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On another occasion the Lord says to them, “Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and these are they which testify of me." (John v. 39.) And He further tells them that even Moses, in whom they trusted, was their accuser.
- For had ye believed Moses,” says He, “ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words ?" (v. 46, 47.)
But the Scriptures do testify of the Lord at this his second appearing in the truths of the New Jerusalem, as certainly as they do of his first advent. And we would say to those who endeavor to excuse themselves for not receiving or attending to the revelations made to the New Church, upon the ground that the Scriptures of themselves are an all-sufficient guide, that, if they really believed the Scriptures to be the Word of God and divinely inspired, they would believe the revelation that has been made for the New Jerusalem; for the Scriptures do speak of this revelation-do foretell this second and glorious appearing of our Lord; and every page of the writings of Swedenborg bears witness, that the doctrines of the New Jerusalem are by no means a human device, or the offspring of any man's self-derived intelligence, but are from Him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life." And all who come to a rational understanding of the truths revealed for the New Church, and who live according to these truths, may know of these New Doctrines whether they be of God, or whether Swedenborg speaks of himself.
On account, therefore, of the New Revelation that has been made, the New Jerusalem Church is not to be considered as a sect, or as one of the numerous progeny born of the Old Church. It is a Church formed and existing under a new dispensation which is altogether distinct from every former dispensation. It is not sectarian in its character. Its truths are universal as the Lord himself. And it claims no nearer relationship to any of the numerous sects in Christendom, than the first Christian Church claimed to any of the Jewish sects.
In our last lecture we endeavored to show, from the Sacred Scriptures themselves, the necessity of either
admitting the existence of an internal sense, or of rejecting at least many parts of them as belonging to the Word of God. To this end therefore, many passages
from the Word were adduced, which cannot be true in their strictly literal sense, as will be readily admitted by every one. For it was shown that some passages, according to the sense of the letter, do contradict others; that some contradict the truths of science; that some are opposed to pure morality; and that others are exceedingly trivial and unimportant; and also that many passages furnish us with no intelligible idea whatever. But inasmuch as the Lord himself has declared that “the Scripture cannot be broken," (John x. 35,) i. e., its authority is by no means to be set aside or impugned, and that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail,” (Luke xvi. 17,) we are hence forced to the conclusion that there must be, at least in many parts of the Word, an internal or spiritual sense.
And if we admit that such a sense exists in certain parts, we must also admit that it exists throughout the whole of the Scriptures; otherwise we must deny that there belongs to the Word of God anything of the divine order and uniformity which appertain to all his works; which were no less than to deny that it is a divine composition.
But because it has been shown that many parts of Scripture cannot be true in their literal sense, it must not be supposed that the New Church rejects or lightly esteems the letter of the Word. On the contrary it entertains the highest regard and reverence for the letter ; not, however, on account of what it is in and of itself alone, but on account of that pearl of infinite value which it contains within its bosom. The use of the literal sense of the Word, and likewise the estimation in which this sense is held by the New Church, may be seen in the following extracts from Swedenborg. In the doctrine respecting the Sacred Scriptures (n. 32, 33)
“In the Word, which is a divine work expressly given for the salvation of mankind, the ultimate sense, which is natural and is called the literal sense, is the
basis, continent, and firmament of the two interior
Hence it follows, that the Word without its literal sense, would be like a palace without a foundation; that is, like a palace in the air and not on the ground, which could only be the shadow of a palace, and must vanish away; also, that the Word, without its literal sense, would be like a temple in which are many holy things, and in the midst thereof the holy of holies, without a roof and walls to form the continents thereof; in which case its holy things would be plundered by thieves, or be violated by the beasts of the earth and the birds of heaven, and thus be dissipated. In the same manner, it would be like the tabernacle, in the inmost place whereof was the ark of the covenant, and in the middle part the golden candlestick, the golden altar for incense, and also the table for shewbread, which were its holy things, without its ultimates, which were the curtains and veils. Yea, the Word without its literal sense would be like the human body without its coverings, which are called skins, and without its supporters, which are called bones, of which, supposing it to be deprived, its inner parts must of necessity be dispersed and perish. It would also be like the heart and the lungs in the thorax, deprived of their covering, which is called the pleura, and their supporters, which are called the ribs; or like the brain without its coverings, which are called the dura and pia mater, and without its common covering, continent and firmament, which is called the skull. Such would be the state of the Word without its literal sense; wherefore it is said in Isaiah, that the Lord will create upon all the glory a covering' (iv. 5.)
Again, he says in the same treatise :
“ The Word is pre-eminently the Word in its literal sense; for in this sense spirit and life are inwardly contained ; and this is what the Lord meant when he said, "The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life' (John, vi. 63); for the Lord spoke these words before the world, and in the natural sense. The celestial and spiritual senses are not the Word without the natural sense, which is the sense of the letter; for
in such case they would be like spirit and life without a body; or, as was said above, n. 33, like a palace which has no foundation.
“ The truths of the literal sense of the Word are, in some cases, not naked truths, but only appearances of truth, and are like similitudes and comparisons taken from the objects of nature, and thus accommodated and brought down to the apprehension of simple minds and of children. But whereas they are at the same time correspondences, they are the receptacles and abodes of genuine truth ; and they are like containing vessels like a crystalline cup containing excellent wine, or a silver dish containing rich meats; or they are like garments clothing the body,--like swaddling clothes on an infant, or an elegant dress on a beautiful virgin : they are also like the scientifics of the natural man, which comprehend in them the perceptions and affections of truth of the spiritual man. The naked truths themselves, which are included, contained, attired, and comprehended, are in the spiritual sense of the Word, and the naked principles of good are in its celestial sense. But let us illustrate this by instances from the Word : Jesus said, 'Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites ! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess; thou blind Pharisee! cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also' (Matt. xxiii. 25, 26): in this passage the Lord spoke by ultimates, or things of the lowest order, which at the same time are continents: he uses the words 'cup and platter,' because by the cup is meant wine, and by wine is signified the truth of the Word, and by the platter is meant meat, and by meat is signified the good of the Word : wherefore by making clean the inside of the cup and platter, is signified, to purify the interiors of the mind, which relate to the will and the thoughts, thus to the love and faith, by means of the Word ; and by the consequent cleansing of the outside, is signified, that thus the exteriors are purified, which are the words and works, inasmuch as these derive their essence from the former. Again : Jesus said,
"There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple, and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day; and there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores' (Luke, xvi. 19, 20): in this passage also the Lord spoke by natural things, which were correspondences, and contained in them spiritual things : by the rich man is meant the Jewish nation, who are called rich because they were in possession of the Word, in which are spiritual riches; by the purple and fine linen, with which the rich man was clothed, are signified the good and truth of the Word, by purple its good, and by fine linen its truth; by faring sumptuously every day, is signified the delight which the Jewish people took in possessing and reading the Word ; by the beggar Lazarus are meant the Gentiles, because they were not in possession of the Word; by Lazarus lying at the rich man's gate, is meant, that the Gentiles were despised and rejected by the Jews; by being full of sores is signified, that the Gentiles, by reason of their ignorance of truth, were in many falsities. The reason why the Gentiles are meant by Lazarus, is, because the Gentiles were beloved by the Lord, as that Lazarus was whom he raised from the dead (John, xi. 3, 5, 36); who is called his friend (John, xi. 11); and who sat with him at table (John, xii. 2) From these two passages it is evident, that the truths and goods of the literal sense of the Word are like vessels and garments, to contain and cover the naked good and truth, which lie concealed in the spiritual and celestial senses of the Word."*—(Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scriptures n. 39, 40.)
Thus we see that the literal sense of the Word is not
* It is taught in the Doctrine concerning the Sacred Scriptures by Emanuel Swedenborg, that "there is a sense still more interior (than the spiritual) which is called CELESTIAL; but this sense cannot easily be un. folded, not being so much the object of intellectual thought as of will-affec. tion. The true ground and reason why, there is in the Word a sense still more interior, which is called celestial, is, because from the Lord proceed Divine Good and Divine Truth-Divine Good from his Divine Love, and Divine Truth from his Divine Wisdom ; each is in the Word, for the Word is the Divine Proceeding. It is on this account that the Word imparts lief to those that read it under holy influence." (n. 19.)