« הקודםהמשך »
if any one affirm that the second coming of the Lord is
the natural clouds above our heads, and if he maintain this position upon the ground that the Sacred Scriptures, in their obvious and literal sense, do so teach, then it may also be affirmed upon the authority of this same witness, that He will come as a literal reaper, with a sharp sickle in his hand, which he will thrust into the ripe harvest of the earth, and literally reap; or, as is said in a following verse, "gather the clusters of the vine of the earth." For the Sacred Scriptures do as really teach this as the other. And can men of understanding have confidence in a principle of interpretation, which, when fairly applied, would lead to such absurd conclusions? No. The Sacred Oracles, rightly interpreted, nether teach that the Lord is to come personally on the natural clouds of the sky, nor as a literal reaper to reap the earth; however they may appear, to the apprehension of natural men, to teach both.
Other passages, if necessary, might be cited, where the Lord's second advent is said to be in or upon the clouds. It therefore becomes important that we ascertain, if possible, the true meaning of this word clouds, when used in the Scriptures.
If, as I think has been clearly shown, the Son of Man is to be understood spiritually, as denoting the Divine Truth of the Word, or the Lord in respect to the principle of truth which proceeds from Him and is Himself, then it is manifest that clouds must also have a spiritual sense ; for we can hardly suppose that Divine Truth could come upon the literal clouds in our atmosphere. What then are we to understand by clouds in this passage? To this question the writings of the New Church furnish an answer at once, rational and intelligible. They teach us that clouds is a term employed, in correspondential or symbolical language, to denote the literal sense of the Word, whereby the spiritual sense, or the genuine truth, is more or less obscured; and consequently, that the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds denotes the manifestation to human minds of the spiritual sense of the Word in the clouds of the letter ; which is done by means of the revealed Science of Cor
respondences. These clouds are called in Matthew, the clouds of heaven, because they obscure the light of heaven; because they veil from human understandings the genuine truth according to which the angels live, or those pure laws of heavenly order which men, in their natural state, are not prepared to understand or obey. It is in mercy to man, therefore, that the Lord has veiled in clouds the genuine truth of his Word.
How far is this signification of clouds supported by reason and Scripture?
In common discourse, nothing is more common than to hear men say of a subject which is yet unintelligible to them, that it is misty, cloudy, or enveloped in a cloud. This is often said of the writings of Swedenborg, by persons who are but ill-informed of the real character of these writings, or who have not studied them sufficiently to comprehend their meaning. But when the truth breaks in upon the mind, and the subject not well understood before, becomes clear and intelligible, then it is said that the mist is blown away, or the cloud that hung around it has disappeared. Now the obscurity or cloudiness of a subject may arise from one of two causes; either from the impropriety of the language—the unsuitableness of the terms employed by the speaker or writer, or from our own imperfect knowledge of the language, and ignorance of the true meaning of the terms made use of. Thus the cloud may either be in the mind-in the ignorance of the other person, who has failed to clothe his subject in appropriate language, or it may be in ourselves--in our own ignorance of the proper meaning of his language. If our difficulty in understanding a subject arise from the former of these two causes, then it can be removed and the subject be made clear to our minds only by some further explanation, or by the use of different and more appropriate terms. But if its obscurity arise from the latter cause, then, since the cloud is within ourselves, it will disappear when our ignorance has disappeared, or when we have learned the meaning of the terms employed. Then the very words, which before were meaningless, and, like a dense cloud, concealed from our minds the truth
in relation to the subject which they were employed to elucidate, become significant and full of meaning. Then these very words are luminous, and the truth appears
in or upon the clouds. Now if we carry to the Word the consideration just presented, we shall be able to see that the cloud, or the whole cause of its obscurity and unintelligibleness, lies within ourselves ;-in our ignorance of the style in which the Word is composed, and of the true meaning of the language there employed. That the language used in the Word is without imperfection, and perfectly appropriate to the subjects treated of, is evident from the perfection and divine wisdom of its Author. When men shall have learned the true meaning of this language, and thus shall have removed the cloud of ignorance from their own minds, then even the letter of the Word, which before appeared so cloudy and dark, will be bright and luminous with the truth that beams within. Then will appear the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven.
Having shown that the familiar language of men, on account of a common perception of the correspondence between natural and spiritual clouds, furnishes some presumptive evidence at least, in favor of the spiritual signification given to this word in the writings of Swedenborg, let us turn now to the still stronger argument from Scripture.
We know that Jehovah is often spoken of in the Sacred Volume as being encompassed with clouds—as dwelling in clouds-as riding upon the clouds—&c. Thus it is written in Psalms: “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name, extol Him that rideth upon the clouds,* by his name Jah, and rejoice before Him." (lxviii. 4.) Again, in Isaiah: “Behold Jehovah rideth upon a cloud swiftly" (xix. 1.) And in Deut.: “There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun who rideth in the
* This word, 67293 gneraboth, which, in our common English ver. sjon, is rendered heavens, properly signifies the evenings; i. e. thing respectively dark or obscure.
heavens, and in his magnificence upon the clouds." (xxxiii. 26.) And in Pslams it is said, " Jehovah maketh the clouds his chariot." (civ. 3.)
Now do such passages as these convey, I will not say a rational, but an intelligible idea, if clouds be understood literally, as referring to the watery particles in our atmosphere ? Certainly not. But if they be understood to denote the literal sense of the Word,t (which is the spiritual signification of clouds, then the meaning of these texts becomes very plain. For since the spiritual sense of the word—the sense in which the angels understand it-is magnificent in comparison with its literal sense, and since the spiritual sense rests upon the literal, with which it also corresponds, and through the medium of which genuine truth is conveyed to human minds, therefore it is said in Deuteronomy that God rideth in his magnificence upon the clouds. To ride, when predicated of the Lord, signifies to enlighten the understanding, as has been said. And to ride upon the clouds would therefore signify to enlighten the mind by means of spiritual truth communi. cated through the medium of the literal sense of the Word; or by an influx of spiritual into natural truth. Hence also it may be understood what is signified by Jehovah making the clouds his chariot, which would be wholly unintelligible without the spiritual sense. The literal sense of the Sacred Volume is the vehicle, thus the chariot, for conveying to our minds things celelestial and divine—the love and wisdom of God. Hence the cloud of the letter becomes most truly the chariot of Jehovah.
Again we read in Job, that “God bindeth up the wa
* This is the true meaning of the Hebrew word oprio shehaqim, which is translated shy in our common version as any one may see by consulting Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon. Moreover the same word is translated clouds in other places, as in Psalms xxxvi. 5, cviii. 4 ; and therefore it should be so translated here.
+ It is to be observed that the Word in the sense of the letter is not equally obscure in every part. In some places this cloud is so thin that the light of the internal sense shines through and readily appears to every one : while in others it is so dense that we do not see any light at all ;-many passages in the literal sense are wholly unintelligible. And herein we observe a perfect correspondence between spiritual and natural clouds.
ters in his clouds." (xxvi. 8.) These words, agreeably to the language of correspondence, signify that spiritual truths, which are here denoted by the waters, are bound up or comprehended in ultimate truths; i. e., in the truths of the literal sense of the Word,
Again in Lamentations; “How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel !" &c. (ii. 1.) Israel and the daughter of Zion evidently signify the Church. And when the beauty of Israel is cast down to the earth, i. e., when the Church is consummated on account of falses of doctrine and evil of life, then it does not see the spiritual sense of the Word, or acknowledge that there is any such sense; and by resting wholly in the sense of the letter, it remains in comparative darkness as if under a thick cloud. Thus it is that “the Lord covers the daughter of Zion with a cloud,” as is here said. So also in Joel, where the coming of the Lord and the end of the former Church is treated of, it is said that it shall be “ a day of clouds and of thick darkness.” (ii. 2.) No one can suppose that natural clouds and darkness are here meant: but this language is used in reference to the state of the Jewish Church at the time of the Lord's advent. The state of that Church, as we know, was one of clouds and thick darkness;" i. e., it was immersed in gross falses which darken the understanding, and which it had nevertheless confirmed by some appearances of truth in the letter of the Word. By day, according to Swedenborg, is denoted state.
Take another text from Psalms; “God's strength is in the clouds.” (lxviii. 34.) Now what intelligible idea do we derive from these words, if clouds be understood literally, as denoting the vapor that floats over our heads ? Not the least. But in the writings of Swedenborg we are shown that Divine Truth in the letter of the Word, is in its ultimate and fullest form hence in its strength. The Word of God, in its literal sense, is brought down and accommodated to the lowest states of men in the natural world ; and it must be first obeyed in this lowest or literal sense ; otherwise the Lord