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In a somewhat recent New Church publication, I have seen the following statements :
“EVERY MAN rises into the world of spirits as soon as he dies. he is then heavenly, he goes to heaven; but if he is hellish, he goes to hell. This is his last or final judgment.”
“WHEN great multitudes unite together by adopting similar principles and modes of life, they are judged together; and such were the judgments when the Lord was on earth, and in 1757.”
The last sentence, although here separated from the former in order to aid the comparison, in the publication itself follows the former without interruption, both statements forming but one paragraph. Now, permit me to ask, what intelligent stranger can avoid exclaiming, on reading this quotation, “Surely these two statements are utterly incompatible with each other, inasmuch as the fact stated in the first renders the fact stated in the last absolutely impossible: if, therefore, the one be true, the other must be false."
When we come before the public on the subject of the Last Judg. ment, we are treading on very difficult and delicate ground. Perhaps the main dependence for creating “saving impressions” on the hearer, is placed by old church preachers on awful descriptions of the “Great Day." To deprive them of this expedient; to tell them that their laboured horrors of description are altogether groundless; is to excite the utmost feeling of hostility.
I pass by, on the present occasion, all that relates to the Judgment effected by the Lord at His first advent, while He was in the world, only referring the reader, if he desires to acquaint himself concerning it, to Mr. Noble's Appeal, Section IV.
In respect to the Last Judgment predicted to take place at the Lord's Second Coming, the question is, What was the description of spirits then judged, and why had they not previously been adjudged either to hearen or to hell? On the answer to this question depends the maintenance of our consistency while making such apparently inconsistent statements. We of the New Church may easily satisfy each other with a general answer to this question. We may say, that the alleged individual judgment of “every man" immediately, or soon after death, was the general rule, and that to this rule the Last Judgment was the exception; and further, in all the time subsequent to the Last Judgment, we may declare, that the general rule will become universal, because provision has been made against previous exceptions occurring again, which, indeed, is implied in the phrase Last Judgment. (L.J. 64.) To this we may add, that the spirits judged at the Last Judgment were of so peculiarly mixed a quality, that until the well-disposed were delivered from the infirmity or evil which was mixed with their good, they could not be taken into heaven ; and until the ill-disposed were deprived of their hypocritical good or profaned truth, they could not be received into hell; and that this operation was deferred by the Divine Wisdom, in the case of these particular inhabiters of the world of spirits, until the period of the Last Judgment in the year 1757. All this we may allege, and more to the same effect, to the satisfaction of willing ears, but the opponents of our doctrines are not so easily satisfied, because they are unwilling to be convinced of the truth of Swedenborg's statements.
It is useless to present interior ideas to those who will not, or cannot understand them. We are compelled to give some answer; and the question I am desirous of solving is, in what form should the answer be put, so as to contain as much of the truth as can be understood, while nothing is expressed to which cavils can easily and plausibly be raised by objectors ?
Certain it is, that we should be warranted in replying to an objector by saying, “These apparently contradictory statements (that every man is judged soon after death, and that nevertheless general judgments in the world of spirits on multitudes together have taken place,) may both be separately proved from the Word; and therefore the difficulty attending such apparently incompatible proofs no more presses upon the member of the New Church, than it does upon the member of the Old; the former accepts the solution offered by Swedenborg; and if the latter will not do so, he must remain under his own peculiar difficulty until he can find a more fair and reasonable mode of getting out of it, and this difficulty is, be it remembered, by far the greater of the two, inasmuch as it implies, that every man is to be judged twice over, namely, first immediately after death, and again, at the “Great Day,” a supposition which may fairly be pronounced the very acme of absurdity.
I beg in conclusion to present a summary statement, as the result of my examination of The Last Judgment, particularly Nos. 59 to 70.
1. The reason stated why the spirits signified by Babylon and the Dragon in the Apocalypse, were tolerated in the world of spirits (between heaven and hell) until the last judgment in 1757, is because it was agreeable to the laws of divine order, by which the activity of the free principle in spirits as well as men is regulated, that spirits only exteriorly, but not interiorly good, and religious, should be preserved in connexion with the interiorly good in the world of spirits, and even with those also in the lowest heaven, so long as they could remain in such connexion. But the spirits of those who departed between the First and Second Advents who were exteriorly as well as interiorly evil, did not remain in the world of spirits until the Last Judgment, but were cast into hell soon after their decease.
2. It appears that some who were interiorly good, could not be taken up into heaven before the Last Judgment, in consequence of their false religious principle being so inrooted in them by the arts of those interiorly evil but outwardly devout, with whom they were in connexion, that they could not be separated from their fascinators until the period of the Last Judgment. But all who were interiorly good, and on their first arrival in the world of spirits were open to receive instruction from the angels, did not long remain in the world of spirits, but were taken up into heaven, after receiving such instruction, thus before the Last Judgment. (L.J. 59.)
3. It appears that with some who were interiorly good, their good was of so low a quality, that they could not be received into any then eristing societies in the Christian heaven, because their sphere was too pure for them, and that the place in the world of spirits immediately beneath the then existing Christian heavens which they were destined eventually to occupy, had been seized upon by spirits who were exteriorly good but interiorly evil, and who must be removed by a judgment upon them before the spirits whose place they occupied could be brought forth from the places in the world of spirits where the Divine Mercy protected them, and where, therefore, they were preserved until the time for the execution of the Last Judgment arrived. These good spirits in a low degree are denoted by the souls “under the altar,” (in Rev. vi. 9.) that is, under the lowest then existing societies of the Christian heaven, for the altar was a representative of heaven, (See Ap. Ex. 391.) and consequently “under the altar" denotes under heaven.
4. In respect to those who were interiorly good, but were held in bonds by inwardly evil spirits who were exteriorly devout, it appears, that they were removed from the company of their fascinators by a visitation of angels, previous to the judgment taking place upon the latter. (L.J. 61.)
5. Important reasons are given by E.S. why spirits who outwardly, but not inwardly resembled the good in the lowest heaven, could not be separated from their external connexion with the latter without injury taking place. The principle of this is contained in the parable of the
tares and the wheat; (Matt. xiii. 29.) the tares signifying the only exteriorly, and the wheat the interiorly good. (L.J. 70.) *
REJECTION OF THE POPULAR DOCTRINE CONCERN
ING THE FALL OF ANGELS. “By John LAMB, D.D., MASTER OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE,
To the Editor of the Intellectual Repository. Sir,
To me it is always encouraging to see distinguished men in the Old Church acknowledging its doctrinal error; and thinking that a similar feeling may exist among other members of the New Church, I have transcribed the following rejection of the popular doctrine concerning the fall of angels, from Dr. Lamb's work on “ Hebrew Characters derived from Hieroglyphics," and forwarded it for insertion in the Repository, should you think it sufficiently interesting for that purpose.
“In the whole course of the sacred history there is not one text from which we can rightly infer that there is an order of beings, such as are generally represented by the fallen angels, or that sin existed before Eve's transgression. Divines find a difficulty in reconciling the sin and rebellion of man with that state of innocence in which he was created. It is indeed hardly credible that any creature endowed with reason should transgress the commandment of his Creator with so heavy a curse annexed to the transgression thereof; and they seem to think that this can be got over by transferring the original guilt to another class of beings. Now surely this is explaining one moral phenomenon, by the arbitrary assumption of another far more difficult to explain than the former one.
If it be a thing incredible, that man left to his own power should sin, how much more incredible is it, that an order of angels, who enjoyed much nearer communion with God, and far excelled man in every intellectual faculty, should be the authors of sin ?” (p. 112)
“ There is a perfect silence in Scripture respecting any fallen angels, or the existence of sin prior to Adam's transgression. Our Lord in His
* See Mr. Noble's Appeal, last edition, p. 155, for further particulars on this subject.
discourses never uses an expression which implies such a notion. We might have expected, especially in those which attended His ejection of evil spirits, to have found some expression which might lead us to know that they had been angels of light. The devils, when allowed to speak themselves, never insinuate such a thing.” (p. 116.)
“It is surely probable that the Satanic influence which has been exercised over the human race, should be the consequence rather than the cause of sin; part of that punishment which was brought upon mankind by the fall. And is it not improbable that man should when first created be exposed to the very greatest of all curses, the influence of a powerful evil spirit ? The very notion interrupts the whole plan of redemption. Our Lord frequently states, that the main object of His coming was to destroy the power of Satan. Now if Satan's power over man existed before the fall, our Lord came to redeem us from a certain evil that existed independent of man's sin; and had Adam never transgressed, we should have stood in need of a Saviour. God might in righteous judgment upon our race leave us to the influence of those wicked departed spirits, whose condition was the result of man's rebellion. And it is not at all difficult to imagine that wicked souls in a state of hopeless misery, if permitted by God, would endeavour to seduce others into the same state. This view of the subject, while it brings upon man the whole guilt of sin and rebellion against God, magnifies His mercy, and enhances the worth of the Saviour.”
“This question may be asked : If such be the case, how came the opinion so general respecting fallen angels, and whence was it derived ? There can be no doubt respecting the source whence it was obtained. The first notion of the existence of a fallen angel is found in the Zendavesta. The ARITHMAN of Zoroaster is the original model of Satan. The later Jews became conversant with the Persian mythology, and introduced this, with various other notions, into their writings; and it seems to have been adopted by the early Christians, without any enquiry into the Scriptural authority upon which it rested. Our immortal countryman, Milton, by clothing this fiction of the Persian mythology in all the beauty and attraction of poetry, has so recommended it to our imagination that we almost receive it as of divine authority; and we feel a reluctance to be convinced that all his splendid fabric is based on falsehood.” (p. 119.)
[It must be highly gratifying to the lover of genuine truth to see indications like that above, of a new order of thought arising in the very centre of the theological world--at Corpus Christi, Cambridge,