תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

The first Christian church, on account of its sensual character, has ever been prone to materialize spiritual truth ; and has therefore interpreted the Scriptures for the most part in a manner conformable to its own gross and sensual ideas. Accordingly it has been believed in that Church that heaven is far off from this natural world—away up in the sky-because in the literal sense of the Word it is often spoken of as being above or on high. Because the letter of the Word speaks of the passing away of the former heaven and the former earth, and the appearing of new ones, therefore it has been believed that this natural earth and the heavens visible above our heads are all to be destroyed, and new ones created in their place. Because, in the literal sense, we read of a second appearing of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven to judge the world, therefore the Church has believed that at some remote period there would be a general judgment day, when all these things would be literally fulfilled.

Because the literal sense appears to teach, that, when this general judgment day comes, the wicked will be cast into a lake of material fire and brimstone, therefore this also has been believed and taught in the Church. And because we read of a resurrection from the dead, and the carnal mind cannot conceive of any resurrection save that of the material body, therefore it has been believed and taught that the souls of men, at the general judgment day, would be reunited to their former clay tenements, and thus the human race would be raised in their material bodies. In this way the first Christian church, forgetting that the Lord's words are spirit and life," and interpreting them agreeably to its own material conceptions, has gradually destroyed the vitality of the Word, and thus finally destroyed itself.

But the doctrines revealed for the use of the Lord's New Church upon all these subjects, are very different. These doctrines teach us that the spiritual world is not far off, as to space, but is within the natural world as the soul is within the body. They teach that the passing away of the former heaven and earth, and the appearance of a new one, denotes the passing away from

the interiors and also from the exteriors of men's minds, of the principles and doctrines which they have imagined to be the essential constituents of a true church thus the passing away of the Old and the coming of a New Church. They teach that the coming of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven in judgment, denotes not a personal appearing of Him upon the material clouds, but such a luminous exhibition of the truth of his Word which is himself, through the obscurity of the natural understanding or the clouds of the literal sense, as to manifest and judge the evils of men. They' teach that the judgment day is not far distant, but that a particular judgment according to the truth that each one has is constantly in progress, and that a final judgement commences with every one as soon as he is removed from the natural to the spiritual world. They teach that all who are in the spiritual world, devils as well as angels, are arranged into societies according to the quality of their affections, i. e. according to the spiritual affinity which they have for each other; and that the state of the wicked, whose minds are imbued with false persuasions and in whose bosom forever burns the fire of evil loves, is described, in the language of correspondence, by a lake of fire and brimstone wherein the evil are said to be cast. Finally these doctrines of heaven teach, that the souls of men will never be reunited to their material bodies, but that every one has a spiritual and substantial body within his fleshly tabernacle, in which spiritual body he rises immediately after death, and lives forever. Whence it may be seen in some measure how widely the doctrines of the New Church differ from those of the Old.

Before explaining the doctrine of the New Church concerning the Resurrection, it may be proper and useful to adopt the course which has been pursued in former lectures, viz., to consider first the doctrine on this subject which has been commonly received and taught in the Old Church. In this way, by presenting the two doctrines as it were side by side, we may

be the better able to determine which of them is true and which imaginary. Both truth and error usually appear

more palpable when placed in contrast with each other. Swedenborg says: “All truth is made manifest by relation to its opposite."

It has commonly been believed and taught in the Old Church, that, at some future period (few have undertaken to say when) this natural world would be destroyed, and a new one be created :—that then the souls of those who had once lived upon the earth would be reunited to their former material bodies, and a general judgment would be executed upon all men: previous to which general judgment, it has been believed that the souls of men would remain in a kind of sleepy or torpid state-existing, yet not conscious of their ex. istence. Some however, who hold that the material body will rise at the general judgment day, believe that the soul will enjoy a conscious state of existence previous to that event. The “ Confession of Faith” used by the Presbyterian Church in the United States, treating of man's state immediately after death, says:

“ The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved for the judgment of the great day.(Chap. xxxii

. ģ 1.) Again it is said in the same work; “At the last day such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: And all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls forever.” (Ibid. $ 2.)

This language plainly indicates a belief, (which there is good reason for supposing is very prevalent in the Old Church) that the souls of men are certain ethereal essences, without form, and yet possessing consciousness.* For if men exist in any form immediately after

Concerning the state of souls after death," says Swedenborg, “these things, in general and in particular, are at this day believed ; that human souls after death are spirits, of which they cherish an idea as of a breath of wind ; and that, because they are such, they are reserved until the day of

death, that form must be to them as a body of some kind or other; and we should supposeit would be in human shape. Nor are we able to understand how any being can enjoy a conscious state of existence, unless at the same time he be conscious of existing in some form. We know that nothing in the natural world can receive or reflect the rays of the sun, unless it exist in some form ; and we cannot imagine how any being in the spiritual world can enjoy a conscious existence, unless he be a form organized for the reception of love and wisdom which proceed from the Lord as the Sun of the spiritual world ; for without such reception of the proceeding Divine, there can be no conscious life. Because our affections and thoughts appear like some ethereal things without form, it does not follow by any means that we could either love or thịnk (indeed it is manifest that we could

the last judgment, either in the middle of the earth, where their place is, or in the Limbo of the fathers. But in these things they differ: some suppose that they are ethereal or ærial forms, and that thus they are like ghosts and spectres, and that some of them dwell in the air, some in the woods, and some in the waters: but some suppose that the souls of the deceased are transferred to the planets or to the siars, and there abodes are given to them; and some that, after thousands of years, they return into bodies. But most suppose that they are reserved to the time when all the firmament, together with the terraqneous globe, will be destroyed, which will be effected by fire, either bursting forth from the centre of the earth, or cast down from heaven, like a universal lightning ; and that then the sepulchres will be opened, and the souls which have been reserved, clothed again with their bodies, and transferred into that holy city Jerusalem, and thus, upon another earth, they will dwell together in purified bodies, some below there, and some above, because the height of the city is to be twelve thousand fur. longs, as its length and breadth, Rev. xxi. 16.

" When any of the clergy or laity are asked whether they firmly believe all those things, as that the antediluvians, together with Adam and Eve, and the postdiluvians, together with Noah and his sons, and also Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, together with all the prophets and apostles, as well as the souls of other men, are still reserved in the middle of the earth, or are flying about in the ether or air; and also whether they believe that souls will be clothed again with their bodies, and become uniied with them, which yet are carcasses eaten up by worms, mice and fishes, and those of the Egyp. tians, as mum.nies, eaten up by men, and some merely skeletons burnt up hy the sun, and reduced to powder; and likewise whether they beliere that the stars of heaven will then fall upon the earth, which yet is smaller than one of them ; are not such things paradoxes, wlich reason itself dissipates, as it does things that are contradictory? But to these things some answer nothing ; some that those are matters of faith, under obedience to which we keep the understanding ; some, that not only these things, but many more that are above reason, are of the divine omnipotence; and when they name faith and omnipotence, reason is banished, and then sound reason either disappears and becomes as nothing, or becomes like a spectre, and is called insanity,"—(True Christian Religion, n. 769, 770.)

not do either) without existing in a form to receive the Divine Love and Wisdom.

It therefore appears to be a self-evident propostion, that the principles which proceed from the Divine can have no conscious existence, except in their recipient subject; and there cannot be a recipient subject which does not exist in some form. · And if the souls of good men, immediately after death, exist in a substantial body, or in such a human form as to be "perfect in holiness," “ beholding the face of God in light and glory,” as the “Confession of Faith" above referred to teaches, we cannot understand why they should wish to be again united to their material bodies, or how their happiness could be enhanced by this reunion.

But the more prevalent opinion in the Old Church probably is, that the souls of men will sleep or remain in an unconscious state of existence until the general judgment day, when they will enter into and re-animate the bodies which they had in the natural world, and thus be raised again to life. According to this opinion the souls of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses of all the partriarchs, prophets, and apostles--of all men indeed who have ever lived and died upon this earth, are not now living in any conscious state of existence, but are held somewhere in a kind of torpid state, waiting for the general judgment day, when they shall be awakened from their long slumber and raised again to life in “the self-same bodies” which they animated while on earth.

This doctrine concerning the resurrection of the natural body (to say nothing of its extremely irrational and unphilosophical character) is not a doctrine which is taught in the Sacred Scriptures, but one which has been invented by the wisdom of man. All that was revealed to the first Christian Church upon this subject, is, that man's existence does not terminate with the life of his body, but that he possesses an immortal part which still lives on after the body dies. This is all which that Church was in a state to receive upon the subject-all therefore which it was proper for it to

« הקודםהמשך »