THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCES
THE WORD AND ITS INSPIRATION. NO WRITTEN WORD BEFORE THE FALL.
THE ANCIENT WORD THAT BECAME LOST. SOURCE OF THE GRECIAN
MYTHOLOGY. ALL RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE FROM DIVINE REVELATION.
THE SCRIPTURES A LIGHT TO ALL NATIONS. THE MEDIUM OF
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN ANGELS AND MEN. NATURE OF THE WORD IN
HEAVEN. ILLUSTRATING AND CONFIRMING THE DOCTRINE OF
CORRESPONDENCE. DISTINCTION BETWEEN VERBAL AND PERSONAL
INSPIRATION. NO WRITTEN WORD ON ANY EARTH BUT OURS,
AND THE REASON WHY.
By Rev. O. Prescott Hiller, 1864.
No. I. The Word and its Inspiration.
OF all the services which Swedenborg, under the guidance of Divine Providence, has performed to the world, perhaps the greatest is that of throwing a new light on the Sacred Volume, whereby it becomes to us, as it were, a new Book. And this light was greatly needed. There is no subject, perhaps, of a theological nature, about which there is more doubt and discussion at the present day, than in regard to the true character and meaning of the volume called the Holy Scriptures. Some calling themselves Christians, doubt and even deny the Divine authority of a large portion of it, regarding the Old Testament, for instance, as an obsolete code of laws intended only for a by-gone age and nation ; while the greater part, perhaps, of the Christian world, though looking upon it as, in a general sense, the Word of God, yet either openly question, or else entertain only vague ideas concerning, its Plenary Inspiration.
In the midst of this obscurity, the Sun of Righteousness has risen on the world, “with healing in his wings:” “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light ; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. ” (Isaiah ix. 2.) The Lord who was ” the Word made flesh,” and who is the Word in its spirit and life, has come a second time into the world, and revealed Himself anew to men, by the opening of the internal sense of that Word wherein He dwells. Through his illuminated messenger He has now made known the precise nature of the inspiration of the Sacred Volume, and has shown that that Divine Word is the Lord s very presence amongst men, giving light not only to the Christian, but also to the Gentile world ; and still more, that it illumines the heavens as well as the earth, and that it is read by angels, as indeed that Word itself declares ” For ever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in heaven.” (Ps. cxix. 89.)
Our purpose in the present Essay is to enlarge upon these points; to show from statements and explanations in the writings of Swedenborg, the true nature of the Divine Word, the precise character and manner of its inspiration, its influence on the world, and the high use it performs as a connecting medium between earth and heaven. The most effective way, perhaps, of presenting the subject in a clear light will be to treat it historically. In the Most Ancient Church, which existed before man s decline and fall, there was no outward or written Word ; none such was needed. The influx of light from heaven into the interiors of men s minds was in that age a sufficient guide. This was because their minds, being in an unperverted state, were turned towards heaven, and consequently could receive the in flowing light and love in their true order, and thus be illumined by the one and warmed by the other. But after the Fall, man could no longer be thus led ; for the human mind being then in a perverted state, and turned away from heaven, the truth flowing in became changed into falsity, and the good into evil. This was an effect of the great law, that a disordered mind perverts what flows into it, that the recipient form modifies the influx, and assimilates it to its own nature. The operation of this law may be plainly seen in the outward universe ; for instance, the heat and light of the sun flow into all vegetables alike, and the common earth gives them all nourishment ; yet from the same materials, so to speak, the different plants manufacture different and sometimes totally opposite productions.
Out of the same nourishment the rose brings forth its charms, and the brier its ugliness ; the vine its grapes, and the hemlock its poison. This is because each plant, according to its interior structure and nature, modifies the inflowing light, heat and sap, and turns them to its own uses. Just so is it with the inner world of man s mind. The light and heat of the heavenly Sun are ever pouring truth and love and life alike into every mind j but these are received, rejected or modified according to the conformation, structure and order of the mind into which they fall. A bad man s mind, being in a perverted and corrupt state, changes the inflowing warmth of love into the fire of evil passions, and turns the light, intended for his guidance to heaven, into an instrument for carrying out his own evil designs ; thus he turns good into evil, truth into falsity. In such case, it is plainly impossible to instruct man from within, because the heavenly influx is perverted as fast as it comes. The only way he can be taught, is from without, by oral or written instruction, especially by a written Word, for that lies before his eyes in its integrity, what ever be his own character or views, and still speaks to him as a calm and truthful monitor, pointing out to him the right path, if only he have the will to listen to its teachings.
Now, by the Fall man came into the perverted and disordered state of mind above described, and hence the need of an outward written Revelation. And ever since that time, the human mind has been, in a greater or less degree, in the same perverted state, and hence the continued need of instruction from without. It is from ignorance of this great law that many opponents of the Bible, at the present day, protest against being taught by a Book, by a written Revelation, and maintain that the inner revelation from God into every man s mind is a sufficient guide. Did they understand the law before mentioned, namely, that the recipient subject modifies the influx according to its own nature, and were they at the same time acquainted with the truth, that every man s mental nature and constitution at the present day, is hereditarily disordered and perverted, they would then discern the true ground of the need of a written Revelation, and they would no longer oppose it, but would cling to it as the only means of salvation, the only sure guide to heaven and happiness.
We are instructed in the writings of the New Church, that before the promulgation of the Word which we now possess, there was another which Swedenborg terms the “Ancient Word.” This AncientWord, in fact, is referred to, and even quoted, in two places in our present Scriptures. For instance, in the Book of Numbers (xxi. 14, 15) we find these words ” Wherefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of Jehovah, What He did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Amon, and at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.” Now, there is no such book, we know, as the ” Wars of Jehovah ” in our present Bible. Again, in the same chapter (verses 27 to 30) we find another quotation from that Ancient Word, thus ” Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon ; let the city of Sihon be built and prepared ; for there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon ; it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon. Woe to thee, O Moab ! thou art un done, O people of Chemosh ; he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites. We have shot at them ; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reaches unto Medeba.” On this quotation Swedenborg remarks ” The title They that speak in proverbs, would be more properly expressed by The Enunciators, and their compositions should be termed Prophetical Enunciations, as is evident from the signification of the Hebrew word moshalim, which not only mean proverbs, but also prophetical enunciations ; for the passages quoted by Moses are not proverbs, but prophecies. . . . These Enun ciations (he- adds) constituted the prophetical part of that Ancient Word, and the * Wars of Jehovah, the historical part.”
By the ” Wars of Jehovah,” mentioned in that Word, are prophetically described the Lord s combats with the hells, and his victories over them ; the same combats are also meant and described in many passages of the historical part of our Word, as in the wars of Joshua with the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, and in the wars of the Judges and of the kings of Israel. Besides the above quotations, mention is also made of a prophetical book of the Ancient Word called the Book of Jasher, or the Book of the Upright. It is mentioned both by David and by Joshua ; by David in the following passage ” David lamented over Saul and over Jonathan ; also he bade them teach the children of Judah the bow ; behold it is written in the Book of Jasher.” (2 Sam. i. 17, 18.) It is mentioned by Joshua in this passage “Joshua said, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon ; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon ; is not this written in the Book of Jasher” (Josh. x. 12, 13.) In addition to these extracts and references, Swedenborg affirms that from that Ancient Word Moses copied the first chapters of Genesis, which treat of the creation of the garden of Eclen, of Adam and Eve, and their sons and posterity till the flood,- and also concerning Noah and his sons. D. S. S. 103. The reason, he says, why, under Divine Providence, that Ancient Word became lost to the world, was because it was of too interior a character to be understood after men had declined into an external and sensual state.
” Since that Word was full of such correspondences as were only remotely significant of celestial and spiritual things, in consequence of which it began to be generally falsified, then, by the Divine providence of the Lord, in process of time it was removed, and at last was lost ; and another Word was given, written by correspondences less remote, which was the Word published by the prophets among the children of Israel.”
We can easily conceive this to be the fact, when we observe how entirely that portion of our present Word which was copied from the ancient one, namely, the narrative in the first chapters of Genesis, has been misunderstood, both in the Jewish and in the Christian church. That narrative, as Swedenborg in his Arcana Coelestia shows, is a pure allegory, describing, under the figure of a natural creation, the rise and establishment of the first or Most Ancient Church ; next, under the picture of a garden, the wisdom and happiness of the men of that church ; and lastly, under the representation of the temptation by a serpent, and the destruction by a flood, the decline, fall, and final consummation of that Church. Yet this allegorical account, the Jews and even the Christians have taken for a narrative of literal facts ; thus both obscuring their own minds, and at the same time casting a shade of mystery and inconsistency on the Divine Word. And yet, to minds in any degree of interior discernment, how evidently is it an allegory ! The very names of the trees mentioned the ” tree of life,” and the ” tree of the knowledge of good and evil ” are enough to make it plain that no natural trees were meant ; and how could a literal serpent be supposed to think and speak in the manner represented ? and how could an ark of the size there described be imagined capable of holding all the animals in the world ? These, and many other considerations, would seem sufficient to have shown that at least some interior meaning was intended to be conveyed, quite different from the sense of the letter. But the truth is that men have lost not only all knowledge of the science of correspondences, according to which that allegory was written, but also all perception of interior things, as a consequence of having no love for them ; and hence the gross error into which they have fallen of taking this account in its literal acceptation, and thus of entirely misunderstanding and falsifying it. From this single instance we may see the truth of Swedenborg s statement as to the reason why, under Divine Providence, the Ancient Word was withdrawn.
Many important inferences, however, are deducible from the fact of the former existence of that Ancient Word. Our knowledge of that fact, for instance, throws great light on the origin of the mythology as well as the wisdom of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and also on the source of the religions of the oriental nations. In regard to the Grecian mythology, Swedenborg states it to have been derived from the science of correspondences, according to which the Ancient Word was written, which science, in ancient times, was spread over all the countries of the south-west of Asia, and also over Egypt.
” I have been informed,” says he, ” that the men of the Most Ancient Church were of so heavenly a genius that they conversed with angels, and that they had the power of holding such converse by means of correspondences ; hence, the state of their wisdom became such that, in viewing any of the objects of this world, they thought of them not only naturally, but also spiritually, thus in conjunction with the angels of heaven. I have been further informed that Enoch, who is mentioned in Genesis v. 21, 24, together with his associates, collected correspondences from the lips of the celestial men, and transmitted the science of them to posterity ; in consequence of which, the science of correspondences was not only known in many kingdoms of Asia, but also much cultivated, particularly in the land of Canaan, Egypt, Assyria, Chaldea, Syria, and Arabia, and in Tyre, Sidon, and Nineveh, and that thence it was conveyed into Greece, where it was changed into fable, as is evident from the works of the oldest writers of that country.” D. S. S. 21.
” How much the ancients,” he remarks, ” excelled the moderns in intelligence, is manifest from this, that they knew to what things in heaven many things in the world corresponded, and hence what they signified ; and this was known not only to those who were of the church, but also to those who were out of the church, as, for instance, to the inhabitants of Greece, the most ancient of whom describe things by significatives which at this day are called fabulous simply because they are altogether unknown. That the ancient sophi possessed the knowledge of such things is evident from this, that they described the origin of intelligence and wisdom by a winged horse which they called Pegasus, and his. breaking open with his hoof a fountain at which were nine virgins, and this upon a hill ; for they knew that by a horse was signified the intellectual principle, by the wings the spiritual, by hoofs truth in the lowest degree, which is the basis of intelligence, by virgins the sciences, by hill unanimity, and in the spiritual sense, charity ; and so on. But such things at this day are among those that are lost.” A. C. 7729.
Here, then, is the source of that Grecian mythology which has been a matter of such mystery to modern scholars. So also in regard to the wisdom of the ancient Greek philosophers, so often referred to by the opponents of the sufficiency of the ” light of nature.” We now learn that that wisdom was not derived merely from human reasonings, as commonly supposed, but was derived from that Ancient Word before mentioned, thus from Revelation.
” It is believed in the world,” says Swedenborg, ” that man from the light of nature, thus without Revelation, can know many things relating to religion, as that there is a God, that He is to be worshiped, and also that man is to live after death, with many other truths that depend on these, and that this knowledge is from his own intelligence. But I have been instructed from much experience, that man of himself and without Revelation, knows nothing at all concerning divine things ; for man is born into the evils of self-love and the love of the world, which are such as to shut out influx from heaven, and open influx from hell, and which thus make man blind, and disposed to deny the existence of the Divine Being, of heaven and hell, and of the life after death. This is very manifest from the learned of the world, who by means of science have perfected the light of nature to a higher degree than others. That these, oftener than others, deny a Divine Being, and acknowledge only nature, is well known ; and also that when they speak from their hearts and not from mere doctrine, they are inclined to deny the life after death, also heaven and hell, and consequently all things which pertain to faith, which they call merely restraints upon the vulgar. Hence it is evident what is the quality of nature without Revelation. Neither do waiters on Natural Theology draw their ideas from themselves ; but they merely confirm by rational arguments the things which they have learned from the church which possesses the Word.
” There are two considerations, however,” he continues, ” which put the mind in doubt on this subject ; first, that the ancients who were Gentiles, were nevertheless acquainted with the existence of a Divine Being, and knew that worship was due to Him, and also that man s soul was immortal ; and secondly, that these things are known, also, to many nations at this day with whom there is no Revelation. In regard to the ancients, it is to be observed that they did not know these things from the light of their own nature, but from Revelation which flowed down, to them from the Ancient Church ; for the church of the Lord had existed from the most ancient times in the land of Canaan, and thence such things as pertained to Divine worship passed to the surrounding nations, and also to the neighboring Greeks, and from these to the Italians or Romans. From this source both the latter and the former had knowledge respecting the Supreme Deity, and concerning the immortality of the soul, on which subjects their learned men wrote. The ancient philosophers, as Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, and others, who have written concerning God and the immortality of the soul, did not derive these things originally from their own understandings, but from tradition, and from those who received that knowledge from the Ancient Word. From that Ancient Word, and also from the Israelitish Word, religion emanated from the Indies and their islands, and through Egypt and Ethiopia into the kingdoms of Africa, and from the maritime parts of Asia into Greece, and thence into Italy. But as the Word could not be written otherwise than by representatives, which are such things in the world as correspond to heavenly things, and thence signify them, therefore the religious ideas of the Gentile nations were changed into idolatries, and in Greece into fables, and the Divine properties and attributes into as many Gods, over whom they had one Supreme Deity, w hom they called Jove, perhaps from Jehovah.
It is known, also, that they had knowledge concerning paradise, the deluge, the sacred fire, and the four ages, from the golden to the iron age. ” In regard to the Gentile nations of the present day, who are also acquainted with the existence of a Divine Being, and of a life after death, they have not derived this knowledge from the light of nature, but from the religion handed down to them from ancient times ; and this was founded on such knowledge as had emanated in various ways from the church where there was a Revelation ; and this was of the Divine Providence of the Lord.” A. C. 8944 ; T. C. R. 273-5.
Here we have very important information ; we learn that all the religious light of the ancient world, equally as of the modern, was derived from Divine Revelation. Thus the wisdom of Socrates so often adduced as an argument in favor of the light of nature, was not so far as related to the being of a God and the immortality of the soul drawn from his own meditations solely, but was based on knowledges handed down by tradition, and derived originally from a written Word.
In like manner the religions of the modern Orientals the Hindoos, Chinese, Japanese so far as those religions contain any truth, are traceable to the same source. It was from the Ancient Word, and afterwards from that of Moses, that religion emanated into the Indies and neighboring islands, and also into Africa. And there are some striking facts which might be adduced in confirmation of this statement. Among the Buddhists, for instance, in Thibet, China and Japan, there are found, it is said, the commandments of the Decalogue, almost word for word as they stand in our Bible : ” Thou shalt not kill ; thou shalt not steal ; thou shalt not commit adultery,” etc. The peculiar form in which these commandments are laid down shows plainly the source whence they were originally derived. The truth of this view is confirmed by Swedenborg in the following passage : ” No one has religion from himself, but through another, who, either himself, or by transmission from others, knew from the Word that there is a God, a life after death, a heaven and a hell, and that God is to be worshiped in order that man may be blessed. The Lord provides that in every religion there should be precepts such as are in the Decalogue : as that God is to be worshiped, his name not to be profaned, a solemn day to be kept, parents to be honored ; that one must not kill, nor commit adultery, nor steal, nor testify falsely. The nation which regards these precepts as divine, and lives according to them from religion, is saved ; and most of the nations, remote from the Christian world, look upon these laws, not merely as civil ordinances, but as divine, and esteem them holy.” Divine Providence, n. 254.
It may be added, that the Mahometan religion, which prevails over so large a part of the Eastern world, though based professedly on the Koran, yet derives what truth it possesses indirectly from the Divine Word ; for the moral teachings of the Koran are drawn in great part from the Word both of the Old and New Testament. On this point Swedenborg remarks : ” The Mahometan religion was raised up by the divine providence of the Lord, for the purpose of destroying the idolatries of many nations. Before the existence of that religion, the worship of idols prevailed throughout the world. The reason of such a general prevalence of idolatry was this : The churches before the coming of the Lord were all representative churches ; such, for instance, was the Israelitish church ; there the tabernacle, the garments of Aaron, the sacrifices, everything in the temple at Jerusalem, as also their statutes, were all representative. Among the ancients existed the Science of Correspondences, which is also that of representatives. This was the science of sciences, and was especially cultivated in Egypt, hence their hieroglyphics. From this science they knew what was signified by animals of every kind ; also what by trees of every kind ; what by mountains, hills, rivers, fountains ; and also what by the sun, moon, and stars. And as all their worship was representative, consisting of mere correspondences, therefore they celebrated worship on mountains and hills, and also in groves and gardens ; hence, also, they consecrated fountains, and in their adorations of God, turned their faces to the rising sun. Moreover, they sculptured horses, oxen, calves, lambs, and also birds, fishes, and serpents, and these they placed in their houses and elsewhere, in a certain order, according to the spiritual things which they represented, or, what is the same, to which they corresponded. Similar images they placed also in their temples, in order to call to their remembrance the holy things which they signified.* In process of time, when the knowledge of the science of correspondences had perished, their posterity began to worship those sculptures as holy in themselves, not knowing that the ancients, their ancestors, saw nothing holy in the images themselves but only by means of them called to mind the holy things which they represented. From this source, now, arose the idolatries which filled the whole world, as well as Asia and its islands, as Africa and Europe.
To the end that these idolatries might -be extirpated, it was brought about by the Lord’s divine providence, that a new religion, accommodated to the genius of the Orientals, should be raised up, in which there should be something from both Testaments of the Word, and which should teach that the Lord came into the world, and that He was the greatest prophet, the wisest of all, and the Son of God. This was done by means of Mahomet, from whom that religion is called the Mahometan. This religion was raised up through the Lord’s providence, and accommodated, as remarked, to the genius of the Orientals, to the end that it might destroy the idolatries of so many nations, and give them some knowledge concerning the Lord, before they came into the spiritual world ; which religion would not have been received by so many kingdoms, and thus could not have extirpated their idolatries, unless it had been accommodated in a measure to their ideas and character.” Divine Providence, n. 255.
From the above statements, then, we learn that the ancients, the moderns, the Pagans, the Mahometans, all nations and peoples, in deed, throughout the world, are indebted for their religious knowledge more or less directly to the written Word. Thus the fountain of all religious light is Divine Revelation. In what has been said, this may be seen from a historical point of view ; but there is a spiritual point of view from which it appears still more strikingly ; for the whole Gentile world is at this moment influenced by the existence of the written Word in Christendom, even though the fact of its existence may be quite unknown to them. This truth, as Swedenborg presents it, is very curious and interesting, and something entirely new. The following is the view he presents of it : “There cannot be conjunction with heaven, unless there be some where on the earth a church which is in possession of the Word, and which has thus a knowledge of the Lord ; because the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and without the Lord there is no salvation. It is sufficient that there be a church which is in possession of the Word, even though it consists of comparatively few ; for still, by means of the Word so possessed, the Lord is present throughout the whole world, since by that means heaven is in conjunction with mankind. In what manner the presence and conjunction of the Lord and heaven are effected in all countries by means of the Word, shall be shown. The whole heaven in the Lord s sight, is as one man ; such also is the church. In this man the church where the Word is read and where the Lord is thereby known, is as the heart and lungs. Now, as from these two fountains of life in the human body all the other organs, members and viscera subsist and live, so also all those in every part of the earth who have any religion, who worship one God, and live good lives, and thus make a part of this (collective) man, subsist and live from the conjunction of the Lord with heaven and the church by means of the Word. For the Word in the church, even though that church consist of but few respectively, is yet life to the rest from the Lord through heaven, just as the members and viscera of the whole body receive life through the heart and lungs. The communication also is similar. For this reason the Christians among whom the Word is read, constitute the breast, as it were, of the before-mentioned man. They are also in the centre of all ; around them (spiritually viewed) are the Roman Catholics ; around these are the Mahometans who acknowledge the Lord as the greatest prophet, and as the Son of God; after these are the Africans; and the furthest circumference is constituted by the nations and peoples of Asia and the Indies. In the centre where the Christians are, the light is brightest ; for light in the heavens is divine truth proceeding from the Lord as a Sun there ; and since the Word is divine truth, the greatest light is with those who are in possession of the Word ; light thence, as from a centre, diffuses itself through all the surrounding parts, even to the extremities; and hence the illumination of the nations and peoples out of the church by means of the Word. This may be illustrated by comparison with the heat and light proceeding from the natural sun, which cause vegetation in trees and shrubs, even such as are not exposed to their direct influence, but are planted in shady places, which, nevertheless, do not fail to grow if the sun be only risen above the horizon.” D. S. S. 104-109.
This is a striking and beautiful passage, containing truth as important and interesting as it is novel. And how does it enhance the value of the Holy Word, to know that our possession and pious perusal of it is, unconsciously to us, influencing the most distant nations by spiritual communication ! We are apt, with our merely natural ideas, to think that the only means of communication between ourselves and the Indies or Africans, is by crossing vast continents and seas. We forget that there is a world of mind in which there is no space, but in which all are allied by a spiritual connection, which, though unseen and unknown to us, is yet plainly seen by the Omniscient Ruler of the universe. Our author proceeds : ” It may thus be plainly seen that the Word which is read in the Protestant Church, enlightens all nations and peoples by spiritual communication. Hence it is provided by the Lord that there should always be a church on the earth in which the Word is read, and where consequently the Lord is known. When, therefore, the Word was well-nigh cast aside by the Romish Church, then, by the Lord’s divine providence, the Reformation was brought about and the Word was again received. So, likewise, when the Word was entirely falsified and adulterated by the Jewish nation, and thus rendered in a manner null, it pleased the Lord himself to descend from heaven and come into the world to fulfil the Word, and thus renew and restore it, and again give light to the inhabitants of the earth, according to these words of the Lord The people that sat in darkness saw a great light ; to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, hath light sprung up. (Matt. iv. 16.) And it having been foretold that at the end of the present church, also, darkness would arise in consequence of its members not knowing and acknowledging the Lord as the God of heaven and earth, and separating faith from charity, therefore, lest the genuine understanding of the Word, and consequently the church, should perish, it has pleased the Lord now to reveal the spiritual sense of the Word, and to show that the Word in that sense, and from that in the natural sense, treats of the Lord and the church, and of them alone, with many other discoveries, by which the light of truth, which was well-nigh extinguished, might be restored.” D. S. S. 110-112.
Having thus far shown that the written Word, even though possessed by comparatively few, yet is and has in all time been a light to all nations, it is now to be shown that the Word is also the great medium of communication with heaven, and that without such a medium men would be in mental darkness, and would at length perish. On this point Swedenborg thus speaks :” Since man has broken his connection with heaven by turning his interiors away from heaven, and turning them to the world and himself by means of his love of self and love of the world, and thus withdrawing himself so as no longer to serve heaven as a basis and foundation, therefore a medium was promised by the Lord, which might be to heaven in the place of a basis and foundation, and also a medium for the conjunction of heaven with man. That medium is the Word. Unless such a Word had been given on this earth, the man of this earth would have been separated from heaven ; and if separated from heaven, he would no longer have been rational, for the human rational exists from the influx of the light of heaven. I have been informed from heaven that the Most Ancient people had immediate revelation, since their interiors were turned to heaven; and that hence there was at that time conjunction of heaven with the human race. But after their times there was not such immediate revelation, but mediate by correspondences ; for all their divine worship consisted of correspondences, whence the churches of that time were called representative churches. For they at that time knew what correspondence was, and what representation was, and that all things on earth correspond to spiritual things which are in heaven and in the church ; wherefore the natural things which were the externals of their worship, served them as mediums for thinking spiritually, thus with the angels.
After the science of correspondences and representatives was obliterated, then the Word was written, in which all the words and senses of the words are correspondences : thus they contain a spiritual or internal sense in which the angels are. Wherefore, when man reads the Word and perceives it according to the sense of the letter, the angels perceive it according to the internal or spiritual sense. In this way it is, that after man removed himself from heaven and broke the bond of connection, there was provided by the Lord a medium for the conjunction of man with heaven, namely, the Word. In what manner heaven is conjoined with man by means of the Word, may be seen from the following example : In Isaiah it is written In that day there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians : in that day Israel shall be a third to Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the land (xix. 23, 24). How man thinks, and on the other hand how the angels think, when these words are read, will appear by comparing the sense of the letter with the internal sense. From the literal sense, man thinks that the Egyptians and Assyrians are to be converted to God, and accepted, and that they are to make one with the Israelitish nation ; but from the internal sense angels think of the man of the spiritual church, who is there described ; whose spiritual principle is represented by Israel, his natural principle by the Egyptian, and his rational principle by the Assyrian. [A highway from Egypt to Assyria signifies an orderly communication and connection between the natural and rational principles of the mind ; and Israel a blessing in the midst of the land, signifies that the spiritual principle within will be a source of blessing and peace to the whole mind.] Here the natural and spiritual senses still make one, because they correspond : wherefore when the angels thus speak spiritually, and man thinks naturally, they are conjoined almost like soul and body. The internal sense of the Word, indeed, is its soul, and the letter its body. Such is the Word throughout ; hence it is evident, that it is the medium of conjoining man with heaven.” H. H. 306-309.
In confirmation of the truth that the Word is a medium of communication with heaven, Swedenborg adduces his own experience : ” That the spiritual angels are in the spiritual sense of the Word, and the celestial angels in its celestial sense, has been proved to me by much experience. While I was reading the Word in its literal sense, it was given me to perceive that communication was opened with the heavens, sometimes with one society, sometimes with another. What I understood according to the natural sense, the spiritual angels understood according to the spiritual sense, and the celestial angels according to the celestial sense, and this in an instant. As this communication has been perceived by me many thousand times, I have not the least doubt remaining as to its reality. There are spirits, also, below the heavens who abuse this communication ; for they read over particular passages in the literal sense of the Word, and immediately observe and note the society with which communication is effected. From these circumstances it has been given me to know by sensible experience, that the Word in its literal sense is a divine medium of conjunction with the Lord and with heaven.” D. S. S. 64.
He adds, in another place : ” While I read through the Word, from the first chapter of Isaiah even to the last of Malachi, and the Psalms of David, and kept the thought on the spiritual sense, it w:as given me clearly to perceive that every verse communicated with some society of heaven, and thus the whole Word with the universal heaven.” T. C. R. 292. In the following statement, there is presented a striking and beau tiful instance of the spiritual effect produced, not only by reading, but also by singing the Word in a church on earth : ” There were certain African spirits from Abyssinia with me, whose ears on a certain occasion were opened, that they might hear singing in a church in the world from the Psalms of David. By this they were affected with such delight that they joined in the singing. Presently, however, their ears were closed, so that they could not hear anything thence ; but they were then affected with a still greater degree of delight, because it was spiritual, and they were at the same time filled with intelligence, for that Psalm treated of the Lord and of redemption. The cause of this increase of delight was, that there was then granted them a communication with that society in heaven which was in conjunction with those who were singing that Psalm in the world.” Sacred Scripture, n. 108.
Does not this interesting circumstance teach us the importance of chanting the Word in our public worship? Hymns of human com position, may also, no doubt, be properly and profitably used ; but we should never omit the other. And how much it will add to the elevation of our spirits on such occasions, to reflect that while chanting a Psalm, or indeed any part of the Divine Word, we are for the time in spiritual consociation with the angels of heaven ! In our private singing or reading of the Word, also, it will tend greatly to increase our interest in the sacred duty, to reflect that every verse we read aloud communicates with some angelic society ; and that if we are reading in a reverential frame of mind, our spirits are thereby brought into consociation with its blessed inhabitants. ” The Word in the letter,” says Swedenborg, ” is like a cabinet, in which lie in order precious stones, pearls, and diadems ; and when man accounts the Word holy, and reads it for the sake of uses of life, the thoughts of his mind are comparatively like one who holds such a cabinet in his hand, and sends it up to heaven ; and in its ascent it is opened, and the precious things therein come to the an gels, who are inwardly delighted with seeing and examining them.” True Christian Religion, 238.
It is a curious and interesting fact, that, as stated by our author, the angels are more particularly affected when the Word is read by children. ” It may seem a paradox,” says he, ” but nevertheless it is most true, that the angels have a clearer and fuller understanding of the internal sense of the Word when it is read by little boys and girls, than when it is read by grown up persons who are not in a state of faith grounded in charity. The reason is, because little children are in a state of mutual love and innocence, and consequently the receptive vessels of their minds are extremely tender and almost of a celestial nature, so as to be pure faculties of reception, which therefore are capable of being disposed by the Lord for the purpose, although this does not come to the children s perception, except by a certain sensation of delight, suitable to their state and genius.” Arcana Coelestia, n. 1776.
We may now see the reason why the Word, especially of the Old Testament, is so full of stories, as the account of the Garden of Eden, the story of Joseph, the history of Samson, and numerous others. It is for the sake of children in particular, that the Word is thus written. Were it a book merely of profound philosophy and theology as some would wish it to be is it not evident that none but philosophers and theologians would read it? Children and simple people would be driven from its pages ; and thus not only would these lose the delight and benefit derived from its literal sense, and still more from the interior communication thereby opened with heaven, but the angels, also, would be deprived of a portion of their delight, which, as just shown, they receive from the reading of the Word by children and simple good people. And yet, underneath these simple stories is a mine of truth infinite in depth, capable of instructing not only philosophers and theologians, but even the angels of heaven, for ever. So wonderfully constituted is the Divine Word!
But now the question may be asked, Are angels entirely dependent on man for the reading of the Word ? Do they not possess it themselves in the heavens ? Swedenborg answers this question. Certainly they do possess the Word, and read it just as men do. But their Word differs from ours : they have it not there in the literal sense, but in the spiritual sense ; the internal sense of our Word, or that which is within the letter, is what constitutes the Word as it appears in heaven.
” The Word in heaven is written in a spiritual style, which differs entirely from a natural style. A spiritual style consists of mere letters, each involving some particular sense ; and there are marks above the letters which exalt the sense. As their writing is of such a nature, there are not any names of persons and places in their Word as in ours ; but instead of names are the things which they signify. Thus, instead of Moses, is mentioned the historical word ; instead of Elias, the prophetical word ; instead of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord with respect to his divine-celestial, his divine spiritual, and his divine-natural principles ; instead of Aaron, the priestly office ; instead of David, the kingly office, each in relation to the Lord ; instead of the names of the twelve sons of Jacob, or the tribes of Israel, and instead of the names of the Lord s twelve disciples, various things respecting heaven and the church ; instead of Zion and Jerusalem, the church as to doctrine derived from the Word; instead of the land of Canaan, the church itself; instead of the places and cities in that land, both on this side and beyond Jordan, various things relating to the church and to doctrine. So also with numbers. These do not occur in the copies of the Word written in heaven ; but instead of them, the things to which the numbers correspond. It may hence be seen that the Word in heaven -corresponds to our Word, and that consequently they are one, for correspondence makes things one.” He adds :- ” What is wonderful, the Word in heaven is so written that the simple understand it in simplicity, and the wise in wisdom ; for, as above observed, there are various points and marks over the letters, which exalt the sense, but to which the simple do not attend, nor do they understand their meaning ; whereas the wise take note of them, every one in proportion to his wisdom, even to its highest degree. A copy of the Word, written by angels inspired by the Lord, is kept in every considerable society in its sacred repository, in order to pre serve it from alteration in any of its points or marks. In the sacred repository where the copy of the Word is kept, the light is bright and flaming, exceeding every degree of light that shines in the other parts of heaven. The reason is, that the Lord is in the Word.” D. S. S. 71-73.
Having thus presented from the writings of Swedenborg, many new and elevating views of the Divine Word, I wish now to set forth in a clear light the nature of its inspiration, a subject which has been much discussed, but which is not in general clearly understood. In the first place, let us define the word inspiration. Inspiration, proper or plenary, means being filled with the Divine. When we say, then, that the Word is inspired, we mean that it is filled with Divinity, so as to be purely Divine ; and since whatever is Divine is infinite, therefore the Holy Word contains infinite truth, truth inexhaustible by men or angels. This is taught by Swedenborg in the following passage : ” It is a divine truth that there are indefinite things in each expression of the Word, which appears to man so simple and rude ; yea, that there is contained therein more than the universal heaven ; and that its arcana may be presented by the Lord before the angels, with perpetual variety, to eternity.” A. C. 1936.
” The world, even the learned part of it, has heretofore imagined that the historicals of the Word are merely historicals, and infold nothing deeper. And although they have said that every iota is divinely inspired, still by this they meant nothing more than that such historical were made known by revelation, and that certain tenets may be deduced from them applicable to the doctrine of faith, and profitable to those who teach and to those who are taught ; as also that, in consequence of being divinely inspired, those narratives have a divine force on men s minds, and are effective of good above all other histories. But historical, considered in themselves, effect little toward man’s amendment, and nothing towards eternal life, for in the other life they are sunk in oblivion. Of what use, for instance, could it be to know concerning Hagar, a maid-servant, that she was given to Abram by Sarai? or to know the history of Ishmael, or even that of Abram ? Nothing is necessary for souls in order to their entering into heaven and enjoying bliss, that is, eternal life, but what has reference to the Lord and” is from the Lord. These are the things, to communicate which the Word was given, and which are contained in its interiors. Inspiration implies that in all parts of the Word, even the most minute, are contained celestial things which have reference to love or goodness, and spiritual things, which have reference to faith or truth, consequently things divine. For what is in spired by the Lord, descends from Him through the angelic heaven, and so through the world of spirits, till it reaches man, before whom it presents itself such as the Word is in its letter.” A. C. 1886-7.
This being the character of the Divine Word, namely, that besides the literal sense, it contains an internal sense which is exhaustless in depth and wisdom, it will be at once evident that man had nothing to do with its composition, for in its interiors it is infinitely above man s range of thought. Had it passed through [or proceeded from] any human mind, it would be merely finite and human, not infinite and Divine. The persons, therefore, who were employed as instruments for writing the Divine Word, as Moses, David, and the rest, did not, as some have supposed, first receive the truth into their minds, and then express it in their own way not at all ; that would have destroyed its plenary inspiration altogether: the weak and finite medium could not but have perverted, or at least modified, what it received, so that what was written would not have been a Divine but a human composition. The writers of the Scripture were in truth mere penmen, they wrote simply by dictation ; oftentimes, doubtless, having little or no understanding of what they were writing. They heard a voice, and wrote down what the voice uttered. Thus it was not properly the men that were inspired, but the writing. That this was the case is thus plainly taught by Swedenborg :” I have been informed how the Lord spoke with the prophets by whom the Word was written. He did not speak with them, as with the ancients, by an influx into their interiors, but by spirits who were sent to them, whom the Lord filled with his aspect, and thus inspired words which they dictated to the prophets ; so that it was not influx but dictation. And since the words came forth immediately from the Lord, therefore, each of them was filled with the Divine, and contains in it an internal sense which is such that the angels of heaven perceive them in a celestial and spiritual sense, when men perceive them in a natural sense. Thus the Lord by the Word has conjoined the world to heaven.” H. H. 254.
Again, he says : ” In regard to the prophets, by whom the Word was written, they wrote as the spirit from the Divine dictated ; for the very words which they wrote were littered in their ears.” A. C. 7055. He also states who it was that uttered the voice which they heard : ” There were angels who were sent to men, and who also spake by the prophets ; but what they spake was not from the angels but by them. For the state of the angels at that time was such that they knew no otherwise than that they w7ere Jehovah, that is, the Lord ; nevertheless, when they had done speaking they presently returned into their former state. This was the case with the angels who spake the Word of the Lord, as has been given me to know by much experience. This is the reason that the angels were sometimes called Jehovah, as was evidently the case with the angel who appeared to Moses in the bush, of whom it is thus written : “And the angel of Jehovah appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush. And when Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush. God said to Moses, I Am that I Am. Ex. iii. 2, 4, 14. From which words it is evident that it was an angel that appeared to Moses as a flame in the bush, and that he spake as Jehovah, because the Lord as Jehovah spake by him. For in order that man may be spoken to by vocal expressions, which are articulate sounds in the ultimates of nature, the Lord makes use of the ministry of angels by filling them with the Divine, and by laying asleep what is of their own proprium, so that they know no otherwise than that they are Jehovah ; thus the Divine of Jehovah which is in the Supreme, descends into the lowest principles of nature in which man is.” A. C. 1925.
From this passage we learn with distinctness the nature of the inspiration of the Divine Word, and the manner in which the Word was written. We see that it did not come from any man’s mind, nor even from any angel s mind, but directly from the Divine, angels and men being made use of merely as instruments the former to speak it, and the latter to write it down. Nay, in regard to the Decalogue or Ten Commandments which were the germ, and which contain, as it were, the very essence of the Word, not even the ministry of either men or angels was used ; but, as declared, they were written on tables of stone by the very finger of God himself. We thus perceive that the Word of the Lord is purely divine, and that man had nothing to do with its composition, but acted merely as its scribe or penman. This must have been the case even in regard to those narratives of facts in which the writer himself was concerned. That part of the Divine word, for instance, which describes the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, their journey through the desert, and the attendant circumstances, though written by Moses, yet was not composed out of Moses own mind and memory, as an ordinary historian would narrate facts which he had witnessed. For had this been the case, it would have been not the Word of God but the word of man ; for though the subject of the narrative may have been a history of God s doings, yet that would not have made it the Word of God, but it would still have been a mere human narrative of God s doings, and thus the word of man, with all the imperfections to which every human composition is liable. Nor would it have contained any internal or angelic sense; nor, consequently, would it have been able to effect communication with heaven, which, as before shown, the Divine Word does. Consequently the case must have been, that in writing those naratives Moses own memory was for the time quiescent ; he was not allowed to use it, but wrote by simple dictation.
To be satisfied that this must have been the case, we have only to read what is stated by Swedenborg in regard to the wondrous sublimity and beauty of the internal sense of those narratives: ” The Word of the Lord,” says he, ” when read by a man who loves it and who lives in charity, is displayed by the Lord to the angels with such beauty and pleasantness, accompanied also with representatives, that every particular is perceived as if it had life. That the Word of the Lord is thus displayed to good spirits and angels, it has been granted me both to see and hear. A certain spirit came to me not long after his decease, as I concluded from the circumstance that as yet he did not know that he was in the other life, imagining that he still lived in the world. It was perceived that he was devoted to studious pursuits, concerning which I- conversed with him. But suddenly he was taken up on high, which surprised me, and led me to suspect that he was of an aspiring temper, for such are wont to be carried up on high. Presently, however, I perceived that he was taken up amongst those angelic spirits who are just at the entrance into heaven. From this situation he discoursed with me, saying that he saw things of such sublimity as no human imagination could conceive. I was reading at the time the first chapter of Deuteronomy concerning the Jewish people, and concerning the spies who were sent to explore the land of Canaan. As I read, he said that he perceived none of the things contained in the literal sense, but only those in the spiritual sense, and that they were wonderful beyond description. Certain spirits who were with me at the time, and who before could not believe that the Word of the Lord was of such a nature, began now to repent of their incredulity, and said, in that state, that they believed, because they heard the other spirit say that he heard and saw that the Word was so full of wonders. But other spirits still persisted in their unbelief, saying that it was not so, but that it was all mere fancy ; wherefore these were suddenly taken up also, and from their elevation discoursed with me, confessing that it was very far from fancy, for that they really perceived it to be so, and this with a more exquisite perception than that of any of the senses which they had in the life of the body. Presently others also were taken up into the same heaven, and amongst them one with whom I had been acquainted in the world, who bore the same testimony, saying that he was too much astonished at the glory of the Word in its internal sense to be able to describe it. Being melted with compassion at man s unbelief, he added, that it was wonderful that they could remain so totally ignorant of the internal things of the Word.” A. C. 1769.
Now, the wonderful things here referred to are contained in the interiors of a chapter which in the letter seems a very ordinary narrative from the lips of Moses, in which he is recapitulating to the Israelites a portion of the adventures which they had passed through. In the literal sense, it is a mere recounting of certain external circumstances and facts recalled by the leader to the minds of his fol lowers, and such as we should certainly have presumed Moses spoke from his own memory. And yet we learn that this simple narrative contains such a wonderful internal sense as to move and delight spirits and angels, and to bring magnificent scenes before their view. Is not this sufficient to satisfy us that no part of that narrative, not even the most insignificant, which passes under the name of the Mosaic record, was composed in Moses own mind at all, but was written entirely by dictation from the Divine ? for how else could it contain an internal sense far above the comprehension of Moses himself, or of any man ? Thus is the whole Word truly a dictation from God, and it is this which gives it its inspiration, that is, its divinity.
But we have now to make clear the distinction that exists between verbal and personal inspiration, between the plenary inspiration, or full Divinity that belongs to a writing dictated from God, and that partial inspiration, or, as it should more properly be termed, illumination, which has occasionally been bestowed upon men. This distinction, which is most important, has in general been overlooked, or rather not understood, by commentators on Scripture. They have spoken of the inspired writers, rather than of the inspired writings ; they speak of Moses, David and Isaiah as men whose minds were in a certain manner acted upon by the spirit of God, and yet who retained their own proper characters, and who wrote from their own thoughts. Now, this we have shown to be an error. The persons who were made use of as instruments for uttering and writing down the Divine Word, and whose names are attached to the various books of Scripture, were, as we have shown, mere penmen, writing by simple dictation, merely putting down what they heard a voice utter.
So far as the mere writing was concerned, a child could have done it as well as they. The reason that men were selected men, too, of power and character was because most of them, as Isaiah and Jere miah as well as the Evangelists, had to be preachers and apostles as well as penmen, and were compelled to utter the Divine testimony in the midst of a wicked and violent people. Yet it is to be understood that the state of their own minds and individual characters was entirely distinguished from the nature of the message which they were sent to utter and to write down. In proof of this, men were sometimes selected whose personal characters were not good, who were willful and disobedient. Look at the case of the prophet Jonah, for instance. No one could call him a ” holy prophet,” in view of his personal character ; yet what he was commissioned to write is as fully and truly the Word of God as any other part of the Sacred Writings, and has its Divine and internal sense. From this single case, it may be perceived how entirely the inspiration of the prophecy or writing is to be distinguished from the character of the man who was its writer.
With the writers of the Divine Word, then, there was not, properly speaking, any personal inspiration at all. And this fact, as before shown, is the very thing that makes the Word Divine, namely, that it passed through no human mind, but merely was uttered by a human tongue, or written down by a human hand, in obedience to an audible dictation. This is expressly declared in these words uttered by David in his character as the “Sweet Psalmist of Israel:” ” The Spirit of the Lord,” says he,”spake by me, and His Word was in my tongue” 2 Sam. xxiii. 1, 2, in his tongue, be it observed, not in his mind. But personal inspiration, or illumination as it should rather be termed, is an enlightenment of the man s own faculties. It is a greater thing for the writer, but infinitely less for the writing ; for it causes what he utters to be still the word of man, not the Word of God ; and between these there is an infinite distance, as between what is human and what is Divine. What is uttered or written from mere personal inspiration or illumination contains no internal sense capable of being opened to spirits and angels ; hence it is not a medium of connection with heaven as the Divine Word is. It may be truth, even truth without error ; but still it is finite truth, not infinite. All that it contains appears on the face of it ; it may teach lofty wisdom, yet still finite and human. Whereas the Divine Word, that which comes by dictation directly from the Lord, is in every sentence infinite and inexhaustible, capable of being opened more and more, and of sending forth deeper and deeper truth for ever. Hence, not a jot or tittle, as is declared, of the Divine Word can fail or pass away ; for it is eternal as the God from whom it comes.
It may here be remarked, that what Swedenborg claims for himself is not inspiration, but illumination ; a peculiar illumination and illustration of his own rational faculties, giving him an interior discernment and perception of spiritual truth, and particularly of the internal or spiritual sense of the Divine Word. This mental illumination, however, was a distinct thing from the opening of his spiritual sight, by which he was enabled to look into the spiritual world. Both of these gifts were necessary to the accomplishment of his mission, which was both to lay open and expound the internal sense of the Word, and at the same time to make known to man the nature and condition of the world of spirits, heaven, and hell. This being the character of Swedenborg s writings, human, rational expositions of the Scriptures, and explanatory accounts of the state of man after death, though containing essential and most interior truth, they are still human writings, because they proceeded from or through a human mind. They therefore have no resemblance to, and bear no comparison with, the Holy Word which, having passed through no human mind, but being given by direct dictation from the Lord, is purely Divine and infinite, not only in the matter, but in the man ner, and in every word and letter.
Among the writings contained in the Book which we call ” The Bible,” there are examples of both kinds of inspiration, the verbal and the personal, or, as they should rather be termed, of plenary inspiration and of mental illumination. The book of Proverbs, for instance, belongs to the latter class ; the Psalms to the former. And the difference may be at once perceived from the style alone. In reading the Proverbs of Solomon, you perceive yourself to be perusing a book of profound practical wisdom, the composition of a mind enlightened and elevated to a high degree ; but when you understand the meaning of the literal sense before you, you know all that is there. The sense is plain, because the writing is human ; it is from a mind like our own, only more profoundly enlightened. The water is clear, because comparatively shallow. But in reading the Psalms, you feel yourself sailing over an ocean ; your eye may penetrate a little way beneath the surface, but you do not see to the bottom, you cannot, for it is fathomless ; the waters seem less transparent on account of their very depth. Every part of the Proverbs can be understood by any person of ordinary mind ; but much of the Psalms is, in the letter alone, nearly or quite unintelligible.
A similar distinction may be observed in the New Testament between the style of the Epistles and that of the Gospels. The Epistles are simple and intelligible, though containing deep truth and great knowledge of the human heart, abounding in excellent practical lessons, and sometimes glowing with apostolic fervor, as is the case, for instance, with the famous chapter on charity, in the Epistle to the Corinthians. (1 Cor. xiii.) Still you feel them to be human compositions, expressed in ordinary language, such as is common between man and man. (And it is, no doubt, in consequence of this greater plainness, that the Epistles are the favorite resort of preachers at the present day.) But open the Gospels, and at once you find yourself in another region of thought and feeling altogether. The lofty, solemn style at once impresses the reader with a perception of their superhuman character. ” And the high priest answered and said, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said ; nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. xxvi. 63, 64.) On reading such words as these, you feel yourself in a Divine presence ; there cannot be familiarity here ; this is not the style and language of man ; you are again sailing over an ocean ; you are gazing into the blue depths of heaven !
That the Gospels were not written by the Evangelists from their own mind or memory, a very little reflection will show. Those books, be it observed, are not mere statements of historical facts, such as might have been seen and remembered ; but they contain, also, long discourses, such as the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew, and detailed conversations, such as occurred between the Lord and the Jews, as recorded in John. Now these, it will be at once seen, could never have been remembered with any accuracy, as any one may satisfy himself by trying to recollect the language of a discourse which he may have heard but a week or a month ago. And this will be the more evident when we consider that the Gospels were not written till some thirty years after the Lord s crucifixion (the Gospel of John not till sixty years after). How could the writers have possibly remembered the Lord s exact words after that length of time ? And no one will for a moment suppose, that these unlettered fishermen ever thought of such a thing as taking notes of these discourses and conversations, after the custom of modern times. Moreover, two out of the four Evangelists, namely, Mark and Luke, were not of the number of the twelve Apostles, and themselves probably never saw or heard the Lord at all. It is evident, therefore, that if the Gospels are accurate and reliable statements of what the Lord did, and especially of what He said, they could never have been drawn from the writers own minds or memories, but must have been written by instruction from above, that is, by inspiration. But this could not have been mere personal inspiration or illumination ; for this being merely an enlightenment of man s own faculties, cannot introduce anything into the memory, but merely illustrates what is already there. The Gospels, then, must have been written by plenary inspiration, that is, by dictation, in which process the very words are uttered in the writer s ears, and he acts merely as a penman. All parts of the Scripture that have an internal sense must be of this character; and the Gospels have such an internal sense, and thus, like the books of Moses, effect communication with heaven.
In our English Bible the important distinction which exists between those books which are plenarily inspired, and thus have an internal sense, and those which have no such sense, does not appear in the arrangement ; they are mingled promiscuously together. Not so with the Hebrew Bible; this distinction is there carefully observed. The books that are not plenarily inspired are thrown together into an Appendix at the end, and are entitled Hagiographa. This distinction must have been of Divine appointment and providence ; for the Jews, who knew nothing of an internal sense in any of the books, could not have made this distinction themselves. It is to be observed, moreover, that from some cause they have classed two of the plenarily inspired books with the Hagiographa, namely, the Psalms and the Prophecy of Daniel ; but they have been careful to admit none of the uninspired books into the higher division. When, however, the first Greek translation was made, commonly called the Septuagint (which was done at Alexandria, in Egypt, about two centuries before the Christian era), the distinction between the two classes of writings was not preserved, as it ought to have been ; but they were mingled together, reference being had, in their arrangement, merely to chronological order. Thus, for instance, the Book of Ruth, which is one of the Hagiographa, was thrown in next after Judges, because the facts mentioned in Ruth belong to that period in the Jewish history. So, also, the Proverbs of Solomon were arranged next after the Psalms of his father David ; and so on. Thus the infinitely more important distinction of character and class was sacrificed to the comparatively trifling matter of chronological order. And in this arrangement our English translators have followed, not the Hebrew original, as they should have done, but the Septuagint translation.
The books which, as Swedenborg shows, have an internal sense, and which, therefore, properly constitute the Divine Word, are the following : the five books of Moses, Joshua, Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, the Psalms of David, the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi ; and in the New Testament, the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and the Apocalypse. (A. C. 10,325.) The books which constitute the Hagiographa, and have not an internal sense, are the following : Ruth, first and second Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon ; of a similar character, in the New Testament, are the book of Acts, and the Epistles.
It is an interesting fact that, as stated by Swedenborg, our own earth is the only one in which there is a written Word, the truths of revelation being made known in all other earths by word of mouth, through spirits and angels. On this earth, too, and on no other, the Lord was pleased to be born, that is, Jehovah was made man. The reason, however, for our being thus distinguished is not of a character to elevate but rather to lower us in our own estimation. It is because the people of this earth are the lowest or most external of all. Swedenborg shows that all the earths or worlds in the universe compose one grand system, the inhabitants of each earth having relation to some part or principle in man, the whole being derived from Him who is essential man, God himself. The part which our earth corresponds to, is the external or sensual principle, which is the ultimate principle of humanity. On this account it was that the Divine chose to assume an external or ultimate human principle on this earth, rather than on any other. And for the same reason the Word was written here, that is, Divine Truth which in itself is mental and spiritual, was here expressed in a visible material form, namely, by characters or letters written or printed on material substances. Such a thing exists in no other earth. Nevertheless, through the Word thus written here, the great truth which it records of the Divine Incarnation, is made known to the spirits and angels who come into heaven from all other earths. On these interesting points Swedenborg thus speaks :” In every other earth, Truth Divine is manifested by word of mouth through spirits and angels, but this is done within families ; for the human race, in most earths, dwell apart in families. Where fore, Divine Truth, thus revealed by spirits and angels, is not conveyed far beyond families, and unless a new revelation constantly succeeds, it is either perverted or perishes. It is otherwise on our earth, where Truth Divine, which is the Word, remains in its integrity for ever.
” The principal reason why it pleased the Lord to be born and as sume humanity on our earth, and not on another, Avas for the sake of the Word, that this might be written on our earth, and when written, be published through the whole world, and, once published, might be preserved to all posterity ; and thus it might be manifested that God was made man, even to all in the other life. That the principal reason was for the sake of the Word, is because the Word is Divine Truth itself, which teaches man that there is a God, that there is a life after death, that there is a heaven, that there is a hell ; and, moreover, teaches how man ought to live and to believe in order that he may come into heaven, and so be happy to eternity. All these things without revelation thus, in this earth, without the Word would have been altogether unknown ; yet man is so created that he can never die.” That the Word could be written on our earth, is because the art of writing has existed here from the most ancient times, first, on the rind or bark of trees, next on skins or parchment, afterwards on paper, and lastly by types, as in printing. This was provided by the Lord for the sake of the Word. That the Word, also, might be published through the whole earth, is because a communication of all nations is here given, both by land and water, to all parts of the globe ; hence, the Word, once written, could be passed from one nation to another, and be everywhere taught. Such communication was also provided by the Lord for the sake of the Word. That the Word once written could be preserved to all posterity, thus to thousands and thousands of years ; and that it has been so preserved, is a known thing.
That thus it might be manifested that God has been made Man ; for this is the first and most essential thing, on account of which the Word was given. For no one can believe in a God and love a God whom he cannot comprehend under some appearance ; wherefore, they who acknowledge only what is incomprehensible, sink in thought into nature, and thus believe in no God. Wherefore it pleased the Lord to be born here, and to make this manifest by the Word, so that it might be known not only on this globe, but also that, through that Word, it might be made manifest to all in the universe who come into heaven from any earth whatsoever ; for in heaven there is inter-communication of all knowledges. ” It is to be known that the Word in our earth is the medium of union between the world and heaven ; for which end there is a correspondence of all things in the letter of the Word with Divine things in heaven. The Word, also, in its supreme and inmost sense treats solely of the Lord, of his kingdom in the heavens and in the earths, and of love and faith from and in Him, and, consequently, of life from and in Him. Such things are represented to the angels in heaven from whatsoever earth they come, when the Word of our earth is read and preached. It is to be known that the Lord acknowledges and receives all, from whatsoever earth they are, who acknowledge and worship God under a human form, since God under a human form is the Lord. And as the Lord appears to the inhabitants of these earths under an angelic form which is the human form, therefore, when spirits and angels from these earths hear from the spirits and angels of our earth that God actually is Man, they receive that Word, acknowledge it, and rejoice that it is so.
” To the reasons which have been adduced why the Lord was born on this earth, and not on another, this may be added, that the inhabitants, spirits, and angels of our earth have reference in the Grand Man, to the external and corporeal sense ; and the external and corporeal sense is the ultimate, in which the interiors of life close, and in which they rest as on their common basis. The case is similar with Truth Divine in the letter which is called the Word, and which, for this reason, also, was given in this earth and not in another. And whereas the Lord is the Word, and its first and last, therefore, that all things might exist according to order, He was pleased to be born on this earth, and be made the Word, according to these words in John In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ; and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us. ” A. C. 9350-60.