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should we consider him wise in refusing the gift of more light or better eye-sight, so that he would be able not only to walk more securely, but also to read and write? By no means.
Then are we not wise in refusing the gift—the precious gift of a revelation which renders the darkest parts of God's Word at once luminous and beautiful.”
But are we sure that we do fully understand, without the aid of the New Dispensation, even those parts of Scripture which are called plain and simple? We shall find on close examination that many of these will admit of various significations, and actually have been very differently understood by different persons, and at different times.
The Rev. Andrews Norton, one of the most learned and accomplished biblical scholars in our country, says in his “Statement of Reasons," &c., (p. 129) “ it is not always easy to determine the meaning even of passages which may seem at first view to present little difficulty.” For “a great part of all language, diverted in any way from its literal sense, will bear an absurd meaning.” (p. 106.) Then, by way of illustration, citing this text : "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,"—he asks: "But are they blessed for what they are, or for the peculiar advantages they enjoy for becoming what they ought to be? Is the blessing absolute and universal ? Or does it refer only to the favorable circumstances of the class spoken of? Or is it confined to some particular individuals of that class?" (ibid. p. 126.) And in order to show that these are not idle questions, the writer goes on to remark that, “ Wetstein understands these words as addressed particularly to Christ's poor disciples ;"_ that “the Romish Church understand by the poor in spirit,' those who voluntarily submit to poverty ;" and others understand the words still differently.
Quoting the next verse, “ Blessed are the mourners for they shall be comforted,” this learned author again asks, "Does this intend those who deny themselves the blessings of life and endure voluntary penance, as some Catholics explain the passage? Does it mean those
who mourn for their sins, as many Protestant commentators tell us ? He then adds: “I think otherwise. The purpose of our Saviour was, I believe, simply to announce, that his religion brought blessed consolation to all whó mourned.” (Ibid. p. 128.)
These remarks (which are the more to our purpose for coming from an eminent theologian in the Old Church, show us that passages, which at first view appear plain and simple, may be, and actually have been understood in many different ways.
And if such be the case in relation to texts so plain as those here cited, what proportion of the Divine Word can we be sure of understanding aright, unless we understand the principles or laws of its composition? Suppose we perfectly understand the meaning of those two great commandments on which all the law and the prophets hang, what would this avail us unless we also rightly understand those portions of the Word, which teach us how to attain to that heavenly state of supreme love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor ?
But I need add no more to prove, (what it was my design to do in this lecture,) the necessity of either admitting an internal sense to the Word, or of utterly rejecting a large portion of it, at least, as the offspring of uninspired, erratic, or even of distempered minds. Nor need it here be intimated which alternative a wise man will choose.
The sum of what has been said is this:
There are to be found in the Sacred Scriptures some statements which appear to contradict others; some which appear to contradict the truths of science; some which appear contrary to the principles of pure morality ; some which appear unimportant and trivial; and many which, in the sense of the letter, are altogether irrational or unintelligible. In consequence of such appearances in the letter of the Word, modern commentators, who are in the acknowledgment of no other than the apparent or literal sense, have adopted such loose notions in regard to the inspiration of the Scriptures, as do virtually deny their divinity--deny that they are really the Word of God, But this title the Scriptures
claim for themselves in many places; and moreover was frequently applied to the Old Testament by the Lord himself when on earth. And not only so, but He has declared that their authority is unquestionablethat they cannot be broken-that not even the smallest part of them is ever to be abrogated :-“Till heaven and earth pass, one iota or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." And inasmuch as the literal sense of many parts of the Scriptures cannot be reconciled with the repeated declarations of the Lord himself, that they are the Word of God and hence the very Divine Truth, we must either admit that they contain a spiritual sense within the letter, or else accuse the Lord of false affirmations or a most heedless use of language.
In the course of my remarks I have not forborne to state frankly and fully the difficulties to be encountered in the Scriptures, according to the mode of interpreting them which is commonly received and acknowledged. They are difficulties upon which the infidel grounds his objections to the Bible as a special revelation from God. And candor forces us to acknowledge, that, if there be no sense in Scripture above what is obvious and apparent, or that of the mere letter, these difficulties are insuperable.
But let no one be alarmed for the Sacred Oracles, on account of the difficulties that have been stated in this lecture. Let each rather turn his eyes towards the Son of Man, who is now lifted up in the wilderness. Let hin come to the glorious truths of the New Dispensation, before whose brilliant light these difficulties will all vanish, and the clouds round about God's Word will gradually melt away and disappear like mists before the morning sun. Let him be assured, that, while multitudes in the Old Church are rendering void the law by their low and false notions of inspiration--making the Word of God of none effect by their traditions--the doctrines of the New Church, like the Lord at his first advent, have come not to destroy one iota or tittle of the law, but to fill it all out in the most eminent degree. They have come revealing the divine fulness, order,
and perfection of God's Word-breathing spirit and life into all its minutest parts--and raising it from that powerless and death-like state wherein the ignorance and wickedness of men have entombed it.
No one who looks around upon the present aspect of he world, can fail to perceive that a spirit of inquiry is abroad—of inquiry upon all subjects—independent and free as the mountain wind. This spirit is at once the offspring and the harbinger of the new heavens and the new earth, which the Lord is even now creating. Will this spirit stop at the boundaries of science and art? Will it satiate itself with the investigation of natural phenomena alone? No: never. This spirit will look -nay is even now looking, above and beyond nature, and is asking to know the laws of the spiritual world, and the principles according to which the Sacred Scriptures are composed. From the great heart of Christendom there cometh a voice, which ere long will be heard louder than seven thunders, inquiring-What does the Word of God really teach? In what sense is it inspired? Wherein does its divinity consist? How are its apparent contradictions, discrepances, trivialities, &c., to be reconciled with the idea that it is God's Word and not man's? What are the true principles of interpretation to be applied to it? Are there any laws in its composition as fixed and orderly as those according to which the grass grows or the planets move?
Such are the inquiries which the Christian world has already begun to make-inquiries which Old Church theology in vain essays to answer. Multitudes, who have never expressed such interrogatories in any form of words, are yet making them deep in their hearts, though they may scarcely know it. And has the gracious Lord left the world to hear in these inquiries nought but the sad echo of its own voice? No. He has answered, and more than answered them all in anticipation in the truths now revealed for the use of his New Church. Here He no longer speaketh in parables, but shows us plainly of the Father.
May the Lord Jesus Christ open all our eyes that we may“ behold wondrous things out of his law.”
THE EXISTENCE OF AN INTERNAL SENSE IN THE
WORD PROVED FROM THE SACRED SCRIPTURES.
"THE WORDS THAT I SPEAK UNTO YOU ARE SPIRIT AND ARE LIFE."
John, vi. 63.
It is quite a common thing, when people are addressed upon the subject of the New Dispensation, to hear them say, “ We do not care anything about doctrines; much less do we wish to be any man's disciples.
We think it by far the safest course to adhere to the Sacred Scriptures alone. These, we believe, are the Word of God, and are therefore an infallible guide to a state of heavenly life. But as for Swedenborg, we do not know with regard to his writings whether they be true or false—from heaven or from hell. Hence we prefer to let them alone, and go directly to the Word itself.”
Did not men seek to excuse themselves for rejecting the Messiah at his first advent, by a similar process of reasoning ? When on one occasion the Lord had performed a notable miracle of healing upon one who had been blind from his birth, the Jews were urgent that the man who had been healed should tell them how his eyes had been opened. “One thing," says the man,"I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.” And upon their reiterating the inquiry, "He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear.. Wherefore would ye hear it again ? Will ye also be his disciples? Then they reviled him and said, Thou art his disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses : [as for this fellow,j we know not from whence he is.” (John ix. 27, 28, 29.)