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universe. Such, then, will be the bodies of the risen,-spiritual and not material, and consequently not existing in a material world. As, then, that which is spiritual does not exist in a world of matter, so neither will the bodies of those who are raised appear in this world at the judgment. That which is spiritual can only exist in a spiritual region; and as the bodies at the resurrection are spiritual, in a spiritual region only can they be judged. The judgment, therefore, whenever it takes place, must occur in the world of spirits, and not in the visible earth.
“And this at once brings us to what is called the end of the world.' It is evident that if the judgment takes place in the region of spirits, it will, whenever it occurs, be invisible to those who may at that time be on earth. For the organs of the body cannot discern that which is spiritual ; or if it is seen at all, it must be by those whose eyes, like those of the prophets, are opened to behold the otherwise invisible world. As, therefore, the judgment will be in the very nature of things a spiritual event, all the pomp and circumstance attending it must be spiritual likewise.
“And indeed the description which is given of that great event is incapable of being understood in any other than a spiritual sense. The moon being turned into blood, the stars falling from heaven, the elements melting with fervent heat, the great white throne, the trumpet, and the descent in the clouds, are evidently never intended to be literally understood, and for this simple reason, that so understood they are
If it be supposed that by such an assertion we degrade the Scriptures, we deny the imputation. In all languages there are expressions which though true in their meaning are false in the letter, and the language by which God has often times condescended to speak to man is intended by symbolical or outward imagery to convey spiritual mean-ing. If, however, it be asserted that these expressions convey literal facts, let three questions be set at rest. I. Since God the author of reason never speaks in opposition to reason, let it be shewn that the descriptions above given are perfectly reasonable. II. As God never acts without a motive, let the motive be shewn which can lead to a destruction of the universe. III. Since the same descriptions were given of the first coming of the Saviour, let the reason be explained why they should not in the former case be spiritually accomplished, as they certainly were in the latter.
“Whoever is acquainted either with the nature of the heavenly bodies or with the component elements which form the visible universe, must see at once the absurdity of a literal interpretation. It is true such a one may compel reason to bow before what he calls faith ; but he never can make such a faith either consistent or reasonable, because consistence is the agreement of one thing with another; and the character which such a man assigns to God, as a loving, wise, and powerful being, is completely at variance with the words and actions which, in the confidence of his faith, he attributes to Him; and having thrown reason out of his creed, it must, to all intents and purposes, be an unreasonable belief, or in other words, a faith opposed to knowledge and common
sense. The same may be said of the great white throne,' and of the trumpet.' Either these are material objects or they are not. If they are material, then he who sits on the one, and they who use the other, must be material beings, and thus ' with one fell swoop’ we materialize both God and his angels. If, however, ‘God is a spirit, and if His ' angels are spirits,' then both the throne and the trumpet must be spiritual. But if they are spiritual, they cannot exist in a material universe, nor can they appear in space, and consequently the literal meaning is gone for ever.
“Besides, what motive can induce the Creator of all to destroy that world which was created for his glory? We have every reason to believe that in the latter days the moral condition of man will be materially changed, and the influence of pure religion extended to every part of the earth. In such case the world will indeed become a theatre on which the glory of God will be seen, and his divine power
acknowledged. It cannot be, therefore, the increase of evil which will lead to its destruction, for according to the sacred records, evil will diminish instead of increasing. It cannot be love, for love seeks not to destroy, but to beautify and make happy. It cannot be wisdom, for when earth is renewed, and its inhabitants are restored to piety and peace, it will become a school for glory, a nursery in which the infant soul will be prepared to fill higher and more exalted stations in the maturity of heaven. It cannot be to shew his power, for the power of the Most High is always regulated by love and wisdom; He never operates capriciously, unwisely, or in opposition to love. It cannot be to increase the splendor of the judgment, for we have already shewn that as the bodies of the risen are spiritual, that judgment must take place in the world of spirits, and not on earth. It cannot be to add to his glory, for the glory of God is the extension of human bappiness, and when man is restored to piety, and earth is a preparation for heaven, the destruction of this earth would limit instead of extending the glory of God. There is no motive which can possibly lead to a literal destruction; and without a motive God never acts.
“Once more, let it be noticed that the same descriptions which are given of the second coming of the Lord, were also given of his first advent. The heavens were to pass away, the stars were to fall, the sun was to be darkened, the inoon was to be as blood, and the powers of heaven were to be shaken. Yet at the Lord's appearance no such events occurred literally. It is true the sun, moon, and stars of the Jewish heaven,-its love, faith, and doctrines,—were darkened and defaced. It is true that heaven and earth did pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth were established, a new church, new doctrines, and new principles of thought and action, but the material universe was unchanged; and why should these descriptions be literally fulfilled at the second coming of the Lord, when they bore a spiritual signification on his first appearance ?
“ The greater part of those passages which have been referred to a literal destruction of all things, are now, even by the advocates of the doctrine, applied to very different subjects. The passing away of the
heavens under the sixth seal, is said by Bishop Newton to describe the downfall of Paganism and the full establishment of Christianity. The descent of the New Jerusalem, Dr. Hammond observes, is descriptive of some great benefit received by men on this earth, and not in the state of glory. The prophecy of our Lord is referred to the destruction of Jerusalem and the consummation,' not of the visible world, but of the
age or period of the church. All have seen the absurdity of the coinmonly received meaning, though their creed forbade them to reject the doctrine.
“In conclusion. Since the literal meaning is unreasonable,-since there is no motive which can lead to the destruction of this earth,since the same descriptions referred to spiritual things at our Saviour's first coming, and since the principal passages are allowed even by the believers in the doctrines to refer to other subjects,—we have reason to conclude, Ist, that the expected destruction is not a destruction of the visible earth, but of the state of the Church; and, 2nd, that the new heaven and the new earth,' together with the descent of the New Jerusalem, point out a restoration of Christianity to its former purity and glory.”
[The words in Greek, translated “the end of the world” in the common version, are ouvrenela tou alwvos; (Matt. xiii. 39, xxviii. 20.) these same words are also employed by the apostle in Heb. ix. 26, where he “But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” This declaration of the apostle plainly shews us the proper meaning of the above words, which is evidently not that, so commonly entertained, of the end of the world, when all things, it is supposed, will be destroyed; but the consummation of the age, when the Jewish Church was entirely perverted and consummated. In another place the apostle says: “All these things are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Cor. x. 11.) Here the “ends of the world” by no means involve the common notion, but indicate that the period when the apostle wrote was the end or consummation of the Jewish Church. It is strange that notions so contrary to the truth can be entertained, when the slightest investigation of Scripture would enable us to think correctly on the subject.-ED.]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS IN THE AUGUST NUMBER
OF THE REPOSITORY.
To the Editor of the Intellectual Repository. DEAR SIR,
In the August number of the Repository there is a series of questions which appear to have been sent to you by different persons to
N.S. NO. 60.--VOL. V.
elicit information; and, appended thereto, there is a corresponding series of answers given by the Editor. The inquiries are all of an interesting nature, and many of the remarks in reply to them are doubtless very judicious. But it appears to me that some of the observations of the Editor involve considerations of great importance to the Church; and, moreover, that their truth is so questionable, that they ought not to be hastily passed over, nor allowed to become current amongst us without careful examination. For my own part, I must acknowledge I felt some surprise on reading the reply given to the questions numbered 2, 3, 4; and that I have felt more since, as three subsequent numbers of our periodical have now been issued without a notice from any of our able writers questioning the truth of the ideas promulged in answers to the questions named.
In all deference, therefore, to the respected author of the opinions in question, and in the absence of any more competent individual to take up the subject, the following observations are respectfully offered.
The first question referred to above is that marked number 2, namely, “Was Lot's wife literally turned into a pillar of salt ?” The inference to be drawn from the Editor's reply to this inquiry is, that the event is to be understood spiritually, and not literally, except as taking place in the spiritual world. Now, that the Scripture history of this event involves a spiritual meaning, and that the event itself might have been witnessed in the spiritual world, are well known and universally admitted in the New Church; but why is not this part of the Word to be understood by us in the letter? Why might not this representative transaction have had a basis in the natural world ? And what are the New Church principles in this instance on which the negation rests? If we are not prepared to reject the literal sense of the whole history, there were certainly such persons as Lot, his wife, and his daughters; it is equally certain too, that they all left Sodom, and that Lot's wife did not go to Zoar. (Gen. xix. 15, 16, 17, 30.) What then became of her ? The divine history informs us that she became a pillar of salt. But it may be said, this is unnatural and improbable. The same may be said of all the miracles, but nevertheless we know that they had a basis in nature; and why not this ? It took place in a miraculous age,-an age of judgment, and there may be laws of nature, unknown to us, which, at the time and place referred to, produced the phenomenon recorded in the Sacred history, and changed the mortal part of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt.
Question 3. “Was it a natural or a spiritual star which led the wise men of the east to the infant Saviour ?” Here, again, we are led to
infer from the Editor's reply, that the Word is not to be understood in the sense of the letter,—that it was not a natural, but a spiritual star that led the wise men of the east. The observations made above apply as strictly in this case as in the other. On what ground is the truth in the literal sense of the Word denied ? In the historical parts of Scripture, what authority justifies our saying this is to be interpreted as having a natural sense, and that as not having one? Are we not to understand that the whole of the Sacred History, after Genesis xi., has both spiritual and a natural sense ? It is true that in some parts of the Word the ground of the literal sense was in the spiritual world, but the cases are rare where there was not a visible basis in the natural world at the same time, and in the present instance this seems certainly to have been
How could a star in the spiritual world, where space is a mere appearance arising from diversity of state, lead a number of individuals from one country to another in this world ? Or are we to imagine that the whole transaction was a mere appearance, and that the wise men never went to Bethlehem at all? There is no occasion to deny the literal sense of the Divine Word in the present instance. Natural light is perpetually generated by spiritual agency, else would the sun, the moon, and the stars cease to shine. The Israelites were led through the wilderness by a supernatural light, and the face of Moses shone when he came down from the mount. Hence it is quite possible that the light or star seen by the wise men was natural, but originating in some especial spiritual cause. The more carefully we think over these subjects, the more difficulty and danger shall we discover in leaving the literal sense of the Word.
Question 4. “ Were all the different races of men on the earth equally the children of one pair ?” The Editor's answer is “Certainly not.” Certainly not! On what grounds can this positive answer, so contrary to the common sentiments of mankind, and, I believe, of the members of the New Church in particular, have been given ? Surely some striking fact or argument may be expected and required to substantiate such a position. Strange to say, however, the Editor's opinion is not supported by a single fact or argument, except that Cain went and took a wife in the land of Nod, which has nothing to do with the question. If the Sacred History teach any doctrine concerning the origin of man, it is the common notion that all the human race have descended from a single pair. The members of the New Church, however, know that this is not the subject treated of in the Word, and therefore they would not use it for that purpose; but it is certainly too much to deny the primary feature of the history a literal interpretation,