination of several sorts of weights and coins, rising to 16 and 32, the double and quadruple of 8. Upon these first considerations, he was pleased to command me to draw up an essay on an octonary calculus, which I com. pleted in a few days, with its application to the received divisions, coins, measures, and weights, a disquisition on cubes and squares, and a new and easy way of extracting roots, all illustrated with examples.
"His Majesty having cast his eye twice or thrice over it, and observing, perhaps from some hints in the essay, that the denary calculus had several advantages not always attended to, he did not at that time seem absolutely to approve of the octonary: or, it is likely he might conceive, that though it seemed easy in theory, yet it might prove difficult to introduce it to practice. Be this as it may, he insisted on fixing upon some other that was both a cube and a square number, referrible to 8, and divisible down to unity by bisection. This could be no other than 64, the cube of 4, and square of 8, divisible down to unity without a fraction.
"I immediately presumed to object that such a number would be too prolix, as it rises through a series of entirely distinct and different num. bers, up to 64, and then again to its duplicate 4,096, and on to its triplicate