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fitted to see things in the world of spirits," &c. I know not how this account may appear to others; but to my own apprehension, if Swedenborg had undertaken to describe a transformation from a state of sanity to one of partial insanity, -insanity in regard to a particular class of subjects,—he could hardly have done it in fitter terms.
I have never been able to discover that Swedenborg was not honest, or that he did not think that he was telling the truth. He seems to have had the impression, so common in certain forms of insanity, that he had been raised up for a very great purpose, and that his disclosures were of the utmost importance to the world. In the history of Mohammed, we see the artful, daring impostor. We see much of the same in the life of Anna Lee, and more in the accounts of Jemima Wilkinson, of Joseph Smith, and of Sydney Rigdon. But all writers agree in representing Swedenborg as one of a very different character. There was an artlessness, a simplicity, an honesty about him, a disregard of personal reputation and influence, a seeming confidence in the truth of his disclosures; and all this mixed up with other traits of character, with narratives and actions so unaccountably strange and preposterous, that, looking at him as a whole, I think we are to regard him as, to a certain extent, and on a certain class of subjects, insane. And I know of no fact in his personal history, during the last twenty-nine years of his life, which is not easily reconcilable with this supposition.
But it will be asked again, How can it be accounted for, on this supposition, that so many intelligent and sensible persons should have adopted his errors? If Swedenborg was insane, they surely are not. If he had not his reason, they retain theirs. And how can it be accounted for, that they should adopt his strange, incoherent notions, and become his followers? In replying to these questions, I must be permitted to ask several others. How can it be accounted for, that the great and learned Tertullian, in the second century, should have become a Montanist, and should really have believed that the crazy Montanus was the Comforter from heaven? How can it be accounted for, that the acute and eloquent Augustine, previous to his conversion, should have been a Manichæan? How can it be accounted for, that Anna Lee should have collected so many followers, and established so
extensively her shaking communities, which continue to the present time? How can it be accounted for, that Smith and Rigdon should have made fools of hundreds and thousands of intelligent men and women, and filched from them their property, and drawn them together to his land of promise? The truth is, that man is naturally a religious being. He must and will have some religion. And when he departs from the plain standard of the Bible, there is no accounting for his vagaries. There is no telling into what extravagances he may be left to fall.
It is also true, that some persons are more exposed, constitutionally, to extravagances of this kind, than others. They are not satisfied to walk in a plain, beaten path. They require something new. They are fond of the marvellous, especially in regard to the subject of religion. And the more strange and incredible the disclosures of any pretender are, the more likely will he be to gain followers, especially from this class.
Some special reasons may be assigned why Swedenborgianism has obtained followers; and these too, in some instances, from the more intelligent classes of society. There are individuals, who are dissatisfied with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and who still do not wish to become Unitarians, in the sense in which this term is commonly used. And so they adopt the Swedenborgian theory on this subject, which seems to them to remove all difficulties, and to make the matter perfectly plain. This theory retains the name of Trinity, while it rejects the thing. It teaches a sort of official Trinity, while it holds that there is but one person, in the one God.
There is another class of individuals, of a romantic, imaginative cast of mind, who are exceedingly taken with Swedenborg's account of the spiritual world. His having our departed friends become angels, and having them all about us, and having a sort of intercourse with them, or they with us;—the thought, too, that we (if good Swedenborgians) are soon to become angels ourselves, and that it is possible so to etherealize our natures, even here, as to become almost angels;-all this is exceedingly captivating to a certain class of minds. - And they drink it in, and become Swedenborgians, without acquainting themselves with perhaps more than a single feature of the system which they profess to adopt.
It is a common complaint, in the publications of the leading Swedenborgians, that many of those who bear their name are not acquainted with their doctrines. And this, I have no doubt, is true. And I can think of no better way to recover a neophyte Swedenborgian,—a novice in the system, than to put the whole works of Swedenborg into his hands, and doom him to read them through. This process, I am persuaded, would cure more than half of those, who should live to go through it, of their Swedenborgianism. For, mingled up with not a little that is fascinating and pretty, they would find so much that is strange, incoherent, and unintelligible, such a mass of sublime nonsense,-that they would sicken under it, and turn from it with disgust, and come inevitably, to the conclusion, that if the author was honest, he certainly was insane.
Let all who read these pages feel more thankful than they have ever been for the Bible,-the holy Bible,-that "sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts." Let us love the Bible more than we have ever done. Let us study it with greater diligence and fidelity. Let us interpret it with fairness and honesty. Let us steadfastly cling to it; and cling to it all. There are wandering meteors all about us, and we need a pòle-star, we need a SUN. God in his mercy has given us one; and may we not turn from it in pride and scorn, and plunge into the blackness of darkness for ever!
LETTERS TO A SON IN THE MINISTRY.
Thirty-four Letters to a Son in the Ministry.
THE duties of ministers and their congregations are reciprocal. The obligations of the one imply the obligations of the other. The responsibilities of the pastor in some sense determine the responsibilities of the people. Hence, a treatise expounding the former, at the same time, of necessity, expounds the latter. If the pastor is to preach, the people are to hear and be profited. If the pastor is to scatter the seed, the people are to bring forth fruit. If the pastor is to open before the understanding of his hearers the way of life, they are to enter into that way, and pursue it with diligence and with joy. If, in private exhortation, he reproves the guilty, chides the backward, encourages the desponding, or guides the penitent to Christ, it is the duty of each of these, respectively, to receive him as the messenger of God;-to forsake their sins, to banish their fears, and to accept in Christ the refuge which is offered to the guilty. A recreancy to this responsibility is no more venial in one party than in the other. An unfaithful minister, on account of the elevated position which he occupies, may call forth the astonishment of the worldly. But his sin may be of no deeper a dye, in the estimation of God, than the sin of an unfaithful people. Books or sermons suited to give prominency to these truths, are of real utility. He would do a good work, who should arouse either a slumbering ministry, or a slumbering community; or who should lead either the ministry or the community to a more lively apprehension of the responsibilities pertaining respectively to them. A clear exposition of the duty of each, in reference to their mutual relation, would furnish an excellent manual of suggestions, concerning points so obvious and
so readily appreciated, that they scarcely seem to possess interest enough to warrant the attempt to illustrate and apply them in a set treatise. But after all, this is a grave business, to which we shall do well to take heed. It is a matter, that concerns not only the character of our ministers, but also the purity and piety of our churches and the salvation of our congregations. The obligations of the latter, we believe, have no where been urged in a separate work. Most that is ever said of them generally comes out in a single sermon, or in an address to an assembly, immediately after an ordination of some one to the pastoral office has taken place. We wish that Dr. H., who has performed one part of this task so well, in the book before us, or some one else, would undertake the other.
The work of Dr. H., natural and plain in its style, can be read without effort. If it is not adorned by many striking beauties, it can be accused of few, if any, deformities. If it is not rich and strong, neither is it weak nor poor. It manifests the heart of an affectionate father, pouring itself out in sound Christian advice to a beloved son. The work broaches no new theories. It is not made attractive by the freshness of the subject. But it is purely evangelical. It is the expression of sober common sense. For such topics, the easy, epistolary style of the author is best adapted. There is nothing splendid in them, to call forth a glowing manner. abstruse themes to demand rigid investigation. Little more was needed than the opening of a father's heart, that his youthful son might read its experiences. And this is what we have in the book.
It would be an improvement, if the subject of each letter had been placed at the head of it; and still more, if a running title had exhibited the progress of the writer, and the topic of every alternate page. It is not every one's eye that can catch at a glance the drift of a page; and books should be constructed with reference to those who are unpractised in these things.
There are many things in this book worthy of praise. We like its evangelical spirit. The gospel is magnified in it. Views of religious truth are made prominent in it, which, in this period of haste and excitement, we fear are too often touched lightly, or disregarded, or denied. The notion bas