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eye of the needle of spiritual truth,—he learnt, to his joy and exceeding great reward, that that which is impossible with men is possible with God. When what he had failed to find out by science was made known to him by revelation ; when the Lord appeared to him, and opened his spiritual sight, and filled him with His Spirit, and appointed him to a new and higher office than that of teaching natural truth, even that of teaching spiritual truth in a scientific and rational manner, he set himself with the same assiduity as he had exercised in his natural sphere of use, to prepare himself for the efficient discharge of its duties. He acquired the scientifics of what we may call his new profession. To expound the spiritual sense of the Word it was necessary for him to know and understand its literal
That he might understand and explain the Hebrew Scriptures he learnt the Hebrew language, and read the whole Bible over several times. How deep and earnest was his study of the Sacred Oracles, through which he was to speak, or, rather, which he was to be the means of making the Sacred Oracles themselves speak, the language of the heavenly Canaan, we can easily conceive, and have abundant evidence to show.
But there is also evidence of another fact. As he acquired a knowledge of the literal sense of the Word gradually, so did he acquire a perception of its spiritual sense gradually. His progress in both was no doubt rapid, and to a certain extent simultaneous. Are we to understand that, being filled with the Spirit, his spiritual mind was at once illuminated to its full extent, and that, like the widow's oil, it had no limit but that which was set to it by the number and capacity of the scientific vessels in the natural mind into which it flowed? This, I believe, few, if any, will maintain. Yet it is believed that a time did arrive in the progress of his preparation when this was the case. Some go even further, and affirm that at the time he commenced the composition of those works, the publication of which through the press formed a part of his commission, all things in his inner and outer mind were in so harmonious a relation that there was no obstruction to the even flow of the truth, as the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. The first of these views was held by Mr. Noble, than whom the New Church has never produced a sounder or profounder theologian. The second is, I believe, maintained by Dr. Tafel, that bright occidental star who has shed more light on the history of Swedenborg's mind and life than any other New Church luminary. With this slight difference of view both these distinguished men regard Swedenborg as an infallible teacher, and his writings as, of course, absolutely authoritative. Mr. Smithson was of the same opinion, although he expressed it differently. He did not claim for our Author infallibility, but inerribility, which, I presume, means that he did not consider him to have been morally, but only intellectually, perfect.
It may seem presumptuous for one who has no other means and has less talent for judging than these eminent men, to demur to the conclusion at which they have, by long and patient study, arrived. To me it appears that there is none infallible, as there is none good, but one, that is God. Perhaps, however, in this I am only expressing what these men understand, that the infallibility of the finite instrument is not to be understood in the absolute sense in which it is true of the infinite Being who employed him. I can understand how the sacred writers could be, and, indeed, could not but be, infallible; because they were the passive instruments of an infinite, and therefore infallible, Power. They, as I have remarked, supplied, at most, the agency of the memory as a storehouse of words and facts. But he received the truths and doctrines of the Word into his understanding, and made them the subjects of rational perception, and even of rational reflection. In one sense his function was far higher than theirs, as much higher as reason is a higher faculty than memory. But just from the circumstance of the understanding being a higher faculty than the memory is it less capable, especially in fallen man, of absolute obedience to an overruling power, even though that power be divine. Nor can I understand how an illumination that is progressive can reach a stage where all progression ceases. True that, assuming progress, the degrees of progression would be continuous as well as discrete; and continuous degrees are not different things, but only gradations of the same thing. Comparatively, they are not different colours, but different shades of the same colour. In regard to illumination, they are not different kinds or qualities of light, like that of the sun and that of the moon in heaven, but the same light in different degrees of brilliancy. There is this, however, in intellectual progression, that every step we advance is not simply a passing from an obscurer to a clearer degree of light, but the removal of something that obscured our perception of the light; for the divine light is ever the same, and shines with the same unchanging lustre in the inmost of every human soul; but it is seen more and more clearly
appearances with which it is clothed in every finite mind are gradually removed. For no finite mind can see the absolute and naked truth. The highest angels see the truth veiled in appearances --for even in heaven no man can see God and live; and although they advance in wisdom to eternity, they can never entirely remove the veil that shades the Divine Glory, and prevents them from being blinded by excess of light.
But supposing Swedenborg's perception of Divine Truth to have been not absolutely unlimited, What, it may be asked, do you conceive to have been the extent of his illumination? I understand his illumination to have been co-extensive with his inward perception and his outward knowledge combined ; and as these were both finite, they could never be absolutely perfect.
It may be demanded, Do you not, on this assumption, admit the element of uncertainty, so that we can have no assurance that all, or that
any, of his teaching is the very truth of God? And do you not also, by introducing the principle of imperfection, deprive it of a measure of its power? I would reply, The limits of which I have spoken leave no room for uncertainty; and the necessary imperfection which I have mentioned is a perfection, it being an accommodation to our imperfect states and conditions of mind. There is no shadow of uncertainty in his teaching respecting the entire system of doctrine, which may be generally comprehended in the doctrine of the Lord and the doctrine of Life. There is no uncertainty in his teaching, and even in his applying, the law of interpretation, the science of corrospondence, by which the spiritual sense of the Word is evolved from the letter. Nor is there any uncertainty in his teaching respecting the economical and ceremonial laws of the Church. There are a few instances, and only a few, which betray some lapses and obscurity in the teacher, as if to warn us that one so richly endowed and so highly enlightened was still not absolutely perfect. Some of these I shall now proceed to adduce.
(To be continued.)
(LEO GRINDON.) THE WEEDY, DISAGREEABLE, AND HURTFUL PLANTS. In every country or portion of country inhabited by civilized man there must of necessity always be a certain number of plants which he looks upon as weeds,-plants which spring up spontaneously in his gardens and ploughed fields, which injure the cultivated crops, and have to be subdued. Many of the plants which thus molest the farmer and gardener are possessed of immense powers of multiplication and self-diffusion, and are capable also of accommodating themselves to various soils and climates ; hence, at the present day, some of the common weeds of our own island are found in abundance in America and at the antipodes. That the plants in question are useless and pernicious absolutely of course does not follow. Since it has pleased God to create them, they must needs be designed to fulfil some good purpose in the general economy of living nature. To say that they are “ useless" is presumptuous; their uses are simply undiscovered. Every plant has its place in the great temple of creation-every plant, intrinsically, is a flower, a “lily of the field ;” and it is only when springing up where man finds it troublesome or deleterious, that a plant can justly be regarded in any other light. Away from its proper home, the loveliest plant becomes an intruder—as when daisies interfere with the purity of the lawn. A characteristic feature of the plants which by common consent are accounted weeds, is that they are prone to spring up profusely on all scenes of neglected culture, and around deserted habitations. Hence they become naturally associated with sloth and idleness, and with the departure, under sorrowful influences, of human beauty and prosperity. They become emblems of what is lamentable, painful, and degraded, taking their place as such in the figurative language of all civilized nations, and nowhere more conspicuously or emphatically than in that of Scripture.
The term “ weeds,” in the sense in which it is ordinarily employed, does not occur in Holy Writ. There is only one instance of the word in the Authorized Version, and that one refers not to terrestrial plants, but to marine ones, or “sea-weeds.” “The weeds," says Jonah, “ were wrapped about my head.” The weedy, obnoxious, and distressful terrestrial plants of Palestine are called by the translators either thorns and thistles, briers, brambles, cockle, tares, nettles, or hemlock, though in most cases it is tolerably certain that the Hebrew terms are collective, while in not a single instance is it possible to say positively what particular plant may even primarily be intended. If, among the thorny weeds, one plant more than another be, in certain cases, specially pointed to, it may be, as said in a preceding article, the Paliurus spina-Christi. The number of allusions to weedy plants in the Old Testament is about seventy, and in the New there are ten or twelve. The greater portion of the original names clearly apply to thorny and prickly plants, the individual abundance, and the number of different kinds of which, in Palestine, are alike truly remarkable. Palestine is not more a land flowing with milk and honey” than one intensely marked by the profusion of its “thorns and thistles.” Travellers of every class concur in so describing it. “ Thorns and thistles,” says Mr. Tristram, "are the characteristics of the Palestine weeds, whether in the thickets of Jericho or on the plains of Sharon and Galilee. Some of them are so strong, that in reclaiming the fallow the ploughmen do not take the trouble to clear them, but only plough around.” No wonder that the Hebrew vocabulary is so rich in words denoting thorny and prickly plants; minutely reckoned up, these terms amount to nearly a score. Many of the plants in question belong to genera which, like thistles and brambles, are spinous in all their kinds. Others occur in genera which ordinarily are spineless, and the representatives of which in England are smooth, tender, and soft. This comes, in part, of the dryness of the Palestine climate and the summer parching, which leads to suppression of soft and juicy tissue, and to the substitution of hard and ligneous matter, especially in projecting parts, which are naturally somewhat attenuated. Thorns and spines, all over the world, come usually of expansive efforts being checked, or even totally neutralized, and this is often referable to extremity of dryness. Palestine is thus just the country in which an abundance of thorny plants would be expected. Among the leading representatives are species of Carduus, Carthamus, Centaurea, Eryngium, Ononis, Astragalus, Cirsium, Cynara, Tribulus, Fagonia, Atractylis, and Echinops, with numerous such individual forms as Notobasis Syriacus, Anabasis spinosissima, Aristida pungens, Scolymus maculatus, Acanthus spinosus, Bunias spinosa, Atraphaxis spinosa, Onopordon elatum, Poterium spinosum. Acanthodium, Solanum, Colutea, Alhagi, Salsola, etc., furnish contingents, many of the species often overrunning entire fields, to the exclusion of other vegetation, and rising even among the corn. In addition to the herbaceous species, there is a dwarf undergrowth, dry and stunted, of many kinds of plants which are capable of becoming tall shrubs and even trees; representatives, for