THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCES
THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCES NOT A SPECULATIVE AND VISIONARY
THEORY, BUT AN ABSOLUTE REALITY. ILLUSTRATIONS FROM OPPOSITES,
AND VARIOUS OTHER SUBJECTS. THE OBJECTS FOR WHICH THE WORD OF
GOD WAS REVEALED ONLY ANSWERED BY THE ADMISSION
OF ITS INTERNAL SENSE, WHICH ALONE DISTINGUISHES IT
FROM ALL OTHER COMPOSITIONS, AND RECONCILES
ITS APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS. UNIVERSALITY
OF THIS DIVINE SCIENCE, AND THE NECESSITY THAT EXISTS FOR THE
WORD BEING WRITTEN ACCORDING TO IT.
This doctrine of the structure of the Word of God this law by which it must of necessity be expounded, in order to yield throughout its sacred pages “instruction and correction in righteousness” is no speculative or visionary theory, as some have erroneously supposed^, but a truly consistent, luminous, and universal method of interpretation. It may be trusted without hesitation, because it is founded on the immutable basis of eternal truth, on the everenduring laws of divine order, on the unalterable relation which all created objects have to their Creator, and which all external objects have to internal realities.
Correspondences are the only forms which can contain the living truths of God and heaven, convey them into the inmost depths of the soul, and impress them permanently there. They are universally understood ; they exist alike in all times and under all circumstances ; they are more or less enshrined in all languages, and are equally obvious to all. “Whatsoever anywhere appears in the universe,” says Swedenborg, “is representative of the Lord s kingdom, insomuch that there is not anything contained in the universal atmospheric region of the stars, or in the earth and its three kingdoms, but what in its manner and measure is representative ; for all and singular the things in nature are ultimate images, inasmuch as from the Divine [principle] proceed the celestial things appertaining to good, and from these celestial things the spiritual things appertaining to truth, and from both the former and the latter proceed natural things. Hence it may appear how gross, yea, how terrestrial, and also inverted, human reason is, which ascribes all and singular things to nature separate or exempt from influx prior to itself, or from the efficient cause Inasmuch, now, as all and singular things subsist from the Divine [principle], that is, continually exist, and all and singular things thence derived must needs be representative of those things whereby they had existence, it follows, that the visible universe is nothing but a theatre representative of the Lord s kingdom, and that this latter is a theatre representative of the Lord Himself.” –A. C. 3483.
All terms are of necessity modified by the sense of the connection as well as by the imperfection of languages. The same term is often used in the Holy Word as the translation of two or even more distinct words ; and, on the other hand, several words are often used to translate a single expression. A single word in the original may have two or more significations, either to be determined by the context or dependent on the subject treated of and indicated, sometimes, only in the most trifling difference in the form of the word, or in the use of particles and expletives. Many words and their modifications, in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, have no corresponding terms or forms of expression in any modern tongue. These niceties in the original sometimes occasion perplexity to the reader of Swedenborg, and give to correspondence the appearance of being an arbitrary and uncertain science, which, of course, cannot be wholly removed without some knowledge of the original languages themselves. Nice distinctions in the original are not always capable of transference into other languages.
The ancient Hebrew is not only the oldest, but the most significant language known, and was peculiarly appropriate to the purpose of enshrining the science of correspondences in the earlier ages of the world. The roots of several of the Semitic languages, such as the Arabic, Syriac, Chaldaic, etc., are so closely assimilated to the Hebrew as often to throw considerable light on Hebrew words and phrases, and to confirm their signification.
Correspondences are grounded in use, representatives in rituals of religion and human operations, and significative^ in what is uttered or written ; the whole, however, having the same ground of meaning, is included in the phrase we have so often used the science of correspondences. Now, it will be seen at once, that, as all good things are liable to. abuse through the perversion of reason, and may be applied to evil as well as good purposes, so the correspondence, the representation or the signification will change, and the object or expression which in a good sense denotes something good or true, or some spiritual blessing, will, when referring to or describing a perverted state, denote something evil or false, or some blessing changed to a curse ; for, “If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings” (Mal. ii. 2).
When this law of correspondence, radiant with celestial lustre, is applied to those Scriptures which constitute the perfect Word of God, they exhibit one harmonious scheme of profound wisdom, reflecting the Divine Mind of its glorious Author, and worthy of his infinite intelligence and goodness; one connected series of beautiful, practical, vital, everlasting truths, suited to the endless progress of the soul in the life of heaven. It is indeed ” the key of knowledge” (Luke xi. 52), which can alone unlock the cabinet which contains the priceless gems of truth, glowing with innumerable splendors, derived from the pure and precious wisdom of God, the doctrines and precepts of eternal life. This mode of interpreting the Holy Oracles is as widely different from what has been called ” spiritualizing” as the substance is from its shadow. The mere spiritualizer forces his own imaginary, and often extravagant, meaning on Scriptural terms and phrases to suit some ingenious notion fabricated in the realms of luxuriant fancy ; interchanging and commingling the subjective and the objective ; capriciously changing the sense, whenever it suits his purpose, and, in his futile attempts to expound the Word of God, profanes the truth instead of unfolding it. He has not been unaptly represented as on a deep and mighty ocean, without a star to guide, a compass to direct, or a helm to regulate his course. The science of correspondences is the very reverse of all this, for it rests, as we have endeavored to show, on fixed data, on unchanging laws. The same word, or expression, or phrase, in the same connection, always bearing the same spiritual signification, or its opposite, wherever it occurs in the plenarily-inspired books of the Old and New Testaments. Were it otherwise, the meaning would be arbitrary, uncertain, and valueless.
As men, by virtue of their freedom, are capable of perverting the richest blessings into curses, of profaning the holiest truths by falsifying them and connecting them with evils of heart and life, of abusing as well as using God s best gifts, so numerous opposites exist in creation, and conformably therewith there are many expressions and phrases in the Word which are the reverse of each other, as light and darkness, day and night, life and death, heat and cold, summer and winter, clean and unclean animals, useful and noxious vegetation, fruitful and barren trees and land.49 And we may easily see how such perversion originates and operates in the human mind, for, as unclean and voracious animals may be supported by the same kind of food, or as wholesome and poisonous vegetables may grow in the same soil, receiving the same rays of heat and light from the sun, but according to their own peculiar nature and quality, so the wicked and the good among men alike receive the divine influences of love and wisdom from God ; but as the unclean animals and poisonous vegetables change the respective elements on which they live into their own corresponding natures, so the wicked pervert the heavenly gifts, and change them, so to speak, into their contraries, or the opposite qualities of hell. For the Lord is no respecter of persons : ” He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. v. 45). When the prophet, therefore, is deploring the perversity of Israel, he says, ” Ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hem lock” (Amos vi. 12).
All good natural objects in the universe, and their uses, exist from the Lord ; they are the outbirths and infinitely varied forms of his love and wisdom; but all noxious things and uses originate in evil, and are the opposite perverted forms of goodness and truth ; hence, according to their peculiar qualities and properties, they are malignant and destructive, filthy and poisonous. All things must have had their origin in the spiritual world by corresponding influx, either through heaven or hell, into what is homogeneous, while their forms and uses derive fixity and existence in the world of nature.
Whatever is accordant with the Divine Will, corresponds to or represents or signifies somewhat relating to heaven, or just order ; and whatever is, from any cause, contrary thereto, exists of Divine permission, and corresponds to or represents or signifies somewhat relating to hell, or perverted order. Whatever relates to heaven has relation also to goodness and truth in the human mind and life, and whatever relates to hell has relation to evil and falsity in the mind and life. The Word, in its literal sense, is designed for the use of man while in this world, or in a merely natural state ; and man, while in this probationary state of existence, is placed midway between heaven and hell, so as to be the subject of the influence of each alike. Here is the ground of his freedom and his capacity for regeneration; hence arises antagonism in nature and the mind, and hence, too, the opposite meanings of the same term in different parts of Scripture, referring to and adumbrating the antagonistic principles and states of the Church collectively, or the man of the Church individually.
As another illustration, a mountain, as being one of the most elevated portions of the earth s surface, corresponds to an exalted or inmost principle of the mind, thus to some ruling affection of the heart. This may be either good or evil. If good, it is ” Mount Zion, the mountain of holiness,” denoting a state of love to the Lord ; if evil, it is ” the destroying mountain,” denoting a state of the love of self. Of the former mountain, an elevated state of love to God, we read, “The Lord bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness” (Jer. xxxi. 23). And in predicting the glorious dominion of the love of God in the soul, and the divine blessings thence resulting, the prophet says, ” And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined” (Isa. xxv. 6). This signification of the term mountain supplies the reason why, in ancient times, houses of worship were built, worship was celebrated, and sacrifices were offered on hills and mountains ; and hence, too, in a corrupt and perverted state of the human mind, whether as the Church collectively or individually, idolatry set up its graven and molten images in thousands of monstrous and bestial forms, and burnt incense to them in the high places and on the hills (2 Kings xvi. 4) representative of that gross, sensual, and selfish worship which is so utterly opposed to the Divine commandments (Ex. xx. 4), and which springs either from the love of self in all its corrupt, cruel forms, signified by molten images, or is fashioned by the graving-tools of self-intelligence, in all its false and hateful varieties, signified by graven images. Of the latter mountain, a state in which the evil love of self signified in its opposite sense by a mountain is permitted to assume preeminence, we read, ” Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the Lord, which destroyest all the earth : and I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain. And they shall not take of thee a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations ; but tliou shalt be desolate forever, saith the Lord” (Jer. li. 25, 26). In reference to this signification of a mountain, as denoting the love of self and the world, our blessed Lord said to his disciples, ” If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove” (Matt. xvii. 20). And again, speak ing of the blessed ascendency and reign of love and wisdom from the Lord, grounded in humility and the eternal subjection and removal of the proud and lofty principle of self-love opposed thereto, the prophet exclaims, ” Who art thou, O great mountain ? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain : and he shall bring forth the head stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, unto it” (Zech. iv. 7).
A hill is a less lofty elevation of the earth s surface than a mountain, and when both are mentioned together, as they often are, then a hill will signify the principle of charity, while a mountain will signify love to the Lord. Thus we read in the prophet that at the day of the Lord s appearing or manifestation for the establishment of his church, ” The mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk” (Joel iii. 18). Blessings of celestial and spiritual truth, in richest abundance, are here represented as flowing, distilling, dropping, from the sacred and elevated principles of love to the Lord and of charity towards our neighbor ; enriching, refreshing, nourishing the soul, and enabling to bring forth and abound in the genuine virtues and graces of a Christian life.
Again, treasures, in the Word of God, signify all that on which a man s heart is chiefly placed, that which, above all other things, he values most. Hence there are treasures of goodness and truth, and, on the contrary, treasures of wickedness and falsity; so we read, ” A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things : and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matt. xii. 35). Well, then, may we be exhorted by our blessed Lord to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. vi. 20).
As another illustration of what has been advanced, let us refer to the signification of natural light and heat, as corresponding in their existence, their effects, and their uses, to spiritual truth and love. It will then be seen that their negatives, which are the consequences of their absence or privation, viz., darkness and cold, signify ignorance and indifference, and that their perverted opposites are falsity and lust. This will be most easily and amply confirmed, by every intelligent mind, from Scripture testimony, from analogical reasoning, and from scientific facts. Thus all the qualities and predicates which are attributable to light are equally applicable, in an inner sense, to truth in the understanding, and such as are ascribed to fire are equally referable to love in the will. What glory and interest do these correspondences alone throw over a large portion of the Holy Word ! Through them you will at once perceive why the historical fact is related of the Egyptians that “they sat three days in darkness that might be felt,” while ” the children of Israel had light in all their dwellings” (Ex. x. 23) ; and how this natural event was a just representative of a spiritual truth attested by the experience of men in every age. Egypt was celebrated above other nations, in ancient times, for the cultivation of the sciences ; the Egyptians, therefore, in a bad sense, represented mere worldly knowledges and science. The children of Israel represented the members of the Lord s church, drawing their stores of spiritual intelligence from the fountain of lightthe Word of God. Now, the visible effects of such states, with each of these classes, are precisely what we find described in the in spired history; the former sit in despair, surrounded by spiritual darkness, the density of which makes it sensible even to sensual discernment ; ” for if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness ” (Matt. vi. 23) ; while the latter have the light of divine truth to bless and irradiate all their dwellings, all the principles and states of their minds and lives with heavenly perception and intelligence, consolation and peace.
Knowing the correspondence of light, among thousands of beautiful and practical truths, we shall see the reason why it is said of the holy city, New Jerusalem, seen by John, and which signifies the Lord’s true church, that ” Her light was like a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Rev. xxi. 11), to represent the purity, the preciousness, the splendor of the heaven-descended doctrines ; and why it is said of the Lord that ” He covereth himself with light as with a garment” (Psalm civ. 2), to signify the investment of his divine character in the truth of his Word, accommodated to the states of his creatures.
When, again, we are acquainted with the correspondence of fire, as signifying, in a good sense, love both divine and human the love the Lord bears to his creatures, and the love they bear to Him and to each other in various degrees of intensity, we shall understand how the Lord defends and protects his own church, and every member of it, by the emanating influences of his infinite love and wisdom, for this is signified where He says, “I, the Lord, will be unto her,” that is, his church, ” a wall of fire round about” (Zech. ii. 5), an encircling sphere through which no enemy can break. The same things are also denoted in 2 Kings, where we read that the young man who was alarmed for the safety of his master had his spiritual sight opened, and saw a representation of this protecting sphere in the spiritual world surrounding the prophet of God ; for ” Behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire, round about Elisha” (vi. 17).
How encouraging is the thought that such, too, are the encircling spheres which comfort and protect the sincere Christian in all states of tribulation, temptation, and trial, in all seasons of affliction, sorrow, and distress. Again, to signify that it is the Lord alone who cleanses the human mind from pollution, and imbues it with his own divine love and wisdom, He says that “He will baptize true believers “with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke iii. 16) ; and to denote spiritual purification and protection, resulting from the inward operations of love and wisdom on the heart and mind, we read, “And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem : when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. And the Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night ; for upon all the glory shall be a defence. And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from ruin ” (Isa. iv. 3-6). Each expression in these glorious declarations would be seen, had we opportunity of unfolding them, to be filled with spirit and life ; but from what has been already advanced, the humble and devout Christian will readily perceive the general meaning and application of the entire passage.
When we thus learn the spiritual import of light and fire, we see the reason why in the representative temple at Jerusalem the fire and light were never suffered to “go out ” (Lev. vi. 13 ; xxiv. 2), and why in the representative worship so many offerings to Jehovah were directed to be made by fire ; for the light of heavenly truth must irradiate our understandings with undying hope, and the flame of heavenly charity must be kindled on the altar of our hearts and never allowed to be extinguished. Our worship, to be intelligent, sincere, internal, profitable, must spring from enlightened reason and hallowed affection ; so will our imperfect services be acceptable to Him who ” regardeth not the outward appearance, but looketh on the heart ” (1 Sam. xvi. 7). When, again, we admit that the opposites of truth and love are fantasy, or imaginary light, or falsity, and burning concupiscences, or soul-tormenting lusts, how transpicuous numerous passages of the Word of God, otherwise inexplicable, become, as where the Psalmist says, ” I lie among them that are set on fire” (Psalm lvii. 4) ; and where the prophet says, ” Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand ; ye shall lie down in sorrow ” (Isa. l. 11). Again, we can distinctly and rationally perceive why the children of Israel were forbidden to ” light a fire on the sabbath day ” (Ex. xxxv. 3), and what is signified where it is written that “wickedness burneth as the fire” (Isa. ix. 18), and also why evil lusts and their torments in hell are called “unquenchable fire” (Mark ix. 44),” devouring fire,” and “everlasting burnings” (Isa. xxxiii. 14). We see also the reason why, under the representative dispensation of the Jews, Nadab and Abihu were slain for offering strange fire unto the Lord (Lev. x. 1, 2), or fire not taken from the golden altar, which had been miraculously kindled, and was never suffered to go out. This criminal presumption was significative of approaching the Lord in sacred worship, not from the holy principle of love and charity, but from the wrathful spirit of unhallowed zeal, or the strange fire of self-love. Thus the sacred Word is no longer a dead letter, but is replete with life.
So, again, to represent the grand idea that God ever was and is, as to his inmost essence, divine love itself, He revealed Himself under the Most Ancient, the Ancient, the Israelitish, and even the Christian dispensation by fire ; and as divine love, when acting upon whatever is contrary to itself in men or evil spirits, is felt by them as tormenting and destructive, therefore the Lord is also called ” a consuming fire ” (Deut. iv. 24).
From this signification of fire many common forms of expression are derived, as that we say of a man, he is inflamed by anger and warmed by love; heated by controversy and cooled by reflection; animated by the glow of philanthropy and torpid as affection grows cold ; and these mental changes are often plainly perceived and correspondently indicated in the blushes or paleness of the countenance and the warmth or coldness of the skin. Hence it was, without doubt, that fire, among the Oriental nations, from the most ancient times, was so universally regarded as an emblem of the Lord, who is love itself ; and that in a more corrupt age, when the true signification was lost, consecrated fires became the objects of superstitious adoration to the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Persians, and other nations of the East.
Once more (for this portion of our subject is most important to be understood), the element of water may be adduced as another illustration of the beauty and consistency of the science of correspondences. – This transparent liquid is often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures to signify, in a good sense, natural truth or doctrine derived from the letter of the Word, and adapted to the external state of all men as to their faith and obedience. Pure water, when applied to wash the feet or the body, cleanses from defilement ; so the truth of the literal sense of the Word can purify the mind and life from the stains of sin. ” If I wash thee not,” said the Lord to the Apostle Peter, ” thou hast no part with me ” (John xiii. 8). What water is to the weary traveller fainting for thirst in the parched desert, so are the doctrines of the Word to the spirit that desires and seeks for them cherishing, invigorating, life-giving. Water is essential to the existence, growth, and fruitfulness of all the vegetable tribes ; it supplies a refreshing beverage which, serving to modify the solid food for the purposes of digestion, is also indispensable to the support of animal life ; so the knowledge of external or doctrinal truth, received by faith in the understanding, and obeyed in simplicity of heart, satisfies spiritual thirst, and is essential to the preservation and renovation of spiritual life in the soul. Thus at the command of Jehovah, Moses struck with his rod the rock in the arid wilderness, and water in abundance streamed forth to supply the fainting congregation of Israel (Ex. xvii. 1-6). So when the soul in a wilderness state is apparently bereft of comfort and ready to sink in despair, lo ! faith, in obedience to divine direction, strikes the rock of the Word on which the Lord stands, and the refreshing waters of consolation gush forth in life-restoring streams.
Waters are sometimes spoken of as bubbling fountains, at others as flowing streams ; sometimes in large, at others in small quantities ; as living and life-giving; as desolating and destructive; as sweet and bitter ; as transparent and muddy ; as existing at one time in rich abundance, at another as distressingly deficient. When the meaning of water is understood, how full of instruction, how numerous and varied are the lessons of wisdom thus disclosed to our view, and how easy of application by all ! In the Book of Genesis we read that ” a river went out of Eden, to water the garden ” (ii. 10), A garden, or guarded plot of ground, represents the prepared mind, and the various trees, plants and flowers cultivated therein, with their blossoms, fruits and fragrance, will signify all kinds and degrees of intelligence and rational delight. But ” the river “the stream of eternal truth from the Word of life, that “fountain of living waters,” must flow through it and upon it, or all man s intelligence and intellectual pleasures are nothing worth, and must wither and perish.
When, therefore, man is described as receptive of natural truth, and obedient thereto, thus, as enjoying the refreshing and perpetual flow of heavenly delights, through the medium of the Word, it is said, ” And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones : and thou shalt be like a watered garden, whose waters fail not” (Isa. Iviii. 11). And again: “Their soul shall be as a watered garden ; and they shall not sorrow any more at all ” (Jer. xxxi. 12). The plenitude of divine truth, flowing eternally from the Lord by his Word, is hence represented as ” a river of unfailing water,” and as descending showers ” showers of blessing,” refreshing and making fruitful the Lord s church in general, and all the principles of the human mind in particular, like as water irrigates and fertilizes the parched and thirsty soil through which it glides : thus we read iii Deuteronomy, ” My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, or be as the small dew upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass ; ” and in the Psalms, ” Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it : thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn when thou hast so provided it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof” (lxv. 9).
Such truths or doctrines of the literal sense of the Word as are genuine in their outward form, and lead to the reformation and regulation of the motives, as well as of the life, are denominated ” living waters ” (John vii. 38), and ” waters of life ” (Rev. xxii. 1) ; but when the internal and spiritual truths of the Word revealed through the letter are treated of, the mental fact is represented in that miraculous display of divine power, recorded in John ii., where water was converted into wine. This signification of water, in a good sense, is more over positively affirmed by the Lord Himself, “For,” says He, “as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater : so shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth” (Isa. lv. 10, 11); and again He graciously promises, “I,” the Lord, ” will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground : I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring : and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water, courses ” (xliv. 3, 4). When it is seen that by seas and floods of waters are signified in a heavenly sense the collection of divine truths in the Holy Word and in the human mind, then we shall know why David, in describing the security of the Lord s church in heaven and on earth, was inspired to say, “The earth is the Lord s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Ps. xxiv. 1, 2).
On account of the correspondence of water, when applied to purposes of purification, the Jews were commanded to institute various kinds of ablutions or washings ; and, for the same reason, the sacred ritual of baptism was instituted, to be a standing and solemn memorial of regeneration, which issues in the purification of the mind and life; for thus is the prophecy accomplished, where it is written, ” Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean ; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you” (Ezek. xxxvi. 25) ; and, again, in that divine promise that in the fulness of time the truth of the Holy Word should be unfolded for the purposes of spiritual purification, the Lord says, ” In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. xiii. 1). ” There is a generation that arc pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness” (Trov. xxx. 12). And so the Apostle Paul, speaking of the purification of the Lord s Church, both generally and individually, from defilement, writes to the Ephesians asfollows : ” Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it ; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word. That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing ; but that it should be holy and without blemish ” (v. 25-27).
From ancient times men plunged themselves into the Ganges, the Indus, the Euphrates, the Nile, and the Jordan, all rivers esteemed sacred, to represent and signify, in a good sense, purification from sin in the streams of divine wisdom, by honest endeavors to apply its sacred truths to the removal of evil from the life, and thus reformation of the character. John the Baptist came as the Lord s forerunner, and, for a similar reason, baptized all who came unto him in the boundary river Jordan, ” unto repentance, for the confession and remission of sins,” representative of the only effectual means of cleansing the soul from spiritual defilement, through the doctrines of repentance and reformation which are found in the letter or external boundary of the Word, and thus of truly preparing the way of the Lord.
When we thus understand what is signified by water, how full of eternal interest and practical instruction does the Lord s conversation with the Samaritan woman become, as He sat on Jacob;s well. That fountain was deep, and represented the Holy Word in its outward letter; but the Lord, sitting upon it, represented the same Word, bearing testimony to Him as the God of Jacob, and filling its internal sense with living water from Himself. ” If,” said He to the woman,” thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink,” for He thirsts, and is only satisfied when his creatures freely partake of his blessings,” thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water. Whosoever drinketh of this water,” the mere doctrinal truth of the letter, will find it fail to satisfy the inmost cravings of the soul, and ” shall thirst again ; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him,” the pure, eternal, life-giving streams of divine truth, revealed to angelic and human perception in the internal or spiritual sense, “shall never thirst ; but ” if he inwardly supplicates it ” the water that I shall give him shall be IN HIM a well [or fountain] of water spring ing up into everlasting life.” It will satisfy every want of the soul ; it will be regarded as the best gift of God to his creatures, and become a sacred medium of perpetual communion with Him, and a perennial source of comfort, beatitude, and joy (John iv. 630). Though every incident in this beautiful and divine narrative teems with significance, we have only space to indicate the above general ideas.
A defect of water, therefore, will denote a destitution of truth, and a thirst for water an earnest desire to receive it, as in Amos, ” Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (viii. 11). “If any man thirst,” saith the Lord, “let him come unto me, and drink. Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well [or fountain] of water, springing up into everlasting life” (John vii. 37 ; iv. 14).
But, in its opposite sense, water, as we have already seen, will signify truth perverted or falsified, man s self-derived intelligence and ” carnal wisdom.” This profanation of truth is meant in the internal sense by the miracle of Moses, when ” he stretched forth his rod over the waters of Egypt, and they became blood” (Ex. vii. -19); while the contrary was represented by his making the bitter waters of Marah sweet (Ex. xv. 23-25). The substitution of self-dependence for full reliance on the divine aid and Spirit, in the attainment of truth, and of self-intelligence and perverted reason in the place of genuine wisdom, is signified by these words of the prophet : ” My people have committed two evils ; they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. ii. 13). Hence, too, temptations, which are the result of the activity of false principles, in connection with the powers of darkness and evil, threatening to overwhelm and destroy man s soul, are signified by the raging fiood, from which, under divine guidance, the ark of salvation can alone deliver him, agreeably to that most gracious promise in Isaiah, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee : and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee : when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned ; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (xliii. 2); and to signify the direful torment which such as wilfully reject or pervert the truth induce upon their own minds, and which, in appearance, is attributed to the Lord, He is said to ” hiss for the fly in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee in the laud of Assyria” (Isa. vii.18, 19). So, also, in like states of affliction, the Psalmist complains and says, ” The floods of ungodly men made me afraid” (Fs. xviii. 4) ; Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water-spouts : all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me” (xlii. 7) ; “I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing ; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow” me. . . . Let not the water-flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up” (lxix. 2, 15).
On account of this signification of water, a river, or flowing stream of water, fertilizing the lands through which it rolls, exactly corresponding, in a good sense, to the inflowing of heavenly truths in rich abundance into the mind, renovating all its powers, and causing it to be fruitful in intelligence and good works ; but in an opposite sense, it signifies a desolating stream of false persuasions, inducing ignorance and death. Thus, in the promise made to the faithful, it is said, ” Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures” (Psalm xxxvi. 8) ; and where the Holy Word, as the fountain of intelligence, is described, it is said, ” There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High” (Psalm xlvi. 4). And again, ” For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream” (Isa. Ixvi. 12). The divine promise of heavenly truths and intelligence in all abundance, to the humble and prepared soul, is also thus expressed, ” When the poor and needy seek water, ana there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys : I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isa. xli. 17, 18). But an exuberance of false principles, overflowing and desolating the mind, is signified where a river is spoken of in its opposite sense, as in the Psalms, ” If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say, then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: then the proud waters had gone over our soul” (cxxiv.1, 4, 5). And in Isaiah, ” Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto : a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled” (xviii. 2). And in the divine expostulation with man, in consequence of his forsaking the Lord s Word as the only fountain of truth, and vainly depending on his own self-derived intelligence, fancying that this is true wisdom, ” Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when He led thee by the way ? And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor ? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?” (Jer. ii. 17,18.)
In the sublime prophetic vision of the holy waters proceeding out of the sanctuary, or Word of God, the prophet describes their out goings as successively reaching to ” the ankles,” ” the knees,” and ” the loins,” the waters and their varying depths denoting the truths of the Word accommodated to all states of perception ; the natural and sensual state and its perceptions being signified by the ankles, the spiritual-natural state being signified by the knees, the spiritual state being signified by the loins, and the celestial or highest state being signified by waters to swim in, for this intelligence and wisdom is so far above the natural man as to be ineffable. These states of exterior, interior, and inmost perception are necessarily opened as the prophet measures a thousand, denoting the quality of reception, that it is full and complete, because applied to the life and conduct. And beyond that highest state to which man or angel can attain, the inmost spirit of these waters, these vital truths, is seen and acknowledged as ” a river that cannot be passed over,” waters which carry health and life whithersoever they come (Ezek. xlvii. 3-9).
Now precisely the same kind of reasoning is applicable, and similar proofs might be adduced, in reference to most other terms and expressions used by the inspired prophets and evangelists. The Word of God, in its internal sense, does not treat, then, of individuals and nations and the annals and statistics of the human race, nor yet of the objects of natural history, nor yet of times and seasons, light and heat, war and peace, cities and countries, birds and beasts, fishes and reptiles, plants and trees, flowers and fruits, islands and lakes, rivers and seas, wind and floods, rain and dew, hail and snow, and all the objects and phenomena of the natural world ; for these, in their merely literal acceptation, are not the subjects of inspiration at all, nor, if they were, could any knowledge respecting them impart righteousness and tranquillity to the soul. But the Word, in its holy internal, treats of the Infinite Jehovah his wisdom and his will, of spiritual subjects and everlasting realities, of the properties and qualities of the human soul, of repentance and regeneration ; for of these all created things are but corresponding types. Nor, again, does the Word of God treat, in its interior and heavenly sense, of the chronology of kingdoms and empires of the genealogy, nomenclature, and biography of their rulers and history of their people, nor of their religion and laws, their rituals and ceremonies, their customs and manners; for though, in their literal sense, the things recorded in the historical books of the Word were actual occurrences, yet, as such only and having no higher reference, how can they contribute to salvation, or be said to have been written by the plenary inspiration of God ? But all these worldly facts and occurrences, without exception, represent mental states and spiritual conditions, inward and outward facts and operations of man s experience, and are the images and symbols which adumbrate the objects of an eternal world, and the attributes and perfections of the Godhead. Nor, lastly, was the Word of God inspired to reveal to us the proverbs and sayings, the exhortations and discourse, the promises and threatenings, the counsel and experience of mere men, however wise or distinguished ; in its holy internal sense all these forms of address are significative of truths and doctrines appertaining to the Lord, to the soul, and to eternal life.
With these exalted views, the Word of God comes to us invested with ever new and irresistible authority, so far as our will coincides with the Divine will ; it interferes not with our freedom, and it commends itself to our highest reason. It is no longer filled with dark, inexplicable mysteries or historic fallacies, or regarded in reference only to by-gone times and people, with some incidental references to morality here and there ; but it teems with interest and importance, conveying to us a grand connected series of unchanging rules of life, ever unfolding more clearly to our view, as the clouds of the letter are penetrated, and having in every page and line, in every “jot and tittle ” (Matt. v. 18), the most direct relation to our souls and to the great interests of an eternal state.
Thus the historical, the prophetical, the doctrinal, the devotional, and the ethical portions of the Word of God are alike written according to the invariable science of correspondences. This is the only fixed principle on which it can be expounded and successfully defended from the cavils of infidelity and the inconsistencies of a false faith ; the only rule which, together with the aid of the Spirit, removes all difficulties, reconciles all contradictions, and, impressing equal value upon what may appear trivial as upon the most important portions of the Word, irradiating the whole with the bright beams of infinite glory. Under this mode of interpretation Scripture truly becomes the interpreter of Scripture, perplexity and doubt are banished, and it is at once demonstrated that the Holy Word is, like its Author, divine that his spirit fills every “jot and tittle” of it with sublimity, sanctity, and life, and distinguishes it broadly from all human compositions whatsoever.
Mosheim, the ecclesiastical historian, from among ” a prodigious number of interpreters” of the early ages of Christianity, mentions Puntsenus, Clement the Alexandrian, Tatian, Justin Martyr, Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, Origen, and others, who were illustrious for their piety and learning and love of truth, who ” all attributed a double sense to the words of Scripture ; the one obvious and literal, the other hidden and mysterious, which lay concealed under the veil of the outward letter ; ” and that ” the true meaning of the sacred writers was to be sought in a hidden and mysterious sense arising from the nature of the things themselves.” Ecd. Hist., note 50, cent. II., p. 2, c. iii., 4, 5 ; cent. III., p. 2, c. iii., 5.
And Bishop Home, speaking of the same testimony of ancient Christian writers and expositors, distinguished alike for their learning and piety, says, “They are unexceptionable witnesses to us of this matter of fact, that a spiritual mode of interpreting the Scriptures, built upon the practice of the apostles in their writings and preachings, did universally prevail in the church from the beginning.” Comm. on Psalms, pref., pp. xi., xii. (new ed. 1836.) Primitive language, in fact, had no other expressions than those which were grounded in a certain intuitive perception of correspondences, and thus, at the same time, God was seen and adored in his glorious workmanship, and man was divinely instructed in the things of eternal life.
When, in consequence of man s fall from this state of intelligence and purity, it became needful to provide him with a WRITTEN record of God s will and wisdom, adapted to raise him from his lapsed condition, and restore him to the paradise of wisdom and happiness, the certainty is, that it would be written in the only universal and unchanging language, the language of correspondence ; for, while the arbitrary words of human languages are perpetually changing, both in sound and sense, for want of some unalterable standard, the language of correspondence is as fixed and determined as the universe itself.
Had divine truth been revealed to man in mere didactic phraseology or preceptive forms of speech, it would have supplied no positive evidences of religious truth, no fixed basis for internal conviction ; nor could it have been translated from one language into another without losing much of its intrinsic clearness and force ; nor could it have been handed down, from age to age, in the pure state in which we possess it. The laws of correspondence are based on the inseparable connection which exists between spiritual causes and natural effects; they preserve and perpetuate all the visible works of creation, and are necessarily interwoven with all human experience, mental and material ; the inspired Word, therefore, enshrined in the language of correspondence, has retained, and must retain, its significance and authority, its comprehensiveness and grandeur, through all generations, and in every tongue in which words are appropriated to the objects of the outer world and the operations of its inhabitants. From this divine source man may continually enrich himself with new and unfailing treasures, at the same time that he traces in living characters, amid the boundless works of creative energy, the divine love and wisdom of their all-glorious Author. As the objects of the outward universe are thus contemplated, they awaken devotional feelings and kindle heavenliest aspirations, and the divinity of the Word becomes, as it were, identical with the great laws of creation and life; its truth is established beyond all controversy and doubt.
If the Word had been written without a literal sense exactly corresponding to its inward spirit, a medium of conjunction between heaven and earth, angels and men, would have been wanting, and there would have been no ground or basis on which divine truth could have rested, so as to remain fixed with man. Attendant angels can perceive the spiritual sense while man peruses the letter in faith and sincerity, even where he is not acquainted with the internal sense, and he can claim a holy state of adjunction with them ; but when the genuine doctrines of the letter and the truths of the internal sense are acknowledged by him, and received in affection, he may then enter into a blessed state of association and conjunction with them.
” The literal sense of the Word is also a defence for the genuine truths concealed in it, lest they should suffer violence ; and the defence consists in this, that the literal sense can be turned every way, in all directions, and be explained according to the reader s apprehension without its internal being hurt or violated, for no hurt ensues from the literal sense being understood differently by different people. But the danger is, when the divine truths which are hidden therein are perverted, for it is by this that the Word suffers violence. To prevent which, the literal sense is its defence ; and it operates as such a defence with those who are under the influence of religious errors, and yet do not confirm them in their minds ; from these the Word suffers no violence. The literal sense, acting as a guard or defence, is signified by the cherubim in the Word, and is also described by them.” D. S. S., n. 97.
Swedenborg elucidates this interesting point most convincingly, where he says, ” That the Word without its literal sense would be like a palace without a foundation ; that is, like a palace in the air and not on the ground, which could only be the shadow of a palace, and must vanish away ; also, that the Word, without its literal sense, would be like a temple in which there are many holy things, and in the midst thereof the holy of holies, without a roof and walls to form the containants thereof; in which case its holy things would be plundered by thieves, or be violated by the beasts of the earth and the birds of heaven, and thus be dissipated. In like manner it would be like the tabernacle, in the inmost place whereof was the ark of the covenant, and in the middle part the golden candlestick, the golden altar for incense, and also the table for shew-bread, which were its holy things, without its ultimates, which were the curtains and veils. Yea, the Word without its literal sense would be like the human body without its coverings, which are called skins, and without its supporters, which are called bones, of which, supposing it to be deprived, its inner parts must of necessity be dispersed and perish. It would also be like the heart and lungs in the thorax deprived of their covering which is called the pleura, and their supporters which are called the ribs ; or like the brain without its coverings which are called the dura mater and pia mater, and without its common covering, containant and firmament which is called the skull. Such would be the state of the Word without its literal sense ; wherefore it is said in Isaiah, that the Lord will create upon all the glory a covering” (iv. 5). S. S., n. 33.