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of the latter are simply obedient; being acted upon, and having no power of acting of themselves.
That angels and spirits are thus clothed with spiritual bodies, is manifest from.most of the accounts of spiritual visions contained in the Scriptures. An angel whom John saw * had in his hand a little book open; and he set his right foot upon the sea, and the left upon the earth; and cried with a loud voice ; and lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever.” He often tells also how they are clothed. Ezekiel, too, saw a spirit take a coal of fire in his hand and put it into the hands of another; and angels are frequently described as riding on horses, both in the prophets and in the Revelation. All these things necessarily imply organized human bodies. We ourselves have these spiritual bodies now; and the only change and loss we shall experience at death will be, that we shall lay aside our material ones.
From the visions with which the apostle Paul had been favored, he had evidently learned how to understand this subject; for he says, "there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” And again he says, "But some one will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?” and he calls him who asks such a question a "fool.” By his visions he had learned the spiritual constitution of spirits and angels, and his own spiritual organization. From his own testimony, it is evident that persons in vision are conscious of their spiritual bodies only, or chiefly, and of their material ones little or not at all; for, in speaking of his being "taken up to the third heaven,” he says, "whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell” ; evidently meaning his material body.
We learn from the doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church, that, in the most ancient times, when men were in their primitive integrity, it was a common thing for them to have the senses of their spiritual body opened, and to enjoy frequent and open intercourse with the angels of heaven, and with the Lord. This was the way in which they received all their Divine revelation, — all their instruction in spiritual, heavenly, and Divine things : for they had no written revelation; and being thus favored, they needed none.
But in innocence, purity, integrity, and the love of good, - in love to the Lord and the neighbor, - they were far, very far, beyond anything that we of the present day can conceive or imagine. They were the Lord's first and most ancient church; and when they passed away, the capacity of having the senses of the spiritual body opened was suspended with all men; and it has never since been restored, except by express provision of the Lord, and upon very rare occasions. It was suspended then purely out of mercy to man : for if it had been continued, man, as he had fallen, would have used it more for communication with evil spirits than with good ones, and would at length have sought intercourse with the evil only, and would thus have secured his spiritual destruction. Such would evidently be its effect, if restored freely at the present day.
The senses of our spiritual body may be opened fully, or partially. With John, in the things that were shown to him in the Revelation, they seem to have been opened fully; and he was fully introduced into the spiritual world. This is what is meant, when he so often says, "I was in the spirit.” For the time, he was probably nearly or quite unconscious of the life of his body, or of any objects around him in the natural world; and was observant only of the life of his spirit. Several, and perhaps all of the prophets, were sometimes in the same state : they saw nothing but spiritual. and heavenly scenes and objects.
But sometimes the senses of the spiritual body are opened while the senses of the material body are still active and conscious, both being exercised in conjunction. In such cases the individual may not be aware of being "in the spirit” at all; and most are not : they suppose that all that they experience is through the senses of their material body. This was the case with the disciples and others, when they saw the Lord after His resurrection. They saw the Lord
appear before them when they were in a chamber, the doors being shut.” They were fishing, and saw Him on the shore: they landed, and "saw a fire of coals, and fish laid thereon, and bread." This was not a fire of material coals, any more than the coals of fire which Ezekiel saw taken from between the cherubim. Nor were these material fish and bread; but spiritual food, such as angels and spirits live on, and composed of spiritual substance; for angels and spirits eat spiritual food, as men eat material, and to all appearance
in the same manner. Their spiritual bodies need to be sustained by food, as much as odr material bodies do.
All the spiritual manifestations recorded in the Scriptures were given for two ends. The first was, the direct effect on the individual, or individuals, to whom the manifestation was made, and the instruction and directions then communicated; this was one of the ends. The other was, that the manifestation and its attendant circumstances, being recorded, might contain an orderly series of spiritual and Divine ideas, and so make a part of the Divine Word. Now if the Lord had not intended that his appearance to His disciples when they were fishing should be recorded as part of His Word, we can suppose that the "fire of coals, and the fish, and the bread,” might not have been necessary ; and the same remark may apply, perhaps, to all the manifestations recorded. To complete the spiritual sense of the record, something was necessary which the natural objects and scenery did not present; and this was supplied, by direct spiritual creation, to the spiritual senses.
It might be difficult, and perhaps impossible, to determine, in any or all of the recorded manifestations, what objects were seen by the natural, and what by the spiritual senses,
what were material, and what were spiritual. It is not impossible, perhaps not improbable, that in every case an entire spiritual scene was created precisely conformable to the natural one, with such added particulars as were necessary to the Divine purpose ; and that the persons to whom the manifestation was made exercised their spiritual senses only, their natural ones being made quiescent and unconscious for the time.
Of John in the Revelation, and of several of the prophets, it is said that they were" in the spirit”; which signifies that all the senses of their spiritual body were opened, and that they were fully admitted into the spiritual world. Of the young man mentioned in the text, of Balaam, and of the Lord's disciples, it is said that their eyes were opened ”; the meaning of which is that they saw with the eyes of their spiritual body.
The Lord is in the human form, - an infinite Divine Man; and He created human beings in His own form. The human soul — the human spirit or mind — is therefore in the same form; and consequently all the angels and spirits are in the human form. They are clothed with the spiritual body, which is composed of spiritual substance; as is shown not only in the doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church, but in the teachings of the Apostle Paul. This spiritual body is most perfectly organized, having all the organs and senses of the material body, but inconceivably more acute, exquisite, and perfect - as much so as spirit is above matter; as much so as the emotions of the heart transcend the bodily sense of touch. But the spiritual body, with its organs and senses, is so entirely similar to the natural body, that persons of little or no spiritual elevation, persons of gross and sensual natures, after arriving in the spiritual world, and seeing themselves in their spiritual bodies, do not believe that they have exchanged worlds.
It is perfectly easy for the Lord to open the senses of the spiritual body for any person at any moment of his life. This was common with the primeval men the men of the most ancient church ; for by this spiritual communion with the Lord and His angels they received their revelations of spiritual truth; and the only reason why it is not common now is because men are not in a state to make a good use of it. But still, the Lord has from time to time seen occasion to open the spiritual senses of various individuals, under circumstances when He could provide that it should not do them harm. Of this nature are all the cases recorded in the Scriptures which took place by His provision. It would be perfectly easy for Him to open our spiritual senses at this moment, or at any moment, if it would do us good; for this is the sole end of all He does.
Abraham saw " three men in the heat of the day;” and he invited them to take "rest under a tree," and furnished them with refreshments. These men were the Lord presented under three different points of view; and they were seen by him with his spiritual senses, though he was manifestly using his natural senses at the same time. But how much of the other circumstances and transactions were perceived by him and by Sarah with their spiritual senses, and how much with their material senses, there does not seem to be the means of determining. So, too, Balaam, by his spirit
saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand"; but how much of the other attendant circumstances were a spiritual creation presented to his spiritual senses cannot be determined. Elisha saw, with his spiritual sense, ' a chariot of fire and horses of fire,” when Elijah was taken up; but he saw " the mantle of Elijah that fell from him” with his material senses. Elisha's servant also saw, with his spiritual senses, " the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” The disciples and Mary saw an angel at the Lord's sepulchre, and heard him speak; and they saw and heard the Lord Himself several times afterwards ; but how far the other objects presented on these occasions were material, and how far a spiritual creation for the time, and how far they were in the exercise of their spiritual or their natural senses, we have not the means of determining.
T. B. H.