Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and the natural theologian, and must be handed over to them to be judged of by analogy, and by a consideration of what we otherwise know of the general economy of Providence.”

We have only attempted in this notice to give a general idea of Mr. Clissold's able argument. As is usual with the author, the style is remarkably concise, and wherever it is possible he makes the great author, to the study of whose works he has profitably devoted so many years, speak for himself, and the quotations are always strikingly pertinent. It may be that in writing the book Mr. Clissold had chiefly in view men of science and theologians, ignorant of, or only. generally acquainted with, the writings of Swedenborg, but we venture to say that it is not less required by those who are supposed to be more decided in their opinions. The Earths in the Universe is a work that even many so-called Swedenborgians have been rather afraid of talking about. Let us thank Mr. Proctor, therefore, for having been the means of inducing one of the ablest students and most accomplished scholars who ever examined the theology of the New Church, to show how much light the interesting details and graphic descriptions of the too often neglected De Telluribus throw on the laws of the Divine order of the universe as interpreted by Swedenborg.

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS A KINGDOM OF USES, AMONG the many epithets levelled at Swedenborg, with an emphasis intended to imply that nothing more need be said on the subject, those of “dreamer" and " visionary” have been very conspicuous. We are not always favoured with the information as to which of the meanings attached to these words (“dreamer” and “visionary ") is intended to be applied to him. We suppose, however, that the general idea intended to be conveyed is that he was “an idler," "an unpractical person," “one of disturbed imagination."

The best antidote to this popular error is a knowledge of what Swedenborg says on the subject of USES. We know of no writer who insists so strongly and argues so logically upon the importance, nay the necessity, of performing uses. The old philosophers taught that “nature abhors a vacuum ;" Swedenborg, with greater truth, teaches that nature abhors that which is useless. Not even Mackay, who wrote

** Who lags for dread of daily work,

And his appointed task would shirk,
Commits a folly and a crime,"

is more emphatic than the so-called “ dreamer.” Use, Swedenborg tells us, is the great purpose of existence, and apart from use there is no reason for existence. Everything does, everything must, perform a use of some kind. Matter in its every form and place, knowledge in its every phase and gradation, spirit in its every state and degree of perfectness, exist for use. Use is the test of knowledge and of virtue, the justification of existence on earth, the passport of admission into heaven, and the source of angelic joy. The following statements are samples of his teaching :-“The ends of creation are uses.

From God the Creator nothing else can exist, and therefore nothing else be created but use" (D. L. and W. 308). "A man is never born for any other end than that he may be of use to the society in which he is, and to his neighbour, while he lives in the world ; and in the other life, that he may perform use according to the good pleasure of the Lord " (A. C. 1103). “All pleasures are allowed to man, but only for the sake of use." 6 A life of charity is a life of uses" (A. C. 997).

We are not aware that any objection has ever been raised to the Doctrine of Uses in so far as it applies to material things and to life in the material world. But when Swedenborg carries the principle so far as to assert that “the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of uses ” (H. and H. 219) a violent outcry is raised against him. He is accused of speculation, profanity, rashness, etc., etc. We are told that it is unbecoming to dogmatize respecting the future, for God has wisely ordained that man cannot speak with certainty of the particulars of heavenly life. We maintain, however, that Swedenborg is only consistent; for in asserting, as he does, the holiness and heavenliness of uses, he gives us a convincing reason which is in entire harmony with the teachings of Scripture. “The Lord's kingdom, being a kingdom of mutual love, is a kingdom of uses" (A. C. 997). There is no logical escape from this position. If the Lord's kingdom is a kingdom of mutual love, it must be a kingdom of uses, for the constant endeavour of love is to confer delight and benefit. Therefore, we read again, “ The kingdom of the Lord is such that every one, whoever and whatsoever be may be, must perform a use; there is nothing but use which is regarded by the Lord in His kingdom” (A. C. 1097).

That Swedenborg, in thus directing our attention to the supremacy, of use in the kingdom of heaven, is consistent and logical, may be seen from the following amongst many other considerations :-(1) Because the love of use, being a holy spiritual love, cannot be affected by the death of the material body; (2) Because the performance of uses being necessary to prepare us for heaven, it is unreasonable to suppose that the opportunity of still continuing to perform them will be denied us when the home for which we have prepared is reached ; (3) Because the love of use being a principle emanating from God Himself, it is unreasonable to suppose that He will exclude it from His kingdom.

Those who imagine that the life of heaven will be spent in endless contemplation, or in perpetual repose, or in ceaseless devotion (?), can have but a very faint idea of the intimate connection between use and enjoyment. Those who seek after enjoyment in any other way than by striving to give joy to others have not learnt the first lesson of the Christian life. The servants of Him who came upon earth, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, must surely find their chief delight in striving to follow in the footsteps of their Divine Master; and it is a noble conception of heavenly bliss which is expressed in the declaration, “ Angelic happiness is in use, from use, and according to use" (A. C. 454).

The only possible objection to Swedenborg's teaching of the continuity of uses is that which some allege can be drawn from the fact that the Bible describes heaven as a place of “rest." It has been urged that God in His goodness will abolish the necessity and the opportunity of performing uses in heaven. This supposed Bible objection is, however, seen to lose all its force, unless we are prepared to believe that in the Bible vocabulary “rest” and “idleness synonymous. This, however, cannot be seriously maintained, for idleness is a vice. Our existence of eternal idleness--doing nothing at all—is a prospect by no means inviting, save to the loafers of society, who, while taking care to put forth their energies as little as possible, require everything done for them. The notion of rest dissociated from use finds practical exemplification in the conduct of those who

“the Day of Rest” lie in bed till noon, and lounge about their homes, or the street corners, during the remainder of the day. Surely there can be no analogy between this rest (?) and the rest of heaven. The sentiment of Dr. Watts on the subject must strike every one as evidently true. “ Heaven is described as a place of rest, but it never can be such a rest as lays all our active powers asleep, or renders them useless in such an active and vital world,” We can conceive of nothing more oppressive than a life of

are

on

inactivity and uselessness; the hardest toil were preferable to enforced idleness.

“ How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rest unburnished, not to shine in use,

As though to breathe were life.” Use is divine in its origin, and in that kingdom, which is in all things obedient to the Divine Will, it finds its highest development. The kingdom of heaven, we must reinember, unless founded within our hearts here, can never be attained hereafter. We form heaven within us by the exercise of love to the Lord and the neighbour, which loves can only be manifested by a constant endeavour to do good to the neighbour for the Lord's sake, thus by a life of uses.

The King of heaven is the Source of use, the laws of heaven are the laws of use, the

way to heaven is a life of use, the bliss of heaven is the delight of use, the angels of heaven are ministers of use, thus it is that “the kingdom of heaven is a kingdom of use.”

SEDAN.

THE BOOK OF JOB AND ITS SPIRITUAL LESSONS. The Scriptures as we possess them may be divided generally into two classes. The first consists of those books which were given by Divine inspiration, and the second of those which were written by enlightened human reason. Those books, the very words of which were inspired, and which are in the strict sense the Word of God, are distinguished from the others chiefly by this, that they contain a spiritual sense within and distinct from the literal meaning; while those which were written by enlightened human reason have, generally speaking, no other sense than that which is apparent in the letter. The first class of sacred writings includes, amongst others in the Old Testament, the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, and in the New Testament the Gospels and the Revelation. To the second class belong, amongst others in the Old Testament, the Books of Chronicles, Esther, and Proverbs, and in the New Testament the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. Besides these two classes of sacred writings, there are two books which hold an intermediate place --these are the Book of Job and the Song of Solomon. These books are human compositions, but they are written in a style known to the wise among the men of the two different periods and dispensations to which they belong.

of men.

Job is a book of the ancient Church, which existed before the Israelitish. The ancient Church was far more spiritual than that which was afterwards established amongst the sons of Jacob. The members of that Church had a knowledge of the correspondence between spiritual and natural things. The Book of Job is written according to this science, and therefore treats of spiritual states under the emblem of natural events. The name of Job occurs in the prophecy of Ezekiel (xiv. 14). Speaking of the corruptions of the land of Israel, the Prophet says, “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should but deliver their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord.” In directing attention to that relic of spiritual antiquity, we can do so under the sanction of the inspired Word, because the mention of Job in one of the Prophets sets the seal of God to the genuineness and spirituality of the book, which records the history of a righteous man's experience, or which delivers the sentiments of its wise author in a historical form.

Job is represented as uniting in himself two things that are too seldom found to exist on earth in any great degree of equality and harmony; he is the most prosperous and the most perfect of the sons

Satan, who presents himself in the Divine presence among the sons of God, when demanded if he had considered Job as a per. fect and upright man, fearing God and eschewing evil, expresses his suspicion that Job's religious fear is not disinterested. “Doth Job serve God for nought? Hast Thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” Satan receives permission to put the integrity of this servant of the Lord to the trial. All that Job hath is put in his accuser's power,-only he is not to put forth his hand against his person. Armed with this permission, the adversary accordingly brings upon the Patriarch a series of calamities that reduce him at once to poverty and childlessness : his vast wealth and his whole family are swept entirely away. This heavy stroke of adversity Job mourns; but he does not impeach the Majesty on high; his pious ejaculation is, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” Satan, who again appears in the presence of God, still refuses to accord to Job the virtue of perfect integrity. He has been deprived of all that he had, but he has not suffered in his own person.

“ Skin for skin : what will a man give

« AnteriorContinuar »