THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCES
<< CHAPTER XXI >>
THE BOOK OF REVELATION WHOLLY COMPOSED OF DIVINE SYMBOLS
The Apocalypse, or Book of the Revelation, is the last of the inspired Word, and is wholly composed of divine symbols. Like the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, etc., it has been looked upon as awfully mysterious, and is commonly and variously interpreted as having reference only to historical events relating chiefly to the political changes which either have taken place, or may hereafter take place, in the outward forms of the church and among the several empires and kingdoms of the world. Many of the predictions scattered throughout the prophetical portions of the Word have indeed been permitted to have some visible and very general accomplishment in historical facts, for important reasons already adduced ; and, also, be cause of the close connection which exists between natural and spiritual events.
Such were the predictions of the Lord's first coming, the overthrow of Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre, etc., the destruction of Jerusalem, the dispersion of the Jews, the establishment of the Christian church, and many others. By this means, a devout reverence for the sacred Word, as a revelation from God, has been preserved among the human race amid ages of darkness and desolation ; and although the Apocalypse could not hitherto be expounded in its internal sense, because the key to its interpretation had not yet been given, still the reading and study of it must have been attended with permanent and incalculable advantages. It completed the canon of the plenarily-inspired Word. It has excited, in every age, an earnest desire, and an ardent expectation, that the time would come when its hidden wonders and wisdom would be discovered to the faithful.
The all-important doctrines of the sole and exclusive divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, of keeping the divine precepts as the appointed means of salvation, of the resurrection from the dead, and of states of eternal life or eternal death as awaiting every one in the spiritual world, of the blessedness and realities of heaven, and the disorders and miseries of hell, all these, and numerous other subjects of Christian life and doctrine, are unequivocally recorded in the very letter of the Apocalypse.
"Blessed," therefore, as it is written in the introduction, " Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein " (i. 3) ; while we are admonished, at the conclusion, neither to add thereto nor to diminish therefrom (xxii. 18, 19). This truly wonderful book is composed, then, as to every single expression, agreeably to the science of correspondences ; and now the arcana of its internal signification are unfolded (of which many striking examples have been given in these pages), it is seen to be a living spring of divine wisdom, to treat of the states of the Christian church at the period of its final consummation, and of the Lord s Second Advent, not in person, but "in the clouds of heaven" (Rev. i. 7), in " the power and great glory " of his Word, to establish a new and everlasting dispensation of love and wisdom in the hearts and minds of men, called the New Jerusalem. In the last two chapters, this New Church, both as to her establishment, internal quality and external form, is treated of under the sublime and magnificent description of " a new heaven and a new earth," which it is promised should " descend from God out of heaven," as " the holy city, New Jerusalem," having precious stones for her foundation, golden streets, walls of jasper, gates of pearl ; whose length, breadth and height are equal ; as having a river of the water of life, and the tree of life ; and as being " the bride and wife of the LAMB."
The bright and morning Star of Truth, then, has arisen upon a benighted world. The Sun of Righteousness is dissipating " the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil spread over all nations" (Isa. xxv. 7) ; men need no longer " walk in darkness," amid the uncertain glimmerings of imagination and corrupt traditions, nor sit in " the gloom and shadow of death." The laws by which the life-giving pages of the Word of God may be distinguished from human compositions, and consistently and with certainty expounded, are now revealed from heaven, and unfolded to human perception.
The key is supplied to unlock this glorious cabinet of jewels, and the good and wise may enrich themselves with eternal treasures. The " wells of salvation" are opened, and "living waters" can flow forth in health-restoring streams, to refresh and bless every prepared mind. But, in the language of the prophet, lo ! a divine voice is heard to utter, " None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand" (Dan. xiii. 9, 10).
TO conclude : The Word of God is, in its literal sense, by virtue of its inward life and spirit, in " its fulness, its sanctity, and its power." Its literal sense was represented by the emblematic cherubim, said to have been placed at the entrance of the garden of Eden, with a flaming sword to prevent the intrusion of the unworthy and profane within its hallowed enclosure ; but its spiritual sense is the tree of life in the midst, bearing all kinds of delicious fruits, to which the faith ful are declared to have "a right," or power to appropriate them, and whose " leaves," or eternal doctrines and truths of piety, charity, and usefulness, are designed " for the healing of the nations " (Gen. iii. 24 ; Rev. xxii. 2). The interior truths and doctrines of the spiritual sense are " the upper springs," and the exterior knowledges and doctrines of the literal sense are " the nether springs," the blessings of a " south land," the gifts of our heavenly Father to every faithful Christian who, in the divine strength, overcomes his spiritual enemies (Joshua xv. 19). Instruction from the letter of the Word is "the former or early rain" at seed-time, while " the latter rain," which ripens and matures the harvest, denotes instruction from the spiritual sense (Joel ii. 23). And, again, speaking of the Lord, and of the descent of the divine blessings and influences of his Holy Word, internal and external, to refresh and renovate the soul, the Psalmist says, " He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth " (Psalm Ixxii. 6).
The Word externally is the wondrous bush which Moses saw, burning and shining with inward fire, yet unconsumed (Ex. iii. 2-4 ; Deut. xxxiii. 16). It was also signified by the breastplate of Aaron, set exteriorly with twelve precious stones, but from which issued the Urim and Thummim, the light and flame of justice and judgment (Ex. xxviii. 30). The literal sense is the dark vapor obscuring the glorious sky, its inward sense is the resplendent bow rich with every heavenly hue of comfort and happiness (Gen. ix. 13). The Holy Word is signified by the marvellous ladder seen in vision by the patriarch ; by means of it man holds consociation with angels and communion with God. Its foot, or literal sense, in accommodation to our low estate, rests upon the earth; but its summit, or inmost sense, reaches the heavens. The divine glory is above it, and as we read and meditate on its holy pages in faith and love, angels ascend and descend upon its sacred steps (Gen. xxviii. 12, 13 ; John i. 51 ; Rev.xiv. 6). Its literal sense is " a field which the Lord hath blessed ; " its spiritual sense is the concealed treasure which enriches the happy possessor more and more, even into the countless ages of eternity. Its literal sense was signified by the Lord s outer garments, which the soldiers parted among them, for it is capable of being wrested to confirm the most opposite doctrines ; but its glorious spiritual sense was represented by the Lord's "vesture," or inner garment, woven without seam from the top to the bottom " (John xix. 23 ; Psalm lxxii. 17, 18). Its literal sense is the cloud that accommodates the rays of the sun to every beholder, but a knowledge and perception of its inward sense presents the sun in all its ineffable splendor, and is the Lord's advent to the soul " in power and great glory " (Mark xiii. 26 ; Luke xxi. 27 ; Matt. xxiv. 30). The tables, or literal sense, are, under divine direction, the workmanship of Moses ; but the writing, or spiritual sense, is the writing of God (Ex. xxxiv. 1). Like the heaven descended manna, the Word is thus adapted to every state, " He that gathereth much hath nothing over, and he that gathereth little hath no lack. Every man may gather according to his eating." The Lord is here and elsewhere in the Gospels called the Son of Man, in relation to his word of divine truth. He was " the Word made flesh" (John i. 14 ; Ex. xvi. 18). This view of the Word of God gives" a fulness" to it which produces a constantly-increasing conviction of its "sanctity," and stamps it with the impress of " divinity." It reveals it as "a mine in which we may continually dig, and still find beds of inexhaustible spiritual wealth to reward our unwearied research ; " for " the deeper it is worked, the richer and more abundant the precious ore becomes." m The truths which are thus unfolded are perpetually opening anew, and are ever increasing in brilliancy and beauty and expanding in glory and authority before the inward vision in proportion to the soul s progress in the Christian life (Prov. iv. 18 ; John xvi. 18 ; 2 Peter iii. 13) ; for to this mighty end was it given, to aid our advancement in goodness and truth, not only on earth, but in the never-ending ages of eternity; or, to adopt the language of a truly great and good man, " It, has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter."
But, you are ready to ask, is this wonderful science of correspondences, that so miraculously unfolds the sacred pages, difficult to acquire ? I answer, No. Even children may be readily taught to understand much concerning it. It is, in fact, the earliest language of nature, and the language from which true poetry and eloquence derive all their charms. It is the most impressive and delightful form of instruction, and supplies the most healthful and elevating exercise to the imagination and reason. All other kinds of knowledge are handmaids in its service, and tributary to its confirmation. While the internal meaning is hidden from those who are unprepared for more than the sum of the letter, and from the unhallowed gaze of the worldly prudent, to babes it is promised that wisdom shall be revealed (Matt. xi. 25), and to the pure in heart, that they shall see God (Matt. v. 8). " The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him" (Ps. xxv. 14). "I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts" (Ps. cxix. 100).
Let us bring, therefore, to the study of this heavenly doctrine, pure desires, serious thoughts, enlightened reason, an humble and sincere faith, an ardent love, a teachable disposition, a pious and useful life ; for " if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God" (John vii. 17). To this must be added an intimate acquaintance with the literal sense of the Word, a knowledge of the mental faculties, a devout habit of reflection on the divine operations as exemplified in the world of nature, and on the forms, qualities, and uses of the objects with which we are constantly surrounded, and its general principles become easy of attainment, and every step we take is attended with accessions of intelligence and delight. Even a small degree of information on this momentous science is an inexpressible blessing. The longer and closer it is studied, the dearer it becomes to its possessor, because it leads him to love the sacred Word of God with increased fervor, to trust revealed truth with a firmer and daily-increasing confidence, and to recognize it as the divinely-appointed means of filling the humble and faithful soul to all eternity, with wisdom, love, peace, and unutterable joy. It is endless in its onward and upward progression, because the things of the natural world, which as outward effects correspond to the objects of the spiritual world, as their inward causes, exist in indefinite variety ; for, " all the powers and activities of nature, all its laws, its substances, its forms and changes, are at once the effect and the mirror of spiritual energies;" and because, further, man is not only, as we have already said, a world in its least form, having within him the various principles to which all things in the created universe correspond ; but, by regeneration, he becomes a heaven in its least form, possessing ever-growing faculties of eternal life, corresponding with all the glorious realities of the heavenly world above. Of such the Lord speaks when He says, " The kingdom of God is within you"(Luke xvii. 21).
The practical influence of this great doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures on the heart, the mind and the life, is invaluable. It brings from the clouds of heaven " shoivers of blessing" (Ez. xxxiv. 26). Its cordial reception, and the inwrought persuasion of its truth, cannot fail to assist in purifying the heart and renovating the character. It is the loftiest and most authoritative standard of righteousness and truth. It is an unerring criterion for the detection of evil and error. It tears away the flimsy veil of indifference or conceit. It searches out our most secret transgressions. It is "the key of [saving] knowledge" (Luke xi. 52). To you it may be given to know, by its means, " the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. xiii. 11)." Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters ; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat ; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater : so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth : it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa, Iv. 1, 10-13).