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rejected or undervalued in the writings of Swedenborg, but is regarded as a vessel which contains the things of spirit and life. The letter is the foundation on which the internal senses rest, and the medium through which these senses are brought down and accommodated to man's state of reception. It is a kind of material body to the Word, by means of which the divine Soul or Spirit within holds communication with human minds, just as our material bodies are the media through which our spirits hold intercourse with one another here on earth.
Nor is it taught in the writings of the New Church that no part of Scripture is true in its literal sense. On the contrary, these writings admit that much of the Old Testament contains a true history of things which literally occurred as therein recorded ; that the history of the Lord's advent, of his teaching, miracles, and death, is literally true. But these writings do also teach, that even those parts of the Word which contain true history have an internal sense, which is vastly more important, and on account of which the history was written. The spiritual sense is the principal thing regarded in the history. Consequently wherever the history departs in any instance from facts as they actually occurred, it is in accommodation to the spiritual sense, to which the letter is held subordinate, and must always bend. But as the end aimed at in our last lecture was to show that there must be an internal sense to the Word, therefore we adduced only such passages as are either not true, or are unintelligible according to the sense of the letter.
But if there be any, (as doubtless there are many) who are not in a state to receive the spiritual sense of the Word as revealed by Swedenborg, and who would yet feel pained on discovering that the Scriptures are not all literally true, we have no desire to disturb their minds. The New Jerusalem doctrines are not for them. And it is much better that they should believe the Word to be all true according to the letter—that they should believe in contradictions, or (which perhaps is oftener the case) think nothing about them, nor be troubled with parts which they do not understand, than that their faith
in the Scriptures as a special revelation from God should be in any degree impaired.
Having therefore in the preceding lecture, proved from the Sacred Oracles the necessity of admitting an internal sense, we design now to show by the same infallible witness, that there actually is such a sense in the Word.
But some perhaps are ready to ask, If this be so, why have not some of the great and good men in the first Christian Church believed and taught it? For if it be possible to prove from Scripture not only the necessity but the actual existence of an internal sense, we should suppose that the fact itself would have been noticed and acknowledged by some at least of the former church; although the precise character of this internal sense, and the principles according to which it is to be developed, might not have been understood. This was the case in respect to the Lord's first advent. The Jews, relying on the promises contained in their Scriptures, were in the acknowledgement that a Messiah was to come, although they did not understand in what character He would appear, nor what kind of a kingdom He was coming to establish. Now if the Word really contains a spiritual sense, (as the writings of the New Church teach,) and does itself actually bear testimony to the existence of such a sense, why, it may be fairly asked, has there not been at least some general or confused notion of it in the first Christian Church?
Before proceeding therefore to our Scripture argument in proof of the existence of an internal sense, it may be proper and useful briefly to consider this question; to see if some of the greatest and best men in the first Christian Church have not had a pretty strong conviction that there is a deeper meaning in the Word, or in some parts of it at least, than that which is contained in the sense of the letter. Upon this subject therefore let us hear the opinion of some eminently learned and pious men in the Old Church, who have written upon the subject of biblical criticism.
The Rev. Bishop Horne, in his "Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures,"
(a work of great labor and in high repute among biblical scholars, as is evident from the circumstance that it has already passed through four editions) has the following remarks on the interpretation of Scripture :
“All our ideas are admitted through the medium of the senses, and consequently refer in the first place to external objects; but no sooner are we convinced that we possess an immaterial soul or spirit, than we find occasiou for other terms, or, for want of these, another application of the same terms to a different class of objects; and hence arises the necessity of resorting to figurative and spiritual interpretation. Now the object of revelation being to make known things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man to conceive,” it seems hardly possible that the human mind should be capable of apprehending them but through the medium of figurative language or mystical representations." (Vol. II. pt. 2. chap. ii. $ 5.)
In the same chapter and section of this work, the learned author speaks of the necessity of admitting a mystical or spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures in the following terms :
“But independently of the able argument a priori,* here cited, in favor of the mediate, mystical, or spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures, unless such interpretation be admitted, we cannot avoid one of two great difficulties; for, either we must assert that the multitude of applications, made by Christ and his Apostles, are fanciful and unauthorized, and wholly inadequate to prove the points for which they are quoted; or, on the other hand, we must believe that the obvious and natural sense of such passages was never intended, and that it was a mere illusion. The Christian will not assent to the former of these positions; the philosopher and the critic will not readily assent to the latter."
After citing several texts both from the Old and New Testament, in proof of his position that a mystical or spiritual interpretation of the Scriptures must be admit
Reference is here made to the argument of Dr. John Clarke, quoted on page 161.
ted, this writer remarks thus upon the miracles of our Lord :
“ Although the design of miracles is to mark the divine interposition, yet, when perusing the miracles recorded in the Sacred Writings, we are not to lose sight of the moral and religious instruction concealed under them, and especially under the miracles performed by our Savior. They were significant emblems of his designs, and figures aptly representing the benefits to be conferred by Him upon mankind, and had in them a spiritual sense."
This writer also considers the spiritual sense as superior to the literal in point of importance. “The literal sense,” he says, “it has been well observed, is undoubtedly first in point of nature, as well as in order of signification ; sand consequently, when investigating the meaning of any passage,
this must be ascertained before we proceed to search out its mystical import; but the true and genuine mystical or spiritual sense excels the literal in dignity, the latter being only the medium of conveying the former, which is more evidently designed by the Holy Spirit. For instance, in Numbers xxi. 8, 9, compared with John iii. 14, the brazen serpent is said to have been lifted up, in order to signify the lifting up of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world; and consequently that the type might serve to designate the antitype." (Vol. II. pt. 2. ch. vi.)
Again : Bishop Horne lays it down as a Canon of interpretation that the same prophecies frequently have a double meaning, and refer to different events; the one near, the other remote; the one temporal, the other spiritual, or perhaps eternal.” (Vol. II. pt. 2. ch. vii. § 2. Can. 1.)
The Rev. Dr. John Clarke, another profound scholar and excellent man, in his “Inquiry into the Origin of Evil,” in the folio collection of Boyle's Lectures, Vol. 3. p. 229, says:
“The foundation of religion and virtue being laid in the mind and heart, the secret dispositions and genuine acts of which are invisible, and known only to a man's self, therefore the powers and operations of the mind
can only be expressed in figurative terms and external symbols. The motives also and inducements to practice are spiritual, such as affect men in a way of moral influence, and not of natural efficiency; the principal of which are drawn from the consideration of a future state; and consequently these likewise must be represented by allegories and similitudes taken from things most known and familiar here. And thus we find in Scripture the state of religion illustrated by all the beautiful images we can conceive. In the interpretation of places, in which any of these images are contained, the principal regard is to be had to the figurative or spiritual, and not to the literal sense of the words. From not attending to which, have arisen absurd doctrines and inferences, which weak men have endeavored to establish as Scripture truths; whereas, in the other method of explication, the things are plain and easy
to every one's capacity, make the deepest and most lasting impressions upon their minds, and have the greatest influence upon their practice. Of this nature are all the rites and ceremonies prescribed to the Jews, with relation to the external form of religious worship; every one of which was intended to show the obligation or recommend the practice of some moral duty, and was esteemed of no further use than as it produced that effect. And the same may be applied to the rewards and punishments peculiar to the Christian dispensation, which regard a future state. The rewards are set forth by those things in which the generality of men take their greatest delight, and place their highest satisfaction of this life; and the punishments are such as are inflicted by human laws upon the worst of malefactors; but they can neither of them be understood in the strictly literal sense, but only by way of analogy, and corresponding in the general nature and intention of the thing, though very different in kind.”
It therefore appears plainly from this, that Dr. Clarke was of the opinion that there must be, and is, a spiritual sense to some parts of Scripture at least.
Again: the learned Dr. Lowth, in his commentary upon the prophecy of Isaiah, maintains that the portion