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Divine Providence, by Emanuel Swedenborg, [1764], tr. by William Frederic Wunsch [1851] at


This volume has been translated afresh from the Latin; it is not a revision of any earlier edition. Greater readableness has been striven for. In the past, it is generally recognized, Latin sentence structure and word order were clung to unnecessarily. "The defects in previous translations of Swedenborg have arisen mainly from too close an adherence to cognate words and to the Latin order of words and phrases." So wrote the Rev. John C. Ager in 1899 in his translator's note in the Library Edition of _Divine Providence_. Why, indeed, should English not be allowed its own sentence structure and word order? In addition, in this translation, long sentences, readily followed in an inflected language like Latin, have been broken up into short ones. English also uses fewer particles of logical relation than are at home in Latin. There is more paragraphing, aiding the eye, which both British and American translators have been doing for some years. Latin has neither a definite article nor an indefinite article, and a translator into English must decide when to use either or neither. The definite article, the present translator thinks, has been overused, perhaps in a dogmatic tendency to be as precise as can be. When, for instance, one is admitted into "truths of faith" he is certainly not admitted into "the truths of faith," as though he could comprehend them all. The very title of the book changes the impression which it makes as the definite article is inserted or omitted in it. "The divine providence" seems to single out a theological concept; "divine providence" seems more likely to lead the thought to God's actual care.

Swedenborg has his carefully chosen terms, of course, like "proprium," which are best kept, although in the present translation that term is sometimes rendered by an explanatory word and one which, in the particular context, is an equivalent. The verb "appropriate" presents a difficulty, but has been kept, partly because of the noun "proprium." One could translate rather wordily "make"--something good or evil--"one's own." The English word now means "take exclusive possession of," which one can hardly do of good or evil. Assimilation is the thought and the act, and with that in mind the verb "appropriate" and the noun "appropriation" can be retained. The unusual locution "affection of truth" or "of good," which Mr. Ager abandoned, translating "for truth" and "for good," has been returned to. Much is implied in that phrase which is not to be found in the other wording, namely, that we are affected by truth and by good, and that there is an influx of these into the human spirit. Similarly meaningful is another unusual way of speaking in English, of a person's being "in" faith or "in" charity, where we say that he has faith or exercises charity. The thought is that faith and charity, truth and goodness beckon to us, to be welcomed and entered into.

Latin sometimes has a number of words for an idea or an entity, and the English has not, but when English has the richer vocabulary, why not avail oneself of the variety possible? The Latin word "finis," for example, used in so many connections, can be rendered by one word in one connection and by another in another connection. The "goal" or the "object" of providence is plainer than the "end" of providence. The "close" of life is common speech. "Meritorious" has been kept in our translations, for in a restricted field of traditional theology it does mean that virtue, for example, _earns_ a reward. To most readers the word will be misleading, for they will understand it in its usual meaning, that some act is well-deserving. The former is Swedenborg's meaning, which is that an act is done to earn merit, or is considered to have earned merit. We translate variously according to context to make that meaning clear (nn. 321(11), 326(8), 90).

As it is what Swedenborg has written that is to be translated, the Scripture passages which he quotes are translated without an effort to follow the Authorized Version, which he did not know. This is also done when he refers to the book which stands last in our Bibles; the name he knew it by, the Apocalypse, is retained.


The rewording in this translation would have necessitated revision of the index long used in editions of _Divine Providence_, which goes back to an index in French done by M. Le Boys des Guays. The opportunity was seized to compile a subject instead of a word index. It is based on an analysis of the contents of the book, and can serve as a reading guide. It does not usually quote the text, but sends the reader to it. Definitions of a number of terms are embodied in it.

The appearance that man thinks, wills, speaks and acts all of his own doing is the subject of much of the book, and this the index shows. The "life's love" deserves to be a separate entry, for little of a psychological nature in the book becomes more prominent than the love which forms in the way one actually lives, and which embodies one's actual belief and thought. Single words which have been scattered entries in the index long used--usually Scripture words of which the correspondential meaning is given--are assembled alphabetically under the entry "Correspondences."

A signal feature of Swedenborg's thought is the unities he perceives. Of love and wisdom he says that they can only be perceived as one (4(5)). So good and truth do not exist apart, nor charity and faith, nor affection and thought. These and other pairs of terms are therefore entered in the index; after references on the two together, references follow on each term alone.

The index, it is hoped, will do more than introduce the reader to statements made in the book, but will carry him into its stream of thought.


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