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TEMPTATIONS OF THE REGENERATING LIFE.
"Temptations appertaining to man are spiritual combats between good and evil spirits, which combats are from those things and concerning those things which man had done and thought, which are in his memory. They are generally carried on to a state of desperation, which is their period and conclusion. In temptations man is in equilibrium between two opposite powers; one from the Lord in his inner man, and the other from hell in his outer man.” — Swedenborg.
We shall ever find it our highest wisdom to recur to the Divine Word for instructions and illustrations concerning our spiritual experience. It is here that the whole plan of Providence and the map of human existence are unrolled before us. The Word being written with a much more specific fulness than it is commonly supposed to be,-it being, in fact, systematic and continuous, and having an internal sense originated from a standpoint in the spiritual world from which it was written, and where was seen, in divine light, all the states and experiences of the soul as in panoramic vision, it becomes our chart and guide across the ocean of life. Some general marks of the spiritual sense have always been discovered in the Bible; and nowhere perhaps more so, than in the account of the people of Israel in their bondage to the Egyptians, their deliverance thence, and their journeyings to the promised land: for Egypt has always been recognized as a representative of the natural mind untaught in spiritual things; the bondage endured there, as a figure of the like spiritual bondage; their deliverance from it, the commencement of a new life; their wanderings in the wilderness and the encountering of so many
enemies by the way, the long and toilsome work of regeneration and the spiritual enemies that oppose and fight against this work; and their final routing of these enemies and entrance into Canaan, the triumph over every evil and the attainment of heavenly rest and peace. These and many other things in the history of the Israelites have always caused it to be read in the church as more or less of a spiritual history, full of significance to the life of man.
With this general view of the Scripture history, let us here introduce one passage which is full and pertinent to the point under review. Deut. 8: 15, 16. “ The Lord thy God, who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought; where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of fint ; who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end." Here is a plain reference to the grievous temptations which they experience who from natural are becoming spiritual. The warfare before treated of relates more fully to the commencement, or to the first states of the new life. True, it is frequently more grievous as that life progresses to the interiors, and as deeper evils are brought to light than we had ever thought existed, even as the last temptation of our Lord was the most grievous of all, when it appeared that God had forsaken him. But in the first states we are frequently more apt to feel and speak of it as a warfare, from the fact that we have just began to realize the conflict. But all through it is a warfare, from which there is no discharge so long as a particle of sin or impurity remains. We must devote, then, another chapter to this subject, without which our treatment of it would by no means be complete.
The “great and terrible wilderness” referred to, which was true literally in the experience of the Isaelites, in the spiritual and universal sense is the barren and uncultivated state of the
unregenerate mind. The prominent reason for this correspondence is found in the spiritual world : for there, they who are thus destitute of truth and goodness appear to inhabit wilderness tracts of land ; barren and arid deserts; where there is no verdure in the plains, and no harvest in the fields, and no fruittrees in the gardens; for all these things in the spiritual world are correspondences and outbirths of the states of the inhabitants. It would be tedious to enumerate passages where the wilderness is spoken of and set in contrast with the Garden of Eden, and the Garden of the Lord, and many fruitful places. Speaking of the natural man before regeneration, which is represented by Jacob, it is said — “The Lord found him in a desert land, and in the waste, howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” (Deut. 32: 10.) And what else shall we understand by “making the wilderness rejoice and blossom as the rose”?
Now, inasmuch as this wilderness is seen correctly in the mind of one man, when inspected by the light of heaven, seen in miniature, -- so a multitude of such men together would make a still greater wilderness: and in the spiritual world where the evil congregate, particularly in the hells, and from thence into the world of spirits, there is the “great and terrible wilderness” from whence proceed all our temptations. It is called great and formidable, because of the grievous nature of the temptations encountered thence. 6 Wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions," and all manner of evil beasts. These refer not to natural creatures, but to spiritual evils which take these forms. Thus also it is said of Babylon, the perverted church, that it has become “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” (Rev. 18: 2) So also in Isaiah, speaking of the same or similar things, under figure of the land of Idumea and Zion, “ The cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it; it shall be a habitation for dragons and a court for owls. The wild beasts of the desert
shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow; there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.” (Isa. 34: 11-15.)
All this would be entirely unworthy of the Word of God, if the literal sense only were adhered to, for why such a particular enumeration and description of mere birds and animals ? But when it is reflected that they every one signifiy some falsity or evil in the human mind, and how they mate, and beget their like, and that they are really seen, flitting about in the regions of darkness in the spiritual world, and in this world also, by the angels who can see what correspondences are around every man, then we may have a rational and spiritual idea of the great and terrible wilderness through which every man is led in passing from Egypt to Canaan.
The “fiery serpents” signify the lusts of the sensual man; and “ scorpions ” such deadly persuasions thence, of error and falsity, as quite deprive a man of his own proper life. For a scorpion, when he stings a man, induces a stupor upon the limbs, which if not cured is followed by death. This persuasion also of certain deadly falsities produces a corresponding effect upon the understanding. “In the spiritual world," says Swedenborg, “there exists a power of persuasion which takes away the understanding of truth, and induces stupor, and thus distress, upon the mind; but this power of persuasion is unknown in the natural world.” (A. R. 428.) Yet perhaps we may now be opening to something of this kind, as we see the terrible fantasies and delusions which are being practised upon men in their near approach to the spiritual world.
The meaning of these words is rendered still more obvious by what follows. “Fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water.” That is, by a familiar correspondence, no truth.
And again —“Who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint.” Allusion is here made to the Rock in Horeb, which was smitten by Moses, from whence issued water for the people; that is, truths from the Lord.
“Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end." The meaning is, that while in temptations, the Lord sustains man with spiritual meat and spiritual drink, which are the goods and truths from heaven: for by manna is understood the good of celestial love; and by the fathers of these Israelites not knowing of this manna is signified that the natural man is utterly averse to it: thus that the whole temptation is intended to separate the evils from the natural man, to make him spiritual, and to do him good in his final state ; that is, in heaven to eternity.
Such is the graphic teaching of this passage of the divine Word. It introduces us to one of the most important and interesting considerations of the regenerating life.
But here we encounter a difficulty in the outset. There are many who are still so fast bound in Egypt, or who have made so little progress out of it, that they know scarcely any thing about these temptations. They live, for the most part, a purely natural life. As before observed - “ They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.” (Ps. 73: 5.) Still, they have their troubles. They are, for the most part, griefs about worldly things, for the loss of property, sickness, and an unsuccessful ambition ; and frequently, petty cares and irritabilities for things which in themselves are noth ing, and amount to nothing; in short, for the mere hurt of the natural life, which is self-love and love of the world. But they have no spiritual temptations. These are such as belong to the interior man, and are assaults upon his spiritual life. But before a man has begun to experience this life, although he is in association with evil spirits, and lives and acts so much from them, yet he knows not what it is to have his faith and love