B. F. (Benjamin Fiske) Barrett.

The New view of hell : showing its nature, whereabouts, duration, and how to escape it online

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Online LibraryB. F. (Benjamin Fiske) BarrettThe New view of hell : showing its nature, whereabouts, duration, and how to escape it → online text (page 1 of 13)
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Received OCT 27 1892 , 189 .
t Ucessions No. V\ ifM -3 It 5//^ No.


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The New View of Hell.


New View of Hell.




Author of "Lectures on the New Dispensation," "The Golden City,*
44 Letters to Bbecher on the Divine Trinity," Etc . Etc

i° nti \ $*








Entered according to Act jf Congress, in the year 18*\, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.



I. — The New Dispensation 9

II. — The Old Doctrine of Hell 26

III.— The New View 36

IV.— The Scripture Argument. — Sheol, Hades,

Gehenna, and the Lake of Fire.... 46
V.— Hell.— The Chosen Home of All Who

go There. 73

VI. — The Duration of Hell 87

VII.— Some Evidence of its Duration.— Philo-
sophical and Scriptural 100

VIII. — Why Cannot the Ruling Love be Changed

After Death ? 112

IX. — Displays of the Divine Benignity in Hell 125
X. — Is Hell to Undergo any Change ? If so,

of what Nature ? 145

XI. — The Devil and Satan 163

XII.— Practical Bearings of the Question.... 177

XIII. — How to Escape Hell 193


74f & THK -^



There are few subjects within the compass of revealed or
speculative Theology, upon which inquiring minds have been
more exercised within the last hundred years, than the sub-
ject of Hell. And there are few, perhaps, which have been
the occasion of more strifes and divisions in the churches,
which have caused more trouble to Christian believers, or
upon which there are at this moment more anxiety, doubt
and disagreement among religious teachers themselves.

There is no doubt that the popular mind of Christendom
has undergone a considerable change on this, as on many
other subjects, since the commencement of the present cen-
tury. The old representations of the Divine justice, and of
the condition of the wicked in the great Hereafter, would
hardly be listened to with patience — certainly not with satis-
faction — by any intelligent Christian congregation of to-day.

"The idea which men once had of hell and of divine jus-
tice," says the occupant of a distinguished orthodox pulpit,
"was a nightmare as hideous as was ever begotten by the
hellish brood itself. And it was an atrocious slander on
God. I do not wonder that men have reacted from these

horrors — I honor them for it."



But what have the Christian teachers of to-day to offer as
a substitute for the old idea, which is confessedly becoming
obsolete in nearly all of the churches? Many of them,
nothing — literally nothing, that can at once satisfy the reason
of thoughtful inquirers, and meet the demands of the lan-
guage of Scripture. And some are frank enough to confess
their destitution. Said a distinguished Presbyterian clergy-
man, writing on this subject some time ago : M It is all dark,
dark, dark, to my soul ; and I cannot disguise it."

The aim of the present work is to unfold and present the
New view of Hell, as set forth in the theological writings of
Emanuel Swedenborg ; to show that it is at once rational
and Scriptural, in harmony with the perfect love and wisdom
of God, as well as with the teachings of human experience
and the profoundest spiritual philosophy ; and that its prac-
tical influence upon the character of believers, cannot be
otherwise than beneficent.

How far I have succeeded in this, the reader himself must
judge. But if I have achieved even a partial success, and
presented the subject in a light to relieve and profit only a
few troubled souls, I shall be more than satisfied — I shall be

B. F. B.

Ghrmantown, Jan. 14, 1878.



New View of Hell.



THE theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are
regarded by many — by all, indeed, who have read
and studied them with care — as a new revelation. They
boldly claim for themselves this distinction, and chal-
lenge a candid examination of their claim in the light
of Scripture, reason, philosophy, history, and all human
experience. They are held to be (and this, too, is their
own claim) a new Dispensation of spiritual truth : that
Dispensation referred to in the Apocalypse under the
symbol of the New Jerusalem which John saw coming
down from God out of heaven. They are believed to
contain, not merely the reasonings and conclusions of a
great and pious mind — not a theological or doctrinal
system wrought out by patient labor and hard study, but
a system of spiritual truth so luminous in its nature and
so grand in its proportions, as to be itself the fulfillment
of the prophecy concerning the second coming of Him



who i'6 " the Light of the world." They are declared to
be a revelation of new and heavenly truth made by the
Lord himself through his own chosen servant, whom He
raised up and prepared for this work, and in due time
graciously and wonderfully illumined by his Spirit.

The stupendous system of truth, therefore, contained
in the writings of this man, is not to be considered his,
but the Lord's. He was but the chosen instrument to
receive and make known to men, truths which no amount
of labor or study could ever have enabled him to dis-
cover. Hear what the seer himself says on this subject :

" Since the Lord cannot manifest Himself in Person,
and nevertheless has foretold that He would come and
establish a New Church which is the New Jerusalem, it
follows that He will do so by means of a man who
can not only receive these doctrines in his understanding
but can also publish them by the press.

"That the Lord manifested Himself before me his
servant, and sent me to this office, that He afterward
opened the eyes of my spirit and so intromitted me into
the spiritual world, granted me to see the heavens and
the hells, also to converse with angels and spirits, and
this continuously now for several years, I affirm in truth ;
as also, that, from the first day of that calling I have not
received anything whatever pertaining to the doctrines
of that Church from any angel, but from the Lord alone
While I read the Word." (True Christian Religion, 779.)

And elsewhere in his writings he repeats the same


statement — in, substance if not in words. Thus in his
preface to the Apocalypse Revealed, he says :

* Any one may see that the Apocalypse could no how
be explained but by the Lord alone, since every word
of it contains arcana which never could be known with-
out some special illumination and consequent revelation.
Wherefore it has pleased the Lord to open the sight of
my spirit and to teach me. It must not, therefore, be
supposed that I have given any explication of my own,
nor that even of any angel, but only what I have had
communicated to me from the Lord alone.' '

And in his treatise on "The Intercourse between the
Soul and the Body," he relates a conversation that he
once had with "a man of reason," explaining to him
how it was that from a philosopher he became a theolo-
gian. After telling him that it was " for the san^ reason
that fishermen became the disciples and apostles of the
Lord," adding that he also " from early youth had been
a spiritual fisherman;" and after explaining what this
means, and confirming what he says by citing passages
from the Word which speak of fishermen, unfolding at
the same time their spiritual meaning, his interrogator
" raised his voice and said :

"'Now I can understand why the Lord called and
chose fishermen to be his disciples ; and therefore I do
not wonder that He has also called and chosen you,
since, as you have observed, you were from early youth
a fisherman in a spiritual sense, that is, an investigator


of natural truths. The reason that you are now become
an investigator of spiritual truths, is, that these are
founded on the former. ' To this he added, being a man
of reason, that 'the Lord alone knows who is the
proper person to apprehend and teach or communicate
the truths which should be revealed for his New
Church.' " — Ibid. 20.

Swedenborg further claims that this new revelation
made through him as a chosen medium, is in fulfillment
of the prediction made by the Lord himself, concerning
his second coming, which was to be in the clouds of
heaven. This coming, he says, is not to be external and
natural, cognizable by the eye of sense; but internal and
spiritual, cognizable by the understanding and the heart.
It is to be a coming of the Word of God, that is, of the
deeper meanings of the Word — a coming of its spiritual
or heavenly sense to the minds and hearts of men, and
exerting upon them a new and renovating power. And
the clouds in or upon which it is said He would come,
are the clouds of Scripture — the obscurities, more or less
dense, of the literal sense, in or upon which the spiritual
and true sense comes as the sun's light through a cloud.
To cite again his own language :

" It is the prevailing opinion at this day [1770] in
every church, that the Lord, when He comes to the last
judgment, will appear in the clouds of heaven with
angels and the sound of trumpets; that He will gather
together all who are then dwelling on the earth, as well


as all who are deceased, and will separate the evil from
the good, as a shepherd separates the goats from the
sheep ; that then He will cast the evil, or the goats, into
hell, and raise up the good, or the sheep, into heaven;
and further that He will, at the same time, create a new
visible heaven and a new habitable earth, and on the latter
He will cause a city to descend, which is to be called the
New Jerusalem, and is to be built according to the de-
scription given in the Revelation (Ch. xxi.) of jasper
and gold ; and the foundation of its walls of every precious
stone ; and its height, breadth and length to be equal,
each twelve thousand furlongs ; and that all the elect are
to be gathered together into this city, both those that are
then alive, and those that have died since the beginning
of the world ; and that the latter will then return into
their bodies, and enjoy everlasting bliss in that magnifi-
cent city, as in their heaven. This is the prevailing
opinion of the present day, in all Christian churches,
respecting the coming of the Lord and the last judg-
ment.' ' — True Christian Religion, n. 768.

And a little further on he says :

"That the second coming of the Lord, is a coming, not
in person, but in the Word which is from Him, and is
Himself — It is written in many places that the Lord will
come in the clouds of heaven ; as Matt. xvii. 5 ; xxiv.
30; xxvi. 64; Mark xiv. 62; Luke ix. 34, 35; xxi. 27;
Rev. i. 7; xiv. 14; Dan. vii. T3; but no one has here-
tofore known what is meant by the clouds of heaven,


and hence mankind have believed that the Lord will
appear to them in person. But it has remained undis-
covered to this day, that the Word in its literal sense is
meant by the clouds of heaven ; and that the spiritual
sense of the Word is meant by the power and glory
in which also the Lord is to come. . . . Now since the
spiritual sense of the Word has been opened to me
by the Lord, and it has been granted me to be with
angels and spirits in their world as one of themselves,
it has been revealed to me that the clouds of heaven sig-
nify the Word in its natural sense; and glory, the Word
in its spiritual sense ; and power, the effectual operation
of the Lord by the Word."— Ibid., n. 776.

There can be no doubt, then, about Swedenborg's
claim — extraordinary though it be, and incredible as it
may seem to those who have not examined his writings.
He claims to have been called of the Lord in an extra-
ordinary manner, and to have been specially illumined
by his Spirit, to make a new revelation ;— a revelation,
that is, of new and heavenly truth concerning Himself,
his Word, the nature of heaven and hell, and the con-
dition of different classes of men in the great Hereafter.
He declares that it is the Lord who opened the eyes of
his spirit ; that it is the Lord who taught him the true
meaning of the Word, and what doctrines to promul-
gate ; that the Lord had actually come (agreeably to his
promise), to establish a New Church by means of the
doctrines which it was given him to receive, understand


and publish tothe world ; that these doctrines were not
his own — not the result of any labor or study on his
part, nor received from any angel, but communicated to
him by the Lord alone. "From the first day of that
calling," he says, "I have not received anything what-
ever pertaining to the doctrines of the New Church from
any angel, but from the Lord alone while I read the

It is not my purpose here to enter upon any discussion
of this claim, or to adduce evidence to show that it is
well founded. The need there was of a new revelation
at the time Swedenborg lived and wrote, as shown by
the doctrinal beliefs and teachings in all the churches of
his day; the luminous and extraordinary character of his
theological writings; the sweet and heavenly and catholic
spirit that they breathe throughout; the elevated and ra-
tional views they contain on all subjects — views that har-
monize with the teachings of Scripture and reason and
science, and with all we know of the laws of the human
soul and the ways and workings of God's providence ; —
all these combine to force an acknowledgment of his
claim from every intelligent and candid mind who thor-
oughly examines and understands his writings. Such
an one admits his claim because he cannot help it. He
finds the evidence so overwhelming, that it is easier to
accept than to reject it. He sees that here is, indeed, a
new revelation ; that here is a system of spiritual truth so
grand and harmonious and rational, so comprehensive


majestic, and so admirably adapted to human wants
in this age, that it could have none other than God him-
self for its author. He accepts Swedenborg's teachings,
therefore, as a new Dispensation of spiritual truth, bear-
ing the impress of God's own finger. So abundant and
overmastering is the evidence, that he cannot do other-
wise ; he cannot reach any other conclusion.

But those cannot admit his claim, who have not studied
his writings. How can they ? — for they have not weighed
the evidence ; they have not seen it, indeed. And no-
where but in his writings themselves, can satisfactory evi-
dence of his claim be found. They may, from having read
a few pages or chapters of his works, admit that he saw
and taught much truth ; but we cannot expect them to go
beyond this — nor ought they — until they have studied
his writings sufficiently to enable them to discern, in some
measure, their wondrous depth and comprehensiveness
and philosophy and unity. Such persons, (and they are
not a few) stand toward this New Christian Dispensation
in the same attitude as those stand toward the first Chris-
tian dispensation, who admit that Jesus Christ was a wise
and excellent man, and that much truth is to be found in
the New Testament ; but who do not admit the proper
divinity of the one, nor the inspiration of the other ;
who regard the Saviour as a merely finite and human
being, and the writings of the Evangelists as merely
human compositions. And while some of these persons
may have more of the spirit of Christ than manj who


know and belieye more of Him and his gospel, still they
would not be regarded, popularly or doctrinally speak-
ing, as Christians ; for they do not acknowledge Chris-
tianity as a new Dispensation, or in any proper sense as
a new Revelation.

So, popularly speaking, those are not of the New
Christian Dispensation (they may belong to it really
but not nominally) who do not see or acknowledge that
any such dispensation has commenced, or that the
writings of Swedenborg are, indeed, a new and divindy
authorized revelation of heavenly truth — though they
may have in their hearts more of the spirit and life
of the New Church than some who accept its doc-

But many persons — and these inhabiting the most en-
lightened portions of Christendom — are beginning to
admit that Swedenborg's claim is well founded. They
believe that he wrote under a special divine illumination,
and that his writings are or contain a new revelation.
And what is implied by this admission ? That no mis-
take, however trivial, is anywhere to be found in his writ-
ings ? That in every sentence and word he penned after
his illumination, he was immediately directed by the
Lord? That every word he wrote is as certainly true as if
it had been written by the finger of God himself? Noth-
ing of this sort is involved in the fullest and most cordial
admission of his claim. We may admit his divine illumin-
ation; we may believe that he wg^giigtt^jed and taught
2 *


of God as no other man ever was ; and that his writings are,
as they claim to be, a new and divinely authorized reve-
lation ; and yet we may believe that his illumination
was not precisely the same at all times ; that he was not
absolutely infallible ; that his pen, and even his thought
on some minor points, might momentarily have slipped,
making him teach or seem to teach in one place, some-
thing contrary to his general teaching upon the same

But an admission of this man's claim, or the belief
that his writings are a new dispensation of spiritual truth
to men, does involve the belief, that, upon all important
doctrines — upon all questions which have hitherto en-
gaged the attention of Christians, and in which they are
likely always to feel a deep interest — he has spoken with
authority, because he wrote under an extraordinary divine
illumination. It involves the admission that, in what he
wrote and published concerning the Lord, the Sacred
Scripture, Redemption, Regeneration, Salvation, the
Resurrection, the Judgment, the nature and duration of
Heaven and Hell, and all the great facts and laws of the
spiritual world, he has not given us his opinion merely,
but the truth which God was pleased to reveal through
him. It involves the belief that, upon such momentous
themes he was illumined by the Holy Spirit, and has
taught only what the Lord authorized and directed him
to teach. So that what his writings contain on such
subjects, is not his own opinions or conclusions merely,


but is what the Lord himself teaches or is trying to teach
mankind through him.

Let me endeavor to make my view more clear by an
illustration : —

A man is duly accredited by our government to the
court of St. James. Upon all important matters between
the two countries, he receives his instruction from Wash-
ington. And if he acts according to his instruction,
the things he does as the authorized agent of the govern-
ment, are not to be regarded merely as his acts, but the
acts of the government; and the government alone is
responsible for them. But in carrying on some negotia-
tion, Mr. Adams or Mr. Motley, in the exercise of the
freedom and discretion of a plenipotentiary, may here
and there drop a word or use an expression which his
government might not approve ; but that is of small con-
sequence if it does not prevent nor in any way interfere
with the negotiation. He may not, in every interview
with the British minister of foreign affairs, or at every
court dinner, do and say exactly the thing that the gov-
ernment from which he is accredited would approve ;
but if he carries out his instructions generally, does his
duty faithfully, and so accomplishes the purpose of his
mission, is he any the less the accredited American min-
ister, or his acts any the less cheerfully endorsed by his
government because of an occasional and unimportant
remark made by him, which the authorities at Wash-
ington might not approve?


So Swedenborg — though it might be shown that he has
here and there said things, unimportant in themselves but
not in agreement with the general tenor of his teaching
— is to be regarded as none the less a divinely accredited
teacher or a divinely authorized expounder of sacred
mysteries, if his teaching upon all important and funda-
mental points be true, or such as meets the approval of
heaven's own King.

But though it is, or claims to be, a New Dispensation,
it is a dispensation of rational religious truth. It ad-
dresses us as rational beings, endowed with the capacity
of discriminating between right and wrong — truth and
falsehood. It declares that Rationality, or the ability to
understand spiritual truth when presented, and to judge
between it and error, is one of the noblest gifts of God.
And it holds it to be every one's solemn duty to respect
this gift, by faithfully exercising his own understanding
upon whatever is offered him for religious truth. It
teaches that no one ought to accept what his own under-
standing rejects, even though it should be proclaimed by
a messenger from heaven, or have the unanimous vote of
all Christendom in its support.

No one, therefore, is expected to receive for truth what
Swedenborg has taught on any subject, unless the teach-
ing approve itself to his rational intuitions ; that is, un-
less he himself sees it to be true. Each one must use
his own eyes, and not allow another to see for him. The
great seer himself says :


"This tenet, that the understanding is to be kept in
subjection to faith, is rejected in the New Church ; and
in its place, this is to be received as a maxim, that the
truth of the church should be seen in order that it may
be believed. . . . What is truth not seen, but a voice
not understood ?" And again he says: "The angels
have wisdom in consequence of seeing truths. Where-
fore when it is said to any angel that this or that is to be
believed although it is not understood, the angel replies,
Do you suppose me to be insane, or that you yourself
are a god whom I am bound to believe ?"

This Dispensation, moreover, is catholic, comprehen-
sive, universal, in its spirit. It breathes throughout the
sweetest charity. It inculcates the largest liberty of
thought. It encourages the utmost freedom of religious
inquiry. It asserts with new and increased emphasis the
great Protestant principle — the right of private judgment
in matters of faith, however that judgment may differ
from the solemn decree of popes, prelates, councils,
synods, assemblies or conventions. It upholds, there-
fore, and furnishes new and powerful weapons in defence
of religious liberty. It is tolerant of all forms of error,
innocently imbibed and conscientiously held, and shows
the possibility of salvation under all of them. It con-
demns no individual, no sect, no people — not even Ma-
hometans or Pagans — merely on account of their beliefs ;
but teaches that infinite Love is for ever brooding over
all ; and for ever seeking, through such forms of faith


and modes of worship as are best suited to the wants of
each, to lift them up into clearer light and a higher
life — into fuller communion and sweeter fellowship with
itself. It is full, therefore — this New Dispensation —
of the all-embracing and all-reconciling spirit of the

The following extracts — and a volume of similar ones
might be quoted from the writings of Swedenborg — will
exhibit something of the large and catholic spirit of this
New Dispensation : —

" Notwithstanding there are so many various and dif-
ferent doctrines [believed by Christians], still, if all who
hold these doctrines did but acknowledge charity as
the essential of the church, or what is the same, if they
had respect to life as the end of doctrine, they would to-
gether form one church ; ... for every one in the other
life is gifted with a lot from the Lord according to the
good of his life, not according to the truth of his doctrine
separate from that good." — Arcana Ccelestia 3241.

" If charity were in the first place and faith in the
second, the church would have another face. For then,
none would be called Christians but they who lived the

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Online LibraryB. F. (Benjamin Fiske) BarrettThe New view of hell : showing its nature, whereabouts, duration, and how to escape it → online text (page 1 of 13)