THE MOUTH OF THE LORD
A Sermon by Rev. Erik E. Sandstrom Preached in Florida August 6, 1995
“For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” (Isaiah 40:5).
When the Lord God speaks, that is with us the Word of the Lord. We know that the Lord spoke both testaments. What else? Has the mouth of the Lord also spoken the Writings of the New Church? If so, the Writings themselves should say so. For the testaments testify of their Author, as the Lord said: “Search the Scriptures for … these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).
If the Writings are the Word, they should also testify of their Author. So is the Lord their Author? We read: “I [Swedenborg] have not received anything whatever concerning the doctrines of the [New Church] from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I have read the Word” (TCR 779). “No spirit has dared, nor has any angel wished, to tell me anything, still less to instruct me about what is in the Word, or … doctrine from the Word. I have been taught by the Lord alone, who was revealed to me” (DP 135).
It is clear that the Lord dictated the Old Testament through the prophets as they said, “The Word of Jehovah came unto me, saying … “; and the New Testament through the Evangelist, but recalled later, as He said, “The Holy Spirit … will bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). And the Lord prophesied the Second Coming: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now … When the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12,13). And “Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).
There was clearly more to come. And now, in the Writings, more has come. If the Lord’s spirit of truth has spoken the New Church Writings, then they should be able to explain the truth about their Author; they should “speak plainly of the Father” (John 16:25). Do they? Do they explain the words such as, “O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5)?
Yes. The Lord’s essence is Love, the Divine Itself, called Father; and for the “sake of human comprehension … this is distinguished into Divine good and truth … The Divine truth is called Son” (AC 3704). However, this understanding was first stated around 450 A.D. in the Athanasian Creed which says: “As soul and body are one man, so God and Man are one Christ” (Lord 55). Just as our soul is embodied, so the Divine Love was embodied in the human, making one Christ. The Lord is God in person. It is as simple as that.
Thus “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” was Christ’s own soul talking, the Father seen at the time as a shining cloud (Matt. 17:5). And the words, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” came from the crucified body wracked by temptations when the soul seemed absent. So the Lord is one God, both in Person and Essence; Father and Son are soul and body in Christ. And the Holy Spirit? The Lord breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). It is the spirit of truth from the mouth of the Risen Lord.
On earth the Lord spoke in parables, but in the Writings He speaks plainly of the Father. The parable “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) means plainly that Jehovah was His soul (AC 10579:5). Thus the Old Testament “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” through angels, in the New Testament became the Lord Himself saying, “Verily, verily I say unto you.” Those who heard Him, said, “No man ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46) But still, He spoke in parables.
Now in the Writings He speaks plainly. But where is the Lord now? After His resurrection the Lord “became an essence by itself which fills the universal heaven, … the Divine Human” (AC 3061). He spoke the Writings to Swedenborg directly (see TCR 779, DP 135). For the risen Lord, we read, “is Doctrine Itself” (AC 5321). When He speaks out of heaven, His Doctrine is seen as a crystal city. The river in that city is knowledge of the internal sense of the Word.
The Lord as Doctrine Itself now explains how He formerly revealed the Old Testament: it was spoken by Jehovah through angels: “The Lord spoke the Word through [angels] … whom He filled with His look, and thus inspired with the words which they dictated … so it was not influx but dictation. And as the words came forth directly from the Lord, each one was filled with the Divine and contains within it an internal sense [for angels], while men understand them in a natural sense. Thus has the Lord conjoined heaven and the world by means of the Word” (HH 254).
This transflux used to flow through angels who dictated both Testaments:
First, events themselves happened under Providence, e.g. the Exodus (see AC 1675, 2523, 6025), or the spiritual eyes of the person were opened, e.g. Mary seeing Gabriel (see AR 36).
Second, there was Divine inspiration and recollection. Angels later recalled to Moses and dictated the record of the Exodus. Or Mary “pondered all these things in her heart,” and “a sword pierce[d] her heart [to reveal] the thoughts of many” (Luke 2:35). Mary’s account was re-worded to Luke later by angelic dictation.
The angel Gabriel was part of that transflux. But this “transflux ceased” with the glorification (AC 6371). There was no transflux through angels when the Lord revealed the Word’s internal sense. Instead, the Divine Human “our Father in the Heavens” (AC 6887:3) spoke the Writings directly from His mouth. We are now told how the two testaments were written.
There are two stages of revelation, the Writings say, which “are to be most carefully distinguished” (AR 36; cf. Lord 52). “When the Word came … [they] were in the body and heard Jehovah speaking. The Word … was not revealed in a state of the spirit or in vision, but was dictated … by the Lord by a living voice.” Thus no writing ever took place during vision, but only when it was over.
In fact, no one could write the Word while in vision, because everything is ineffable until dictated (see De Verbo 4). That is why angelic dictation of both testaments, once written, has an internal sense for the angels and a literal sense for men, conjoining heaven and the church (see HH 254).
However, the Writings of the New Church were not dictated by angels. We read, “No spirits dared, no angels wished” to say anything concerning the Word or doctrine” (DP 135). If came “from the Lord alone while I read the Word” (TCR 779). “The Lord has manifested Himself [to me] in Person, and filled [me] with His spirit” (TCR 779, title). Since the transflux whereby angels dictate “has ceased” (see AC 6371), angels can no longer dictate a spiritual sense within a literal sense.
Swedenborg established this fact by actual experiment: “Retaining in my memory what I had spoken, when I returned into my natural state … I then wished to bring it forth … and describe it, but I could not; it was impossible … There is no ratio” (De Verbo 4).
That is when angelic language is used. By contrast, when the Lord speaks directly, nothing is beyond expression. We read on: ” … yet they could be described even to their rational comprehension in terms of natural language … There is not any Divine arcana which may not be perceived, and even expressed naturally” (De Verbo 6). “Spiritual truths can be comprehended just as well as natural ones” (Faith 3). “The doctrine itself … for the New Church … was revealed to me out of heaven; … to deliver it is the purpose of this book” (NJHD 7). So the ineffable could be and was written.
It is therefore clear from the Writings that they are the Word which the Lord Himself has spoken out of heaven. Thus the Old Testament’s “The mouth of the Lord has spoken it” (Isaiah 40:5) through the New Testament’s “verily verily I say to you,” is fulfilled in “from the Lord alone while I read the Word” (TCR 779). When the Writings say so often, “The case herein is this,” we can be sure it is the Lord Himself speaking.
Thus all of the Writings, whether published or not, were inspired by the Lord, not by angelic dictation, since that mode of revelation had ceased. Since no angels dictated them, they are the living Word of the Divine Human Himself. Only heaven’s language is ineffable, not its doctrine. The Lord who is Doctrine Itself put Heavenly Doctrine right into human terms through Swedenborg, but only after visions ceased. The Lord can speak to us since He took His whole glorified body with Him.
The Lord began this “plainly of the Father” revelation on the road to Emmaus and in Jerusalem, after His resurrection. He then ” … beginning at Moses and all the prophets, … expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself … He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27,45). But although He spoke comprehensible doctrine, or the Spirit of Truth even then, “they could not bear it,” and it was not recorded. Some 17 centuries later, through Swedenborg’s mind, the Lord finished revealing heavenly truths: what angels know in ineffable language has now been spoken directly and plainly by the Lord “our Father” “out of heaven.”
This second coming was prophesied as the New Jerusalem coming down “from God out of heaven.” We read, “John was carried to the third heaven, and his sight opened, before whom … the Lord’s New Church as to doctrine [appeared] in the form of a city” (AR 896). John’s Holy City thus is the Heavenly Doctrine, published “in this book” (NJHD 7). And the river of the water of life John saw flowing from the Lord’s throne is “the Apocalypse now opened and explained as to its spiritual sense, where Divine truths in abundance are revealed by the Lord for those who will be in His New Church, which is the New Jerusalem” (AR 932). The city and the river include all the Writings published from 1749 to 1771.
We are all invited to drink of that river: “Let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” This means “to receive the truths from the Lord without any work of his own” (AR 956). The work has been done for us all that exposition and writing thirty volumes, twice [a copy for the printer]! All we have to do is to read or listen, and the understanding of the truth carries us along, self-evidently, without any work of our own.
The New Church is a new dispensation; the Heavenly Doctrines are worded in rational terms to stand on their own, self-evidently. They shed new light on all areas of life. They reveal life after death. They show us how the church is to be established from pure and sound doctrine, which is understood and applied to life by the individual, who is a “particular church” (TCR 245). Since every area of worldly life has heavenly light shed on it, the Lord can now lead both angels and human beings together as a New Heaven and New Church on earth. This use is served by the New Church, and the open-eyed cooperation between both worlds is meant by the angel’s words to John: “I am your fellow servant … Worship God.” Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 40:1-5; Rev. 22:6-10, 17; NJHD 7, De Verbo 4, 6; TCR 245 (portions)
De Verbo 4
The difference between the natural and the spiritual … is such that there is no ratio between them … This it has been given me to know by much experience, retaining in my memory what I had spoken to the angels when I returned into my natural state, I then wished to bring it forth … and describe it, but I could not; it was impossible; there were no expressions, nor even ideas of thought, by which I could express it; spiritual expressions [are] so remote from natural ideas and expressions that they did not approximate in the least …
De Verbo 6
[However, although] I could not utter nor describe them by any spiritual or celestial expression, nevertheless they could be described even to their rational comprehension by words of natural language. There is not any Divine arcana which may not be perceived, and even expressed naturally.
New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 7
The doctrine which is delivered in the following pages also is from heaven, because it is from the spiritual sense of the Word, and the spiritual sense of the Word is the same with the doctrine that is in heaven … But I proceed to the doctrine itself, which is for the New Church, and which is called Heavenly Doctrine, because it was revealed to me out of heaven; to deliver this doctrine is the design of the present book.
True Christian Religion 245
It is known that the church is in accordance with its doctrine, and that doctrine is from the Word; nevertheless it is not doctrine but soundness and purity of doctrine, consequently the understanding of the Word, that establishes the church. Neither is it doctrine, but a faith and life in accordance with doctrine that establishes and constitutes the special church in the individual man.