Page images



(From Swedenborg.)

viz. :

“ SPIRITUAL life is procured solely by a life according to the precepts contained in the Word, which are summarily expressed in the Decalogue, - Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet the goods of others :' these precepts are meant by the precepts which are to be done; for when man doeth them, then his works are good, and his life becomes spiritual ; the reason is, because in proportion as man fleeth from evils and hateth them, in the same proportion he willeth goods and loveth them. For there are too opposite spheres which surround man, one from hell, the other from heaven; from hell, a sphere of evil and the false thence derived, from heaven, a sphere of good and truth thence derived; and these spheres do not affect the body, but the minds of men, for they are spiritual spheres, and hence they are affections which are of the love, man being set in the midst of them; in proportion, therefore, as he accedeth to the one, in the same proportion he recedeth from the other; hence it is, that in proportion as man fleeth from evils, and hateth them, in the same proportion he wills and loves goods and their dewvative truths ; for no one can serve two masters, for he will hate the one and love the other.' (Matt. vi. 24.)

“ But it is to be well observed, that man ought to do those precepts from religion, because they are commanded by the Lord ; if he acts from any other cause whatever, as if he acts from a civil law only, or from a moral law, he remaineth natural, and does not become spiritual; for if man acts from religion, he then acknowledges in heart the existence of a God, of heaven and hell, and of a life after death ; but if he acts only from a civil and moral law, he may then do similar things, and yet in heart deny the existence of God, of heaven and hell, and of a life after death; and in this case, if he fleeth from evils and doeth goods, it is only in the external form, and not in the internal, thus he is outwardly, as to the life of the body, like a Christian, and inwardly, as to the life of his spirit, like a devil. From these considerations it is evident, that man cannot otherwise become spiritual, or receive spiritual life, than by a life according to religion from the Lord. That this is the case, has been confirmed to me from angels of the third or inmost heaven, who are in the greatest wisdom and felicity; these, when I asked how they became such angels, said, because when they lived in

the world they accounted as heinous all filthy thoughts, which to them were also adulteries; in like manner frauds and illicit gains, which to them were thefts ; likewise hatreds and revenges, which to them were murders; as also lies and blasphemations, which to them were false testimonies; and so in other cases : afterwards I asked them whether they did not perform good works? They said that they loved chastity, in which they were, because they accounted adulteries as heinous ; that they loved sincerity and justice, in which they were, because they accounted frauds and illicit gains as heinous; that they loved their neighbour, because they accounted hatred and revenge as heinous ; that they loved truth, because they accounted lies and blasphemations as heinous, and so on; likewise that they perceived, that those evils being removed, to act from chastity, sincerity, justice, charity, and truth, was not from themselves, but from the Lord, and that thus good works were all things whatsoever they did from those principles, although they were done as from themselves; and that hence it was that after death they were raised up by the Lord into the third heaven. From these observations was made evident to me, how spiritual life, which is the life of the angels of heaven, is acquired.

“It shall now be explained how that life is destroyed by the faith which at this day prevaileth : the modern faith is, that it is to be believed that God the Father sent His Son, who suffered upon the cross for our sins, and took away the curse of the law by the fulfilment thereof, and that this faith without good works will save every one, even in the last hour of death. By this faith impressed from childhood, and afterwards confirmed by preachings, it has come to pass that no one fleeth from evils from a principle of religion, but only from a civil and moral law, thus not because they are sins, but becuuse they are injurious [to one's earthly state). Consider, now, whilst man thinks that the Lord suffered for our sins, that He took away the curse of the law, and that to believe those things, or that the faith of those things alone without good works, saveth, whether all the precepts of the Decalogue are not lightly esteemed, and all the life of the religion prescribed in the Word, and moreover all the truths which teach charity; separate, therefore, these, and remove them from man, and say whether there appertains to him any religion ; for religion does not consist in only thinking this or that, but in willing and doing that which is thought, and there is no religion when willing and doing are separate from thinking: hence it follows, that by the modern faith, spiritual life, which is the life of the angels of heaven, and the essential Christian life, is destroyed.

“ Consider further, whence it is that the ten precepts of the Decalogue were promulgated from Mount Sinai in so miraculous a manner, that they were engraven on two tables of stone, and that these were deposited in the ark, upon which was placed a propitiatory with cherubs, and the place where those precepts were, was called the Holy of Holies, within which it was not lawful for Aaron to enter but once a year, and this with sacrifices and incense; and if he had entered without these, he would have fallen down dead; likewise that so many miracles were afterwards performed by that ark. Are not all in the universal world acquainted with similar precepts? Do not their civil laws dictate the same? Who doth not know from natural lumen only, that for the preservation of order in every kingdom, adultery, theft, murder, false witness, and the other things contained in the Decalogue, are not to be allowed? Wherefore, then, were those same precepts to be promulgated by so many miracles, and to be accounted so holy? Can any other reason be assigned, than that every one might do them from religion, and thus from God, and not from a civil and moral law only, which is for the sake of self and the world? This was the cause of their promulgation from Mount Sinai, and was the ground of their sanctity; for to do those precepts from religion purifies the internal man, opens heaven, admits the Lord, and makes man, as to his spirit, an angel of heaven. (Hence the Lord says, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.' Matt. xix. 17.]

“Hence also it is that the Gentiles, who are out of the church, and who do those precepts from religion, are all saved; but not those who do them only from a civil and moral law. Examine now whether the modern faith, which is, that the Lord suffered for our sins,—that He took away the curse of the law by the fulfilling thereof, and that man is justified and saved by his faith without good works, does not dissolve all those precepts ; extend your sight further, and investigate what is the number of those at this day in the Christian world, who do not live according to this faith. I know that they will answer that they are weak and imperfect men, born in sins, and the like; but who is there that cannot think from religion? This the Lord giveth to every one, and with him who thinks such things from religion, the Lord operates all things in proportion as he so thinks; and be it known that he who thinks of those precepts from religion, believeth in the existence of God, of heaven and hell, and the life after death ; but he who does not think of those precepts from religion, I can affirm that he has no such belief.” — Apoc. Exp. 902.



ACCORDING to the account recorded by St. Luke, the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and the angelic “Salutation," as it is called, of the Virgin Mary, respecting the birth of Jesus Christ, were by open vision; the former when Zacharias was executing the priest's office in the temple, and the latter when she was at her private devotions. Zacharias doubted, and required a sign: a sign therefore was given him, which should be evident to all the frequenters of the temple, --he became dumb. But Mary, after inquiring only how such a thing could take place, considering she was a virgin, meekly answered, · Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it unto me according to thy Word.” But to Joseph, the reputed father of the Man Christ Jesus, the revelation was not by open vision; but in a dream; for the Evangelist Matthew informs us, that “the birth of Jesus Christ was in this wise. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost; when Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wishing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while be thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS ; for he shall save his people from their sins. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife.'

Hence we learn, that the Lord manifests himself according to our different states; and that when it is necessary for an extraordinary revelation to be made from heaven, it is done by such means as are the most likely to give information of its authenticity to those to whom the revelation is made. The Jewish church had long been without open vision ; for “the reign of prophecy” in that church was drawn to its conclusion. Haggai was one of the last in whom that spirit rested ; with Malachi, who probably lived somewhat later, it entirely ceased, and a dark period of five hundred years intervened, without a vision, till it was revived in announcing the birth of one who came in the spirit and power of Elias—the forerunner of the Messiah predicted both by Isaiah and Malachi,—the first prophet and the last-even the voice of one

crying in the wilderness, “ Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." In announcing this harbinger of the Prince of Peace, it was necessary that it should not only be by an open but by a public vision, or at least by a vision which should give a public sign or testimony to the church ; and as the Lord bends even our prejudices to use, so the doubts of Zacharias were, in this instance, made subservient to this purpose, and occasioned a double testification or sign of confirmation ; for as he doubted, saying unto the angel, “Whereby shall I know this ?" or what sign shewest thou ? “for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years :" so the angel pronounced sentence—“Thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be performed in their season." And it is added, that “when he came out the people perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple.” And again, when the child was circumcised, as soon as his father had written His name is John,” his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.” So that he was a sign or public testimony to the people, both by being struck dumb and by recovering his speech; and the effect which these signs had, was that “fear came on all that dwelt round about them; and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all they that had heard them, laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be?” Now these circumstances happening in the temple at Jerusalem, the whole nation of the Jews, or at least those who were waiting for the consolation of Israel, 'were thus advised that an alteration was taking place in the church; that the Lord was again about to visit his people, and open the communication betwixt heaven and earth.

But the revelations to Joseph and Mary were of a more private nature. It was not necessary that the manifestation to them should be of so public a nature, especially to Joseph; therefore to him the revelation was only in a dream. And although it may be truly said, that surely the annunciation of the birth of the Saviour of mankind was as necessary to be public as that of his forerunner, yet it was not necessary until his actual birth; and then we find that there was an open vision to the shepherds in the field, not only by one angel, but by a multitude of the heavenly host—also to the eastern Magi— by Simeon in the templeand by Anna the prophetess. Yet whether the revelation was by open vision, or only in the obscurity of a dream, we find, as before observed, that it was such as carried conviction, and confirmation to the person to whom the revelation was made ; for Zacharias did not doubt the

« PreviousContinue »