Theories as to a Future State
A NOTE ON SWEDENBORGIANISM
I OMITTED in the former edition of this book to speak of
Swedenborgianism, and this has been objected to me; but the reason will be
plain to those who are at all acquainted with it. Swedenborgianism rejects ten
out of thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, twenty-two out of twenty-seven
in the New; and what remains is interpreted in an arbitrary mystical manner,
which, based upon a supposed supernatural illumination, refuses to submit to
ordinary criticism. To the shred of Scripture left it adds the visions and
revelations of Swedenborg himself, and the whole is a new dispensation of truth
superseding the gospel. Thus evidently it is of little use discussing this
doctrine or that belonging to it. It stands or falls as a whole, and any
sufficient review of its claims would be beyond the scope of this volume. Yet
we may permit ourselves a very brief notice.
Indeed, for those who believe in Scripture, and have not yielded themselves up to the deadening of the moral faculties which false doctrine ever induces, a statement of the views is a sufficient refutation. Dr. Enoch Pond has given this already, with constant reference to the books from which he quotes; and his account, until it be shown a false one, should be enough for all purposes. I shall therefore avail myself of his book so far as needful.
Swedenborgianism denies the Trinity, the spotlessness of the Lord, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, justification by faith, and the resurrection. No real Christianity remains, therefore, in it. At death, the body is done with, but the man rises in a spiritual body which has been contained within the natural. There is, however, an intermediate state of existence in a spiritual world, where henceforth - the last general judgment having taken place - no person is allowed to remain longer than thirty years. Every one passes then into heaven or hell, according as his ruling affections and life on earth have been either good or evil.
In the spiritual world things go on much as in the present one, so that one come recently into it does not know but that he is still in the former world. He walks, runs, sits, eats and drinks and sleeps as before. He is amid plains and valleys and hills and rivers, gardens, groves, and woods. The people live in nations, pursuing trades and occupations as they did on earth.
In heaven it is little different. You find birds, beasts, and fishes, vegetables of all kinds, groves, fields, plains, flower-beds, shrubberies, and grass-plats. There are mechanical arts, and trades, judiciary proceedings, museums, gymnasiums and colleges; the inhabitants still eat and drink and sleep, wear clothes, live in houses, marry and rear children, play hand-ball, rackets, and engage in other diversions.
"It is not so difficult as it is supposed to live a life which leads to heaven." "Some people believe that a spiritual life is difficult, since they have been told that a man must renounce the world, and deprive himself of the concupiscences of the body and the flesh; which things they conceive as implying that they must reject worldly things, which consist chiefly in riches and honors; that they must walk continually in pious meditation about God, salvation, and eternal life; and that they must spend their days in prayer, and in reading the Word and other pious books. This they call renouncing the world, and living in the Spirit and not in the flesh. But that the case is altogether otherwise has been given me to know," says Swedenborg himself, "from much experience, and from conversation with the angels. Indeed, they who renounce the world and live in the Spirit, in the manner above described, procure to themselves a sorrowful life, which is not receptible of heavenly joy; for every ones life remains with him after death."* He accordingly recommends "the delights and pleasures of the bodily senses," - dice, billiards, cards, and dances.
*"Heaven and Hell," sect. 528. Charity, sect. 117.
Only we must "beware of this heresy, that man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law; for he who is in it and does not fully recede from it before life ends, after death associates with infernal genii; for they are the goats concerning whom the Lord says, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." Pious Mohammedans, on the other hand, go to heaven and enjoy the very paradise promised by their religion!
Apocalypse Revealed, sect. 838.
"It is evident," he further says, "that they who come into hell remain there to eternity." Yet he contradicts this again "It is not to be thought, therefore, that the Lord would suffer any one to be punished, much less without intermission forever, except with a view to his reformation; as whatever is from the Lord is good, and for a good end; but eternal punishment could have no such end."§
§Spiritual Diary. sect. 3489.
But in fact "no one suffers punishment in hell on account of the evils which he has done in the world, but on account of the evils which he then does."# And yet he speaks of the punishment of assassins as "dreadful," and has a special one for the popes who deprived emperors of their dominions. Punishment seems largely inflicted by the lost upon each other, and it is often terrible enough; but there are mitigations. Those who do their task well get food and clothing and beds to rest on. There are hypocrites, who, "by means of a holy external, have communications with some of the societies of the lowest heavens; and by means of a profane internal, with the hells; while others are able to persuade themselves and others that they are in heaven. Indeed, those in hell are permitted to live as they like and enjoy the delights they desire, with no other qualification, no other restraint, than is necessary to prevent their making each other miserable."* "But this idea," says Dr. Pond, "is contradicted in a great many passages."
#Heaven and Hell, sect. 509. *Heaven and Hell. sect. 528.
Plainly it would be doing too great honour to all this to refute it. Nor need it have been mentioned, except for the fact that many are still ignorant what "New Church" doctrine is, and are exposed by their ignorance to being deceived by it. Dr. Ponds book contains many more and grosser things than these, which it is not necessary for me to bring forward. I commend all who desire information to the book itself.
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