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Let us think how He spared the fig-tree, and bless Him for such mercies as this. Let us not cumber the ground another year, but serve the Lord with diligence. So shall we be to Him as fruitful trees in His vineyard, and shall at length live for ever to His praise.
ASSYRIA AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE IN THE WORD OF GOD, AS ILLUSTRATED BY THE NINEVEH SCULPTURES.
A course of Lectures recently delivered by the Rev. T. Chalklen.
(Continued from page 496, vol. v.)
IN introducing to your attention, in my last lecture, the interesting subject of the Assyrian monuments, as illustrative of the science of correspondences, and corroborative of the doctrine of an internal or spiritual sense within the letter of Scripture, and affording, therefore, well adapted materials for the study of that science, I endeavoured to present before you a general view of life in its universal principles as organized in its source, and thence in all the successive degrees into which it flows down and manifests itself. Your attention was directed to it as first existing of itself, in the proper form of God, a divine or infinite humanity, and thence proceeding to produce the images of itself in every possible degree of existence,-this effort of life itself, or in other words, this perpetual purpose of the Lord God to create in his own image and likeness resulting in an outward material world in which are represented all things of humanity in its universal and individual forms, natural, spiritual, and heavenly; and in giving to the several parts of the universal as of the individual their respective qualities for being united into one form, one universal body or church, and in the formation, as the great end of it all, of the one grand man of heaven as the fullest finite recipient of God's infinite perfections: it was also observed, that the Holy Word is written according to the correspondence or relation which by virtue of this order of life exists between natural and spiritual things, and that therefore principles relating to the Lord's Church, or to man as created to become the church, are signified in the Word by the various kingdoms and nations mentioned therein. We also pointed out some of the characteristic features of Assyria, as described in the literal sense of Scripture and indicated in the sculp
ASSYRIA AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE IN THE WORD OF GOD, ETC. 11
tures, which confirm the idea that by Assyria is represented the rational faculty. The preparation of men for the kingdom of heaven being the great object of divine revelation, it comes to us clothed in language adapted to our condition. Had human nature continued in the order of its creation, there is reason to think that the truth requisite for its regeneration into the spiritual and celestial degrees of life would have been invested with a very differently constructed literal sense from that which is now given as the external form of the Holy Word. It is because of the hereditary perversions of our faculties, and the evils of life resulting therefrom, that the representatives of human principles in the Word are so much characterised by what is of evil, even when representing the good and true, and that evil and false principles themselves are representatively described by things expressed in the literal sense.
To understand this matter rightly, we must not think of the Holy Word as so consisting simply of two senses, a spiritual and a literal, as that any single natural idea expressed in the letter has just one single spiritual idea contained within it as its spiritual signification. To do so would be like thinking of a man's soul as consisting of no more than one degree of mental faculties. The fact that in the human soul are several degrees of life, either opened or undeveloped, successively interior to each other, and that within the inmost is the Lord, who is the only life itself, is analogous to the truth that in the internal sense of the Holy Word are successively interior degrees of truth, the inmost of which is the pure and perfect divine truth itself. Also, the fact that the human principles requisite to man as an inhabitant of this world, or as a natural man, are more than mere materiality, even principles of affection and thought, is. analogous to this, that the Holy Word is adapted to the condition of man's natural life by virtue of more than the mere external expressions of its letter, even by. a sense that is within these, or ideas signified by these expressions; so that when we have discovered an internal meaning lying immediately within the literal sense, we are not to conclude that we have arrived at that spiritual meaning which is understood in the heavens, much less at that which is really the divine idea iteslf, although we may know for a certainty that we have approximated nearer thereto than if we had remained in the merely literal sense. When, therefore, we find that in many instances the Scripture in its internal sense treats of unrighteousness and error, disclosing the deeply-seated lusts of our fallen nature, and the fallacious imaginings of corrupt minds, we are to consider that it is the descent of divine truth into our low natural states, and its adaptation to the wants of our fallen condition, that occa. sions it to assume even in its internal sense an aspect so inferior to that
unsullied brightness with which it must shine forth as it approaches the throne of God.
It would be difficult to account for Divine Truth in its descent from the Lord clothing itself successively in this way, assuming appearances at variance with its genuine meanings to suit the states of those to whom it comes down, if we did not know that the evil and the false are not the creations of any being or beings,-not the emanations from any originating source, as all good and truth emanate from the Lord, but that they are the perversions of these, they are these wrongly received and used. A true doctrine, modified, turned, and twisted from its real meaning to suit a purpose, becomes a false doctrine. Such a false doctrine owes its existence to the true doctrine of which it is a perversion; so with these appearances of truth in the Word, and which are not to be regarded as false, although they become such in the mind when confirmed in opposition to the interior truths, they depend upon the genuine things of truth which they serve to envelop. Consequently every representative in the Word, whether immediately denoting a good or an evil, a truth or a fallacy, doubtless, as its meaning ascends towards the highest or divine degree, signifies a good or a truth, and leaves behind it every idea of the evil or the false. If this be the case, then it is not necessary that the Divine Truth, when clothing itself in natural language according to the science of correspondences, should employ opposite significations for denoting the opposites of the good and true. A genuine truth, if perverted into an opposite false notion, does not change its origin, it is the same truth spoilt; there is nothing else in God's creation that will properly represent it but the same thing which at first came forth as its natural image. Its perversions, indeed, may have occasioned the existence of their significatives in the natural world, but these will all preserve their relation to the original representative, and shew the identity of the thing signified in its genuine and its perverted conditions.
So, at least it appears to me, and in this way I think I see the reason, to drop at once upon our immediate subject, why Assyria, in the Word, while it represents man's rational principle as an essential constituent in his nature, as was shewn in our former lecture, also represents a false and perverted rationality in him and in the church, and why also the very same particulars are equally indications in both respects, whether we refer to the notices of Assyria in the Holy Word, or to those marvellous relics on which the ancient sculptor has so strongly delineated the Assyrian character. We find the names Assyria or Ashur, of Nineveh
and Babel, and of other Assyrian cities, and the land of Shinar, alt occurring in the 10th Genesis, in which are given the generations of the sons of Noah, by whom are signified churches, or successive states of the church, called the Ancient or Noahtic Church, and their branchings into various and distinct associations. The rational principle has its region between the internal and external of the human mind, as Swedenborg shews; and here these places, significative of the rational principle and what relates thereto, have their origin ascribed to Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, which name is given between the names Shem and Japheth, Shem signifying internal worship, and Japheth external. That this ancient church should have branched out in succeeding generations into many varieties, as is denoted by the successive multiplications in the Noahtic family, and that each ramification should have had its own characteristic, differing from all the rest in something relating to its doctrine or its worship, was not in itself any indication of its decline, but was, I apprehend, a necessary consequence of its extension. A perfect human figure is the result of a great variety of forms well harmonized together, and can never be produced by any accumulations of parts all shaped according to one uniform pattern. We may look at Rome to see the monstrous effects of the unwise attempt to establish and maintain throughout a church such unnatural uniformity. Let the various receptions of truth, and these expressing themselves in corresponding varieties of worship, be kept alive by the spirit of universal charity and good will, and they will all beautifully combine to form a universal church, which the Lord will regard as worthy of being acknowledged as his own bride.
The Noahtic church did not, however, continue in its integrity. It fell away from the purity of its first love, self-regard was suffered to encroach upon the just claims of God and the neighbour in the heart. In consequence of this declension, its interior wisdom became corrupted into magical arts, and its outward worship into idolatry. The branch churches which were successively formed, as signified by the progeny of Noah, became characterised by the perversions and falsifications of those good and true principles which would otherwise have marked them; hence, in what is mentioned of Ashur or Assyria and Nineveh in this genealogy, something is to be observed indicative of a departure from its primitive condition. Of Nimrod, named as the founder of the kingdom, it is said—" He began to be a mighty one in the earth, and a mighty hunter before the Lord, and that the beginning of his kingdom was Babel or Babylon." We may understand from this, considering the generations of Ham as representing the different degrees
and varieties of man's thinking principle, that that faculty of thinking by which the reasoning processes are performed began to estrange itself from the established authority of divine truth, and seek for wisdom of its own invention, and to exercise its new power of false reasoning in subduing other things to its dominion. That branch of the ancient church with whom this state of the reasoning faculty predominated existed probably as a distinct nation or nations, whose descendants were afterwards the Assyrians of Scripture, the case being similar with the other branches.
If this idea be correct, we may think of the ancient church as consisting of various families or nations, each characterised by some one of the principles belonging to a spiritual church. We may think of these families or nations retaining their respective marks, after having become by successive perversions an utterly fallen and rejected church; and therefore, that when Israel was raised up to represent a New Church, these stood as the representatives of those false and evil principles which the New Church has to contend with, and to overcome. Among them was Assyria, which had become the representative of a perverted rationality. The human mind while in a state of divine order has its reasoning faculty in a healthy and active condition. The truths of the kingdom of God find a welcome admission, because they can be rationally understood. The exercise they give to this faculty occasions delight, because of the ability to appreciate their worth, joined with a ready yielding of the life to their transforming excellence. The heart that is animated by love to the Lord and the neighbour cannot help rejoicing in the possession of rational powers, and finding pleasure in using them for the investigations and discoveries of truth, because every newly-seen truth reveals another feature in the character of Divine perfection to love and to imitate. But the human mind disordered by sinful loves and practices has a diseased rationality. This faculty may not lose its activity; the many emotions of self-love may afford a continued supply for its excitement, and occasion a variety of delights to accompany its exercise; the wish to be esteemed a clever reasoner, the real desire to be such, because of the power thereby to subdue others to a man's own purposes; the being able to persuade oneself by reasoning that our fancies are wise and worthy; that our preferences and antipathies are just, or that the doctrines we believe in are true, are all competent for furnishing a man's reasoning faculty with abundance of both work and reward, even where its abnormal condition is such as to unfit it for the recognition of a single truth of a spiritual kind.
True rationality, therefore, may have altogether departed from a