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We take great pains to observe the signs of the times as far as they regard the temporal things of this life; but we are too often careless and indifferent of these signs when connected with the spiritual things of an hereafter : thus our Lord complains of this want of observation, where he says, “when it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning it will be foul weather to-day ; for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times ?” Among the many signs and wonders which are to take place, as so many forerunners of our Lord's second glorious appearance in the clouds of heaven, by which appearance the many things are to be revealed, are three very striking ones ; they are mentioned by our Lord in the 24th of St. Matthew's Gospel, and are these, viz. The sun shall be darkened -and the moon shall not give her light-and the stars shall fall from heaven.-If we lift up the soul to contemplate spiritual things, I am persuaded we shall be convinced that now are the last times; and that light is sprung up to cheer the spiritual traveller in his way to the kingdom of peace ! But how do we expect the fulfilment of this prophecy made by our Lord ? do we literally and naturally expect the sun to be darkened, and the moon to withdraw her light, and the stars to fall from heaven? If we do it is most evident that we have not as yet discerned the signs of the times; and this is the more to be lamented because when these things take place, “then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven,” and then shall he be seen coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. It is perhaps but little known, because we have not sufficiently attended to the signs of the times, that a similar prophecy to this recorded in Matthew is mentioned in Joel, where it is said, “The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble; the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” ii. 10, 30, 31. This prophecy is said to have been fulfilled at the time of our Lord's advent in the flesh, for the Apostle Peter on the memorable day of pentecost, when all the Apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance, and to declare to all the wonderful works of God, said, while some were mocking and charging the
disciples with being full of new wine, “be this known unto you, . and hearken to my words, this is that which was spoken by the
prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God,
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.” Acts ii. 17, 20. Here then the Apostle distinctly declares that the prophecy in Joel alluding to the sun, moon, and stars withdrawing their light, was then fulfilled notwithstanding our sun, moon, and stars underwent no such change, and did we but carefully observe the signs of the times we should be convinced that the prophecy in Matthew which speaks of the sun and moon becoming dark, and the stars falling from heaven is this day fulfilled and fulfilling, and that the Son of Man, the Lord as Divine Truth, is now making his appearance in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. If we make a true discernment of the signs of the times, it must be a spiritual discernment, and by this kind of discernment we shall perceive that by the sun, when mentioned in Scripture, is meant, not that luminous body which is the centre of our system, but the Sun of Righteousness, the Lord Himself with respect to his Divine Love; for this is the sun, whose enlivening beams will bless us with every heavenly virtue, cause Zion to bud and blossom as the rose, and fill the soul with joy and gladness! When the Divine Love this Sun of Righteousness—is received into the human will, and made as it were the ground of all our actions and religious faith and worship—then the sun shines in all the glory and dignity of its strength, but when self-love is the secret and moving spring of all our actions both religious and worldly, then in the language of prophecy the last times have arrived and the sun is darkened. The same spiritual discernment will also teach us, that by the moon is meant, when shining, a pure and enlightened faith in the One Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ—but when this faith is obscured and perverted, and a false faith is instituted in the church, which directs its votaries to a belief in a division of the Divine Being into plurality of persons, which in itself is monstrous and unholy, then, again, in the language of prophecy the moon does not give her light, and the stars have fallen from heaven. The stars denote all the knowledges of divine and heavenly subjects in the complex, which are said to fall from heaven when they are either rejected, or prostituted to selfish and worldly purposes. Such, then, is the spiritual signification of this prophecy recorded in Matthew, and if we carefully discern the signs of the times, we may now discover that these are the last days, and that the Son of Man, is now descending in the
clouds of heaven with power and great glory. The doctrines of the New Jerusalem, which, alas! although but little known in this busy world, are nevertheless the doctrines which unfold these interesting subjects to the mind in the clear light of day. They teach that by the Son of Man is meant the Lord with respect to the Divine Truth, and by the clouds of heaven, the literal sense of the Holy Word; for every literal sentence, verse and word, is as a cloud, which contains within its bosom, the pure unspotted truth in its internal glory and divinity. Hence then, by the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, we are instructed that the Lord will most powerfully reveal himself in his Word, and that by the opening of the literal sense, which is most completely done in the doctrines of the New Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Very Divine Truth will be seen and acknowledged in all the splendour and dignity of his divinity as the only trữe God and eternal life, in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily. The last times, or last days denote the end of any particular dispensation ; thus the last days of the Jewish Church were when the Lord made his personal advent in the flesh, for then the Jewish Church passed away, and was succeeded by the Christian. The consummation of the age, or, as translated, the end of the world, recorded in Matthew, may be viewed as the last days, as the end of that dispensation of truth established at our Lord's advent in the flesh; these last days were brought on by corrupt worship-by denying the Divinity of the Lord on the one hand, and by dividing the Deity into plurality of persons, and instituting worship upon such a baseless fabric, on the other. These last days are to be succeeded by the glorious appearance of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, and by the introduction of a brighter day of glory, denoted by the descent of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, in which happy state of religious truth, the glory of the latter house will far exceed the glory of the former. Can we take a view into the religious world, and there behold the wars and rumours of
—the different and even opposite doctrines which are taught, and declared to be Christian doctrines, without being forcibly struck with our Lord's words, where he says, “ Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Matt. xxiv. 4, 5, and again,
Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” ver. 11, 12. False prophets are false doctrines, and these deceive by turning us out of the path of true uprightness, when this deception is accomplished, then iniquity abounds, and when this abounds, the love of many waxeth cold. Amidst all this confusion
of language, this great spiritual tribulation, the doctrines of the New Jerusalem present themselves for our acceptance: they come not with worldly pomp and arrogance, but with heavenly humility and simplicity! they come not with excellency of speech, but with power of conviction! They humbly ask, what they have a right to demand, a calm and patient hearing. If these doctrines are true, they must and they will triumph; if they are false, they must, and they ought to fall. Let us, then, not reject these things, but carefully and diligently examine them; let us try their worth, prove all things, never forgetting to “hold fast that which is good.” If we diligently discern the signs of the times, we shall see what John saw in vision, “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” The light of this Holy City will disperse the thick clouds of dark, ness-guide us into all truth, and render us, in the possession of such rich treasures, supremely and eternally happy.
X. Y. Z.
ON THE TERMS “INCARNATE GOD,” &c. Gentlemen,
your third number you inserted a letter of animadversion on the use of the term “Incarnate God." and other phraseology deemed objectionable by the writer. I certainly expected to see it answered; but the remarks of Ignoramus, in your last number, seem so little to the purpose, and are so far from satisfying my mind, that they have only stimulated me to attempt a reply myself.
If the views of *** are quite accurate, his remarks are needlessly severe on your correspondent J. W. S. and other well-meaning writers: if they are not correct, the confident manner in which they are displayed may increase the mischief they are calculated to produce. My object, however, is not to criticise his manner. After treating with so little ceremony the unassuming style of J. W.S, he is quite consistent in avoiding any imitation of it. But are his animadversions just, or well-founded ? He says "the very phrase Incarnate God is abhorrent from the whole scope and tenor of those (Swedenborg's] writings;" and he speaks of "that gross expression the Divine body, repugnant as it is to the repeated declaration of our great author.” On reading these sentences, every one, I conceive, who does not happen to know better, must necessarily conclude that the proscribed phrases are not to be found in the writings of E. S.; and many, no doubt, will be surprised to learn that “our great author" himself is entitled to share with J. W. S., in the reproaches of *** for the use of those “ab
horent” words.' Yet such is the case, and it is strange that *** should not be aware of it. In No. 174. of the Universal Theology, “the very phrase Incarnate God” is used ; and No. 14. of the Divine Love and Wisdom contains “that gross expression the Divine Body."
I know not but these terms may be found in other parts also of Swedenborg's works; for, to my apprehension, they are in strict harmony with the doctrines of the New Jerusalem, and with the inspired Scriptures in which those doctrines originate. Word was made flesh; and although it be admitted, that material flesh and blood cannot enter heaven, and that the material elements received from Mary were put off by the Lord, it must also be admitted that Divine substance corresponding to the same low degree was put on. E. S. never speaks of the Lord's putting off the finite, frail humanity, but at the same time of his putting on the divine humanity; and he distinctly states that, after the Resurrection, “ His body was now no longer a material, but a divine substantial body.” (Doct. of the Lord, No. 35.) How otherwise, indeed, are we to understand the Lord's own words ? He says to his disciples a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” If he had flesh and bones, though they were of a Divine nature, of which his disciples could be favoured with a spiritual perception only; he was then, and is still, the Incarnate God. In this very particular terminates the analogy, so often pointed out in the New Church writings, between the Lord's glorification and the regeneration of man. “He arose after death on the third day with his whole body; which never happens to any man, for he only rises as to his spirit, and not as to his body.” (Doct. of the Lord, No. 35.) Hence the angels know, that the Lord alone, in the whole spiritual world, is fully man.” (Univ. Theol. No. 109.) The natural body of man, not being capable of being made spiritual, he rises again without it; but the Lord's body, we are informed, was glorified or made divine as to the very ultimates, to serve as a medium of divine influence which should affect man during his probation here. We have all therefore a vital interest in the Lord's Divine Body, and we should gratefully acknowledge it. If the terms in question appropriately convey these truths, why should we not use them ? It is not a sufficient reason for discarding them, that they are applied by others in reference to false doctrines. Such a reason would rob us of all useful language ; and we should avoid, for instance, speaking of man's spiritual body, lest we might be understood to believe in the resurrection of his natural body.
I am proceeding, however, further than proposed. It was my