What Saith the Scripture?


Fellow ship > Swedenborgianism and Emanuel Swedenborg


An excerpt from "Heresies Exposed"

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God?"
(1 Corinthians 6:9).

by William Hoste, B.A.

Concerning the book:
"Heresies Exposed"
compiled by William C. Irvine

In 1917, William C. Irvine published his "Timely Warnings", the first of the modern counter-cult books. Irvine warned Christians of groups and philosophies that denied the essential doctrines of Christianity. The denial of these key doctrines- incarnation, atonement, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the authority of the Bible- cut the heart out of the Gospel message and turned Christianity into a shadow of itself. Under its new title, "Heresies Exposed", Irvine's book went through twenty-nine printings by 1955 and remained in print until the 1980's.

An excerpt from "Heresies Exposed"
Pages 181-186

by William Hoste, B.A.

[Note from WStS: Quotes from Emanuel Swedenborg will be shown in blue ink.]

What simplifies our examination of Swedenborgianism is its claim to be, not a mere new sect or offshoot of Christianity, but a new dispensation, as distinct from Church Christianity as that was from Judaism. The old Church is affirmed to have come to its end in 1757 when, as some will be surprised to learn, the last judgment took place. Swendenborg says he was present; though why he was not judged himself does not appear clear. However, all this is opposed in Scripture and facts. The Lord promised that "the gates of hell should not prevail" against His Church [Matthew 16:18], and we know we have received "a kingdom which cannot be moved, [Hebrews 12:28]" and a succeeding dispensation of Christianity to the Church dispensation is a pure invention without foundation. Is it not too much to ask us to believe that there has been no true Church testimony on the earth since 1757, except that of a little handful of self-commended Swedenborgians?

If, however, a new dispensation did begin in 1757, might we not expect it to be marked by an increase of spirituality, holiness of conduct, submission to God's Word and separation from the world? None of these marks is apparent. Swedenborg's heaven reminds one of the heaven of the Spiritists- a replica of earth with spiritual cigars, whiskey, armchairs, debating societies, lending libraries and- the antipodes of the heaven of the Apocalypse, neither holy nor happy, but
"earthly, sensual, devilish, [James 3:15]" for even the devils and the lost make raids into it. Swedenborg once saw "an execrable rabble in heaven" (Swedenborgianism Examined, p.91).

[WStS: "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God... And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" Revelation 21:10, 27.]

But is the system marked by special holiness? The predominant subject in the teacher's mind was
"conjugal love," which was indeed in his view "heavenly love in its highest form," and is, according to him, a great subject of interest and conversation among the angels (from Areana Celestia, pp.2735,5053, and Conjugal Love, pp.54, 64-65, 229, 367, 457 as quoted by Dr. Pond, p.150.). In spite of our Lord's denial, they do "marry and are given in marriage" in heaven!

[WStS Note: "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage" Luke 20:35.]

There are passages in Swedenborg's writings so grossly indelicate, Dr. Pond assures us, that they ought never to have been translated

[WStS Note: "For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." Ephesians 5:12].

Swedenborg gives 55 cases in which a married man may judge himself free to be unfaithful to his marriage vows; and in certain cases he permits and even recommends flagrant immorality (Swedenborgianism Examined, pp.163-167).

[WStS Note: "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints" Ephesians 5:3.]

Is, then, Swedenborgianism subject to the Word of God? By his fanciful system of
"correspondences"- which Swedenborgian writers (e.g., Mr. Tulk, see Swedenborgianism Examined, p.65, footnote) themselves being witness, no one can rightly interpret the Scriptures can be made to mean anything or nothing. One instance must suffice. The story of the 42 children destroyed by bears in 2 Kings 2:24 is thus interpreted: "Elisha represented the Lord as the Word. Baldness signifies the Word, devoid of literal sense, thus not anything. Forty-two signifies blasphemy. And bears signify the literal sense of the word, real indeed but not understood." (Apocalypse Revealed, p.573). I hope my readers are edified. To some such interpretations must appear as the ravings of a disordered mind. And why all this talk about the literal word, when Swedenborg rejected Ruth, Job, Chronicles, Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther, Proverbs, in the Old Testament, and all but the four Gospels and the Apocalypse in the New,

[WStS Note: "Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto My Words, nor to My Law, but rejected It." Jeremiah 6:19

"O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the LORD." Jeremiah 22:29; also "Because thou hast rejected the Word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee." 1Samuel 15:23]

only because these books could not be made to work out on the "correspondence" system. But, alas, a disordered heart beats behind a disordered mind! Swedenborg's antipathy to the doctrines of grace amounted almost to a monomania. He never ceased to travesty and vilify the doctrine of the Trinity, accusing his opponents of being tritheists: he replaced it by a Unitarianism which made the Lord Jesus Christ, the one God, substituting for the glorious Three in One, Father, Son and Spirit, a nominal Trinity, "essential divinity, divine humanity (sic), and a divine preceding" (see notes on pp.160,161).

[WStS Note: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." Galatians 4:6

"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Romans 8:9

"And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him." Isaiah 11:2

"And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is Truth. For there are Three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One." 1John 5:6-7]

The Lord Jesus is not honored by such daring perversions of the truth, but profoundly dishonored. In fact, what remains when the divinity of the Godhead has been destroyed?- not Jesus, the Son of God, but "another Jesus." In reality, His Person is denied

(1) in His essential Deity, for He could have no existence as the Eternal Son without the Father: (note: I am well aware Swedenborg strenuously denied the eternal Sonship of Christ.)

[WStS Note: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." 2John 1:9

"Then said they unto Him, Where is Thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me, nor My Father: if ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also." John 8:19

"Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." 1John 4:15

"Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also." 1John 2:23

"No man hath seen God at any time; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." John 1:18

"Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me." John 7:16]

(2) in His true humanity, for the divinity took the place of the human spirit:

[WSTS NOTE: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." Isaiah 9:6

"And there shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots." Isaiah 11:1

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD." Luke 2:11

"Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death." Matthew 20:18

"For He taught His disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him; and after that He is killed, He shall rise the third day." Mark 9:31

"When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the Throne of His glory." Matthew 25:31]

and (3) in His intrinsic holiness and sinlessness, by the blasphemous attribution to Him of "great moral impurities and imperfections." "We are therefore called upon to work in ourselves, in our human nature, the same kind of work which He wrought in His." (See Swedenborgianism Examined, p.83.)

[WSTS NOTE: "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2Corinthians 5:21

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15

"Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth" 1Peter 2:22

"And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin." 1John 3:5]

He was equally opposed to the atonement in any vicarious sense. To him it was "a subjugation of the powers of evil," or, as one of his followers puts it, "the reconciliation of the human nature to the divine;" but Christ bearing our sins and judgment, shedding His blood to make atonement to God on account of sin, all this was anathema to Swedenborg, and is to his followers today.

[WSTS NOTE: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made A Curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Galatians 3:13

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life." John 3:16

"He that believeth on the Son hath Everlasting Life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see Life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John 3:36

"Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Romans 4:25

"Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?" John 11:25-26

"But God commendeth His Love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"In this was manifested the Love of God toward us, because that God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is Love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1John 4:9-10

"And from Jesus Christ, Who is The Faithful Witness, and The First Begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood." Revelation 1:5

"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost." Matthew 18:11]

This antipathy to spiritual doctrine meant in his case a corresponding dislike to the most precious saints of all time who have been used of God to establish these truths, and whose memory is fragrant in the Church. He professed to see David and Paul, for instance, in the unseen world, associated with the worst of devils;

[WStS Note: "Be not deceived: evil communications [company] corrupt good manners." 1Corinthians 15:33

"They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is."
Psalm 38:20

"And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love."
Psalm 109:5

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
Isaiah 5:20]

from Luther and Calvin and other well-known servants of God he affirmed to have heard the most abject confessions of hypocrisies and heresies;

[WStS Note: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." Luke 6:45

"Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ."
1Peter 3:16

"Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Matthew 7:17-18]

in the case of his own contemporaries, the Moravian brethren, devoted missionaries for the most part, many of whom had laid down their lives for Christ's gospel, and "of whom the world was not worthy" [Hebrews 11:38], he did not scruple to affirm that he saw them choosing hell, so great had been their hypocrisies. How far could Swedenborg adopt the language of the apostle: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" [1John 3:14].

But, perhaps, the system has a high standard of devotion and separation from the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. It deprecates all such extremes.
"They who renounce the world and live in the Spirit procure to themselves a sorrowful life, which is not receptible of heavenly joy." (Heaven and Hell, p.528.)

[WStS Note: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith" Galatians 5:22.]

Men must "live in the world"

[WStS Note: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1John 2:15

"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." James 4:4

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:2]

and enjoy "the concupiscences of the body and the flesh" (sic).

[WStS Note: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21

"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience" Colossians 3:5-6.]

Besides this, Swedenborg recommends the following "diversions of charity," "the delights and pleasures of the bodily senses... convivialities, feasts, entertainments, and all kinds of merry-makings, games which are played at home with dice, billiards and cards." (Charity, p.117.)

[WStS Note: "And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the LORD Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" 1Corinthians 6:11.]

Such morality might suit well some Mr. Facing-both-ways of Vanity Fair; one fails to recognize it as Christian ethics. Certainly if this be heavenly-mindedness, few need fail to attain the standard.

[WStS Note: "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." 1John 2:16]

To accept this evil system, we are asked completely to revise our doctrinal and ethical standards, and to do so on the sole ground of Swedenborg's visions, backed up by no miracles or signs, and by no testimony but his own.

[WStS Note: "To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no Light in them." Isaiah 8:20]

They do not bear a moment's investigation from the astronomical or scientific standpoint, being full of absurd blunders and mis-statements of the science of the day. He did leave two tests, which he urged his adepts to follow up. He asserted that "the most ancient Word" written by Noah would be found among the inhabitants of Great Tartary, and that there exists in Central Africa an important branch of the New Church (Swedenborgianism Examined, p.199). But neither the one nor the other has ever been proved to have any real existence. We may be sure that the master's visions of the heavens and the hells, and the accounts of his visits to the heavenly orbs have no higher claim to our consideration.

[WStS Note: "The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the Word of the LORD; and what wisdom is in them?"Jeremiah 8:9]

The question may be asked how such an unchristian system can ever have gained adherence or have persisted to the present day. I think the answer is plain. The system responds in a very marked way to three dominant factors in the natural heart of man: his love of the marvellous, his dislike for the doctrines of grace, and his craving for pleasure;

[WStS Note: "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh." Ephesians 5:29]

especially when there are found combined in a religion of high pretensions under the imposing title of "The New Jerusalem descending out of Heaven from God."

[WStS Note: "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven." Revelation 21:2]

[Editor's Note: We received a letter from an official of The Swedenborg Society of India in which he says: "The delay is mainly due, however, to there being hardly a single statement in the article that can be allowed to pass unchallenged; indeed there are instances of single words (in quotations) even being refutable, as, for example, where 'proceeding' has been substituted for 'preceding' and 'conjugal' for 'conjugial' (the latter word having no reference to the carnal side of marriage, which, like Mr. Hoste, (his italics) the Sadducees of Christ's time had in mind; conjugial love is spiritual, and comes from a marriage of minds)."

Beyond general charges, these are the only definite "mistakes" pointed out. We sent the letter to Mr. Hoste, amongst other things he says: "As for his quibbles about misrepresentations and garbled quotations, unless he lies, he cannot bring any forward. Probably one or two misprints may have crept in, but what I am supposed to gain by substituting 'preceding' for 'proceeding' I do not quite see. There is no such word as 'conjugial' in Webster or, I believe, in the English language. Swedenborg's mind was full of the 'conjugal' question. He can't invent words and ask his critics to differentiate."- Ed.]

Verses that would be helpful:

1 Cor. 7:4-9 "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. 5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn."

1 Cor. 7:35-40
"And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. 36 But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well. 38 So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better. 39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God."

1 Cor. 6:9-10 "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God."

2 Pet. 2:12-15 "But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness."

Proverbs 28:10 "Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession."

3 John 1:11 "Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God."

Additional information:
Concerning Emanuel Swedenborg ---New Window
In reply to one of our readers.
by Tom Stewart

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