THE writings of the New Church not only teach explicitly that every event and circumstance, even to the smallest, is under the control of the Divine Providence, but they also show in many cases, why things are as they are, where we should naturally imagine they ought to be otherwise; and thus they offer one of many convincing proofs that they are truly a revelation from above. We may take for an example to illustrate the state of the heathen. It has been a prevailing idea among Christians, that all must necessarily be condemned to hell among these nations because they are ignorant of the Lord’s redemption. And this cruel idea has, on the contrary, and to argue with good reason, that a merciful Saviour, if He really existed, would never have left three-fourths of the world in utter and hopeless ignorance of the only means of salvation. But Swedenborg shows that the heathen nations have also the means of salvation among themselves, because they have religion,—because they acknowledge a Supreme Being, and because they have laws of moral life similar to those of the Ten Commandments enforced by the sanctions of religion. he teaches that they are not in fault on account of their ignorance of the Lord; that it is not necessary that they should know concerning the Lord, in order to be saved by Him; but that they may be saved in the religion in which they have been educated, if they live a moral life out of obedience to the laws of their religion, and he further says that, in fact, a much larger proportion of them are saved than of Christians. One of the principal reasons is this: that it is less dangerous to spiritual life for men to be partially or wholly ignorant of spiritual truths, than for them to know and in some degree to believe them, and yet not live according to them. And so deeply are men in love with evil that they can only with difficulty be made to obey the truth, when they know it. We are naturally inclined to imagine that more strong and convincing evidence of the truth would have the effect to lead men more speedily to acknowledgement and obedience; but this would not really be the case. Experience shows that men are most strongly convinced by arguments in favour of what they love best to believe, and that those who disbelieve do so not so much from lack of evidence of the truth, as From lack of willingness to acknowledge it.
When therefore it became necessary to make the revelation of the Christian Dispensation, it was published among comparatively a few, by whom it could be lost easily and most usefully received.
Another law according to which the Divine Providence operates is, that it does not violently break and uproot the religious principles in which man has been educated, at least so long as they can be made useful in leading him into good; and it refrains, so long as this is the case, from supplanting them by others which, though better in themselves, could not be so readily received, nor ever be regarded with so much reverence as that which has been implanted in infancy and childhood. The efforts which have been made by modern missionaries of the Old Church, while they been probably productive of considerable good in some quarters, have in others been so utterly fruitless, as to demonstrate the futility of persisting in their attempts. The facts seem to us to prove that some of the heathen nations have a religion which is not only better adapted to their genius and capacity, but also, in the view of Providence, to their spiritual necessities, than anything which the Old Church can furnish them.
But there are some other things which ought also to be remembered, in connection with this subject;—especially these;—First, that in order that there may be a conjunction of mankind with heaven, and life thence, and therefore salvation, there must be somewhere those who have the Word, from which is the knowledge of God, of heaven and of salvation; and that from them spiritual light is diffused, in shade, to those who have not the Lord, and at the same time live according to the truth, come more interiorly into heaven than those who are in ignorance.