Biography of Swedenborg
The name of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), once known to comparatively few people, is now becoming widely known throughout the world. He is steadily becoming recognized as one of the masterminds of mankind, a genius who was a great scientist, philosopher and theologian.
Emanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in the year 1688, the son of Jesper Svedberg, bishop of Skara in that country. Endowed with an extraordinary mind he became one of Sweden's most illustrious men of science. A remarkable scholar, a profound philosopher, his knowledge marks him as an outstanding genius of his day. He made many exceptional discoveries, and anticipated much of our modern science. One of his notable designs during his prolific career as an inventor and scientist was that of a flying machine.
|His book, The Principia, would be no menial output as the life work of a scientist today. Yet during this long period of brilliant mental activity, in which he produced thirty-three scientific works, he was working hard in a government office. His position on the Board of Mines was no cushy undertaking. It carried with it great responsibilities and called for constant application. Swedenborg must have known laborious days as well as studious nights. That his work was well and thoroughly done may be seen from the fact that when he retired from that office the government settled his full salary on him for life.|
|At the age of fifty Swedenborg gave up scientific research. Had he retired from all activity and spent the remainder of his life in quiet ease, there is no doubt that his name would have been blazoned on the scroll of Swedish fame. He would have been honoured as one of Sweden's greatest men of science. But Swedenborg did not retire to spend the remainder of his life in idleness!|
|In 1744, at the age of fifty-six, would mark the beginning of thirty-eight years of productive activity during which he published some thirty works on theology. He had retired from public office and scientific pursuit in the full belief that the Lord had called him to reveal to the world the doctrine of his Second Advent. He claimed that his spiritual eyes had been opened, and that for more than thirty years he lived in conscious communication with the spiritual world.|
|Let us remember that this took place in the eighteenth century, at a time when the religious life of Europe was at a very low ebb; when spirituality appeared to be almost dead, and just before George Whitefield and John Wesley put new life into religion in this country and Great Britain. We can then understand what a stupendous claim Swedenborg made.
Let us remember, too, that the Christian theology of the eighteenth century was vastly different from our present-day belief. God was regarded as a Being of anger and stern justice. Heaven was a vague abode somewhere beyond the furthest star. Salvation was to be achieved through a correct faith rather than by a righteous life. The Church taught the resurrection of the physical body, and the eternal damnation of all the heathen. It even taught the idea that un-baptized children would be forever shut out of heaven.
|We need not wonder that Swedenborg's claim to be the servant of the Lord, commissioned to reveal new truth to the world, met with very little acceptance in his own day. We need not be surprised that he met with violent opposition from the ecclesiastical authorities in his own land.|
|He dared to assert that there were new truths to be learned about religion, that the Lord was making a new revelation and was unfolding the spiritual sense of his own Divine Word. People had forgotten the Saviour’s words to his disciples, “I have many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12), and so they turned a deaf ear to Swedenborg's claim that the hidden mysteries of religion were now to be revealed.|
|It is not surprising that with the exception of a few receptive minds people rejected the new revelation, for Swedenborg's new teachings were contrary to almost every doctrine held by the churches of his day.
The new revelation taught that God is one in essence and in person, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is the incarnate revelation of that God. It taught that the Divine Word, the revelation which we call the Holy Scriptures, contains an inner sense adapted to the apprehension of the angels, and
|Further, it taught that people are organized spiritual beings, clad in a body of flesh during the earthly period of life. Death ushers us into a spiritual realm, which surrounds and interpenetrates the physical universe. Resurrection is immediate. Leaving this physical world, we enter at once a spiritual life of unending progress. And, perhaps most important of all, the new revelation taught the truth that salvation is won not by correctness of creed but by a life of obedience to the Ten Commandments.
|Today many of the truths revealed through Swedenborg are finding wide acceptance in the Christian world. There are few Protestant preachers who do not possess some of his books. But in the eighteenth century they aroused a great deal of antagonism in the minds of the church authorities. Swedenborg was regarded as an impractical, visionary and dreamer. Most of his teachings were regarded as rank heresy. The idea that any further divine revelation would be made to the world was abhorrent to the Church. New ideas in science, industry and art were freely welcomed, but new ideas in the realm of religion were neither wanted nor, except by a few receptive minds, believed.|
|Swedenborg appears to have been little concerned with the reception or rejection of his writings. He had indomitable faith in the fact that the Lord was giving the world a new and higher form of Christianity, and that a new Church would be implanted in people's hearts and minds. He wrote many books.
Indeed in this latter part of his life his literary output fully equalled that of his earlier, scientific period. He published his books at his own expense, giving them freely to the world. He was content to publish what he sincerely believed to be a revelation from God, and he left his work as a heritage to the human race.
|His first important work, the Arcana Coelestia, or Heavenly Secrets, was published in eight quarto volumes.
It is an exposition of the spiritual sense of Genesis and Exodus, but scattered throughout its many pages are the germ ideas of all his religious teachings. These ideas, or truths, Swedenborg elaborated in other works.
|Heaven and Hell tells about life in the spiritual world, and is a fascinating book. Divine Love and Wisdom and Divine Providence are books full of profound philosophy. The Apocalypse Explained and The Apocalypse Revealed give us the inner meaning of the Book of Revelation. There are many other books that came from his pen, but there is one of outstanding importance, True Christian Religion or True Christianity, as it is titled in its most recent translation.|
|Swedenborg (1688-1772) wrote his crowning work, True Christian Religion, in his later years, containing the whole Theology of the New Church, published in Latin in Amsterdam in 1771. His works have been translated into many languages and issued in many editions. They are available in Latin, English, Danish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Swedish, Spanish and Portuguese. In steady demand for nearly two hundred years, this is a truly remarkable record for any author devoted to an exposition of the bible and universal Christian doctrine.|