science does it in validate religion
THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE
|<< THE FIRST AND SECOND DEATH. >>
“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of those that
THERE is no subject, it would seem, which would interest man so much as that great change in his existence which is called death, and yet there are few questions concerning which so little is known and so many errors prevail. The most common opinions concerning it are that it is a mystery, a terror and an agony ; that it was sent upon man as a punishment for disobedience, and that it is a standing monument of the Divine displeasure. Consequently, men almost universally shrink from it with horror, and to many it is the one dark cloud and terrible dread of life. Poets and orators and Christian teachers hold it up as the most awful calamity, and it is the severest punishment known to human laws. But much of the mystery and terror that invests it is due to entire misconceptions of its origin and nature, and these misconceptions seem to have their origin in confounding the two deaths and attributing to one the qualities that belong to the other. Men have attributed to natural death the pains and sufferings that belong only to spiritual death. Indeed, most men overlook the second death entirely, and, if they think of the subject at all, think only of natural death.
A careful examination of the Sacred Scriptures and enlightened reason will show us that natural death, by which we understand the separation of the soul from the body, was not sent upon man as a punishment for sin, but is an orderly step in the progress of his life. It was not this- death that came into the world by sin. If man had never sinned he would still have cast off his material body and passed on into the spiritual world.
We need go no further than the first intimations of death which we have in the Sacred Scriptures to learn that it was not natural death that came by sin. The warning given to Adam and Eve was, ‘* In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. ii. 17.) But they did not die a natural death in that day. Either that was not the death referred to, therefore, or the warning was a false one. And this we cannot for a moment suppose. So when Moses said to the Israelites,” See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil” (Deut. xxx. 15), he cannot mean natural life and death, for if they had obeyed every one of his commandments they would not have lived forever in this world. The Lord also commanded Jeremiah to say to the Jews, “Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.” (Jer. xxi. 8.) In the Psalms also it is said, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death.” (Ps. Ivi. 13 ; cxvi. 8.)
The apostles also often speak of death in this sense. But what our Lord said to Martha is conclusive upon the subject, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John xi. 26.) By this He could not mean natural death, for multitudes which no man can number have lived and believed in Him, and their bodies have returned to the dust from which they were formed. When the apostle says that death came by sin, and that death has passed upon all, for that all have sinned (Rom. v. 12), he evidently means the death of the soul. There is no evidence in the Bible that natural death was caused by sin. It is a mere human inference. It is no doubt true that much of the sickness and pain that generally precedes and attends our departure from this world is more or less remotely caused by sin, because evil desires and false principles lead to the violation of physical laws, to intemperance in eating and drinking, to anxieties and excitements and disorders of life. The average duration of human life in this world has without doubt also been much shortened by evil, for we know that the average duration of life increases as civilization advances and men become more observant of the laws of life. But there is no evidence that man would live forever in this world even if he lived a perfect life. Immortality in this world is certainly not taught in the Bible, and there are many rational considerations and inferences from the Sacred Scriptures that show conclusively that it is not according to the purposes of the Divine wisdom that man should live here forever.
So far as our knowledge extends, the existence of every living thing organized of matter is limited. It has laws of birth, growth, and decay. There is no exception. Every plant in the vegetable kingdom, for example, attains its growth and does not pass beyond a certain limit. It may remain stationary there for years, for centuries, and yet the moment it stands still it begins to decline, and eventually it will fall and perish. The same is true of the animal kingdom. There are no exceptions to the law. Now, it is worthy of notice that animals and vegetables have not sinned ; they live according to the true order of their creation. Man, as to his physical nature, is an animal, and the laws of his generation, development, and life are the same. There have been, and no doubt are still, multitudes of human beings who have lived in perfect health. And yet they grow old and die. Nor do they die of any disease ; when the body has done its work it shrivels and falls from the soul as the husk from the corn.
But again, so far as human observation extends, the development of organized beings and things proceeds by distinct steps, the prior acting as an instrument for the creation of the succeeding, and being left behind it in the ascent. In the vegetable kingdom, when the germ expands, the outer covering which contained it is thrown aside ; the blossom fades and perishes when the fruit is born and begins a distinct existence ; and again, the husk and chaff and rough covering which have served as a body and vessel and protection for the fine, fluent substances of the seed during its formation wither and die when the seed is ripe. The same order and method prevails in the animal kingdom. This is beautifully exemplified in insects. There are three distinct steps in insect life. A caterpillar is hatched from an egg then it becomes a chrysalis enclosed in a hard covering, and apparently almost lifeless, and then a moth or butterfly. During these metamorphoses, or changes of form, it never goes back and resumes its former state. The moth does not become a worm and the worm an egg. But it continually advances until it completes the cycle of its life, preparation being made in each state for the succeeding one.
Have these analogies and this method of the Divine wisdom, which is universal so far as we know, no significance ? So far as our observation extends, we find creation and life proceeding according to the same order and method in man as in all other creatures. Can we suppose that the order is reversed the moment we reach the limits of our own observation ? Man is a spiritual being. He has a spiritual body, for the apostle Paul declares, ” There is a spiritual body. ” Man has a nature of a degree distinctly higher than the animal, than any other created being. And is it not according to all the analogies of the Divine method of creating that man should attain his highest state by successive changes of state? continually throwing off and leaving behind those materials and instruments which have been used as means for its attainment ? If there is any force in reasoning from universal methods, I do not see how we can come to any other conclusion than that natural death is a step forward in life, if man has a distinctly spiritual nature, a spiritual body.
But if the laws of analogy did not point with sure indications to the great truth that natural death is only a step forward in life, we might infer it from the infinite nature of the Divine love and wisdom. Suppose it had been the original intention of the Creator that man should live immortal upon this earth, there must soon have been a limit to the number of human beings He could create ; for while man lives upon the earth clothed in a material body he must be fed with products from the earth, and even in the most perfect order of things the limits of its power to sustain human life must be reached ; and when that hmit is reached the whole order and nature of man must be changed. Society must to a great extent become stationary. No new elements could be constantly added to it ; no new varieties of character be constantly adding to its perfection. Conceive for a moment the earth to be crowded with a population to the full extent of its capacity to support life, and the same beings to dwell upon it forever, with no infancy, no childhood, no old age, nothing to call forth our sympathy, nothing to awaken fresh and lively hopes,—would not such a state be more like the dead level of a stagnant pool than the running stream of an ever-varying life? Would not some of the elements which seem most important and even essential to human happiness be wanting ? But suppose the earth to be filled with happy people. Could the comparatively few human beings the earth could sustain satisfy the infinite love of the Lord?
There is something of the infinite even in the material world. We see it in the variety which everywhere exists ; no two things or beings are alike. We see it in the tendency of every plant and animal to reproduction and multiplication. Can we for a moment suppose that man, who stands at the head of the Creator’s works, should be the only exception to this law? that while plants and animals are produced in endless variety in a circle of successive generations, man, who was created in the image and likeness of God, should soon reach the limit of his numbers, and beyond that limit could know no increase through the coming eternity ? How much grander the idea, and worthier of infinite love, and more in accordance with all we know of the Divine methods, that an endless succession of generations should be born upon the earth and transplanted into the heavens ! Thus human life upon the earth, instead of being the completed work of the Lord, is only its beginning. Earth is the nursery and seminary of heaven, where human souls capable of receiving the Divine life and reciprocating the Divine love, capable of loving and being loved, can be born with endless variety and number.
But again, if man was born to live forever in this world, what becomes of all the promised blessedness of heaven ? Are we not taught in the Sacred Scriptures, both by positive precept and inevitable inference, that heaven is a better and more perfect world than this? What becomes of the happiness which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived? Is heaven, the abode of the angels and the Lord, a mere refuge from this world? and does its principal excellence consist in the contrasts it furnishes to this life ? Would there have been no mansions in heaven for us if there had been no sin upon earth ? Would there have been no songs of joy there by human voices if there had been no wail of sorrow here ? Even upon the supposition that the angels are a race of beings distinct from men, would heaven be as perfect, would the angels be as happy in their bright abodes, without a constant accession of human beings from the earth to instruct and love ? If you insist that man was born to be immortal in this world, but that the happiness of heaven exceeds anything possible to this life, as the prevalent theology does, you admit that man has been a gainer by sin ; he has escaped from a world of material limitations and imperfections and gained entrance to one where all the conditions of his existence are perfect, where he can associate with angelic beings and enjoy a fulness and perfection of happiness impossible to this. If you admit that heaven would not be as perfect without a continual influx of life from this world, you admit that both angels and men are gainers by natural death.
Whatever view we take of the subject, then, I see but one escape from the inevitable conclusion that natural death has in itself no real terrors ; that it is an orderly step in man’s successive creation, and a part of the great original purpose of the Divine love and wisdom, according to which there is to be an endless succession of human souls created upon the earth, who, after passing through various stages here, are to find their final home in the spiritual world. I say I see but one escape from this conclusion, and that is in the admission that the spiritual world is not so real and perfect a world as this. And that admission involves so many and great absurdities, such an entire inversion of all the methods of the Divine order ; is so contrary to the whole tenor of the Word and subversive of the precious promises and immortal hopes it holds out to us, that it seems Impossible that any rational mind could entertain it for a moment. If the spiritual world is not the vain dream of an idle fancy ; if the Lord and the angels and the promises of heavenly blessedness are not fallacious hopes, then that change in our organization, that disrobing of the spirit by its resurrection from the material body, that escape from the imprisonment and bonds of the flesh, which men call death, has no real terror, and, instead of shrinking from it with horror, we ought to welcome it as our deliverer from bondage, as an introduction into life.
And without doubt we should regard death in this light if we had not invested it with terrors which belong to an entirely different subject, and lost air true idea of the nature and reality of the world to which it introduces us. Before man had so far receded from that world by a life of evil as almost to forget its existence, death had no terrors. It was the gate of entrance into a new life. He lay down to sleep with the delightful hope and perfect confidence that he would wake in a new world. Death was going home ; it was the conscious entrance into a higher state of being. It was the happy reunion with loved ones who had gone before. It was a step which brought him nearer to the Fountain of all life and the Author of all human blessedness. How could it be regarded with fear? How could the soul shrink from it with horror ? Suppose the chrysalis, imprisoned in that hard covering we may call its body, buried in the earth and limited to a bare existence, could have a perception of the change that is soon to take place in its state. It is soon to burst the gates of its present life and emerge into a new world of light and beauty. Instead of being buried in the dark earth, it is to soar aloft through the air, to bask in the light and warmth of the summer sun, to sport in joyous flights in happy bands, to feed upon the honeyed dews and the distilled sweets of flowers.
Do you think it would look forward to such a change with dread ? But the change from the chrysalis almost devoid of life, shut up in the dark, to the gay and beautiful insect is not so great as the change that takes place in man in his resurrection from the material body. This change, then, which men call death, this putting off of the material body, is not, cannot be, an interruption of the Divine plan, a thwarting of the Divine purposes of good towards His human children. It must be the fulfilment of those purposes. All Scripture properly understood, all right reason, teaches us that it must be so. To deny it is to plunge into inexplicable absurdities. But there is a death which we ought to fear, and from which we shall do well to shrink with horror, and that is spiritual death, sometimes called the “second death.” This death does not consist in a cessation of existence, nor in the departure from this world to the spiritual world, but in the inversion and destruction of the true order of man’s nature.
Man is said to be alive, in the Word, when he receives life from the Lord according to the original order and constitution of his nature. The Jews were promised life if they would obey the laws of the Lord. The whole Word is full of the same promises. ” If thou wilt enter into life,” said our Saviour, ”keep the commandments.” He came that men might have life. This was spiritual and not natural life. And the reason why life is promised on the condition of keeping the commandments, and often as a reward for keeping them, is because the commandments are the laws of life. The rewards are not arbitrarily given, but follow as a consequence, as the physician may promise health on the condition of our obeying the laws of physical life.
Man was created by infinite wisdom according to a certain order. By observing this order he would attain his life, a life ever increasing in fulness and degree. Any deviation from that order would be attended with some loss of life. It would prevent man from receiving life from the Lord in its fulness and perfection. The moment man violated a law of his spiritual nature he suffered some loss of spiritual capacity. Man began to die. This was the warning the Lord gave Adam and Eve, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” And the warning was not an idle one. They did die in the day, not the natural day of twenty-four hours, but in the state and according to the degree that they ate of the forbidden fruit, which was evil. And this is a universal law in all orders and degrees of the creation. When the laws of vegetable life are broken, the plant begins to die. When the laws of animal life, of man’s physical life, are violated, the animal and the body begin to die. Death follows as an inevitable consequence. It is not arbitrarily inflicted. As the soul is immortal, spiritual death is not the cessation of existence, but the loss of the soul’s ability to receive life from the Lord in true order. The substances which compose the soul cannot be dissipated as the material elements which compose plants, animals, and the material body can. Man as a spiritual being must continue to exist, but in a state of spiritual death.
There are two principal characteristics of this death worthy of our notice. First, it is a loss of life. Man was created by the Lord with the power of perpetual and indefinite advancement in his capacity to know and love and be happy. The more we learn, the more we are capable of learning. The more we love, the more we are capable of loving. The more we enjoy, the more we are capable of enjoying. So that the feeblest child upon the earth may ultimately pass beyond the present state of the highest angel. But spiritual death arrests this development. It closes up the higher degrees of man’s mind against Divine influences, and shuts out the light and life of heaven. His whole nature becomes stunted and dwarfed. He stops in the grand and endless career of life at the beginning, and loses all the glory and blessedness of the eternal future. And no finite mind can estimate that loss. Men are often inconsolable at the loss of property or office, on account of hinderance in some earthly career, but that is a mere nothing compared with his loss who dies at the beginning of life. How sad it is to see a blind child ! By the death of his eyes how much he has lost ! He must wander in darkness through the earth, comparatively helpless, for ten, twenty, fifty years, unconscious of its beauty of form and color, of the significance of expressive faces and gestures, of the changing glories of the seasons, of day and night, and the ever-shifting play of things by which the web of human life is woven. How great, how irreparable, how sad the loss ! And yet what is that compared with the loss of one’s spiritual sight? Nothing,—absolutely nothing ! One is the loss for a few years of the sight of earthly things, the other the loss to eternity of the inexpressible beauty and glory of heaven. This is but one of the senses.
Suppose you had held in your hand the first grain of wheat that was created. You planted it, and in time it just pushed its head above the ground, and there its progress is arrested. It remains a green blade, but becomes nothing more. What a loss to humanity ! Thousands of millions of acres, waving with golden harvests, the staff of life for thousands of generations, broken. It surpasses the power of the finite mind to conceive the loss to humanity, and yet that is nothing compared with what every soul will lose whose progress is arrested in the first beginning of life by spiritual death. ” What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?”
You observe that I say nothing so far about pain and punishment, but speak merely of loss of attainment, of what man does not gain, of the endless and only less than infinite blessings the Lord intended for him which he fails to receive. And if he were to stop there, like the grain of wheat arrested in its growth, and suffer no pain, suffer nothing but the loss, can you conceive anything more terrible ? What a blasting of hopes ! What bankruptcy ! What eternal ruin ! Who would not fear a death which closes the gates of such hopes against us and bars us from the possession of such endless and ineffable joys ? But this is not all. By that inversion of life which we call spiritual death the soul comes into such a state of disorder and discord with the Fountain of life and with all outward things that it is filled with perpetual pain. It is not my purpose to describe the woes and agonies of the second death. We all know something of what they are, for there is not a sorrow or pain that afflicts human hearts that is not the effect of the second death. Count up your own sorrows, the pain from blasted hopes, the pangs of regret, the stings of remorse, the chafings from conflicting interests, the smarts of jealousy and shame, and the great shadow of fear that lies like a cloud upon all hearts ; measure the sum of human suffering in the hearts around you, and they will declare the awful consequences of this death in a language more forcible and eloquent than the painter’s colors or the writer’s words. Add to these, if you can, the future consequences of this death, the night that has no hope of a coming morning, the cup of misery that can never be drained, the feverish and tormenting desires that can never be appeased. Is there not reason in the Divine words, ” And I say unto you, my friends. Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say unto you. Fear him” !
Is there not every reason to fear this death ? Human language is totally inadequate to express its horrors. Human imagination cannot adequately conceive its awful terrors. You may fear it ; you ought to fear it; teach your children to fear it ; warn your friends and neighbors to fear it. It is the most terrible thing in the universe. And yet men do not fear it. They play and dance with it ; they crown it with roses, and sink willingly into its embrace. Gentle and timid women, who would scream at a harmless insect and fall into a swoon at the sight of blood, will gayly and boldly toy with death ; will greet it with gay laughter and song, and cherish it with its hideous deformities and the sting of its endless pain in the secret shrine of their hearts. And men who call themselves ruined if they lose money, who are ashamed of goodness and have not sufficient courage to say, I have done wrong, are bold enough to do the wrong.
I know of no illusion of evil so cunning and destructive to human souls as that which conceals the horrors of real death with deceptive and vain delights, and invests a mere step in life with all the horrors of death. How we mourn when a beloved one is translated ! We look at the body which is cast off, and our eyes are blinded with tears. But who weeps over the dead souls that fill our houses and throng our streets ? The stir and bustle and noisy activity that everywhere meet the eye and fall upon the ear are not the sounds of life. The shout and song that come from festive halls are not the sounds of living souls, but too often the wild, mad revelry of death. And the earth, this beautiful and glorious earth, created to be the birthplace of immortal souls and the sweet cradle of infancy, the nursery of heaven, has become a vast sepulchre, a dwelling for the dead, a grave in which human souls are buried.
We die spiritually before we do naturally. The death of the body only lifts the veil and reveals to us in clear light the death of the soul that already exists, and permits us to pass on to its full consequences. When the body has performed its use, it fades like the blossom, it withers and falls like the husk, and reveals the life or death that exists within. It does not cause it ; it does not add to it or subtract from it, any more than the removal of the chaff adds to or subtracts from the wheat. Let us not, then, confound these two things so entirely distinct and different, and live in constant dread of that death which is but an orderly step in life and a provision of infinite mercy, while we forget the real danger of our souls.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895
OTHER SITES WHERE YOU CAN READ/SEARCH SWEDENBORG
The title for this blog site is “Love is the Ultimate Science.” This may seem anti-intuitive to a culture that believes enlightenment is an intellectual pursuit whereby an individual seeks out and fills his or her memory banks with increasing bits of knowledge and data.
But let us explore this pursuit more deeply.
The search for knowledge starts as basic human curiosity in childhood. But this inborn curiosity is driven by one’s affection (love) to know things. According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, it is affection that draws information from the external world and into the mind.
Humans do this better than any other species on earth. In fact, this is the evolutionary niche that the human species has carved out for itself. Whereas other animal species graze or hunt for food, humans graze and hunt for knowledge. Humans even metabolize information.
This metabolism of information becomes operative when the love of knowing is dialed up into a love of understanding what we know. Information just doesn’t sit in our memory like undigested food in our stomachs—it can be broken down and reconstituted into more abstract and creative ideas.
If we seek further enlightenment, this will be activated by a love of reasoning about what we understand. This cognitive process is no longer satisfied with mere information or even imaginative creativity, but with the discernment of truth.
The discernment of truth and reasoning can then be upgraded to the cognitive function of wisdom when we use truth to reveal the essence of goodness. Wisdom is the love of doing what is good.
The cognitive functions of memory information (knowing), understanding what we know, reasoning about what we understand, and wisdom or the cognition of goodness from the things we hold as truth, are all activated by a distinct quality of love. Love focuses our attention and organizes the information in our minds into real coherent structure. This mental structure is our worldview and belief system (including our faith).
That is why the Lord God’s two greatest commandments deal with the issue of love and goodness. True religion takes account of the lawful steps, science and process of the human mind acquiring true enlightenment—a process that seeks goodness and empathy as its ultimate goal.
THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE
“Strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.”—Psalm xcvi. 6.
STRENGTH and beauty are the two essential elements of a noble manhood and of a beautiful womanhood. They are combined in man and woman in different proportions. Man has more of strength, woman more of beauty. But all true manhood has its beauty, and all genuine womanhood its strength. Rough, naked strength has no comeliness, and weakness no beauty. But combined in due proportion and modified by each other, they become the charm of character and the cause of that attraction which draws human beings together and makes them a delight to each other.
These two primary qualities of all human excellence, strength and beauty, are in the Lord’s sanctuary. His sanctuary is in man’s will and understanding, and derivatively in his affections and thoughts. The will and the understanding are the grand temple in which the Lord dwells ; the affections and thoughts the chapels of various form and use in which the precious gifts of strength and beauty are received from Him and appropriated by man. When the sanctuary is pure, free from evil lusts and false principles, life from the Lord is received in its own perfect forms, in all its purity, sweetness, and harmony, and then it becomes ”the beauty of holiness,” in which we are to praise and worship the Lord. This beauty of holiness becomes “the dew of youth,” an influence which gives the freshness, the innocence, and the beauty of youth to all the faculties of the mind, and to the forms of that body which we are to inhabit forever. Zion, which is called by the Lord Himself ” the perfection of beauty, ” represents in general the same principles in man as “sanctuary.” Zion is man’s heart, Jerusalem his understanding ; and it is this Zion, the perfection of beauty, which the Lord exhorts to awake, to shake herself from the dust, and to put on her beautiful garments. Here, then, we have the source of human beauty revealed to us, and the way of access to it pointed out. Its well-spring is in the heart, in the affections. It takes on its forms and colors in the understanding, and comes out in substantial reality in bodily forms and actions. Beauty in its highest qualities is represented as attainable, and we are exhorted to make it our own, to put it on as a garment, to pray that ” the beauty of the Lord our God” may be upon us.
The beauty of the Lord, the supreme and infinite type of all beauty, has its origin in His Divine love, and its form and qualities in the Divine wisdom. Man was created in the image and likeness of God. He was made to be a sharer of the supreme beauty. The Lord is in the constant effort to endow us with this beauty, and we are clothed with it in the degree that we become partakers of those Divine qualities which are the essence and cause of beauty.
Regard beauty, of which we propose to speak at the present time, in any sense you please, in its lowest and most sensuous, or its highest and most interior qualities ; beauty of form, or color, or motion,—in all cases it is the expression of some affection or interior grace. All beauty is spiritual in its origin. The beauty of a material object consists in its meaning, in what it says to us of something more excellent than itself. The beauty of a flower, of a tree, of a winding stream, or of a landscape consists in what it suggests to us of something higher than itself, because it is the form of that higher quality. The beauty of the material world is an effect which expresses the excellence of its spiritual cause.
This must be so from the very nature of the relation between cause and effect. Every cause seeks to reproduce and express itself, in all its qualities, in lower forms. Innocence, purity, and loveliness of character must tend to express themselves in lovely forms. When we reflect that the material universe is the embodiment of the Divine love and wisdom in material substances, we can see why it is that there is so much beauty in the world. Every material object and living thing has a beauty of some kind. Even the weeds that cumber the fields, the thorn and the thistle, which men regard as a curse for sin, the insect which stings and poisons us, the degraded reptile, and the wild beast which tears and devours, have some beauty of form or structure or color or motion. Perverted forms as they are of the Divine loveliness, they still bear some trace of its impress.
If we find traces of the beauty of the Lord in the lowest things, we may expect to find it more fully embodied in the highest, and our expectations will not be disappointed. We shall find it in its perfection in the human face and form. Here also we can see how the outward beauty is the effect and expression of inward and spiritual beauty. This would follow as a necessary result from the fact that the material body is cast into the mould of the spirit. The spirit has fashioned it. The spirit is the potter, and the body is clay in its hands, which it is constantly acting upon to mould into its own likeness. This is true of the material body in the first years of our existence, and of the spiritual body in every stage of our being. There are, in general, two kinds of human beauty : beauty in its essence or cause, and beauty in its expression. All beauty has its origin in love and its expression in truth. A pure and innocent affection in the will, united with genuine truth in the understanding, cannot fail of producing beautiful effects.
We must not forget that love and truth are not abstractions. They are the most potent forces that act upon the spiritual or the material body. We are penetrated by them ; we live and move and have our being in them. The material body is constantly subject to their action, has its life from them. There is a force constantly present in water, and in all matter, which forms it into spheres when the matter assumes a fluid state and is left free to move. So there is in the very nature and activities of the Divine love and the Divine truth, from which we receive all our life, a tendency to the human form and an active influence to make that form as noble and beautiful as possible. Thus those very forces and principles which are the essence and cause of all beauty are constantly acting upon us to make our faces and forms and motions the complete correspondents and embodiments of their nature. Thus the Divine forces which give us life tend to mould us into every form of beauty, in thesame way and according to the same immutable law by which the Divine forces in nature tend to make material forms beautiful. All that we have to do to become more and more beautiful is to co-operate with these forces, to let them have free play through us, and to supply them with the right kind of materials for their workmanship. The first thing we are to do is to exercise pure, innocent, heavenly affections. Without this it is impossible to become more beautiful than we are, or to retain what we may have received from hereditary influences. The beauty of youth, of mere surface and complexion, will fade like a flower. There must be some inherent, vital, and unfailing source which supplies natural wastes with finer and more substantial substances, and replenishes them with perennial freshness and moulds them into a lovelier beauty. The quality and degree of our beauty and nobleness of form will be determined by the quality and degree of our spiritual affections. There is no possibility of failure in this respect. They are orderly results of normal causes. Every affection you cherish leaves its impress upon you. It tends to fashion the external form into its likeness, and there is no escape from its effect. This is a truth of common observation and experience. We see it in its accumulated and large results, in the faces and forms of every man and woman we meet.
Every disposition habitually indulged forms its image in the features of the face, in the motions of the body, and in every fibre and muscle of its form. Its first effect is upon the brain, and through that upon every part of the whole organization. The face is the index of the mind, because the mind forms it and makes it the theatre on which it enacts all its passions. Every face is a history, and in its small compass are recorded the sins and sorrows, the joys and fears, the malignities, the lusts, the cunning, the ferocity, the hope and trust, the struggles with evil passions, the integrity, the innocence and peace of many generations. We can only read some of the most prominent and boldest characters. But the history, of all the influences, large and small, which have combined to form the character of your ancestry from its beginning is embodied in your own person. We talk of fleeting influences. There are no fleeting influences.
Every influence is eternal. The Lord does not write human history in fading colors and on perishable leaves. You think you can be false or cunning, that you can indulge in malignities and lusts, and no one will know it, and that you can escape all lasting eflects of it. How much, how terribly much, you are mistaken ! You cannot sulk in the corner ; you cannot indulge in an unkind thought ; you cannot say a sharp word ; you cannot indulge in a revengeful feeling ; no, you cannot think a false thought, or do an evil deed, and escape the record of its shame in the book of your own life. The Lord has made the mind self-registering. Every falsity leaves a shadow upon it, every evil a stain. I know the influence of one evil once indulged may be small ; its consequences may seem as fleeting as the act itself. But it is not so. The brutality and ferocity and stolidity and meanness, the low cunning and worldly shrewdness, the stony selfishness and cruel malignities, the pride and vanities and contempt which we see in the forms and faces of men and women are the recorded results of the indulgence of evils which were momentary and casual in their inception.
My young friends, will you not remember this when you are tempted to think falsely, to feel wickedly, or to act sinfully ? The wicked feeling has its sharp graver in its cunning hands, and while you indulge the feeling it is etching its ugly lines in your face and twisting your features into its own form. The impure thought is photographing itself upon the delicate but tenacious forms of your whole nature, and leaving its foul stains indelibly impressed upon you. If every time you told or looked a falsehood, or indulged a hate, the name of the evil should come out in distinct and black lines upon your forehead and repeat itself in ugly characters in your whole face, with what horror you would shun it ! It is so written, in very faint lines at first, it may be, but every repetition of the evil increases their distinctness. The angels can read the whole history in the hand ; they can tell the quality of the mind by the tone of the voice. According to the same law, every good affection and true thought registers itself in its own proper characters. Every heavenly affection leaves its impress upon you and, to the extent of its influence, moulds you into its own image. Every element of the noblest and purest beauty is contained in the principles of goodness and truth. As these principles are brought into act and become substantiated in the form and features, they change them into their own likeness. And they do it by imperceptible but constantly acting influences. When you think kindly of others and your heart goes out to them in desires for their good, the beauty of kindness is winning its way through the labyrinth of many organic forms, leaving its smile and its impress upon them all as it passes, until it comes out in open expression upon the face.
Some faces are like landscapes in a day of broken clouds. Sometimes the shadows lie dark and heavy upon them. When the features are in repose you can see the history of former generations which has been stereotyped upon them ; the weariness of protracted labor, shadows of disappointed hopes, and the sadness of many sorrows. But when the light of an awakened heavenly affection breaks through their parting folds the face becomes illuminated, transfigured with the glory of the inward light. You can look away into its serene deeps and see in every feature a beauty born of heavenly influences.
Patience in duty and trust in the Lord contain important elements of beauty, which they impart to the face and to the whole form. They give quietness and composure to the features and to the actions. Through the face, as through a transparent veil, you can look down into the serene depths of being, where no storms can reach, where all is stable and in repose, and see the foundations on which the natural life rests and the perennial springs from which its thoughts and affections flow. Every time you repress an impatient desire, every time you restrain an impatient word or act, every time you take up the burden of duty cheerfully, every time you meet the conflicts and the vicissitudes of life in patient confidence in the infinite goodness which makes all things work together for good for those who trust in the Lord, you make some progress in bringing your whole form into the image of that repose and quietude which impart a charm to every feature and every action.
But the supreme beauty which charms all hearts is innocence, purity. This is the charm of the beauty of infancy and childhood. It is not beauty of form ; it is not grace of motion. It is the purity and sweetness of heaven which shine through a little child. The material body is, as it were, transparent. It is like the charm of flowers, which is not so much in their forms as in their delicacy of texture and purity of color and sweetness of fragrance. They awaken the perception that they are offering up themselves for our delight.
Innocence combines all the Christian graces,—unselfishness, trust, repose, unconscious action, which is always beautiful, gentleness, devotion to others, and devout adoration of the Lord ; that worship of the heart which surrenders itself to the Divine will, to be guided by its wisdom and to be moulded into its likeness. Innocence is not weakness or ignorance. It is wisdom and power itself It is power without noise. It is the power which makes the grass grow, and planets fly through the silent spaces with ceaseless motion. It is the wisdom which uses the mightiest forces for human help and culture. It is supreme order, which is always beautiful. Feebleness is not beauty. Strength and beauty must go hand in hand, as they always do when the strength is used for beneficent purposes.
While you are in the effort to keep the great commandment of love to the Lord, and just to the extent that you keep it, you will be gaining the heavenly beauty. You open your heart to the Lord, and to the living springs of all grace and comeliness. You put yourself into His hands who has the perfect ideal of nobleness and beauty, and perfect skill to fashion every feature and form according to it. The Divine truth, which is the Holy Spirit, contains in its substance and in all its forces and forms and influence a tendency to ultimate itself in the perfection of beauty. As you open your affections to the influence of these Divine forces they will flow in and do their work. They will efface the lines of deformity which sin has engraved ; they will harmonize discordant proportions ; they will round into fulness imperfect forms ; they will reduce to order conflicting motions, and bring the whole person into unity.
Every effort you make to learn the truths which constitute the Divine wisdom, and to incorporate them into your nature, will have its effect. While you are reflecting upon them they are imbuing your understanding with their sweet and lovely spirit, softening its hardness, quickening its perceptions, harmonizing its activities. The soft and lambent light of truth is flowing down with more fulness and clearness into the eyes, and a power which attracts and makes the heart glad begins to beam forth from them. As you go on with the work and receive more largely of this informing life and beautifying spirit, it softens the hardness and smooths the roughness of the voice, and imbues it with those qualities which touch the sympathies and win the heart ; it penetrates every feature, remoulds the face after the heavenly pattern, rounds the limbs, gives nobleness and comely dignity to the whole form, and sways every motion to harmony born of an inward grace, and expressing it. As the life of the Divine love becomes fuller and purer the whole person will become the very form of heavenly love ; it will become the embodiment of Zion, the perfection of beauty.- This is no fancy. Your own observation can teach you that it is not. You know how fierce passions inflame and distort the face, and how heavenly affections fill it with a serene light and a most winning loveliness. You have seen faces that were not regular and cleanly cut in particular features, but which had an inward beauty that charmed every beholder. All that is necessary to render any form of the face fixed and permanent is to cherish the affections which express themselves in that form.
It may be replied that, if this principle is true, the good must be the most beautiful. Yet some of the worst men and women have been famous for their beauty. There is a kind of external beauty, regularity of features, symmetry of form, delicacy of complexion, which is due to inheritance and to causes not within one’s self; but if the soul is deformed with evil this superficial beauty is but a veil which ill conceals the ugliness within. Without the beauty of expression which shines forth from the soul the most that the body can attain is the lifeless beauty of the statue or the painted mask.
Again, while it is true that the material body is so intimately allied to the spiritual that it becomes changed by it, making the face the index of the mind, the physical form may respond but slowly to the changes of the spirit; so much so that a face that is outwardly fair may conceal an infernal character ; and again a plain and unattractive face may clothe a heavenly spirit. Our spiritual bodies, the bodies in which we are to live and by which we are to be identified forever, are the exact forms of our affections. They change easily, and become the perfect exponent and image of the affections we habitually cherish. The purer and more interior the affection, and the more fully it becomes united with genuine truths, the more beautiful we shall become. It is, therefore, in the power of every one to become as beautiful and noble in form as he chooses ; and the way to do it is to cultivate those heavenly affections which mould the face and limbs and every part of the body into forms corresponding to their quality. Such is the nature of the affections that there is no assignable limit to their strength and excellence, beyond which they cannot pass. You see what a prospect this holds out for our attainment in personal beauty and nobleness of form. You can see that what Swedenborg says of the beauty of the angels must be true, because it follows from causes which we see in operation here. He says their beauty surpasses the power of words to describe or of any human art to portray. Their faces are so glorious and lovely, and shine with such a heavenly light, that they penetrate the hearts of those who behold them, with enchanting power. They are the very forms of loveliness. They are purity and innocence itself. The eyes of the angels are aflame with heavenly love ; their faces are all aglow with its warmth ; their features are moulded into its nobleness and rounded into its harmonies ; its dignity is enthroned in their foreheads ; its sweetness is folded in their lips, and its gracefulness sways every motion. The voice is so modulated by heavenly affections that it is felt to be the sweetness and power of love itself speaking. The whole form is the embodiment of a benign power, and radiant with the very life of heaven.
All the faculties are in the freshness and vigor and resplendent comeliness of their spring-time ; they grow as the lily and blossom as the rose. All these elements of loveliness continue to unfold into more excellent forms. It is not the glorious beauty of a fading flower. It continues to increase ; it glows with a serener light ; it becomes the more complete and varied embodiment of a holier joy, a purer love, and a sweeter peace. Its perfections must continue to increase to eternity.
All the qualities and forms of beauty are in heavenly love, as all germs are in their seed. You have only to cherish and cultivate them, which is to exercise them in love towards the Lord and towards man. You have only to live the life of them, and you will grow into their appropriate forms, with more certainty than the seed grows into the loveliness of the lily, or the acorn into the grandeur of the oak.
Why is not this an excellence and a glory worthy of our thought and effort ? If physical beauty, which fades and perishes so soon, lay within as easy reach as heavenly beauty, which is fresh, perennial, and which will continue to increase in perfection forever, we should all strive for it ; multitudes would think no price too great to pay for it.
We are becoming forms of heavenly beauty or of infernal deformity every day. Whether we seek it or not, every affection we exercise has its influence in moulding our form ; every truth we learn enters into its composition ; every thought we think and every good deed we do is the graver’s tool which gives a new line of beauty, or the painter’s brush which adds a lovelier tint. Yes, every gentle act leaves its gentleness in the hand that performs it ; every noble deed leaves the imprint of its nobility ; every heavenly purpose carried into effect communicates its fragrance and beauty as a Divine benediction to the soul. Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895
|Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.|
A daring work that unifies Science and Theology
by challenging many of the world’s current beliefs about both
THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE
<< THE END OF THE WORLD. >>
“One generation passeth away, and another generation
Cometh : but the earth abideth for ever.”—Ecclesiastes i. 4.
THE belief that the material universe is finally to be destroyed has been and still is almost universal in the Christian Church. Some have maintained that matter will be entirely annihilated ; others, that it will only be burnt up and reduced to its simple elements, and that out of these elements new heavens and a new earth will be formed, and that the new earth will be the eternal dwelling-place of the righteous. Their bodies are to be raised up from the earth, and their souls brought back and reinstated in them. The Lord is to come down from heaven and dwell with them and be their King. All traces of sin and imperfection will be destroyed in the general conflagration, and the whole earth will become an Eden, the garden of the Lord, and all those glowing prophecies concerning the peace and happiness of the righteous will be fulfilled.
About the time when this great change is to take place there has been much difference of opinion. There can be no reasonable doubt but the apostles expected it in their day, and Christians have been looking for it and predicting it every century since. Many of us can remember the excitement caused by Millerism. Many persons were so sure that they had discovered the year and the day when the end was to come that they had their ascension robes made, and, clad in them, they assembled on the appointed day, expecting that the Lord would come in the clouds of heaven, and that they would be caught up with Him in the air while the earth and the heavens were being consumed. Learned commentators and diligent students of prophecy postponed the end to 1866. It is quite safe to say now, however, that they were mistaken in the time, if not in the event itself.
There is another important point upon which there is an equally serious conflict of opinion. Some believe that the millennium—that is, a period of a thousand years in which the Lord is to reign personally upon the earth, and righteousness and peace are to prevail universally—will take place before the world is burnt up. Others believe that the world is to be consumed first and that the millennium will take place afterwards, and among those who entertain this opinion are many of the most learned divines in all branches of the church. There is a general assent to the doctrine that the earth, if not the material universe, is to be burnt up, and either annihilated or made over into a new one.
But the doctrines of the New Church teach directly the reverse of this. They declare that this earth and all the earths in the material universe were created to be the birthplace of intelligent spiritual beings, who commence their existence in a material body, and after a time discard it and pass on into the spiritual world, where they are to dwell forever. The earths are the seminaries of the heavens. The material universe was created from the spiritual universe, and bears the same relation to it that the body does to the soul, that the husk does to the corn, or the shell to the fruit. Every human being begins his existence upon some material earth, and sooner or later passes on into the spiritual world. Thus the work of creation is continually going on. New souls are continually being created and passing on to their eternal home. Generation after generation commences existence, passes across the stage of this life and on to eternity, and, as we believe, will continue to do so forever.
I invite your attention to the grounds for this belief. The doctrine is entirely in accordance with Scripture when correctly understood. There are some passages both in the Old and the New Testament which describe remarkable changes as taking place in the earth and the heavens. The sun is said to be darkened, the moon changed into blood, the stars to fall from the heavens, the foundations of the earth to be shaken, the heavens to be rolled together as a scroll, when, in the words of Peter, ” the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat ; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up.” “The earth is utterly broken down,” cries Isaiah, “the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage ; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it.”
Now, it is simply impossible that all these particulars can be literally true. It is impossible that the stars should fall to the earth. The earth is a mere grain of sand compared with the stars. We can see that the sun might be darkened, but how impossible that the moon should be turned into blood ; or, if possible, what use could there be in it? In one place it is said that the earth shall be burned up, in another that it shall be removed like a cottage ; and again that ” every mountain and island shall be moved out of their places.” In one place it is said the nations are to be gathered together in the valley of Jehoshaphat. Sometimes this great consummation is represented as having taken place, and again as about to take place in some future time. The disciples asked the Lord, saying, ” Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?” And the Lord answered,” This generation shall not pass, till all these things befulfilled.” It is impossible to form any definite conclusion from attempts to interpret the Scripture literally. No human ingenuity, no grasp of intellectual power, can reconcile all this imagery and show its bearing upon one natural event. But, furthermore, the word translated ”world” in the phrase “the end of the world,” does not mean world in the sense of a material earth, and never did. A recent commentator says, “It is very remarkable that the word which means world in Greek is never used where what is supposed to be the end of the world is described.” The Greek word aion means an age or dispensation, or period of the church. In this sense we speak of past ages. We apply it to a special development of life and literature, as when we say the Elizabethan Age. The apostles, without any doubt, used the word aion in this sense.
Our Lord had just foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. He had just told the disciples that there should not be left one stone upon another of the temple that should not be thrown down ; and He had said, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Then they asked Him, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age,—of the Jewish Church or Dispensation ?” They supposed He was going to establish a new age or kingdom in the place of the Jewish Church. The question is, therefore, natural and pertinent. . But if they meant the earth there seems to be no reason for such a question. There was nothing in the preceding conversation to lead to such a question. If our Lord’s answer also is carefully considered it will be found to have no special application to such a question, and commentators have had the greatest difficulty in reconciling many things in it with the idea that it refers to the end of the material world. Many things apply with great pertinence to the destruction of Jerusalem, but others do not. The apostles, without doubt, found their questions answered to their satisfaction. They believed that the end would come in their day, and we find them frequently referring to it in their epistles. ” The time is short.” “The day of the Lord is at hand.” They frequently speak of being ” in the last days,” ” in the last times,” “in the ends of the age.” That they did not fully understand what the change would be in all its breadth and detail is evident from their own language.
Before our Lord’s death and resurrection they supposed the Lord came to establish a political kingdom and restore Israel to their former power and splendor. Their views became more elevated after our Lord’s ascension ; they knew that His kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, but still they did not fully comprehend its nature, and probably expected that its establishment would be attended with many signs and portents, with many civil and physical commotions. There are evidences, however, that they did not understand the terms literally which speak of commotions and destruction. At the day of Pentecost, when the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, some, mocking, said, ” These men are full of new wine.” But Peter said, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh ; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams : and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit ; and they shall prophesy : and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath ; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke : the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.” (Acts ii. 16-20.) Thus Peter expressly declares that what they saw on the day of Pentecost was the fulfilment of this prophecy, and that it was ” in the last days.” Ought not this to be a key to the interpretation of all such language when used by the apostles, especially by Peter ?
In the interpretation of Scripture, if one part of a state ment is taken literally the whole ought to be. If it is said that the moon shall be turned into blood, we must accept that as a literal fact if we do the other part of the statement. We ought to believe that the stars will fall upon the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind, if we believe the other part of the statement, that the heaven will depart as a scroll when it is rolled together, and that every mountain and island will be moved out of their places. (Rev. vi. 12-14.)
According to the same principle, if we accept a statement of Scripture as referring to a particular event in one part of the Bible, it is reasonable to accept every similar statement in every part of the Bible in the same sense. If this is done I do not hesitate to say that it is impossible to prove from the Bible that the material universe is ever to be destroyed by fire. Some fact will always be found which cannot be brought to harmonize with the others. The doctrine or theory does not explain all the facts, and, consequently, either the facts or the doctrine cannot be true.
Now let us apply the doctrine of the New Church and her method of interpreting the Scriptures to those passages which are supposed to refer to the end of the world. The doctrine is this : By the end of the world is meant the end or consummation of an age, or a complete cycle in the spiritual movements of humanity. The Jewish Church was one age, which came to an end when our Lord was upon the earth. The Christian Church was another age or distinct movement in the spiritual progress of humanity. The Jewish Church was purely natural, and the representative of a spiritual church. The Jews had no hopes or aspirations beyond this world. They believed that the Messiah was to be a temporal ruler, like David and Solomon, who was to exalt them to the pinnacle of earthly power. Jerusalem was not a heavenly but an earthly city, the capital of their own kingdom, which they expected would become the capital of the whole earth. This life and this world bounded all their hopes and fears. There may have been some men who caught glimpses of something beyond, but this pure naturalism was the essential element of the Jewish Dispensation. The Christian Dispensation took a distinct step in advance. It was a spiritual church. God was a spiritual being, and not a merely temporal king. Jerusalem was a church or a heavenly city. Righteousness did not consist in a scrupulous adherence to the ceremonial law, but in a life according to the commandments. The law reached the thoughts and intentions. But these truths the church received upon authority. The church has never had any rational knowledge of spiritual truth. All her doctrines are taught dogmatically, and are to be received by faith, as matters of belief, upon testimony.
The essential characteristic of the first Christian age has been belief in spiritual truth and obedience to it ; but truth received upon authority and not rationally understood. A church or age comes to an end when the essential principle which distinguishes it from all others ceases to be a living principle. Thus the Jewish world or age came to an end when they made the Word of God of none effect by their tradition, and when their national life and civil polity and ceremonial worship at Jerusalem ceased. The first Christian age came to an end when its love for the truth had grown cold, and its belief in the truth which constituted the church had been destroyed. This, we believe, took place about a century ago. It would not be difficult to show by the testimony of the church herself that all real belief in her doctrines had perished. You can hardly find two men now who think alike upon any of the essential doctrines of the church. Even if they use the same words, they do not attach the same idea to them ; and multitudes repeat the creed without attaching any idea to it. It is not my purpose to prove this truth, but simply to state it for illustrating what we mean in the New Church by the end of the world, or the consummation of the age. You will perceive that it is not the end of an organization, of dogmas and outward forms, but of inward life. A tree may retain its form for many years after it is dead. Wood may preserve its existence for many centuries and be applied to many useful forms after its life has come to an end. So a church may retain its outward organization and teach its dogmas for many years after it is dead. Indeed, it is the distinguishing characteristic of a dead church that it is scrupulous in paying tithes of the mint, anise, and cummin of creeds and ceremonies, while it neglects the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.
Having stated what we understand by the end of the world or age, let us look at the terms in which that event is described in the Bible. The doctrines of the New Church teach us that the whole Bible is written according to the correspondence of natural with spiritual things. The sun represents the Lord ; its heat represents His love received and reciprocated by men. The moon represents the cool light of faith. The stars are bits of knowledge of heavenly things held in memory. The earth represents the church ; all things on the earth represent the truths or principles which constitute the church, and everything that occurs on the earth represents some form or activity of those truths and principles. Now let us apply this method of interpretation to some of the passages in the Word which relate to this subject. The darkening of the sun means the loss from the church of that love for the Lord and of that sense of the Lord’s love which are its very life.The withdrawal of the moon’s light means the gradual loss of all belief or faith in the truths of the church. Its being changed into blood denotes the destruction of all living quality in the faith of the church. It represents the loss of all charity or brotherly love. The falling of the stars from heaven denotes the entire dispersion and loss of all the knowledges of spiritual truth, by giving them a merely natural meaning. The spiritual mind is heaven compared with the natural mind. The kingdom of heaven is within us. When those truths which relate to the spiritual man are brought down and sensualized, when the church begins to lose the spirit and to think lightly of the life, and makes much of mere dogmas and ceremonies, which is the sign of a dying or dead church, then the stars fall from heaven upon the earth, even as a fig-tree, which denotes a development of merely natural good, casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
When the light of Divine truth is darkened in the mind ; when the warmth of spiritual love grows cold, and all belief in spiritual truth is destroyed, and all true knowledge of its facts and doctrines is lost, then the heavens depart as a scroll when it is rolled together ; the spiritual mind becomes closed to all spiritual truth, and the end of the world draws near.
If we look at any particular church and note the changes that have taken place in her when she approached her end, we shall find that the changes which are said to take place in the earth represent them in every particular. Our Lord says that many will come in His name, claiming to be the Christ, and shall deceive many. This prediction means that many will claim to have the only message of Divine truth. How diverse the doctrines are we know, and how sharp the controversies and how bitter the persecutions which have arisen among their adherents. These are the wars and rumors of wars foretold by our Lord. The conflict of evil with evil and of falsity with falsity is described as nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Famines are caused by the lack of the bread of life, which is love to the Lord and the neighbor. The pestilences foretold are the moral and spiritual evils which corrupt the hearts and minds of men, and cause spiritual disease and death. The earthquakes are the commotions in the church, which shake it to its foundations and break it up into sects, as the earth’s crust is shaken and broken into fragments by natural earthquakes.
In this manner we might take every passage in the whole Bible which refers to the end of the world, and show the special meaning of every particular, and its entire harmony with this doctrine and its bearing upon it. All these terms are not given a special meaning to adapt them to this particular doctrine. But they have this meaning everywhere, in the whole Word. The sun, moon, stars, and earth always have essentially the same meaning. The earth always means the church or those principles which constitute it. All the wars, famines, and pestilences mentioned in the Scriptures signify and represent spiritual conflicts, in which evils and falsities contend among themselves or stand opposed to goodness and truth. And we are not compelled to remain in a general application alone. We can descend to the minutest particulars, even to the kind of weapons used in these conflicts, the people who carry on the wars, and the causes of defeat or victory. The farther this correspondence is carried, the clearer it becomes and the more universal its application becomes, so that the argument from the Word comes out in the clearest and fullest manner, satisfying every condition of humanity and every demand of the reason and every statement of Scripture. I have not attempted to do more than to give an outline of the argument and show the manner in which we read the sacred symbols to learn what the Word really teaches concerning the last days. I shall invite your attention now to some of the rational considerations which confirm the belief that the end of the world is a spiritual and not a natural event.
According to the doctrines of the New Church, the material universe was created to be the birthplace of endless generations of intelligent beings, who were to pass on into the spiritual world and make room for those who should come after them. It is the essential nature of love to create, to communicate itself as fully as possible to others. As the Lord’s love is infinite, this essential element of His being can never be exhausted. He must have the same reasons to-day for creating intelligent beings that He had for creating the first man ; and there must be the same reasons millions of years hence for creating new souls to become the recipients of the Divine love and blessedness that there are now. It must, therefore, be contrary to the essential nature of the Lord that He should ever cease to create.
It has been proved by modern astronomers that our sun with its attendant planets and the myriad visible stars are moving in vast orbits around some common centre. This orbit of our solar system is so vast that it could complete only a small part of a revolution in six thousand years. How absurd to suppose that a Being of infinite wisdom would create a universe and set its worlds revolving in their orbits, and then destroy them before they had completed one revolution ! A little child is not guilty of so great a folly who builds a house of cards and throws it down for the pleasure of seeing it fall. But again, the ratio between the smallest grain of sand and our earth is greater than the ratio between our earth and the whole of the material universe ; can any supposition be more absurd than that the Lord would destroy the whole material universe because some beings who dwell upon this grain of sand have broken His laws?
The act of a man who burned his barn to kill a rat was wise compared with such a destruction of the universe. You cannot find anything in the childish ignorance or fitful spite of men so absurd as this. How irrational, then, to call it by no worse a name, to attribute such folly to infinite love and wisdom ! Suppose the Lord has been disappointed and His purpose in some respects defeated by sin, is that any reason why He should complete the defeat of His ends by a universal destruction ? But it cannot be that He has been defeated or disappointed. Omniscience saw the end from the beginning, and infinite wisdom provided the best means. The Lord can make no mistakes. Sin has only served to bring out the manifestations of His love in larger measures and in a greater variety of forms. There is no more cause for the destruction of the universe than there was to prevent its creation in the first instance. There is the same reason for its continuance, and must forever be, that there was for its creation. The Divine nature as it is in itself, the end for which the universe was created, the whole order and method of the creation and human reason, all teach us in unequivocal terms that the material universe will never be destroyed until infinite love grows cold and infinite wisdom fails to provide the ways and means for carrying into effect the purposes of infinite love, and infinite power becomes exhausted ; and when that crisis comes there will be no God and no universe and no human beings. We infer, therefore, that the destruction of the natural universe is contrary to the Divine nature, to the purposes of the Lord as declared in the creation, and to human reason.
The idea held by some, that the earth will be remade, that the Lord will give to man a better body at the resurrection, and that the new earth, if it is a material one, will be a better earth than this, practically accuses the Lord of folly, of not doing the best for His children that He could, and that is to say that His love and wisdom are not perfect. If it is replied that man finds the earth very imperfect and is constantly improving it, the answer is that it is one of the perfections of the earth that man can improve it,—it is one of the conditions of life essential to his intellectual and spiritual development. If he had no occasion to call forth his faculties they would lie dormant. If he saw no room for improvement, or found it impossible to make improvement, he would have no stimulus of hope, and all motives to exertion beyond what was necessary to support life would be taken away. Man’s nature is self-adjusting to all the conditions of life. Infinite wisdom is embodied in the creation, and when men try to improve upon the methods of infinite wisdom they show their ignorance and folly.
But the doctrine that this earth or any part of the material universe is to be made over into a new world and become the future dwelling of man after the resurrection is materialism. This result cannot be avoided. Man’s body is not a spiritual body after all, and instead of going to heaven and dwelling in one of the mansions in His Father’s house according to the promise, he must remain forever in this world. He is not essentially a spiritual being, but an earthly one, and however perfect his condition may be as a material being, he can never hope to attain to the glory and blessedness of a purely spiritual life. But the whole theory that this world is to be the eternal home of the redeemed is contrary to the oftrepeated declarations and promises of the Word. ” My kingdom is not of this world,” the Lord says. ” I go to prepare a place for you ; and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” The whole tenor of our Lord’s teachings was directed to prepare men for life in another and spiritual world which is not to be created at some future time, but which was already in existence, and when the Lord spoke was the home of all those who had passed from earth.
When we understand the term ” world” as meaning not the natural ground but the world of human life ; especially when we give the Greek word which is translated ” world” its strict meaning of ” age” or ” dispensation,” how simple it all is ! Within historic times the world hasmore than once passed away and a new world has been created. The Europe which the Roman conquerors knew is gone. The America which Columbus found is passed away and a new America has come into being. And turning our thought to the spiritual states of men, of which the Bible always directly speaks, the world has been destroyed and a new world created as often as one system of religious truth has lost its vitality and its power over the lives of men and a new system has been raised up by the Lord. Not to go back to remote antiquity, the world was in comparatively recent times made new when the Christian Dispensation displaced the Jewish at the coming of the Lord ; and in our own day is taking place before our very eyes the destruction and new creation of the church which the Lord Himself predicted. And all the while our faithful planet keeps steadily on its way fulfilling the purpose for which the Lord created it, as a nursery of human beings, where they may awaken to consciousness and learn their first lessons of obedience to the Heavenly Father, then to pass on to His eternal home. As saith Ecclesiastes, ” One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh ; but the earth abideth for ever.”
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895
|Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.|