This volume is constructed on the basis of the "Compendium" compiled by the late Rev. W. M. Fernald, which is long since out of print. The larger proportion of the extracts contained in that volume will be found also in this; together with many new extracts, and a number of new subjects, added by the present compiler; and the whole have been almost entirely rearranged. The book being made up of extracts, the reader will reasonably not expect the same continuity that would be looked for in an original and connected work. A constant effort has been made, however, in the arrangement of the chapters, as well as in the construction of them, to give the volume as much of the character of a continued treatise as was practicable. It is hoped that this object will be found to have been so far attained, that the volume will not be ill adapted to consecutive reading, by those who would obtain, in briefer compass, a general view of the theology and spiritual philosophy embodied in the author's voluminous writings.
The large number of volumes from which the extracts are taken having been translated from the original Latin by different persons, at widely different times, it was deemed important, in such a work, that there should be some attempt at uniformity of style and rendering,—apart from any consideration of the very great and acknowleged imperfections of most of the translations. The translation is therefore for the most part new; and the com- paratively small number of extracts that have not been re-translated have been more or less carefully revised.
Some word of apology may be due to the reader who shall make his first acquaintance with the writings of Swedenborg through this volume, for the use of certain unfamiliar terms. The present condition of mankind being such that internal things are but dimly and generally perceived, the mind does not take cognizance of their plurality. It sees as an individual thing what in reality is very multiple. And therefore we have in common use in language only singular terms for many internal things. Thus we commonly speak of good, happiness, etc., which are of the will, and internal, only in the singular number; while to corresponding things that are more external, delights, joys, pleasures, enjoyments, etc., we ascribe plurality,—because we perceive their plurality. This is the reason why, to the unaccustomed mind, there appears a certain oddity of expression in the writings of Swedenborg, where internal things are the constant theme, and are described as they really are, and as they are discerned in heaven,—and, with less fulness, by some on earth. To modify the author's language in order to escape the oddity of unfamiliar expressions, would be to shut out from the reader's mind a large and most valuable part of the spiritual philosophy his writings contain; and would at least endanger his falling into great misapprehensions. The importance of rendering the author into pleasant and popular English as far as practicable has, however, not been out of mind; but the translator has not felt at liberty knowingly to sacrifice any shade of the author's meaning on account of it. The writings of Swedenborg embody a system of most profound philosophy, spiritual and natural; and, as with most philosophical writings, and perhaps more than most, it requires for exact expression language in some degree its own; which cannot be changed for more popular and current phraseology without, as was said, the loss of some part of the author's meaning, and while seeming to favour, really hindering the actual apprehension of the profound subjects treated of. What would be thought of the editor of any of the treatises on which systems of speculative philosophy are founded, if he should undertake to adapt and popularize his author, by doing away with his technical and philosophical terms? But these writings contain a system of philosophy more profound and vast than any and all systems of man's devising. How much less justifiable would it be, then, so to attempt to popularize the standard text of such a system. The place to adapt and apply the teaching of an author, especially such an author, is not in the translation of his writings, but in books and teachings in elucidation and exposition of them.
It may not be out of place to guard the reader against any supposition that the title " Compendium " is intended to involve the idea of condensation, and that the whole substance, or anything more than a general view, and example, of the author's teaching is here given. So far is this from being the case, that there are even very many topics of great interest that could not be included in a volume like this. He who is interested to know the scope and depth of these teachings should study the writings themselves. Nor let him be appalled at the magnitude of the undertaking. For they are as full of varied and most interesting matter everywhere as in the extracts given in this volume; and he will come to rejoice, more and more, that the field is so wide before him.
Besides a somewhat extensive revision, and correction of errors that had escaped notice in the former edition, the present volume is enriched by a considerable number of important additional extracts appearing in nearly every chapter; by an interesting biographical sketch of Swedenborg from the pen of the Hon. John Bigelow; and an admirable likeness, engraved in his best manner, by Mr. S. A. Schoff, expressly for this work.