Part II. CONCERNING THE WORD OF GOD.
THE BOOK OPENED.
The Bible, the Sacred Scripture, or the Word of God, is generally acknowledged in the Christian Church to be Holy and Divine, the infallible canon and foundation of all true faith, of all genuine religion.
Yet when asked wherein the holiness and perfection of the Word resides, Christians can point to it only as being the general evidence of God’s Love and Wisdom, but are utterly unable to come to a common agreement in regard to the sense and understanding of the Scriptures; they cannot offer any rational explanation of the many apparent contradictions and obscurities occurring in the text; they have no power to show the harmony between the Word of God and the principles of human reason and science, and hence they stand helpless against the ever-increasing attacks of skepticism and infidelity.
“For the Lord hath poured out upon them the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed their eyes, and the vision of all is become unto them as the words of a hook that is sealed, which a man delivereth to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee, and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed.” (Isa. 29: 10, 11)
But now, in the light of the New Jerusalem,
“The deaf shall hear the words of that Book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness,” (Is. 29; 18.)
For now is the time of the Second Advent of the Lord, the time of which He spoke, when He told the disciples:
“These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs but the time cometh when I will not speak in proverbs, but shall show you plainly of the Father.” (John 16: 25.)
And now is fulfilled the promise implied in the words:
“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now ” (John 16: 12)
This Advent of the Lord has taken place in the revelation of the spiritual or internal sense of the Word, which is concealed within the literal or earthly sense, as the soul is hidden within the body, as the sweet and nutritive kernel is hidden within the stony shell. This revelation of the internal sense of the Word is contained in the theological writings of the servant of the Lord, Emanuel Swedenborg.
THE INTERNAL SENSE.
That there is a deeper, internal sense or understanding of the Sacred Scripture is evident from this simple truth that the Word of God is spiritual and Divine, and hence of infinite and eternal application. But the Letter, or the surface sense of the Word, treats mostly of finite and temporal things; it deals to a very great extent with the history of the earth and of men and nations; spiritual principles appear only here and there. It is evident, therefore, that there must be a spirit, an interior sense, a more genuine understanding concealed beneath the surface of the Letter.
Is not this self-evident from the teachings of the Letter itself?
“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” (John 6: 63.)
“If I have told you of earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3: 12 )
“Onto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others in parables: that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.(Luke 8: 10.)
“And all these things spake Jesus unto the multitude m parables. And without a parable spake He not unto them, That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, I will open my month in parables: I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Mark 13; 34.)
“Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24: 45.)
Equally clear are these teachings of the Apostles:
“The Letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.” (2 Cor, 3:6.)
“It is the spirit that beareth witness, because the spirit is truth,” (John 5: 6.)
“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” (Rom. 7: 14.)
“The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2: 14.)
“Which things are an allegory,” [i.e., the history of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Ishmael.] (1 Gal. 4 , 24,)
“The priests that offer gifts according to the law serve unto the shadow and example of heavenly things, as the pattern of the things in Heaven,” (Heb. 8: 5)
As the soul and spirit of man is not confined to the brain of man alone, but fills the whole body and animates every fibre and atom, so does the internal sense fill the literal sense, not only in general, but in every particular sentence and word. In the original Hebrew the syllables and the single letters and even the curves and horns of each letter are pregnant with an interior significative meaning, representing and corresponding to spiritual and Divine things. Hence it is said:
“Until Heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall not pass from the Law, until all be fulfilled.”(Matt. 5: 18)
THE WORD IN THE HEAVENS.
The Word of God is the light of life, not only for the men of this world, but also for the countless host of angels in the Heavens, For we read:
“Forever, O Lord, thy word is established in the Heavens.” (Ps. 119:89)
The Word in the Heavens, which the angels read, is the spiritual sense, which is contained within our Scriptures, for these, as a whole and in every particular, “serve as the shadow and example of heavenly things, the pattern of the things in Heaven.” What we understand naturally, when reading of Jerusalem. Israel and the Jewish people, the angels understand spiritually, as treating of the Lord’s spiritual kingdom, and the spiritual life of man. When we think of Joseph and David as men on earth, the angels think of the heavenly Joseph and of the almighty King whom David foreshadowed. And thus in every case.
And as there are three heavens, one above the other, so there are three degrees of the internal sense of the Word, one within and more wonderful than the other.
The sense which is nearest to the Letter is called the internal historical sense, and treats in general of the spiritual quality and history of the nations that are mentioned in the Letter.
Within this sense is the spiritual or internal sense itself, which treats of the establishment of the Lord’s Church in the individual man. It is the continuous history of the reformation and regeneration of the individual by means of the birth and development within him of charity and faith.
And inmostly within this spiritual sense there is the third or highest sense, called the celestial, which treats of the Lord alone, His Love and Wisdom and Power, His incarnation, temptations and victories; the glorification of His human, and His work of Redemption and Salvation.
This, then, is what is typified by the ladder which Jacob in his dream saw standing on the earth, its top reaching unto Heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. By means of these degrees of Truth in the Word, more and more internal, as they are gradually opened to his understanding, man will be able to approach nearer and nearer to his God and Lord, who stands inmostly in the Divine glory of His Word. For inmostly and supremely the Word no longer treats of the Lord, but is the Lord Himself.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)
CORRESPONDENCES AND REPRESENTATIVES
In order to contain all these infinite things within a finite and comprehensible compass, the Word of God is written throughout in parables, allegories and symbols, or, to speak more correctly, in significatives, correspondences and representatives.
Correspondence is the harmony in quality and use of an external thing with an internal thing; it is the answer or agreement of the one with the other. Thus the eye corresponds to intelligence, for it performs the same use to the body as the intelligence to the mind. On the same ground there is a correspondence between the heart and the will or love of man, between the hand, and spiritual power, between the sense of taste and spiritual judgment or discernment, etc. And so, in the world about us, light corresponds to truth from the heavenly Sun; heat to the life of good received from the same source; the earth to the Church on the earth; mountains to sublime states of love and nearness to God; valleys to the lower states of selfish and worldly loves.
In this manner, through the universal law of correspondence, the whole created Universe may be seen as the external image and likeness of the microcosm or little world, which exists within ourselves.
Representation, however, is a somewhat different relation from correspondence. The latter is based on interior agreement in actual quality, but representation is based on the more external similarity of form and temporary use, irrespective of the real quality. Thus a lion, a mighty but an evil beast, represents, but does not correspond to the Divine omnipotence of the Lord, who is called “the lion of Judah.” Similarly all kings and priests mentioned in the Scripture represent the Lord, or bring back to the mind the idea of His Royalty and Highpriesthood, and this on account of their office itself, no matter whether these kings and priests were good men or evil.
It is in such correspondences and representatives that the Word of God is written, and this not only in spots, or in certain parables, but throughout, in every sentence and word, from beginning to end. The whole system is unfolded in the writings of Swedenborg, with a consistency miraculous, superhuman and all-convincing.
No human composition can be similar. The nations of the ancient world, the Egyptians and Assyrians, for instance, did indeed have a knowledge of this long-lost science of correspondences, and embodied it in their hieroglyphics They wrote all their books in a symbolic sense. Solomon did the same in his Song of Songs, but in these ancient boots the correspondences are detached and scattered, and not continuous as in the sacred codes which were written by the direct inspiration and dictation of the Lord Himself.
The presence or absence of this continuous internal sense determines which of the books, at present included in the Bible, are truly the Word of God, and which are not. According to this test, we learn from the Writings of the New Church that the following books were written by Divine inspiration, and consequently belong to the genuine canon:
The five books of Moses, the Judges, Joshua, the two books of Samuel, the two books of the Kings, the Psalms and all the Prophets, the four Gospels and the Revelation of John. The rest are all good and useful books of doctrine for the Church, but are of human origin, and are not to be mistaken for the Word of God,
Does this internal sense, then, dissolve the Law and the Prophets? Nay, but it establishes them, It explains and dissolves all the “clouds” of apparent contradictions and obscurities in the Letter, reconciles science and morality with true Religion, and restores and confirms the faith of man in the absolute holiness, infallible authority and complete Divinity of the Word of God even in its most ultimate, literal sense.
For this Letter, according to the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, is the “Basis, Continent and Firmament of the spiritual and celestial senses, and in it alone is the Divine Truth in its fulness, its holiness and its power”
Why, then, was the Word written in this manner? In order that the Divine Truth might be accommodated to the understanding and capacity of all classes and conditions of men, to the simple and ignorant as well as to the wise and learned; to men on earth as well as to the angels of Heaven. Otherwise it could not be the lamp of doctrine and the light of life to all men.
ALL DIVINE TRUTH IS THE WORD OF GOD.
Since the Word of God is nothing but the Divine Truth, it follows that all Divine Truth, in any inspired Revelation, is also the Word of God, holy, Divine and infallible.
The Divine Truth, which was “written upon the hearts” of the most ancient men, when they were still in Paradise, was the Word of God.
The Divine Truth, which was revealed to the men of the subsequent age, and which was written in books that are now lost or hidden,—as in the “Book of Jasher” (Josh. 10: 13), the “Wars of Jehovah” (Num. 21: 14), and the “Prophetical Annunciations” (Num. 21; 27-30),—was the Word of God.
The Divine Truth, which was revealed in the Hebrew books of the Old Testament, and the Greek of the New Testament, is the Word of God.
And the Divine Truth, now revealed to the Church of the New Jerusalem, and written in Latin by Emanuel Swedenborg,— not by means of verbal dictate but by rational inspiration,—is the Word of God, the unfolding and the crown of all preceding Revelations.
For further teachings on this subject see the “Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Sacred Scriptures,” by Emanuel Swedenborg.
The continuous internal sense of the books of Genesis and Exodus has been explained by Swedenborg in the great work, the “Arcana Caelestia, or Heavenly Mysteries which are in the Word of the Lord,” and the internal sense of the Revelation of John in the “Apocalypse Revealed” and the “Apocalypse Explained,” by the same author.