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THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCES EXPLAINED, AND
APPLIED AS A RULE OF SCRIPTURE INTERPRETA
“ THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE.”—Luke xi. 52.
Is it not singularly strange, while almost every body is willing to admit that the volume of nature has but just begun to be unfolded to human vision, and that in the great globe of science there yet lie innumerable strata unexplored and untouched, that people should be so unwilling to admit that any higher and
purer truth is ever to be unfolded in the volume of Revelation? Is it not strange they should so generally and pertinaciously maintain that all which ever will or ever can be known of the Word of God, has already been discovered by the learned men of former times? Is not this virtually to deny that there exists any analogy between the Word and the works of God ? and to maintain that the former is a very superficial production, while at the same time, in respect to the latter, it is admitted that there are infinite stores of wisdom which lie concealed beneath the surface ?
It was a pointed question once asked by Swedenborg, “Will it take ages to discover the truth, or ages to acknowledge it when discovered ?" Does not the history of the progress of human intelligence show, that in proportion as a truth is great, and transcending the capacity of the age, it is either forgotten or rejected ? Long and hard has truth always had to struggle to penetrate the thick mists of human ignorance, prejudice, and er
ror. Although it never comes to condemn, but always to save the world, yet at its advent has the world always pronounced its own sentence of condemnation. The disposition which men have shown ever since the Fall, to shut their eyes against the light, affords a striking commentary upon these words of our Lord: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John iii. 19.) And even now, as ever, "the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not."
It has been intimated in a preceding lecture, that there is not to be found in the Old Church any orderly, consistent, uniform, and well established principle of interpreting the Word of God. And for want of some such principle, interpretation is necessarily loose, discordant, conjectural, and sometimes contradictory. Each expounder of the Sacred Oracles is left, in a good degree, to the very imperfect guidance of his own understanding, or even to indulge the wild and giddy flights of his untutored imagination. Consequently each contrives to hammer, and bend, and twist the Scriptures into a shape conformable to his ideas; and thus, in many instances, a man gives forth the dark counsels of his own intelligence for living and eternal verities. Hence the almost countless number of dogmas in the prevailing Church, many of which neither harmonize with each other, nor with enlightened reason; and yet with some hammering and grinding at the Word, they can all, in some measure, be confirmed by the literal sense.
These things being so, it is no wonder, what sensible men so often affirm, that the philosophy of the pulpit, and the logic of the pulpit are very
bad -are in many instances absolutely contemptible. Nor is it any wonder, while the vague conjectures of uninspired men, or the feeble flickerings of human intelligence are given out for the veritable teachings of God's Holy Word, that the Sacred Volume should have fallen into such discredit as it has with multitudes.
To show that the assertion which has been made with regard to the discordant interpretations of the Word, and the various opinions that have been entertained upon this subject among biblical scholars in the old Church, is not wholly gratuitous or unfounded, we will here cite the authority of the learned bishop Marsh. In his first lecture upon the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, íp. 271) this writer says:
“ If the interpretation of the Scripture were easy and obvious, there would be little or no diversity in the explanations which different commentators have given of the same passage. But if we compare the Greek with the Latin commentators, we shall frequently find such a variety of interpretation, as would appear almost impossible to be extracted from the same text. If we compare the Jewish commentators either with the Greek or with the Latin, we shall find as great a variety, though a variety of a different kind. If we compare our English commentators with any of the preceding, we shall find no diminution in the variety of interpretation. Nor do we find uniformity, either among commentators of the same language, or even among.commentators of the same church.
It is true, that in all things relating to doctrine and discipline, the Church of Rome preserved, during several ages, an uniformity of interpretation by the commentary which was called the Glossa Ordinaria. But when the revival of learning had opened new sources of intelligence, and the Reformation had restored the right of unfettered exposition, the Glossa Ordinaria was exchanged for new systems of interpretation, from Luther and Melancthon, from Calvin and Beza, from Grotius and Spanheim." (See Clissold's Letter to the Archbishop of Dublin, p. 89.) On
page 274 of the same lecture, this learned prelate again remarks :
“ There is not the slightest historical evidence that the apostles transmitted to posterity any rule but what is recorded in the New Testament. The fathers therefore, are on precisely the same footing with respect to the authority of their interpretations, as the commentators of the present age. Nor, in fact, are they uniform
in their interpretations even in regard to doctrine, notwithstanding the agreement alleged by the Church of Rome; though some commentators may be selected, both ancient and modern, who agree on particular points."-(Ibid. p. 90.)
Many admissions of this kind might be quoted from the theological writings of other distinguished men, showing not only a great want of agreement and uniformity in the interpretation of the Scriptures, but also a great diversity of opinion in respect to the nature of the inspiration which belongs to them.
And are the Sacred Scriptures really the Word of God, and yet so loose, disorderly, and immethodical in the style of their composition, that there is no one uniform principle of interpretation applicable to all parts of them? Is it presumable, in the outset, that there would be less uniformity in the Word of God, than in his works? And should we not expect that his recorded Word, even in the style of its composition, would transcend every human production as far as his works transcend those of man, or as nature rises superior to art? And if the Scriptures be composed according to some uniform plan-some fixed and eternal law of divine order (as we should suppose would be the case with a really divine composition) then it is obvious that a knowledge of this principle of their construction, is essential to a right understanding of the Scriptures. To know what the Scriptures really teach, we ought first to know the law of their composition, which alone can enable us to interpret them aright.
Now we believe and maintain that the Scriptures are composed according to a fixed and uniform law, and that the nature of their divine style is clearly shown in the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. We believe also that the key to the true interpretation of the Word, is revealed in these writings for the use of the New Jerusalem Church, which the Lord is now in the endeavor to establish upon earth. It is the design of this lecture to unfold and exhibit, in some measure,
the nature of that law according to which the Scriptures are composed; and to illustrate its importance, at the
same time that we are confirming its truth, by applying it in the interpretation of some difficult portion of the Word.
And here in the outset, we shall assume that the reader already acknowledges the existence of a Divine Being ;--acknowledges that there is a God, and that He is Spirit (John iv. 24.); that He is essential Love (1 John iv. 16.), and essential Wisdom (Jer. x. 12.; John i. 1, 3.); or goodness itself (Luke xviii. 19.), and truth itself (John xiv. 6). We shall assume that the reader already believes that this Divine Being or Spirit, whose essence is love and wisdom, is not confined to any time or space, but is always and everywhere present as the life and soul of everything that lives; as the forming, supporting, and animating principle of the universe. We shall also assume that it is believed that men, animals, trees, plants, and every smallest blade of grass do not live and grow of themselves alone, but by virtue of a constant influx into them of living principles from Him who alone is spirit and life. In short, we shall assume that it is believed, not only that man has a soul or spiritual principle, without which his corporeal part hath no life, but also that there is a spiritual principle within and throughout all nature, constituting its soul, life and forming power; which principle is not blind, but is a constant emanation from the Omniscient Mind. We shall assume that there is already an acknowledgment of this, because it appears at once so obvious and rational, that we do not well see how a man can really deny it. We do not well see, for example, how any reflecting man can deny that he has a mind as well as a body, or that there is a spiritual as well as a material part appertaining to his constitution; and that all living things have within them a spiritual essence which the natural eye does not see, and which constitutes their life.
From the premises here assumed therefore, the conclusion inevitably follows that some spiritual principle,
* It will be shown in a subsequent lecture when we come to treat of the doctrine of the Lord, that the New Church does not make Gud a mere dead abstraction, but a living Divine Person.