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have, to be sure, an admirable specimen of what Pope calls to
"damn with faint praise ;"
yet we may be satisfied that there must be something truly striking in what Swedenborg delivers on these subjects, to extort even such praise from a man determined, when looking at his excellences, to apply the wrong end of the telescope, while for discovering what might be distorted into blemishes, he uses the strongest magnifier he could find. Accordingly, he immediately adds, "But on these subjects the Bible may always be consulted with infinitely more success; therefore quitting the Bible for Baron Swedenborg's works, is something like leaving good wine for mere water." Can any thing be more futile? Must he not have been sadly at a loss for an objection to offer such a one as this? All that has ever been written in illustration of the Bible, is, it seems, mere waste paper! The Bible not only contains. all things necessary to salvation, but all so plainly stated, that every reader, learned or unlearned, may comprehend the whole without assistance! However, fearing that the weakness of this remark must be obvious to every one, and to evince that he only dislikes all "tautology and repetition" in others, he repeats the charge made in the page preceding: "If," he adds, "we will read uninspired books upon these subjects, there are plenty to be found more compact and consolidated than the Baron's writings, which are frequently both diffuse and incoherent." This last imputation I utterly deny. I defy any man to produce a fair example of incoherence from any part of our author's numerous volumes. If there be, occasionally, some diffuseness in his style, it arose from his desire to avoid ambiguity; he doubtless had rather seem prolix than obscure. But prolixity is by no means the general characteristic of his composition; it in fact seldom appears but in the uniform and formal mode in which he introduces his comments on each clause of the subject in his expositions of the Scriptures. Besides, who can judge of his style, that only knows it through the very disadvantageous medium of a literal translation? In the original, it is often so condensed, that it is difficult fully to render the sense in
English without greatly weakening it by dilution. I appeal as an example to the Latin of the work "On the New Jerusalem, and its Heavenly Doctrine;" which is a production truly admirable for the consolidated weight of its matter, and the correspondingly brief and sententious character of its style. But in respect to works like his, in which the matter is everything, it only displays a previous determination to be displeased, when an opponent descends to cavil about the manner: and a man who wishes to be regarded as a friend of religion in general, ought, before he resorts to such cavils, to consider whom they will hit besides. It is long ago since Jerome noticed the solecisms of Paul; and it is well known that none of the writers of the New Testament possessed a good Greek style: but who that pretends to a grain of candor regards this as derogating from the importance of their writings? Who will say that, because, as to the composition, their epistles are not faultless, there is reason to impute "disordered intellects" to the Apostles? Let Swedenborg's writings be looked at for their sentiments, and be judged of by them: and we fear not to assert, that they will be found to contain a system of theology, which, instead of being, like that of his opponents, at open variance with half the Bible, and really at variance with all the rest, is in perfect harmony with the whole; and, what is no less important, a system which, differently from all others, harmonizes all the Bible with itself.
Most unjust then, in every respect, is the representation which Mr B. gives of the writings of Swedenborg. It is fabled of the cruel Medea, that to stop her incensed father in his pursuit, she tore her tender brother Absyrtes limb from limb, and strewed the way with his mangled remains: thus, also, is Swedenborg treated by his adversary, to turn the sincere seeker from the pursuit of truth. Mr B. probably exults in the dexterity with which he has performed this feat; for he has received for it loud plaudits (uttered, I trust, in ignorance) from several of the theological Magazines. Cheered by the commendation, he probably says in his heart, something like what the notorious T. Paine has said in his " Age of Reason," on completing a not dissimilar exploit: "I have now gone through the Bible, as a man would go
through a wood, with an axe on his shoulder, and fell trees: Here they lie: and the priests, if they can, may replant them. They may perhaps stick them in the ground again, but they will never grow." So easy is it, by overlooking the design of the whole together, and taking detached passages out of their connexion, to hold up to ridicule anything whatsoever, even the eternal Word of truth itself; and so easy is it likewise for men, when they have done this, to persuade themselves that the objects of their scorn deserve it. This is just what the Anti-Swedenborg has done with the illustrious Swedenborg and his writings: it creates deformities; and then calls upon its readers to bestow on them their contempt.
"Trunca sed ostendens disjectis corpora membris,
And this is not more the case with that part of the work which contains Mr B.'s own conclusions and delineations, than with that which is entitled, "Sundry Extracts from the writings of Baron Swedenborg." If "Sundry" means sundered, the title is truly descriptive. A scrap is taken from one place, and a scrap from another, while all the explanations necessary for the understanding of them are omitted: and the reader is solicited to condemn the anthor on account of the grotesque dress in which his antagonist presents him. Suppose a man were to steal into the wardrobe of a prince, and cutting off a snip from one elegant garment, and a snip from another, were to patch them together in the form of a fool's coat: what should we think of him, if he were to exhibit his motley compound, his thing of shreds and patches, as a dress of the prince's, instead of acknowledging that it was merely his own? Just as good an idea would such a piece of patchwork present of a royal robe, as do the extracts furnished by our adversaries in general, and Mr B. in particular, of the writings of Swedenborg. They endeavor, by garbled quotations, to make him appear ridiculous or unintelligible; and then they call upon the public to pronounce him mad. Return however the fragments to their proper places, and read them in their proper order; and the reason of the whole will appear: and then his writings, instead of lending any countenance to the imputation of insanity, com
pletely refute it, and evince his heaven born intelligence.*
* We will here add some illustrations connected with the above subject.
It has given much pain to the receivers of the doctrines communicated in the Writings of Swedenborg, that the circulation of the report of his insanity, should have been materially promoted by a man so much entitled to respect as the late Rev. Mr Wesley. It is however certain, that in the part which he took in the affair, he was completely imposed upon by the Minister of the Swedish Chapel in London, Mr Mathesius, who was Swedenborg's personal and violent enemy;-and I am providentially enabled, by some documents which have recently come into my hands, to trace the progress of Mr Wesley's mind in regard to Swedenborg, in such a manner, as completely to neutralize his authority in the unfavorable conclusion which he, at last, adopted: for I am enabled to shew, that, in that conclusion, Mr Wesley stands in direct opposition to Mr Wesley himself; and that his first judgment was formed upon far better evidence than his last. It appears certain, that Mr Wesley was at one time inclined to receive Swedenborg's testimony in the fullest manner; and this because he had had indubitable experience of his supernatural knowledge.
Among Mr Wesley's preachers, in the year 1772, was the late Mr Smith, a man of great piety and integrity, who afterwards became one of the first ministers in our church. Having heard a curious anecdote, said to rest on his authority, I wrote to Mr J. I. Hawkins, the well-known Engineer, who had been intimately acquainted with Mr Smith, to request an exact account of it. The following (a little abbreviated) is his answer: it is dated Feburary 6th, 1826.
"Dear Sir,-In answer to your inquiries, I am able to state, that I have a clear recollection of having repeatedly heard the Rev. Samuel Smith say, about the year 1787 or 1788, that in the latter end of February, 1772, he, with some other preachers, was in attendance upon the Rev. John Wesley, taking instructions and assisting him in the preparations for his great Circuit, which Mr Wesley was about to commence that while thus in attendance, a letter came to Mr Wesley, which he perused with evident astonishment: that, after a pause, he read the letter to the company; and that it was couched in nearly the following words: [the letter was most probably in Latin; but Mr Wesley, no doubt, would read it in English :]
Great Bath Street, Cold Bath Fields, Feb - 1772. Sir, I have been informed in the world of spirits that you have a strong desire to converse with me; I shall be happy to see you if you will favor me with a visit.
'I am, sir, your humble Servant,
"Mr Wesley frankly acknowledged to the company, that he had been very strongly impressed with a desire to see and converse with Swedenborg, and that he had never mentioned that desire to any one. "Mr Wesley wrote for answer, that he was then closely occupied in preparing for six months' journey, but would do himself the pleasure of waiting upon Mr Swedenborg soon after his return to London. "Mr Smith further informed me, that he afterwards learned from very good authority, that Swedenborg wrote in reply, that the visit
IV. The other principal objection generally made against the authority of Swedenborg, is, that he perform
proposed by Mr Wesley would be too late, as he, Swedenborg, should go into the world of spirits on the 29th day of the next month,
never more to return.
"Mr Wesley went the Circuit, and on his return to London, [if not, as is most probable, before,] was informed of the fact, that Swedenborg had departed this life on the 29th of March preceding.
"This extraordinary correspondence induced Mr Smith to examine the writings of Swedenborg; and the result was, a firm conviction of the rationality and truth of the heavenly doctrines promulgated in those invaluable writings, which doctrines he zealously labored to disseminate during the remainder of his natural life.
"That Mr Smith was a man of undoubted veracity, can be testified by several persons now living, besides myself; the fact therefore that such a correspondence did take place between the Honorable Emanuel Swedenborg and the Rev. John Wesley, is established upon the best authority.
"On referring to Mr Wesley's printed journal it may be seen, that he left London on the 1st of March in the year 1772; reached Bristol on the 3d, Worcester on the 14th, and Chester on the 29th, which was the day of Swedenborg's final departure from this world. Mr Wesley, in continuing his circuit, visited Liverpool, and various towns in the north of England, and in Scotland, returning through Northumberland and Durham to Yorkshire, and thence through Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Shropshire, to Wales; thence to Bristol, Salisbury, Winchester, and Portsmouth, to London, where he arrived on the 10th of October in the same year, having been absent rather more than six months.
"I feel it my duty to accede to your request and allow my name to appear as your immediate voucher.
"I remain, Dear Sir, your's very sincerely,
To this I can add, that the Rev. Mr Sibly has assured me, that he has heard Mr Smith relate the above anecdote; and that he could mention, if necessary, several other persons still living who must have heard it too. He fully, also, supports Mr Hawkins's statement in re-ard to Mr Smith's veracity. Thus it is impossible to doubt that Mr Smith affirmed it; and it is difficult to suppose that he could either wilfully or unintentionally misrepresent an incident which must have impressed him so strongly, and of which the consequent change of his sentiments formed a collateral evidence.
It may be here proper to observe, that the Translation of Swedenborg's little work on the intercourse between the Soul and the Body had been published not long previously (in 1770,) with a Preface by the translator, addressed to the Universities, urging the author's claims to attention. This Mr W. had probably seen, and had thence conceived the desire he acknowledges, to see the author. The discovery that this desire, though it had remained a secret in his own breast, was known to Swedenborg, must have affected him very strongly it must have convinced him that Swedenborg's assertion, that he possessed the privilege of conversing with angels and spirits, was true and it is natural to suppose that he would conclude from