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Reference: Swedenborgians


SWEDENBORGIANS denote that particular denomination of Christians who admit the testimony of Baron Swedenborg, and receive the doctrines taught in the theological writings of that author. Emanuel Swedenborg was the son of a bishop of West Gothnia, in the kingdom of Sweden, whose name was Swedberg, a man of considerable learning and celebrity in his time. The son was born at Stockholm, January 29, 1688. He enjoyed early the advantages of a liberal education, and being naturally endowed with uncommon talents for the acquirement of learning, his progress in the sciences was rapid and extensive; and he soon distinguished himself by several publications in the Latin language, which gave proof of equal genius and erudition. It may reasonably be supposed that under the care of his pious and reverend father our author's religious instruction was not neglected. This, indeed, appears plain from the general tenor of his life and writings, which are marked with strong and lively characters of a mind deeply impressed with a sense of the divine Being, and of all the relative duties thence resulting. He was ennobled in the year 1719, by Queen Ulrica Eleonora, and named Swedenborg, from which time he took his seat with the nobles of the equestrian order, in the triennial assembly of the states. The philosophical works, published in Latin, by Baron Swedenborg, are numerous; but his theological works are said to be still more so.

1. The first and principal distinguishing doctrine contained in the writings of Baron Swedenborg, and maintained by his followers, relates to the person and character of Jesus Christ, and to the redemption wrought by him. On this subject it is insisted that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, manifested in the flesh; and that he came into the world to glorify his human nature, by making it one with the divine. It is therefore resisted farther that the humanity of Jesus Christ is itself divine, by virtue of its indissoluble union with the indwelling Father, agreeably to the testimony of St. Paul, that, "in Jesus Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," Col 2:9; and that thus, as to his humanity, he is the Mediator between God and man, since there is now no other medium of God's access to man, or of man's access to God, but this divine humanity, which was assumed for this purpose. Thus it is taught, that in the person of Jesus Christ dwells the whole Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Father constituting the soul of the above humanity, while the humanity itself is the Son, and the divine virtue or operation proceeding from it is the Holy Spirit; forming altogether one God, just as the soul, the body, and operation of man, form one man. On the subject of the redemption wrought by this incarnate God, it is lastly taught that it consisted not in the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, but in the real subjugation of the powers of darkness and their removal from man, by continual combats and victories over them, during his abode in the world; and in the consequent descent to man of divine power and life, which was brought near to him in the thus glorified humanity of this victorious God. They who receive this testimony concerning Jesus Christ therefore acknowledge no other God but him; and believe that in approaching his divine humanity, they approach, at the same time, and have communication with, all the fulness of the Godhead, seeing and worshipping the invisible in the visible, agreeably to the tenor of those words of Jesus Christ: "He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me; and he that seeth me, seeth him that sent me," Joh 12:44-45.

2. A second doctrine taught by the same author relates to the sacred Scripture, or word of God, which is maintained to be divinely inspired throughout, and, consequently, to be the repository of the whole will and wisdom of the most high God. It is, however, insisted, that this will and wisdom are not in all places discoverable from the letter or history of the sacred pages, but lie deeply concealed under the letter. For it is taught by Baron Swedenborg, that the sense of the letter of the holy word is the basis, the continent, and the firmament, of its spiritual and celestial senses, being written according to the doctrine of correspondencies between things spiritual and things natural, and thus designed by the Most High as the vehicle of communication of the eternal spiritual truths of his kingdom to the minds of men. It is farther endeavoured to be shown that Jesus Christ spake continually according to this same doctrine, veiling divine and spiritual truths under natural images, especially in his parables, and thus communicating to man the most important mysteries relative to himself and his kingdom, under the most beautiful and edifying figures taken from the natural things of this world. Thus, according to Baron Swedenborg, even the historical parts both of the Old and New Testament contain vast stores of important and spiritual wisdom under the outward letter; and this consideration, as he farther asserts, justifies the pages of divine revelation, even in those parts which to a common observer appear trifling, nugatory, and contradictory. It is lastly maintained, on this subject, that the sacred Scripture, or word of God, is the only medium of communication and conjunction between God and man, and is likewise the only source of all genuine truth and knowledge respecting God, his kingdom, and operation, and the only sure guide for man's understanding, in whatever relates to his spiritual or eternal concerns.

3. The next branch of the system is practical, and relates to the life, or to that rule of conduct on the part of man which is truly acceptable to the Deity, and at the same time conducive to man's eternal happiness and salvation, by conjoining him with his God. This rule is taught to be simply this: to shun all known evils as sins against God, and at the same time to love, to cherish, and to practise whatsoever is wise, virtuous, and holy, as being most agreeable to the will of God, and to the spirit of his precepts. On this subject it is strongly and repeatedly insisted that evil must of necessity remain with man, and prove his eternal destruction, unless it be removed by sincere repentance, leading him to note what is disorderly in his own mind and life; and, when he has discovered it, to fight resolutely against its influence, in dependence on the aid and grace of Jesus Christ. It is insisted farther, that this opposition to evil ought to be grounded on the consideration that all evil is against God, since, if evil be combated from any inferior motive, it is not radically removed, but only concealed, and on that account is even more dangerous and destructive than before. It is added, that when man has done the work of repentance, by shunning his hereditary evils as sins against God, he ought to set himself to the practice of what is wise and good by a faithful, diligent, and conscientious discharge of all the duties of his station; by which means his mind is preserved from a return of the power of disorder, and kept in the order of heaven, and the fulfilment of the great law of charity.

4. A fourth doctrine inculcated in the same writings, is the cooperation on the part of man with the divine grace or agency of Jesus Christ. On this subject it is insisted that man ought not indolently to hang down his hands, under the idle expectation that God will do every thing for him in the way of purification and regeneration, without any exertion of his own; but that he is bound by the above law of cooperation to exert himself, as if the whole progress of his purification and regeneration depended entirely on his own exertions; yet, in exerting himself, he is continually to recollect, and humbly to acknowledge, that all his power to do so is from above, agreeably to the declaration of Jesus Christ, "Without me ye can do nothing," Joh 15:5.

5. A fifth and last distinguishing doctrine taught in the theological writings of our author, relates to man's connection with the other world, and its various inhabitants. On this subject, it is insisted, not only from his view of the sacred Scri

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