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An Inquiry into the Nature of the Laws according to which the
Word of God is written. WHILE mankind are so much divided in their sentiments as to the authority of the sacred Scriptures, and also as to the doctrines they teach, it is evidently of vast importance to ascertain in what respects they differ from human compositions. For while no radical difference is perceived, it is evident that the mind must abide in the sense of the letter, which killeth, to the neglect of the spirit, which giveth life. So long as this darkness reigns, the Word must remain, as it is at present, exposed to the same criticism with the writings of men, and will be interpreted by the same rules. Thus human reason becomes the test of divine truth; or, in other words, man becomes the judge of God.
It is the first object of this inquiry, to ascertain how the Word of God is written; and, this being done, it will plainly appear wherein it differs from the writings of men.
It was a maxim of Hermes Trismegistus, that “ All things in the spiritual world, exist also in the natural world, in a natural form, and that all things in the natural world, exist also in the spiritual, in a spiritual form."
Hermes is said to have lived in the time of Abraham. He was an Egyptian priest and philosopher, who instructed his countrymen in theology and astronomy, and particularly in the science of the correspondence between natural things and spiritual. From his great knowledge and piety he acquired the name Trismegistus, which signifies, thrice greatest.
These observations are made, to show that, in ancient times this science of correspondences was in use among the Egyptians. This is also confirmed by their method of writing in later periods. Let it then be distinctly remembered, that Moses, the writer of the Pentateuch, was skilled in all the learning of the Egyptians; and it will follow, as highly probable, that those books would partake of this style ; if not that, they would be composed entirely according to it. This is made still more probable from the well known fact, that the learning of the Egyptians was held in the highest estimation by all contemporary nations; and from the universal sentiment, that the Bible is composed according to the highly figurative language of the East.
The reader may be at a loss for the true signification of the term correspondence, as it is here used. That he may fully comprehend our meaning, we cite the following passage from the restorer of this science.
6 The whole natural world corresponds to the spiritual world, both in the whole, and likewise in its several parts; and what exists and subsists in the natural, from the spiritual, is called correspondence. Now the whole natural world exists and subsists from the spiritual, as an effect from its efficient cause : therefore, there is a correspondent relation between them.”
We shall now attempt to prove true, what we have before shown to be probable-that divine truth was communicated to the world according to certain laws of correspondence between natural and spiritual things; so that every word has, beside its literal sense, others distinct from it, with which the literal sense agrees, and from which it is derived, as an effect from its efficient cause. Some of these laws will be given in what follows.
1. There have been communicated to the world spiritual definitions of all the expressions made use of in two of the books of Moses, viz. Genesis and Exodus, and also in the Apocalypse. These definitions, when once given, are unalterable, except that they change with the nature of the general subject of which they treat. For example: a word, which, in the spiritual sense, sig. nifies truth, will, when speaking of celestial beings, signify celestial truth, or that which originates in love to the Lord: when applied to beings of a lower order, or spiritual beings, it will signify spiritual truth, or that, which originates in love to our neighbour: and when applied to natural beings, or beings of a still lower order, it will signify natural or scientific truths, such as originates in love for natural objects. In like manner, when the subject treated of is opposite, the same word may represent the various degrees of falsehood or error.
There are, perhaps, a very few words which admit, under some circumstances, of definitions which have very little or no affinity to each other. But these instances are very rare : certainly not more numerous than they are in the literal sense.
These definitions, we repeat, are unalterable, except when the subject changes. The same definition, which is given to a word in the first of Genesis, applies not only through that book, whenever it occurs, but also through the other books above-mentioned. If we abide by these definitions, all those passages, which are composed of the same words, in whatever order the words may be arranged, will be explicable ; and every passage thus explained will produce a most distinct, pure, and holy idea or sentiment; and not one idea or sentiment so produced will be opposite to another, but the most wonderful connexion, agreement, and harmony will exist through the whole.
2. In this explanation, there is a constant reference to the union of love and wisdom, or goodness and truth. For example, when any precept is given, it has reference, in general, to the understanding and to the will, and also to their union; and the understanding is the receptacle of truth and the will of love. Thus, in the command, “ Watch and pray," watch has particular reference to the understanding, and thence to the thoughts; pray, to the will, and thence to the affections; and the conjunction and evidently expresses their union.
In all passages, where meat and drink are used, the former has reference to good, and the latter to truth. This same is true of body and blood, of bread and wine, of wood and stone. These examples may serve to illustrate what we mean by the union or marriage of good and truth. The internal sense has always reference to both, and to their union.
3. The various subjects, contained in the above writings, are always treated of in the following manner, viz. The things which are first said, reign in the things which follow and involve them; and so successively the things which are in the series. This may be illustrated by comparing it to a series of mathematical propositions, of which one is primary and fundamental, all the others de
pending upon it; and the second is next in importance, as, without it, those which follow could not exist. In this order, the whole series is supposed to proceed; so that the importance of every proposition is inversely as its distance from the first.
4. It moreover appears, from this method of interpretation, that there is an uniform connexion and harmony of ideas in the internal sense, even when no such connexion and harmony appear in the letter.
All these most wonderful laws are strictly observed in the Pentateuch, and also in Joshua, Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two books of Kings, the Psalms, all the Prophets, the four Evangelists, and the Apocalypse. This appears, not only from the testimony of the author of the explanation above described, but from the fact, that in this explanation of Genesis, Exodus, and the Apocalypse, there is a very great number of passages from the other books here mentioned, adduced by way of illustration, and interpreted in the same manner. And beside this, he has given us a distinct work, containing a Summary Exposition of the internal sense of the Prophets and Psalms. Many, also, who have become well acquainted with the writings of this expositor, find themselves able to trace all these laws through the books above enumerated.
In addition to these, there are many passages in some of the other books generally received as canonical, which are written by correspondences; but these are not contained in a regular and connected series. Of this class are the book of Job and Solomon's Song. If we apply the rules above described to any other compositions, whether they be reputed human or divine, no sense at all will be produced; but when applied to these thirty-four books, they are found to be the very essential laws, according to which they are written; and these books, when thus interpreted, are found to contain senses distinct from the literal, clear and har. monious, worthy of God to communicate, and of the highest importance for man to receive.
Behold here the eternal distinction between human and divine compositions. While the writings of men contain only that order of truth which exists in their own minds, the writings of the Most High, being composed according to the correspondence of inferior things with superior, contain every degree of truth, from that adapted to the natural man, to that which exists with the Fountain of all existence, which was in the beginning with God, and which was God.
Let the reader pause, and attentively consider the above facts; and then seriously ask himself, whether we are not justified in the conclusion, that the books above named were written with particular reference to these laws, seeing that they can be interpreted according to them. We can have no doubt that they may be thus interpreted; when we consider that three of them, together with a vast number of passages from all the others, have been very fully explained; and that, besides this, there is a Summary Explanation of a great portion of the others, which is sufficiently complete to enable the attentive reader of the author's other writings, to understand the internal sense.
All this has been done by Emanuel Swedenborg, or, as we firmly believe, by the Lord himself, through Swedenborg, his faithful servant and messenger. If any doubt that this has been done, let him bear in mind, that thousands, well qualified to judge, have, by diligent investigation, ascertained the fact. Let it be further observed, that we point out the particular books containing this interpretation. The burden of proof consequently lies on those who deny it. And let not this task be despised ; for if we speak what is false, or if we err on this most important subject, every intelligent Christian is bound, by the law of charity, to endeavour to expose the delusion. But if we speak what we know, and testify what we have seen, then surely the welfare of every living soul is deeply involved in these things. Let the writings, which contain this exposition of so great a part of Scripture, be faithfully examined ; let the truths which they contain be practised in the life, as fast as they are received into the understanding: and we have not a doubt, that herein will be fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet, “ I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."
We have hitherto confined our attention to the laws, according to which the Word of God is written. Having in some degree illustrated their nature, and shown how they have been applied by Swedenborg to a great part of the Word, we proceed to make some remarks on the difficulties which he must have sur