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The “immanence of God in nature and in man,” and the fact of the supernatural, are sufficient, Mr. Sears thinks, to account for all “miracles.” “Nature is the perpetual efflorescence of the Divine power: the natural is the unbroken evolution of the supernatural ; history, from the first man to the last, is the progressive unrolling of the plan of the infinite Providence, in which great events and small are taken up and glorified.” A “miracle” is “exactly what is implied in its etymology-a surprise." The boasted phrase, the “uniformity of the laws of nature,” implies only our perceptions of a sequence between antecedents and consequents in the realm of nature: the intrusion of a miracle is no violation of a law, but a “surprise” as to sequence; a consequent is seen, while its antecedent, or the relative adequacy of the antecedent to evolve the consequent, is not seen. Hence the miracle is miraculous, i.e. "a surprise,” only to those whose intelligence is not
' sufficient to discern the antecedent, or the adequacy of the antecedent to evolve the consequent, the wondrous work effected. Therefore, it follows, that the age of the miraculous is not, and never will be, past: because God still works, and men are still ignorant. Higher intelligences, looking down upon the external miracle from the higher stand-point of spiritual wisdom, see nothing “miraculous” in the miracle ; it is but another illustration to them of the “immanence of God in Nature."
Of this latter phrase Mr. Sears makes much and familiar use. Το him, the “involution of the supernatural in nature, and the immanence of God in humanity" explain all things, and are essential to the existence of all things. Just as the body is the material garb of the soul, so the natural is the visible embodiment of the supernatural, and was evolved therefrom by the Divine Producer of all things. But just as the natural is the evolution of the supernatural, and is retained in existence by unbroken connection with it, so the supernatural itself was evolved by God from Himself, He the everywhere present life of it, the ever active sustainer of it, and also of the natural. Thus God is ever working into human souls to raise them to wisdom, love, and goodness; as He is ever working into Nature, in order that He may contribute to the same high purpose. The immanence of God in Nature and in man is not “substantial,” but influent, i.e. by the influx of energies, forces, activities from himself; which, when received by nature, evolve all phenomena ; and which, when received by man, lift him in thought, affection and life above the natural, toward the supernatural, and, still further, toward the divine. In this way, the chain of being emanates from God, sweeps round the realms of the supernatural and the natural, finds its physical termination in man's body, thence encloses his spiritual constitution, and returns with man toward heaven and God; the world was made for man, man was made for heaven, and God is present by influx in both nature and man, in order to secure the realization of the purpose of the all-embracing plan. With such convictions, enlarging to the mind, and consolatory to the heart, the anthor approaches the study of the fourth Gospel. The “preliminary” was intended to show the author's intellectual “whereabouts :” of course, he would be the lasi to say that only those who can adopt his metaphysics can profit from his discussion of the fourth Gospel, or can perceive the beauty of the Gospel, or can accept its statements as true. The relation which his philosophy bears to the facts of the Gospel as he views them is evident. The “immanence of God in nature” renders nature plastic to whatever Divine wisdom may see fit to do: “the involution of the supernatural in the natural” makes nature a mere phenomenal arena, on which supernatural forces and agencies can fully display themselves: there is no limit set to the supernatural, and nothing, which is not contrary to His own nature, is impossible to God. The clothing of the Divine Logos with the integuments of a natural mind and physical body in the womb of a Virgin becomes only an additional, and by no means an unreasonable, phenomenon : the “exinanition” by which He put off the human derived from the mother was no more “unnatural” than the “incarnation” by which He assumed it. The barrier of “law,” which mere Naturalism has set up, as necessarily preventing such phenomena, is undermined and swept away: “law” is no more than the observed sequence between antecedent and consequent phenomena, under ordinary eircumstances, and cannot oppose anything; miracle is a “surprise," but only to those who are ignorant of the true relation between the supernatural and the natural, and of the spiritual exigencies of man, for whom all things were fashioned and exist. Before asking, “Could Jesus work miracles ?” we need to determine “ Who Jesus is?' and having settled that God is “immanent in Nature” and in “the supernatural which is involved in Nature,” the modus operandi of miracles is suggested, as well as the antecedent possibility of the miraculous established. The birth and resurrection of Jesus are thus relieved of otherwise inherent difficulties, and the logical path is made plain for an intelligent and reasonable faith.
PROFANATION; OR THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY
GHOST. THE “unpardonable' sin" has always been regarded by tender con sciences with something of that undefinable awe which arises from the imperfect knowledge of a constantly possible evil, and which tends to oppress the heart and paralyze the faculties of the mind; and brooding over it has been known to create morbid feelings that have embittered life and even dethroned reason. Strong minds have laboured to explain what has generally been considered a difficult and mysterious subject; but it remains still in acknowledged obscurity and doubt. It is only by the aid of new light—the light of a more perfect interpretation of the Divine Word, that we venture to treat of, or perhaps rather to glance at, this profound but important doctrine.
It is perhaps not desirable to dwell too long upon, or enter too minutely into, this most painful of all subjects, because greatest of all sins—the subject and sin of Profanation. In speaking of that disease among the Jews which was the dreadful symbol of profanation -(A. C. 6963) Swedenborg remarks that “whereas they are things profane which are described by the Leprosy, it is not allowed to explain particularly the things contained in the description of it (Lev. chap. xiii.), heaven also is in horror at the bare mention of what is profane.” He then proceeds to explain very generally the Levitical description of the leprosy, confining himself to the two general states of the disease, the one partial, the other entire. And what seems indeed singular, the partial disease is the worst, because, presenting a mixture of sound and diseased flesh, it represents the mixture of truth and falsity which is productive of that degree which is incurable, whereas those who were wholly diseased, being leprous from head to foot, present no such mixture, but entire whiteness, representing a state of mere falsity, which, although profane, is curable, or, in its permanent condition, does not entail those terrible consequences which follow the other state. The presence of living flesh was the sign of uncleanness, because living flesh signifies a living acknowledgment of truth, and therefore the presence of living and dead flesh represented the combination of a living and a dead faith ; while the man wholly covered with leprosy was the type of one who, though he knows the truth, does not inwardly acknowledge and believe it. The peculiar character of profanation, which distinguishes it from all other sins, is the mixture of what is good and evil, and what is true and false. In ordinary circumstances these opposite principles are to a greater or less extent present together in every mind; but the Lord exquisitely separates them, so that they may not be mixed, and especially that they may not be united. This separation is effected in this wise. Evil has its seat in the external man or natural mind. It never, in ordinary cases, penetrates into the internal man or spiritual mind. When evil possesses the natural mind, the spiritual mind is closed, and in it are preserved the good that may have been acquired; the good and the evil being thus separated from each other, as heaven is from hell; and, indeed, the spiritual mind is an image of heaven, and the natural mind, in its now perverted state, of hell. In those who live and die without ever having entered on the regenerate life, this is the condition of their mind. Evil in the natural mind rules, and the good that may be in the spiritual mind is shut in and inactive, and serves only as a means through which the Lord preserves in man the faculties of liberty and rationality, and tempers the evils that rule in the natural mind, and the states that result from them. The state of profaners is different from this. Profanation, in the degree of which we speak of it, is committed by those who have been, to some extent at least, regenerated. Regeneration has opened the spiritual mind, and brought the natural mind into subordination to it, and into harmony and conjunction with it. The natural mind, from being an image of hell, has become, as it originally was, an image of the world ; and the Lord's kingdom has come, and His will is done on earth as it is done in the heaven-in the natural mind as in the spiritual.
This is the state, departure from which is not sin merely, but profanation. If one who has attained this state falls away, and comes under the dominion of evil, the state from which regeneration delivered him cannot be restored. The evil does not simply take its old place in the natural mind, and close the gate of the spiritual mind, and shut in the good, and cut off the communication between the good and the evil. The gate once opened can never be entirely shut, the good once brought down can never be entirely indrawn. The evil that invades the natural mind, becomes mixed, and even united, with the good that descends from the spiritual mind; so that heaven and hell, between which the Lord had fixed a great gulf, are brought into an eternal connection in the same mind. This condition of mind gives the soul connection both with heaven and hell, and yet fixes its actual and permanent abode in neither. The soul is alternately, as it were, in the one and in the other, and hence the terrible states of fantasy and distraction to which such unhappy beings are subject-entailing states of suffering which cannot be conceived. This state is described by the man who swept and garnished his house, and went out into dry places, seeking rest, and finding none returned into his house, taking with him seven other spirits worse than himself, and dwelling there, and whose last state was worse than his first. It is described by the salt which had lost its savour, which is neither fit for the land nor yet for the dunghill, but men cast it out (Luke xiv. 34); that is, profaned truth, and those who profane it, are neither fit for heaven nor for hell, but are cast out into a place which is neither, where they live, or exist, apart from all others. This state is also described by being neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm; and the ejection of those who are confirmed in it is described by the Lord spueing them out of His mouth. But of all the descriptions of it, the most awful in its nature and the most terrible in its consequences, is that which is given by the Lord Himself, where He says, “ All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven - unto him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven unto Him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt. xii. 31). The difference between these two sins is a very interesting and important point of religious knowledge, and is clearly explained in the Writings. A word against the Son of Man is a false interpretation of the literal sense of the Word, for the Son of Man is the Lord as the Word, especially as to its literal sense; but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a violation of the spiritual sense of the Word. But this will be better understood when we apply it according to the idea I have endeavoured to give of the nature of profanation. For as the name Son of Man means the natural sense of the Word, so does it mean the truth of the Word as apprehended and received by the natural mind; and as the name Holy Spirit means the spiritual sense of the word, so does it mean the truth of the word as apprehended and received by the spiritual mind. Truth natural is for the most part apparent truth, and is the sword that turns every way to guard the way of the tree of life. And whether spoken against or acted against—for a word in Scripture language means what is done as well as what is said—the sin is removable; for a true interpretation restores the truth, and true repentance removes the evil. But the truth of the spiritual sense is not apparent but real truth, not clothed but naked; and, although this truth, as well as apparent truth, may be known without being believed,