The Word is the Ark

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To The Editor or The Spirit Of The Age:

Dear Sir—I have read, in the thirteenth number of your periodical, the first of a series of "Letters to Associationists," in which the persons thus designated are invited to commune with the editor, and to freely challenge and correct errors, &c. As an Associationist I would gladly accept the invitation to communion, without the least disposition to "challenge" or "correct" any one. I seek friendly communion, and that only.

We are invited to consider, in the first place, "our position." From a careful rending of the whole letter it would seem that our position is deemed analogous to that of the family of Noah while in the Ark. Although the interrogatory form is used, it is clearly implied, that there is not even one solitary truth now extant in all Christendom so clearly perceived asto serve as an Ararat amid the deluge of doubt." The Church, the College and the State—that is, Religion, Science, and Civil Government, are all represented as being submerged in the desolating flood of false principles now abroad over the whole earth.

I am not at all displeased with the mystic style in which your proposition is presented, for that is a style in which the highest wisdom is conveyed to the human intellect in the fewest words. A very short narrative, in parabolic or mystic style, is capable of conveying to the mind more ideas of wisdom than could be contained in many volumes written in the ordinary style. A few material facts, mystically arranged, arc made to represent to the intelligent mind an entire system of heavenly truths, just as a few drops of water may be so placed as to reflect the vast circling dome of the starry firmament. In the brief narrative concerning the Good Samaritan, for instance, how perfectly is presented a view of man's degeneracy, and the beneficence of God towards him. How beautiful a miniature of the Divine-Human countenance!—a picture that necessarily increases in brightness with our increase of experience in humane and beneficent action I What other style of writing could possibly present such a picture? Indeed, I am well satisfied that the books of holy Scripture are all of them written in the mystic style, so arranged and dictated by the Lord himself, as to render them, when rightly understood, a real, veritable transcript of the Word—the Logos—the Divine Wisdom—or, what amounts to the same, the Laws of Spiritual and Immutable Order. Therefore, I look upon the Word as being, in a supreme sense, THE ARK, which is safely upborne upon the flood now devastating the earth.

In this I am not aware that I controvert your position ; for the doctrines of Association appear to me in full harmony with the teachings of the Word, so far as I have been enabled to understand them both. But it must be acknowledged that there are very many in the Associative school, who do not perceive this harmony, and therefore do not knowingly attach any importance to the written Word, however ardently they may embrace its truths as presented in the doctrines of Association. So long as this continues to be the case with the most considerable number of our school, the cause must languish for the want of vital energy. The reason is obvious, when we reflect that all energy is spiritual in its source and origin ; that before the spiritual faculties become active, man is not in, the possession of all his powers ; that he is incapable of perceiving true ends, and consequently must be deficient in his adaptation of means. With all such, the material phase of life predominates: they perceive only the material benefits of Association; and, however willing they may be to bestow a portion of their time and means to the cause, they must reserve a very great share of both for the affairs of business under a system they desire to leave behind them. Thus the greater part of their action is given to perpetuate what a small portion is designed to supercede. There are other impediments which this class of our school unwillingly offer to a rapid progress, but I forbear to name them here.

From these considerations the conclusion urges itself forward, that Associationists owe it to themselves and the cause they would serve, to make themselves familiar with the full scope of the mighty doctrines of their school, in their spiritual as well as material aspect, by an earnest study of the written Word and its heavenly doctrines as unfolded by; that highly gifted seer, Emanuel Swedenborg. To this source of instruction the most prominent Associationists are indebted. One of the most profound thinkers of our day has said, that the exclusive disciples of either Fourier or Swedenborg do not understand their respective masters; and I doubt not that all who earnestly consult both, will arrive at the same conclusion. Furthermore, they will find that the principles unfolded by these two authors are as the clusters of ripe fruit brought by Joshua and Caleb from the promised land, which they had visited in advance of their brethren; together with abundance of similar testimony, that mayhap will enable them to become joyful witnesses to the opening of the "seven seals," which for ages has been set upon the sacred volume of Divine Inspiration.

And now, Mr. Editor, for the accomplishment of this end, would it not be well for the Associationists of this city to hold, weekly meetings for mutual instruction? If so, please make the suggestion. Ever yours,

New York, Oct. 4, 1849. J. W.

  • J. W, “The Word is the Ark,” The Spirit of the Age 1, no. 17 (October 27, 1849): 267-268.