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"The morning cometh." It is ours now to make this inspiring announcement and arouse others to behold its glory. The present age of our Church is eminently a missionary one. We should never forget this for a single day. It is the spring-time of the Church, and we should sow the seed broadcast. We may have the chilling blasts of early spring to contend with, but let us take courage from the sure word of promise, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy" (Psalm cxxvi. 5). But the testing questions arise, are we willing to go forth to sow the seeds of heavenly truth in the wide open inviting fields of youth? And will we, as a Church, give our attention more directly than we have hitherto done, to our Sunday schools? They are the highways to the New Jerusalem. And I feel convinced that sure and satisfactory progress is not likely to be made while we remain so comparatively apathetic towards them. I should like to see this subject become a leading theme among us, be prominently brought before the Conference, and noticed more frequently in the Repository.
ON SWEDENBORG'S THEOLOGY.1
AN UNPUBLISHED FRAGMENT. BY FRANCIS BARHAM.
WE wish to approach the subject of Swedenborg's theology with something of that elevation and independence of thought which the memory of a great man should always inspire. Yes, Swedenborg was a great man in the truest sense of the phrase; he possessed an essential grandeur, before which the magnificence of rank and the pomp of circumstances shrink into insignificance; a greatness divine, moral, and intellectual; the greatness of the prophet and the sage; a greatness that will be more and more felt and acknowledged as men ascend to the sphere of spiritual experience and converse with the souls of the mighty dead by sympathies as supernatural as they are beautiful.
1 It is interesting to hear at times what intelligent men, who are not "Swedenborgians," have to say of Swedenborg. Mr. Barham was a man of some literary eminence, of deep religious feeling, and of large benevolence. For a short time before his death, which took place in 1869, he was an intimate friend of Mr. Isaac Pitman, who became his literary executor, and who has favoured us with this fragment, which he believes to have been written some time between 1831 and 1844. It has already appeared in print in Mr. Barham's Life by Mr. Pitman; but being printed in that new character and orthography which its author believes shall be the English of the future, it is now printed for the first time in what will then be old English.
And this testimony to Swedenborg I give frankly and independently as an Alist, and a student of Divine truth. I do not pin my faith on Swedenborg so much as many of his professed disciples do; I do not swear in his words as my master and my life; but in all freedom and impartiality of soul, I still affirm that Swedenborg was a great man, and probably the very greatest of his age.
But inasmuch as many a person will demur to this declaration, and stiffly dissent therefrom, and cast satire and ridicule thereon, let me for a moment endeavour to state something specific concerning the test and scale of true greatness; and by this I hope to show that Swedenborg's character demands high veneration and respect, and that to cast scorn or laughter over his ashes is to exhibit a baseness of conception and an ignorance of information dark as fogs of Tartarus.
Let us analyse a few of the characteristics of Swedenborg's greatness. Among these I would specifically notice that quality called enthusiasm. So closely do I identify enthusiasm with greatness, that I believe they are always united, and never separated. The word enthusiasm is derived from év Ocós, God within us. It is the very Emmanuel (God with us) of genius-the celestial inspiration which fills the prophet, the saint, and the poet. Enthusiasm pure and genuine is one of the very goodliest attributes to which human nature can aspire. It is the characteristic of those seraphs who stand next to the throne of God, and who receive their name from the fiery and unquenchable zeal they display in the service of the Deity. I grant, then, that Swedenborg was enthusiastic. I grant that through his whole life he displayed a burning and flaming energy in acquiring and communicating truth,—that for the sake of that truth he passed through incredible labours and hazards, made himself a singular and solitary sign of the times, through good report and evil; stole away from the splendour of courts and the applause of science into the stern sequestration of the seer and the eremite; gave up the glory and honour and wealth of the earth, for communications with impalpable disembodied spirits; passed the flaming bounds of space and time to spy into the secrets of the eternal deep; and, all alone, with no companion but his own dauntless courage, traversed the perilous obscure abyss that severs the worlds of faith and sight. We know that Swedenborg possessed enthusiasm enough for all this; but then I assert that such enthusiasm is an attribute of surpassing greatness; that it is the indication of a condition of mind infinitely more divine, august and glorious than the generality of men even dare to imagine. I long to see more of this enthusiasm ;
I hope to see it sweeping like a mighty current of Pentecostal inspiration through all the Church of God, and the intellectual community of free minds. Far from wishing to avoid the character of an enthusiast, I wish I had a thousand times more of it, and that my friends would now be as enthusiastic as angels and prophets and apostles. Let them desert the beggarly elements of formal ceremonial; let them reach forth to states of yet unrealised perfection, and desire earnestly the best gifts, and rather that they may prophesy.
Before I leave this topic let me warn you not to fall into the barbarous sophism of those who confound enthusiasm with the delusions which sometimes attend it, and then condemn it as a false and mischievous condition. As well may you confound religion with imposture, Christianity with persecution, law with oppression, medicine with butchery. No, use is one thing and abuse another. There is no sound reasoning from one to the other. Use is the divine ray of light, abuse the darkness which follows the recession of that ray. It is not enthusiasm that leads men into evil, but a perfectly different element called delusion, which occupies the place which enthusiasm has deserted. Think not then that this delusion is necessarily connected with enthusiasm. So far from it, enthusiasts, with all their faults, are the celestial prophets of higher conditions of being than most men attain. No, the worst delusions are those of cold-blooded, self-congratulating formalists, who, like the Pharisees of old, think themselves most precisely right, and at last get damned for the very prudery which they idolized.
One of the transcendent excellences of Swedenborg's mind was Alism, divinity, or godliness. Very early in life the great vision and apprehension of Deity burst on his soul, and, realised there, in the very centre of his conscious soul, as its central principle of thought and action it grew with his growth and strengthened with his strength. For a man thus, like the prophet of old, to set the Lord always before him, requires an elevation of mind and soaringness of soul most singular indeed, and most rarely exhibited. It implies a mind of the very highest aspiration, the most celestial propension and tendency; for, as Coleridge used to observe, prayer to God is the sublimest achievement of the human soul. This principle of Alism pervaded all Swedenborg's life and writings; it was this that lent them a certain inspiring unity in the midst of variety and change. He acknowledges a fulness of Godhead; a pleroma and plenum of Theism, and by its radiance he dispels the dark spectres of atheism, as sun
shine scatters the night. He brings the resplendent principle of Alism to bear on the awful hypostasis of Christ, and shows that He was indeed very God manifest in the flesh; free from Arian and Socinian limitations. And he shows how this same Deity pervades the soul of man, created in God's image and likeness; that it forms the conscience of our conscience, the essence of our essence, the life of our life. And yet further he traces the Divine presence and law in all the forms of animal and physical beings. And this not merely in the general sense of Bacon, Boyle, Paley, and the writers on natural theology (though this indeed were a high and good work,) but he traces it in the minute and infinitesimal relations of things by a scientific analysis of unrivalled subtlety. He shows that God exists not only in the greatest but in the least; and that the greatest is but the divine development of the least; and that the least is the embryo and germ and kernel of the greatest in existence or possibility. And thus furnished with all the magnifying and diminishing lenses of theologic optics, he traverses the concentric geons and wide-sweeping spheres of mind and matter, and surveys all things imaged and revealed in each other by endless reflections and refractions. And thus he theolises the universe, and anticipates the prophetic consummation, when God shall be seen as the All in All. He shows that the highest divinity is inseparably blended with the highest science; he turns the divine into the physician, and the physician into the divine; for he contemplates every particle of matter in the light of its immaterial Creator, and, as Emerson says, he forms the apotheosis of every atom he touches, awakens it from the slumber of chaos to the consciousness of a Divine law which governs it, and leaves it bristling with an electric polarity which makes it vibrate and quiver to the celestial poles of the empyrean. In this respect Swedenborg excels all modern authors, and reminds us of the best of those antique esoteric initiates that are only known to the elect truth searcher.
Another indication of Swedenborg's greatness was his heroism, his boldness, his moral and intellectual valour. Having attained certain visionary conditions of mental experience which are usually condemned as imposturous and false, and expose their professors to obloquy and insult, Swedenborg resolved to publish them, whatever the peril of their discovery. He knew that no man should light a candle and place it under a bushel, but set it in a candlestick, that it may give light to the household. And therefore he let his light
shine before men and spent his existence in illuminating 'his species. To do this in a prophetic manner required in Swedenborg a dauntless and uncrushable resolution. It was only to be achieved by toils and dangers, mortifications and sufferings.
Let no man confine his notion of heroism to the exploits of the warrior or the desperation of the adventurer. There is a spiritual heroism far above these, more hardly compassed, more rarely attained. To initiate and originate a loftier theology than any that prevails; to withdraw the tremendous curtains of the holy of holies to those who stood cold and sceptical in the outer court of the temple; to incur the resentment of all churches and denominations, whose views being lower give rise to jealousy; to lose one secular friend after another, whose smiles of cordiality are changed into frowns of suspicion; all this demands a heroism of the highest order. To stick to one leading principle with unconquerable pertinacity; to follow it out with fearless confidence and indefatigable patience; to go with it wherever it may lead you, through light or darkness, pleasure or plain, heaven or hell; to trace its onward developments, as the exploring traveller pursues the course of the Nile or the Niger, the Ganges or the Orinoco, through precipitous ravines or pitchy forests; this is the heroism that we glory in, for it is a Divine attribute which the ancients impersonated in Hercules.
And here I ought distinctly to remark that the heroism which establishes a new system is considerable superior to that which fortifies an old one. To establish the new system requires a heroism of genius and faith. It must support itself on abstract ideal relations of what only exists in the spiritual world as yet, though by the inevitable development of nature it must be and shall be hereafter realised in the physical. Only one mind, perhaps, has this heroism to originate and initiate new and untried ameliorations of being; but a thousand minds are ready to follow the example set by that first, for imitation is comparatively easy, but creation is hard.
Swedenborg was also a great man in the moral sense of the term. So far as we know, his morality remained remarkably pure and unimpeached. Through his long and varied course he appears to have won esteem as a holy and unblameable liver. His death was serene and hopeful as that of a saint, and no stains remain on his memory. I am accustomed to esteem morality as one of the leading characteristics of true greatness. He is stronger who conquers himself