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to suffer any of his creatures, who sincerely search for truth, to be led into any delusion, destructive of their ultimate happiness.
I was interrupted in the pursuit of this design by the arrival of your books. I have read the greatest part of them with mingled doubt and pleasure ; with doubt arising from the newness of the ideas, and strangeness (to me) of the doctrine, and with plea. sure, because many of the sentiments are congenial to my own, and many of the doctrines accord with my wishes, although my judgment remains as yet unconvinced of their reality.
I come now to my main design, in writing to you. In an affair of so much importance as religion, I wish neither to reject with rashness, nor to receive without due deliberation. There are two questions, to which I hope you will kindly endeavour to furnish replies of a satisfactory nature.
Q. 1. For what reason, or upon what authority, does the New Jerusalem Church reject certain books of the Old and New Testaments, generally received as canonical by other Christian societies :*
Q. 2. How does the New Jerusalem Church reconcile its doctrine concerning the resurrection, with the account given of the resurrection of our Saviour! In the 6 Dissertation on the regenerate life,” it is alleged that the resuscitated body of the Lord “ was only made apparently tangible to the senses of the incre“ dulous disciples :"' but does not this explanation convey the idea (with reverence be it said) that he imposed upon their senses ? The nature of an imposition, you know, consists in gaining our assent to something that appears to be what it is not, in reality : which amounts to a deception. Now if Thomas and the other disciples were led to believe that they saw and handled real flesh and blood, at the same time that it was only an appearance of it, wherein does this differ from an imposition? In addition to this, I would ask if the material body rises not, -why is it termed a resurrection? You know that the original word 'Arotaras is composed of the reflex preposition 'Ava and the verb loompere I stand, exactly coinciding with the Latin reflexive preposition re and the verb surgere, whence our word resurrection, the act of rising again. Does not the original terın itself, therefore, imply the rising again of our material frame, since it would be absurd to say that the spirit of man revives, which never was dead ?
. See this Repository, p. 177.
You will pardon my freedom in writing thus, as it arises from no wish to cavil, but from a sincere desire to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
I wish you could gratify me with a perusal of Arcana Cælestia, or the Universal Theology, or both, in English or Latin, although I would prefer either of them in English. If you can favour me with these, or any other that you may think proper, I will use them well, and return them punctually.
15th October, 1817. Sir, I received the books which you were so kind as to send me, and for which I beg you to accept my grateful thanks.
When I entered upon the perusal of the Arcana Cælestia, I was much startled at the doctrine which teaches that Adam was not a man, nor Eve a woman; and that the first chapter of Genesis was merely an allegorical representation of the several states of man, or of a church, progressively from naturals to spirituals, or as I have been taught to say it, from a state of nature to a state of grace. However, I read on, determined to judge as impartially as prejudice would allow me, for I dare not say impartially, without this qualification ; having often had occasion before now to perceive and lament the baneful influence of prejudice over' my own heart, as well as to witness its effects in the hearts of others. In this spirit I have perused this first volume, and though I am not convinced altogether of the truth of all it contains, yet the consistency of the various reasonings with the proofs brought from the Scriptures, have beat down many objections, which had previously arisen in my mind; and those that still remain are so much dissipated and obscured, that I cannot rightly say whether they are the offspring of reason or prejedice; I will give you one of these as an example.
Objection.-Baron Swedenborg was a man of very extensive learning, and bold imagination. May not therefore the warmth and vigour of this faculty have overpowered his judgment ? And aided by an excellent memory, and a peculiar creative ingenuity, might it not produce in his mind a belief, a sincere belief, that all he advanced was genuine truth ? And at the same time miglit it not be only the production of a vivid fancy, guided in its wan. derings by deep learning, and the dictates of a really pious and VOL. I.
benevolent heart? There appears to be a plausibility possibility in this supposition. A fertile imagination can with ease moralize, or even spiritualize the visible objects of nature. It is only going a step farther to consider these objects as real correspondences to the things of a spiritual world, and instantly a theory may arise as beautiful and wild as the beaming Parhelion, and like that too, unsubstantial.
In the case before me, however, where I perceive so much to commend, and so little to condemn, I would not rashly pronounce any doctrine to be illusive, merely because it is foreign to the ideas I have hitherto entertained; neither would I assert those parts to be absurd, which as yet I cannot fully comprehend ; but the thought that there is a possibility of being led astray from the path of truth and reason, by the powerful and sympathetic influence of fancy, creates in me a slowness of conviction, which I believe will not surprise you.
The doctrine of the identity of the Godhead, with the divine person of our God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; and that he is the Creator, Redeemer, and Regenerator of his creatures, appears so fully established by Scripture, and so agreeable to reason, that I have scarcely a scruple concerning it. And indeed, all the doctrines appear so congenial to piety, to God, and love to mankind, that like Felix, “ I am almost persuaded” to embrace them. Still there are some things overhung with clouds and darkness, to me impenetrable, and which I despair of ever being able to explore. His account of the spiritual world is of this description, to which I may add the doctrine of the resurrection, and some parts of the doctrine concerning the Holy. Scriptures.
I shall gladly comply with your desire, in giving you from time to time, an account of the objections that start up in my path, in opposition to the sentiments delivered in these volumes; and that not for the sake of cavilling or disputation, but in order that you may assist me in opening a clearer and less obstructed passage to the progress of truth ; and I trust, that the Lord who is the light and life of the world, will be a “ light to our feet, and a lamp to our paths.” Is there no periodical publication, no magazine published under the auspices of your church, wbich might give one an opportunity of discussing and receiving information on doubt
ful points ? If you have not already such a convenience, I would have you to get some of your literary members to commence something of that kind if possible; if there is already such a · thing in circulation, I would gladly be a reader.
24th January, 1818. Dear Sir, It was my intention to have troubled you with a long series of objections, but as I have found answers to a number of them myself, I shall postpone sending you any for some time at least, that I may not put you to any unnecessary trouble.
Our correspondence has been so long interrupted by the season, that I forget whether I had an apportunity or not, of acknow. ledging your last very acceptable communication.
I stated in my last, that I believed we should never agree in all points ; perhaps we may not, but I dare not be so positive as I was then.
I feel myself in a very strange state. When I endeavour to collect my thoughts, it seems as if my intellectuals were lying in a confused heap, without system, and without form. As far as I fully understand the doctrine of the New Church, it seems so impressed with the form of truth, that I dare not reject it. Presently something suggests, that appearances are not always to be trusted, that the primitive Christians, as far as it may be gathered from the writings of the apostles, had no such views, that their minds were probably more receptive of heavenly truth than any person in our sinful age; that the opinions of the New Church originated in one man; the opinions of the first Christians were inculcated by men who were distinguished with extraordinary gifts, and had enjoyed the company and conversation of their Divine Instructor for years, &c. These suggestions, and others of a similar nature, prevent me from an unequivocal admission of such doctrines as I even think I understand, as truths. I wish I had time and opportunity to search these things to the bottom; what would I give for the hours which I perceive to be a burden to others! I would ask no other estate on earth..
Is there no book that would be a useful help to the spiritually understanding of the Scriptures ? No commentary by any minister of the New Church ? If there be, I wish you could furnish me with one that you approve, until such time as I shall be able to advance the money for it. I want no more presents of books, I am too deeply indebted to you in that respect already.
This leads me to form another wish, viz. that I could get a more profitable situation than the one I am in, that I might have it in my power to procure things that this situation will not afford me. You will think I am discontented, I hope I am not unlawfully sò, since my wish is not for worldly wealth, but only for the means of arriving at heavenly wisdom.
You say true, I hope, when anticipating my full conviction of the truth of the doctrines of the New Church, you observe, “that “ I shall not rest contented with having found the pearl of great “ price, but will want to trade in it ; that I shall be like the wo“ man who found her piece of silver and called in her friends to 6 rejoice with her.” With what joy indeed I would devote every opportunity in my power to that purpose. It is a thought that has many times occurred to' myself, that I would love to be a messenger from the Lord, spreading around me the glad tidings of peace on earth, and good will to men. I wished to be so when a boy; asked my friends for education, and was refused ; attempted to get education myself, and was frustrated from want of means. Home then seemed cold to me; left it and was kidnapped, and sent aboard a British ship of war: after losing five of the best years of my life, returned, and the same thought occurred : the same desire returned ; but without friends to aid, or means to support me through the expense of a regular education, I abandoned the design. Driven by the hand of oppression from my hapless country, I find myself on another shore; and all my former opinions on the doctrinal part of religion shaken to the foundation. Indeed many of them being only built on the sandy foundation of early prejudice, and often battered by the gusts of surmise, and sapped by the damps of doubt; they were the more easily overthrown by the floods of truth. I know not what the Lord may yet give me to perform, but at any rate, it is my desire that I may always be enabled to be as useful as possible to my fellow-creatures; believing, that herein consists our real duty to our Saviour, and to one another. “ Hereby” said the Lord while on earth, “ hereby shall men know that ye are my disciples if ye love one another."
I have requested a young man, ******* to call on you for a book or books, as you may think proper; he is a townsman of