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HOUGH the people assembling at this place, cannot, with strict propriety, be called Dissenters, yet, as the place of their meeting comes within the meaning of the Act of Toleration, some account of thein will naturally be expected.
The SWEDENBORGIANS derive their origin from EMANUEL SWEDENBORG, a Swedish nobleman, who was born at Stockholm, Jan. 29, 1688; and related to some of the most illustrious families in that kingdom. He early enjoyed all the advantages of a liberal education, and spent sometime in the most considerable universities of Europe. Ena dued with uncommon talents for the acquisition of learning, his progress in the sciences was rapid and extensive ; and at an early period in life, he distinguished himself by various publications on philosophical subjects. His great abilities attracted the notice and patronage of Charles XII. who made him extraordinary assessor to the Royal College of the mines ; which office he quitted, that he might have more leisure to pursue his philosophical and spiritual studies. He, however, retained his salary, but declined accepting a place of higher dignity, lest it should prove a snare to him. In 1719, he was ennobled by Queen Ulrica Eleonora, and took his seat with the nobles of the equestrian order, in the triennial assemblies of the states.
These honours, however, he considered of very snall importance, compared with the distinguished privilege of having, as he supposed, his spiritual sight opened, and conversing with spirits and angels in the spiritual world. He first began to have his revelations in London. It was on a certain night that a man appeared to him in the midst of a strong
shining light, and said, “ I am God, the Lord, the Creator, and Redeemer: I have chosen thee to explain to men the interior and spiritual sense of the sacred writings. I will dictate to thee what thou oughtest to write.” He affirmed, that after this period, his spiritual sight was opened so far, that he could see in the most clear and distinct manner what passed in the spiritual world, and converse with angels and spirits in the same manner as with men.(c) Accordingly, in his treatise concerning Heaven and Hell, he relates the wonders which he saw in the invisible worlds; and gives an account of various and heretofore unknown particulars relating to the peace, the happiness, the light, the order of heaven; together with the forins, the functions, the habitations, and even the garments of the heavenly inhabitants. He relates his conversation with angels, and describes the conditions of the Jews, Mohammedans, aud Christians, clergy and laity of every denomination, in the other world. His first revelation appears to have been made to him in the year 1743, when he was about fifty-five years of age.
As our author professed to have frequent communications with angels and departed spirits, it is not surprising that he soon attracted the notice of all ranks, and that many powerful enemies were raised against hiin. But he was happy in the protection of the royal family, and enjoyed the esteem of the principal nobles of his own country. He also corresponded with many of the most distinguished characters in various parts of Europe, and received many literary honours.
(c) The angelic abodes he describes as follows : " As often as I conversed with angels face to face, it was in their habitations, which are like to our houses on earth, but far more beautiful and magnificent, having rooms, chambers, and apartments in great variety ; as also spacious courts belonging to them, together with the gardens, parterres of flowers, fields, &c. where the angels are formed into societies. They dwell in contiguous habitations, disposed after the manner of our cities, in streets, walks, and squares. I have had the privilege to walk through them, to examine all round about me, and to enter their houses, and this when I was fully awaké, having my inward eyes opened.” See his Treatise concerning Heaven and Hell, where a similar description is given of heaven itself.
But every thing seems to have been absorbed in his revelations. In a letter to a friend, he says, “I am fellow, by invitation, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, at Stockholm, but have never desired to be of any other community, as I belong to the Society of Angels, in which things spiritual and heavenly are the only subjects of discourse and entertainment; whereas in our literary societies, the attention is wholly taken up with things of this world.” Baron Swedenborg died in London, on the 29th of March, 1772, at the advanced
age of 84 years; and was buried in the Swedish church, in Wellclose-square.
Baron Swedenborg supposing his church to be pretigured by the vision of John in the Revelation, gave it the name of the New Jerusalem. In common with the founders of other sects, he professed to draw his doctrmes from scripture ; but he 'grounded them, also, in philosophy. This led him to refer natural phenomena to spiritual agency, and to suppose that there is a close connexion between the two worlds of matter and spirit. Hence his system teaches us to consider all the visible universe, with every thing that it contains, as a theatre and representation of the invisible world, from which it first derived its existence, and by convexion with which it continually subsists. His distinguishing tenets were these :--1. That the sacred scriptures contain three distinct senses, called celestial, spiritual, and natural; and that in each sense it is divine truth, accommodated respectively to the angels of the three heavens, and also to men on earth. 2. That there is a correspondence between all things in heaven, and all things in man; and that this science of correspondences is a key to the spiritual, or internal, sense of the sacred scriptures, every page of which is written by correspondences ; that is, by such things in the natural world as correspond unto, and signify things in the spiritual world.3. That there is a Divine Trinity, of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; or, in other words, of the all-begetting Divinity; and that this Trinity consisteih not of three distinct persons,
but is united as body, soul, and operation in man, in the one person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who, therefore, is the God of heaven, and alone to be worshipped; being Creator from eternity, Redeemer in time, and Regenerator to eternity.-4. That redemption consisteth not in the vicarious sacrifice of the Redeemer ; but in a real subjugation of the powers of darkness, and in a restoration of order and good government in the spiritual world.--5. That there is an universal influx from God into the souls of men, which is received by every man according to his state and form, and transmitted through the perceptive faculties of the mind to the body. Hence good influxes from God are changed by the evil nature of their recipients into their opposites; good into evil, and truth into falsehood.-6. That we are placed in this world, subject to the influences of two most opposite principles, of good from the Lord and his holy angels; of evil from hell, or evil spirits. That our spirits having their abode in the spiritual world, are kept in a kind of equilibrium, by the continual action of these contrary powers ; in consequence of which we are at perfect liberty to turn to which we please ; that without this free-will in spiritual things, regeneration cannot be effected.--7. That the doctrines of imputed righteousness, of predestination, and of justification by faith alone, are mere human inventions.-8. That there is an intermediate state for departed souls, which is called the world of spirits ; and that very few pass directly to heaven
This is a state of purification to the good; but to bad spirits it is a state of separation of all the extraneous good from the radical evil which constitutes the essence of their natures.-9. That throughout heaven, such as are of like dispositions and qualities, are consociated into particular fellowships, and such as differ in these respects are separated : so that every society in heaven consits of similar members.--10. That the material body never rises again : but that man, immediately on his decease, rises again in his spiritual body, which was enclosed in his material body;
and that in this spiritual body he lives as a man to eternity, either in heaven or in hell, according to the quality of his past life.-11. That angels and devils were not originally a distinct order of beings; but the souls of good and bad men, who are rewarded, or punished, according as they have demeaned themselves in the present state.-12. That those passages of scripture, generally supposed to signify the destruction of the world by fire, commonly called the last judgment, must be understood according to the above-mentioned science of correspondences, which teaches, that by the end of the world is not meant the destruction of it, but the consummation of the present Christian church, both among Roman Catholics aud Protestants of every description, and that this last judgment took place in the spiritual world, in 1757, the æra of the establishment of the new church described in the Revelation. These are some of the distinguishing sentiments of Baron Swedenborg, founded on the spiritual sense of the word of God, which he declared was revealed to him immediately from the Lord out of heaven. As bis language is peculiar, his reasoning cannot be abridged so as to be rendered intelligible to the generality of readers. Those who are desirous of further information, are referred to his numerous and singular productions. (D)
(D) The principal Works of Baron Swedenborg, written originally in Latin, are the following. 1. Arcana Cælestia, or Heavenly Mysteries, contained in the sacred Scriptures; being the Explanation of the Books of Genesis and Exodus.-2. A Treatise on Heaven and Hell; or, an Account of the wonderful Things therein heard and seen.-3. Of the New Jerusalem and its heavenly Doctrine.—4. Of the Last Judgment, and the Destruction of Babylon, which took place in the Spiritual World in the Year 1757.-5. Of the White Horse mentioned in the Apocalypse.-6. Of the Earths and Planets in the Universe, and of their Inhabitants.-7. The Delights of Wisdom, on the Subject of conjugal Love, and the pleasures of Insanity concerning scortatory Love.--8. Angelic Wisdom, concerning divine Love and divine Wisdom.-9. The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord; concerning the sacred Scriptures ; concerning Faith.-10. The Doctrine of Lite for the New Jerusalem.--11. Continuation of the Subject of the Last VOL. II.