As said above, the Word in Creation is not a dogmatic, any more than it is a scientific or philosophic assumption. It is simply a fundamental fact. — In the beginning was the Word, for the reason that without a Word, yea, a Divine Word, there would have been no beginning. The beginning of things is their being defined. This means that they are shaped into " this " and " that ; " in other words, that they are "made." But this distinction into " this " and " that " is an act of mind : the idea must exist before the thing, and before the world became a world of distinct form, order and beauty, there was the idea, the logos, or logic of it in the mind of the Creator. Indeed, it is only by virtue of the Divine Wisdom that the Divine Love can create or make a world for its loving. This Divine Wisdom is the Creative Word which first proceeds from the primal being of Deity, the Divine Love ; it is the existence (existere) of the being (esse) of God. By this primal wisdom all ideas and the whole reason of the world came into being as the forms of the Divine Love. They are thus the origin of things, in being the first idea of things, the first mental distinction of this from that ; the first to fix the relation of this to that. For God to love or desire a world was to give that world substance, or being; for God to think that world which He desired was to give it form. The Word is the spoken thought. The beginning of the world was the spoken thought of God. This is the " Let there be light! " at which a visible and beautiful world springs into being out of chaos and darkness. While things are in darkness, it is as if they were not. It is as the light appears that they take shape, and have a definite, cognizable existence. The mass of clay before the artist is as chaos; the idea broods over it, and breathes itself into it, like the Spirit of the Creator over the face of the deep. The Word, the forming idea, goes from the artist into the clay, moulding that into form which had no form, and making each part to be a related part, or part of a whole; thus distinguished from, at the same time that it is united to, other parts.(DLW. 367) In this way a new thing is created which, without this living Word, had never been; and so the statue stands forth complete — a form of beauty, of harmony, of "parts" and "relations" — things purely ideal; and so expressing the mind and the dream of the artist. So did the creative Word of God give to each thing in nature its distinctive being.
"Without Him was not anything made that was made.” It is the Divine Wisdom going forth from the Divine Love that put form, and thus a meaning into nature, and made it in any sense a book. It is not uncommon for scientists to speak of the "meaning" of nature. But surely there can be no meaning in nature but that which was put there. Nature, as unintelligent force, could not have blindly shaped itself to have a " meaning," and then the meaning have come in, or rather come out, as an after-thought or accident. But meaning is a thing of mind, and a " meaning in nature " is nothing else than " mind in nature," i. e. the Word as Creator. For a book is only what has words, and nature is a book only as it contains the Words, the expressed ideas, of its Maker. To the eye of the brute, a book is not a book of words; it is a lump of matter. So to the naturalist, who sees in nature no wisdom or intelligence written in words — to such a mind nature is no book; it is sheer bulk. To him, nature is as yet truly without form, and void : it has not yet been touched by the creative Word.
As said above, for God to love is for Him to give substance to things; for Him to think is to give them form and definite existence. For thought is the form of His own substance, since love exists by wisdom. The thinking out of God's love is His wisdom, and these thoughts shown forth in language or in things are the Word.
All the life we have is a part of this going forth of the Divine Love into the creature by means of Wisdom, or the Word. This is the source of all mental as well as of all physical life. Equally with the world without, was and is the world within created by the Word of God.
The Wisdom of God is His Word giving form and taking form in human minds. We could never think, had not God thought before us, any more than we could live without God having lived before us. The Word of God not only made all nature, or all objects, to be what they are, but is equally what enables us to have ideas of these things — to know one from another — to know differences and relations among things or the parts of a thing. There would therefore be no things in the mind any more than in nature, except by the created Word. Of our every mental consciousness, perception, judgment, conclusion, knowledge, and faith, it is absolutely and essentially true that all of these things were made by Him, the Word, and without Him was not anything made that was made. This is why the human mind is a world while the brute mind is not.
A dumb brute looking at the printed page of the Bible would see no things there. The things that are there to the rational sight of man are to the brute as if they were not. They are as yet not made, because the Wisdom is not yet there to make them.
Thus things in the mind — or what is the same, the mind's perception of things in or out of itself — have their being from the Word, or from the primal reason and the rational power imparted from it to man. Within and without, all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.
The Word of God as the truth of God, is that Light which in its appearing calls forth a world into being. It is, therefore, the true Light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. The light of the sun of our universe is but the physical side of the creative, formative Truth of the Creator. This Truth makes worlds physical, moral, spiritual. It is of the Word that it is said, "Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth." It is of the Word that Swedenborg says: A Church is a Church, or has its distinct being and form as a Church, "according to its understanding of the Word;” (TCR 243-7) and the inauguration of every new growth, new age, new movement in the life of man, political, moral, and spiritual, is in the dawn of new truth, with its world-forming power. It is true now and always — "In the beginning is the Word."
When the sun rises, and its sweet, cheery light steals silently over the earth, what a creation does it call into being!
"A new-created world springs up at its command."
" Let there be light," means let there be to the human mind a visible world ; and at the silent bidding of God's messenger, mountains lift their heads; the oceans and broad lakes unveil their bosoms ; the forests show their plumy heads ; the clouds roll forth in splendour ; the very air is tremulous with glory. It is the Word that begins! It is the making of things! It is the creative power of light!
II. The Word in Revelation.
From the Word in Creation to the Word in Revelation the transition is from the mind of God to the mind of man. It is to man alone that God reveals Himself, and this is because the creative Word has already formed in man, and in him alone, a heaven and an earth in which the light of Divine Truth may shine, and where it may produce its forms of order, and beauty, and use.
The purpose of revelation is the salvation of the world, with all that this implies. It is, therefore, a new genesis, or a creating of a new world out of a moral chaos. It is redemption, and to this end, the Word made flesh, suffering, triumphing and ascending in glory. It is the coming of the Lord to judgment. It is the City of God. It is the permanent presence and indwelling of God with men. In a word, the Creator of the world is its Saviour! and becomes so by revelation. The Father of man REVEALS Himself to His child. God as unknown and inconceivable is not the heavenly Father. No rational conception of God can admit that He created intelligent souls only for ever to evade their knowledge, to hide Himself from their recognition and their love. The father reveals himself to his child. God the Father of all reveals Himself to His immortal creatures in His Word, which is His Wisdom. By means of His Word made flesh He, as the Divine Truth, clothes Himself with human nature, and Himself comes down to the low estate of us men, to redeem and save us. The Father of men, in His revealings of Himself to man, is Life, the life of the Father's love, and that life is thus become the "Light of men." The Creator of the world thus becomes its Preserver, its Saviour. The salvation He procures by means of His Word is the restoration of human souls to the laws of His own Divine Order — the laws of a blessed, an eternal, heavenly life. This is the full, round plan of God's Providence as the end of creation. To create a world is not enough to answer the ends of an infinite love, if creation is not followed by salvation. The end of the creation of the world is that a heaven of angels, who have first been men on earth, may enjoy to eternity the gifts of the heavenly Father's love, and reciprocate this love in love and service to one another. This end or purpose would have been realized in the first creation, the first genesis, had not mankind, by the abuse of free will and rationality, become the father of evil, and thence of the disease and disorder, the misery and strife that come from breaking the laws of a perfect Creator. To restore human life to order, to make it possible for man freely to return to the life of heaven and to become that immortal angel of light, and beauty, and power that God first designed him — for this. Redemption was necessary, and for this the Lord became man. The Divine becomes now the Sender and the Sent The Love is what sends; the Truth, or Word, is what is sent.). (That the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them" St. John xvii. 23) The Divine becomes now the Father and the Son. The Father is the Love that sends; the Son is the Truth, the Word, that is sent Truth is the messenger of the gospel, but its message is Love. The Truth, the Word, of God is made flesh, and we behold His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, the glory of the Divine Wisdom begotten of the Divine Love — full of grace and truth.
The Word in Redemption.
To redeem man, the Truth, the Word, made itself man. Not only so did it bear to our vision the glory of a Divine Wisdom when all true wisdom had vanished from the belief of men, but it lay the sharp edge of pure, undeviating, fearless truth at the root of the evils of the world ; it let the tinselled wickednesses of men appear in all their depravity and deadly power, and it strengthened mankind with the power of a new aim, a new ambition, a new hope, and a new faith. The redeeming power of the Word was first put forth in the combat which the Lord sustained in the flesh with all the hells, a combat for the liberation of human souls from the infestation and obsession of devils. He drove out devils. He first resisted the devil in His own person, and so obtained power to subdue all the hells and to command devils to come out of men, and to bid men henceforth be of good cheer, because He has overcome the world. The ability of man, from freedom, to choose the right and to do it, this is what the Word won in its conflict with hell. It was the power of truth that destroyed the sway of falsity and evil, because it not only opposed itself as a law of conduct to the unrighteous and corrupting ways of the world, but in the new law of living which it gave to men there was the virtue of a Divine power. The Word was the channel of truth and grace from the Father. In this Word incarnate, suffering under the woes of humanity, beating down our foes, carrying the cross before us, raised upon it, and by His very death drawing men to Him, — in this Word the human race found its new genesis. Again, in "the beginning God made a heaven and an earth; " and in this beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and was God. The power that made over the world in the inauguration of Christianity; that threw down the pagan temples of Rome and of Greece, and quenched their altar fires; that made to cease the gladiatorial fights in the arena; that called the savages of Scythia, the Hun, the Goth, and the Briton to cease to live for war and plunder, and to beat their spears into pruning-hooks, — this was the silent, irresistible, creative power of truth. It was the Word in the beginning of a new epoch of human existence and development.
In all the realms of life it is the same: in science, in politics, in social reform — the new truth is what makes over the world. The Word is thus not only the former but the re-former of man, and thus is the great mediator between Creation and Salvation. Where the moral nature of man has fallen into darkness, the light shining in his intellectual nature is given as a lantern to lead him out. And this shining light is the Word. Through the planes of the intellect, (DLW 242, 406) as through crystal doors, shines down the light from the world above matter, above nature, from the world of pure spiritual substance, where light itself is truth, and where truth is the form of love. It is in this light alone that man sees true light, that he may know the truth as it is in God. Knowing this, he may accept it, be guided, yea, be ruled by it, be defended by it, and be saved by it. By keeping its commandments, and only by doing so, he may enter into life. Unless God should thus by His Word enter into man, by revealing Himself first to the intellect and then to the will, man would never be reformed, regenerated. There would remain in him only the first genesis — the beginning in which he obtained his being only as an animal and a part of nature. His own mental nature is left to chaos and darkness, such as the world was before the Word was spoken, “Let there be light.” The Creator of the world, in order to become the Re-creator and Saviour of His world, now speaks the Word and becomes the Revelator of Himself to that subject which alone can receive what He gives.
That which reveals is the Word; but the Word is heard, can be heard, alone by man. The Divine end in creation, therefore, includes not only God's speaking the Word, but man's hearing. Except for this, the Love which is the Father of all things waits in an eternal silence for that response which alone it desires, and for which it has made all and given all. My words and your words speak our minds one to another. The Word of God speaks the Divine nature and the Divine mind to man.
The relation of revelation to creation is that, therefore, of religion to deism. That may well be called a natural theology which stops at the acknowledgment of God as pure Being, or the inner Reality, or Force, of nature, and such in its infinity that it cannot be known to man, and its attributes even such as cannot be conceived of. This may do for an idea of the God of nature, or of a natural God. It is not yet the God of intelligent souls. It may be a science of God as Being, or mere Esse. It is not a science of God as Creator ; not, of God as the Word ; as the Existere; as the Divine Love and Wisdom, going forth in distinct, intelligible forms into the intelligence and recognition of men.
III. The Word as God Present.
We have now seen how God is, by His Word or Wisdom, in the world, in creating it and in redeeming it. Neither creation nor salvation is a deed accomplished, but is ever being accomplished. God is at this instant creating the world and saving it as truly as in any former time. Existence is perpetual creation, and all orderly and happy life, here and above, is perpetual salvation by Him who is at once Creator, Father, and Saviour. In creating the universe in the beginning, the Word of God clothed itself with the outward forms of inorganic matter and organic life. When the free moral and rational life of man had reached the boundary of its divergence from God, when it had reached that point where to go farther would be to drop humanity for ever and fall beneath the brute into the monster, then the Word clothed itself with that humanity, even to its farthest separation from God, that, breaking the fetters that were crystallizing about it there, the human soul might be free again to respond to the Father's love, to rebound to God, its source. Thus is the Word " gone out into all the ends of the world," that " from the ends of the earth " the souls of men, finding it there, may cry out to it and find in it a loving God and a Saviour. Such is the Word in the Divine work of redemption and in the Divine Humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is become the First and the Last, the inmost and the outmost Man, and God in all.
And finally, where else dwells this creative, this restoring and saving Word, the wisdom of God? The very consciousness of God, but unbeknown to us, it dwells in nature and in our whole being; it gives form to our bodies from the first cell to the whole figure and face radiant with grace and beauty. It gives form to our reasoning power from the simplest impression of sense to the vastest conclusion of our science or philosophy.
But so the Word works in our unconsciousness. It works, in the Divine Humanity, in all the power of God's love put forth to withhold the souls of men from falling into evil, and to draw them into the delights of heaven. But it must still dwell in one other factor, — in an intelligent, willing, reciprocating agent. The Word must have a hearer and an answer ; that hearer and that answer is the mind and heart of a believing man. — " Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." The answer and the hearing is the Church among men. It is the body of the faithful; strictly and internally, of those who “hear the Word of God and do it ; " formally and visibly, of those who hear and publicly profess it. And so we come to that fundamental definition or distinction given by Swedenborg — that "a Church is a Church according to its understanding of the Word." The Word is the Truth of God — the Form of His love seeking a response from His creature, man, the object of that love, in man's intellectual and moral nature ; in his intellectual nature, by acknowledgment of God and faith in Him ; in his moral nature, by obedience to His commandments. Where this Word finds no reception and response in man, there is no Church; the circle of Divine life in creation is broken, and the human race must perish. Where the Word is acknowledged, there the Church is.
The Word in the World's History.
And according to the various degrees of the revelation of Divine Truth in different ages, and to the various modes of understanding it and applying it to the forming of life, in different times and places in the history of the world — so has been the progress of the Churches or of the ages of the world. And as the beginning of a world is the spiritual formation of man, as a reflection of God, by means of the Word, so is the end of a world the destruction or dying out of that spiritual form which the creative Word has given. It is of the beginning and the end of worlds in this sense that the Scriptures treat ; the creation of heavens and earths and their passing away, not merely in the plane of physical being, but more in that of moral and spiritual being. So have worlds been formed, and so have worlds come to an end as the Word of God has been received, and perverted, and rejected, and received again by men. These successive ages, aeons, or worlds, are the successive Churches which have existed in each, and have been distinguished according to their understanding of the Word. From the golden age of the world, when in childlike innocence the race saw heavenly realities by open vision, and thus read the meaning of nature and found in it verily God's Word written in things of beauty, order, and use ; to the succeeding age of symbols, when, in place of celestial realities perceived in immediate vision, the various earthly correspondences or types of spiritual things were used as the reminders of heavenly and Divine things, and also as tokens of man's self-sacrifce and worship ; thence to written law and the statutes and ceremonies of a theocracy, a state, in whose wars, conquests, sins, banishment, decline, and restoration are depicted unerringly the fortunes of the kingdom of God in the heart of man ; thence to the gospel of grace and truth coming forth alike from the lips, the deeds, the healing touch, the glance of love, the tears of pity, the blood poured out and the prayer sighed forth upon the cross, of the Word Incarnate, the Conqueror of hell, the Redeemer of the world; thence to the apocalyptic vision, the New Jerusalem descending from heaven, the final, the everlasting tabernacle of God with men — " the tabernacle which shall not he taken down, not one of the stakes whereof shall ever be removed, neither any of its cords be broken."
The Word in the New Creation.
A Church, a revelation, a religion to endure for ever, — what is this New Jerusalem, this final vision, the fulfilment of all prophecy % At the end of Scripture it is of no account, or it is of the utmost account ! Is it a mere bauble to be tossed about in the hands of biblical critics, a kind of plaything to amuse the fancy, as Henry Ward Beecher has recently described it, or is it the most real, the most comprehensive and practical part of the whole Bible, because the end to which all tends, the answer to all the soul's longings, hopes, and questions — the realization of all the promises of God's mercy from the beginning of the world till now? — The New Jerusalem, descending from God out of heaven ; what is this but another and a final beginning, in which the Word is again the Creator of a new heaven and a new earth? Is it not the beginning of a new world, a new age, now that the old is passing away — a new world, morally, spiritually, intellectually? Is not the Word, the formative wisdom and reason of God, making over the mental world to-day in a new revelation of itself to man ? And is not this new revelation such that when received it must abide ; that " its sun shall never go down ; " that its dominion must be an everlasting dominion, and its kingdom that which shall not pass away? Is it not, therefore, the permanent dwelling of God with man? has not the Word at length become actually and finally the presence of God upon the earth?
We have seen what the Word has done in creating the world, both physical and mental, in endowing nature with forms of use, and minds with faculties of use ; and what the Word has done in redeeming and saving the worlds thus created ; we have seen the Word itself grow forth in a universe, in a written book, and in a Divinely-human life and death on earth. These are all as yet objective revelations and operations of the Word; they are the Word seen and believed from without by man, seen on the surface, touched in the flesh, believed and understood in the letter ; as such they were aspects of the Word to pass away, not by being destroyed, but by being fulfilled ; not by no longer being seen and felt, but by being allowed no longer to hide the spirit, the life, the essential reality within. " Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed!" The real revelation is to the eye within; the real Word is that which speaks not to eye and ear alone, but to understanding, to reason, to heart and soul! When the Word has penetrated there, and there is received, when the reason, in perfect spiritual freedom, has accepted it, and the will of man has submitted to be created anew by this law of life seen to be Divine and loved because it is Divine, — then are the stakes driven and the cords drawn of that tabernacle of God which shall never be removed. The Word of God dwelling in the very reason it has formed, as the highest law, as the most perfect science, the most luminous and sublime philosophy, as the most beautiful of arts and the soul of all arts, the mother of faith, the spring of all hope and high ambition and desire, the everlasting arm beneath, the wings that bear us up out of the shadow of death, — this is what God seeks in erecting His abiding tabernacle with man. This will be the close embrace of the Father and His child, — this will be the real fruition of creation — the abiding of God with man in such a rational, actual, conscious way that they shall be His people, and He shall be their God.
To this end the old must pass away that the new may be revealed. The old is the apparent, the delusive, the superficial, the outside knowledge or half-knowledge of things. In science, in political affairs, this change from an old to a new world has already taken place. Science has brought to light the inside forces and forms of nature, and is correcting the judgment of the naked eye by the sight of reason and of philosophy ; States are learning the source of power, the true methods of civil and social combination and co-operation. From the outward emblems of power, of law, of right, of justice, the people are striking inward to the things themselves. But beyond what science or political wisdom shall reveal and construct, there comes the creative ray from a higher sun — " the new light shining from the Word of God."
The Spiritual Sense of the Word.
For the earth has a meaning deeper than all that the geologist or biologist can find in it from nature alone ; the earth has its spiritual sense, and that spiritual sense of the earth is heaven ! This is what nature means ; it is a book only so far as it contains this Word. And as the earth has a meaning within and beyond the hammer of the geologist, although explored and brought to light by it, so have the Scriptures a meaning within and beyond the research of learned critics of the text. The spiritual meaning of the written Word lies beneath and within its letter as truly as God and heaven lie within and behind nature; and the blindness that shall refuse to see God and heaven behind the forms, the evolutions, and the present uses of nature, is the same in character with that theological blindness which shall refuse to see God and heaven in the spiritual meaning now revealed out of and beneath the letter of the written Word. The revelation now given to the world is that of the real in place of the apparent truth regarding God, the spiritual world, and the eternal life. And because these truths are real rather than phenomenal, therefore they will abide. Recognised as from God and not from any man, they constitute the abiding presence of God with man ; resting on the letter, contained within the letter, shaped, held fast, unalterably fixed in the grasp of these Divine symbols and parables, chosen by Him who made the whole universe to be but a parable of His creative Love and Wisdom, — thus fixed in the letter of the written Word, these revelations of spiritual truth must remain like the earth — established for ever in the belief of men. They will form not a new Church alone, but new Churches innumerable on the face of the earth. For it is a new beginning in which the Word, as with God and as God Himself in His second coming to man, is making anew the heavens and the earth. In this coming the apparent gives place to the real ; faith looks through the symbol to the things symbolized ; the authority of tradition, of man, of dogma imposed from without, gives place to the authority of truth speaking from within, but speaking out of the Word of God. The spiritual sense of the Word, hitherto unknown, is at this day revealed. This opening of the Scriptures is the Second Coming of the Lord, the beginning of a new universal Church, and a new age of the world. Its coming is like every beginning, a separation of light from darkness ; it brings into being forms of beauty, and reveals as clearly by contrast that which is hideous and revolting. Its coming is for ultimate peace and joy ; but for the present it can only bring an apparent increase of conflict ; for this is the " hour of temptation which must come upon all the world ! " It is for judgment that the Lord is again come into the world, and it is the Word which He hath spoken, that is everywhere judging the world in this last day.
" Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they who pierced Him . . . ."
" And His name is called — The Word of God."
Author: FRANK SEWALL, From The New Metaphysics (1888)