In answer to some remarks signed C. in the Tribune of Tuesday last, where the enemy upon “Nobile’s Appeal,” &c. is criticized with much candor and good judgment, we would briefly say:
The assertion that Swedenborg was not the object of persecution in any important degree, cannot, we think, be disproved. No doubt so great and original a thinker, one who made such high pretensions as a religious teacher, must have met with some opposition and intolerance. But that he met with less perhaps than any other person similarly circumstanced ever did, we must suppose, when we see him throughout his life enjoying all the benefits of rank, fortune, a high reputation and the favor of the Court. He says, himself, (in answer to the question of Mr. Hartley, after indicating the honors he had through life enjoyed, as well as those that lay open to him, if he had had leisure and inclination to seek them, and the noble connections he possessed by blood or marriage,) “I live, besides, on terms of familiarity and friendship with all the bishops of my country, who are ten in number; as also with the sixteen Senators and the rest of the Nobility; for they know that I am in fellowship with Angels, the King and Queen also, and the three Princes, their sons, show me much favor. I was once invited by the King and Queen to dine at their table,—an honor which is in general granted only to the nobility of the highest rank, and likewise, since, with the Hereditary Prince. They all wish for my return home; so far am I from being in any danger of persecution in my own country, as you seem to apprehend, and so kindly wish to provide against; and, (he adds in his own beautiful manner;) should any thing of the kind befall me elsewhere, it cannot hurt me.”
We might agree with C. when he says “To what other man can we look with a better hope of being instructed in the highest truths?” Perhaps to none who has lived and left for fellow men a record of his life. But when he says farther: “We (they,) find in the works of Swedenborg all, and much more than all, the true spiritual instruction which is to be found in the teachings of all other men put together,” he marks the difference between us and the mental fact that gives to the disciples of Swedenborg the tendency we spoke of, to confine themselves almost exclusively to one source of knowledge.
We confess that we have little personal acquaintance with those disciples; we judge them from some of their writings. We do not think them peculiarly illiberal or exclusive, but we would wish to see the pillars of a new church far freer from such blemishes than those who have preceded them.
We cannot admit that, because the mind of the master is great and expansive, it follows that a devoted study of him is likely to endow the pupils with like greatness and expansiveness. Plants dwindle in perpetual shadow, even from the stateliest tree.—It was not the intention of God and nature that one mind should lean upon another, however gifted. It was not the intention of the Maker of this universe that man should be excused from universal study, universal development. Each of us has a healthy independence to foster; great or small we must do this or be diseased, distorted, or dwarfed. Exclusive or excessive devotion, even to the worthiest object, brings with it the evils of idolatry. What was intended to make the stair for man to rise to Heaven becomes a wall and a roof to shut him out from Heaven.
The pupils of Swedenborg cannot attach an “exaggerated importance to the truths he taught” but they may to the form of the teachings and the personalities of the teacher. If Swedenborg’s works contain intimations of a system whose full development must be coincident with the perfection of all things, such intimations need all other means of growth and knowledge to fit the pupil for their reception. If Swedenborg was instructed by direct influx from a higher sphere, it is not by an anxious and literal study of his communications alone, but by an elevation of the soul and purification of the nature that the reader will be able to reach with the eye of the understanding. Again we say it is not by crying Lord, Lord, that a spirit may most fitly or profitably be reverenced. With all those who do reverence to this great mind, without disparagement to other teachers and revelations, we sympathize and would rejoice to know that there are many such. This may well be, without our knowing it, but such a tendency as was specified in the first communication on Swedenborgianism, we have certainly observed though it may be less general than we have supposed.*
“Swedenborg and His Disciples.” New-York Daily Tribune, 7 July 1845, p. 1.