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ON THE PERPETUITY OF THE NEW CHURCH.
No member of the New Church, after attaining the conviction that the explanation of the meaning of the "New Jerusalem," given by Swedenborg, is a just and true explanation, can have any doubt of the perpetuity of that church. But we do not all reflect that there is a reason for this fact; or that there is some method by which this perpetuity is provided and secured. It is because the writer of these remarks is unaware of any attempt having been made to shew this reason, or to trace out this method, that they are here presented to his brethren.
The great end of the establishment of a church by the Lord, is, that by means of it, man may attain salvation. Salvation is, then, the very essential use of a church. When the church conducts to salvation effectually, it is a true church; when it fails so to conduct to salvation, (that is, to a real, and not to a merely imaginary salvation,) it is a false church. It is because former churches have fallen into the latter state, and thus have ceased to answer the divinely-intended purpose of a church, that the Lord has pronounced judgment upon them, and New Churches have thereupon been raised up in their place. And it is because the New Church never will fall into this state, but will always conduct its members to a state of salvation, and thus will always answer the purpose of a church, that it will endure for ever.
But how is it certain that this has been provided for? It is provided for by the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word; but the question returns again,-How will the revelation of the spiritual sense perpetually ensure salvation to the members of the New Church? This it is the object of the present paper to shew.
The Christian church has come to its end, because it has lost all proper idea of that in which salvation truly consists, and thus has lost all power, as a church, of conducting to salvation. Salvation is thought to mean merely, admission into heaven, consequent on the removal of the interdict of God the Father, at the intercession of his Son, Jesus Christ, the latter having obtained a title to intercede, by consenting to be punished on the cross in man's place. The removal of God the Father's interdict is called Forgiveness, Justification, and Salvation. But is this a real salvation,-the salvation of the New Testament? Was it on account of this sort of salvation that the Messiah was named Jesus? Was it not because he should save his people from their sins? Salvation is, then, the attainment of "the righteousness of God," consequent on the removal of sins; for we are saved from our sins solely in order to
our introduction to the opposite condition, that of righteousness, or charity. Salvation is the attainment of charity or love, by virtue of which we become conjoined with the Divine Love; but, in the fallen church, salvation is made to consist in deliverance from hell by faith, instead of the attainment of "the righteousness which is of God by [the obedience of] faith." Faith, the means of attaining salvation, is accounted sufficient by itself for salvation, or rather, as salvation itself, even although it have not conducted to the end for which men are required to believe, namely, the righteousness of God-of Divine Love, called charity, which is salvation itself. But what is this but the substitution of a merely imaginary for a genuine state of salvation, by which thousands deceive themselves into a delusive peace, by speaking peace to themselves "when there is no peace.”
The true idea of salvation must precede the "working out" of that salvation. A false idea cannot conduct to a real salvation, any more than a false chart can safely direct the mariner to his destination. It is true that some attain salvation by learning a true idea, in some measure, direct from the Word; but it must be the general tendency, after receiving erroneous instruction, to adopt as a rule of practice, and act upon, the false idea, in preference to seeking out another and very different idea, direct from the Word itself.
It appears that owing to the fallen tendencies of man, the letter of the Word, by itself, cannot secure to him, in perpetuity, a right idea of salvation, conducting effectually to a genuine salvation. This arises from the tendency of man to put his own ideas, when interpreting the Scriptures, in the place of revealed truths, and thus to bring down the divine standard of the righteousness which constitutes salvation, to his own false conceptions. Hence came the insane idea that the "righteousness of God," as mentioned by the apostle, is an imputed righteousness; the Divine righteousness of the Lord imputed to the believer in the possibility of such an imputation; but which, being obviously impossible, is nothing more than an imaginary righteousness. by which those who trust in it are prevented from attaining a true righteousness. For this reason it has happened, that the interpretation of Scripture, in the fallen church, has become nothing more than the reflection of the fallen tendencies and sensual infatuation of the various interpreters, who have moulded the literal sense into a form and fashion corresponding with, and exhibitive of, their own ideas, and not the ideas of the Divine Author of the Word.
This tendency in the church to come to an end, is effectually obviated by the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word; and so long as this
sense shall be acknowledged (and its excellence and value will effectually ensure its permanent acceptance), the literal sense cannot be interpreted contrary to it, but out of the mouth of these two witnesses,the spiritual sense and the literal sense,- -ever harmonious and consistent with each other, will every word of God, that is, every Divine Truth, be established on a firm and immovable foundation.
In every page of the book of Psalms, there is a reference to the Jewish history, to the struggles of the Israelitish people with their enemies, and the salvation effected by God for them,-a salvation, that is, from natural death;—and so striking is the correspondence between this natural salvation, and the spiritual salvation of the Christian, that the latter is accustomed, in reading and quoting the book of Psalms, to use the very language of David, as if it were originally applicable only to a spiritual salvation from spiritual death, unmindful of the fact that such an idea of salvation could not possibly exist until life and immortality were brought to light by the Gospel.
It is clearly impossible that any doubt should arise as to the literal meaning of the salvation spoken of by David, as being that of salvation from natural death inflicted by natural enemies; and it is equally impossible that any one, after being in the slightest degree acquainted with the science of correspondences, should assign any other spiritual sense to this literal sense, than that of salvation from spiritual death inflicted by spiritual enemies. It is obviously impossible that, under any pretence, the spiritual sense should be said to teach a salvation from the punishment of hell decreed by God the Father, through the reversal of that decree consequent on the intercession of God the Son. It must be seen, and continue for ever to be seen, that, according to the tenor of the covenant with the Israelites, as contained in these words,-"If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, the Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies," (Deut. xxviii. 15, 25.)-it must be seen that, according to the Old covenant, the sins of the Israelites brought upon them natural death by natural enemies, and therefore it must be seen by correspondence, that the sins of Christians must bring upon them spiritual death by spiritual enemies; and hence it must be perpetually seen, that to be saved from sins by Jesus (the Saviour), is to be saved from spiritual enemies, the powers of hell, which can only obtain power over man by means of his sins. It cannot but be seen that the Jewish covenant is abrogated—the covenant, that is, on God's part, to save the Israelites from natural death by natural enemies, on their repentance-which covenant is set forth in the letter;-and that it is succeeded by the New
covenant, set forth in the spiritual sense, and plainly exhibited in the letter of the New Testament (or rather covenant), to save the men of the spiritual church from spiritual death by spiritual enemies, on their repentance. Both these witnesses, the one to the meaning of the literal sense, and the other to the meaning of the spiritual sense, as deduced by the law of correspondence,-must be corrupted, before they can give any other testimony than the true one (and this is manifestly impossible), and thus before the just and true idea of salvation can perish in the "New Jerusalem." As the natural enemies of Jerusalem had no. power to hurt the Jews except on account of their sins, so must it be seen in the New or spiritual Jerusalem, that spiritual enemies have no power to hurt men except through their sins. Salvation, then, must, in this church, always mean, salvation from sin,-deliverance from evil,— and, consequently, the man of this church will never think of seeking any other salvation than the true salvation, the salvation in order to confer which upon mankind, God became Man.
And as God promised the Israelites that so soon as they repented of their sins, he would forgive them; so will the member of the spiritual church feel assured, that nothing in addition to sincere repentance will be required of him, in order to his reception of forgiveness. The true meaning of the Jewish sacrifices being once seen, no one will pretend to affirm, that the death of the animals sacrificed typifies the death of Jesus Christ, as a vicarious punishment for the sins of mankind. And as to the idea of the price of redemption (the blood of Jesus) being paid by God the Son to God the Father, such an idea is eternally exploded by the knowledge that, in the spiritual sense of the Word, the Father means God as to his Divine Good, and the Son God as to his Divine Truth, while, in the literal sense, the Son means the Word, or Divine Truth, made flesh, or the Divine Humanity, and the Father means the Eternal Deity, or Divine Essence, which dwells therein. This spiritual sense being seen, it is impossible that the notion that the Father and the Son mean two Divine Persons, can ever be revived in the church.
Again, the false idea of salvation prevalent, is that of salvation by faith alone; while the true idea is that of salvation by faith united with charity; and in eternal support and verification of this true idea, will stand the very numerous illustrations of the spiritual sense, referring to the heavenly marriage of the renewed will and understanding, by the union of charity and faith, on goodness and truth, as involved in the couplets in the Psalms, or twofold expressions, the one referring to the will, and the other to the understanding. *
* See the work commonly known as "Clowes's Psalms."
In order to put man in possession of the spiritual sense of the Word, it was absolutely necessary that some man should be admitted to view the outward existences in the spiritual world, and there be instructed in their spiritual signification, (as corresponding to spiritual things within man) so as to perceive that, in like manner similar outward things, when mentioned in the Word, signify spiritual things appertaining to the mind: and, especially, that all things in the Word written concerning the enemies of the Jews, bear the strictest analogy to the facts in the spiritual world connected with man's spiritual enemies,―evil spirits; and it is through the information which the church has thus obtained concerning evil spirits, and their operation upon mankind, that a right idea of salvation is rendered complete, at the same time that its perpetuity is finally and effectually secured.
It is founded on a just observation, that the more learned men become (in consequence of their learning being of an external character, and having a tendency outward, towards sensual things, rather than a tendency towards interior or spiritual things), the more do they become repugnant to all genuine spiritual ideas, and the more inclined to the ancient Sadducean denial of the existence of angels and spirits. Hence it has been attempted, by learned and ingenious Unitarians especially, to explain the operations of evil spirits upon man, or the possessions of men by devils as recorded in the Gospels, into ordinary states of bodily disease; while the devils themselves have been resolved into abstract bad principles infecting the minds of bad men. Now these heresies, springing from fallacious learning and the presumption and inventions of human pride, are all dissipated effectually by the new revelations contained in the writings of Swedenborg, concerning the spiritnal world and its inhabitants; and the finishing stroke to their demolition has been given by the recent publication of the Spiritual Diary of Swedenborg. After becoming acquainted with the malignant and subtle arts of evil spirits, as there described, no one can fail to see the strict analogy or correspondence between the character of man's spiritual enemies, and the blood-thirsty, persevering, ever watchful, cunning, and malicious enemies described by David, and against whom he so fervently supplicated the salvation of Jehovah.
Doubtless, the opening of the Spiritual Sense of the Word secures the perpetuity of the New Church in various other ways, and as to various other particulars; but the ways and particulars above described are sufficient to awaken our grateful admiration of the goodness and wisdom of the Divine Providence, and to lead us to exult rationally in the immutable fact, that the Lord in his New Jerusalem" WILL
REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER.