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ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE TO THE

MEMBERS OF THE NEW CHURCH IN THE UNITED
KINGDOM.

DEAR FRIENDS, -It is the salutary custom of most religious organizations to appoint some member to address the general body of his fellow-believers at regularly-recurring intervals. Much that is valuable may be suggested, and is generally contained in such addresses. The representatives of New Church Societies assembled in Conference have not neglected to adopt so interesting a custom, and annually delegate the duty to some one of their number. I have therefore the pleasure to address you now on their behalf. The more practical such addresses can be made the more likely they are to be useful. Hence I propose to consider,— What are the duties of the New Church Societies in the present aspect of the religious world ?

A right view of the real position of our organization is essential to a clear understanding of its duties. The position occupied by our organization is somewhat peculiar. Seeming to be a sect, it yet protests against sectarianism. Teaching the very largest doctrines of charity known in the world, it may yet appear to be among the most exclusive of denominations. Claiming no more than it willingly accords to all other bodies of earnest Christian men and women, it might easily be mistaken as being even arrogant in its spiritual pretentions. Such a mistake has, perhaps, been made by a few of its friends. Such a misrepresentation certainly has been made by many of its enemies. So far as such misapprehensions can be corrected by the declarative vote of the representatives of the Societies assembled

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in Conference, this will be done by the adoption of the present address.

Our Societies stand in certain relationships to the Lord's New Church, to other religious organizations, and to the world at large. The Lord's Church, in the largest sense, is the universal communion of the good, including the good among the heathen. In a stricter sense, the Church exists where the Divine Word is, and it is there an internal and spiritual Church. It finds its external in the various associations and organizations of all who believe in the Lord, and who strive to live in charity according to the precepts of the decalogue. The establishing of external organizations is man's work: the establishing of His Church among the members of such organizations is the work of the Lord. While the internal Church can avail itself of any or of all such organizations, it must never be confounded with any of them. Humanly devised organizations are necessary, because it is needful that the members of the Lord's Church should meet for worship, train up the young “ in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” instruct each other in doctrine, prosecute missionary work, and in these and all other modes encourage spiritual activity, foster spiritual graces, and stimulate spiritual growth. By such means organizations promote the establishment of the Lord's Church in the souls of men. External organizations are important, and indeed requisite accessories to the Church; but they are not the Church.

The Lord's Church consists of all those “who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life ;” and Swedenborg says that these are they

who believe in the Lord, and live according to His commandments in the Word.” (A. R. 925.) Hence he repeatedly declares that "the acknowledgment of the Lord, and a life according to the commandments of the decalogue are the two essentials of the New Church.” (A. R. 491.) He is even more explicit as to “the Societies which constitute" the Lord's Kingdom on earth, which, he teaches, "are scattered through the whole world, and consist of all those who are principled in love to Him, and in charity towards the neighbour. But those scattered societies are collected by the Lord that they may also represent one man, as the societies in heaven : these societies are not only within the (nominal Christian] Church, but also out of it, and, taken together, are called the Lord's Church, scattered and collected from the good in the universal world, which is also called a communion. This communion, or this church, is the Lord's Kingdom in the earth conjoined to the Lord's Kingdom in the heavens, and thus conjoined to the Lord Himself.” (A. C. 7396.) He teaches us even more plainly,

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“ The several Churches in the Christian world are distinguished by their doctrinals, and the members of those Churches have hence taken the names of Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, or the Reformed and Evangelical Protestants, with many others. This distinction of names arises solely from doctrinals, and would never have had place, if the members of the church had made love to the Lord, and charity towards their neighbour the principal point of faith. Doctrinals would then be only varieties of opinion concerning the mysteries of faith, which they who are true Christians would leave to every one to receive according to his conscience; whilst it would be the language of their hearts, that he is a true Christian who lives as a Christian, that is, as the Lord teaches.' Thus one church would be formed out of all these diverse ones, and all disagreements arising from mere doctrinals would vanish; yea, all the animosities of one against another would be dissipated in a moment, and the kingdom of the Lord would be established on earth.” (A. C. 1799.) The same grand catholicity speaks out in other passages. Swedenborg anticipates the largest diversity in organization, in doctrine, and in ritual among Christians; the church, he says, “must needs be various and diverse as to those doctrinals; for example, one society will profess one thing to be a truth of faith, because it is so said in the Word ; another society will profess another thing for the same reason, and so forth; consequently the Church of the Lord, inasmuch as it derives its doctrinals from the literal sense of the Word, will differ in every different place, and this not only according to societies in general, but sometimes according to particular persons in each society. Nevertheless, a difference in the doctrinals of faith is no reason why the church should not be one, provided only there be unanimity as to willing what is good, and doing what is good.” (A. C. 3451.)

The ground of Christian unity is love to God and the neighbour, and not similarity of doctrinal thinking. Such a unity, Swedenborg further tells us, existed in “the ancient church, which extended itself over several kingdoms, viz., Assyria, Mesopotamia, Syria, Ethiopia, Arabia, Lybia, Egypt, Philistia, even to Tyre and Sidon, through the land of Canaan on each side Jordan. In each of these kingdoms there was a difference as to doctrinals and rituals, but still the church was one, because charity was essential in all, and then the Lord's kingdom was in the earths as in the heavens, for such is the nature and constitution of heaven." (A.C.2385.)

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Whatever a man may profess, howsoever much of truth he may know, and to whatsoever organization he may belong, he is not a member of the Lord's Church unless he be striving to carry out his knowledge into practice in love to God and charity toward man, and thus living the Christian life. “Truths, howsoever they are known and

• understood, if they are not at the same time lived, are nothing but inanimate truths. Whence it is, that there are no truths where there is no good, unless as to form, and not as to essence.” (A. E. 730.) truths belonging to a man who is not principled in good are indeed truths in themselves, but they are not truths in him.” (A. E. 48.) On the other hand, a truly good man may believe that which is false without peril—he may drink the deadly thing and not be hurt thereby. “Falsities of religion are not imputed to those who are in good, but to those who are in evil.” “ Falsities of religion with those who are in good, are received by the Lord as truths.” (For these statements, and much more to the same effect, see A. E., note to 452.) “There are falsities which are received as truths when good is in them, especially the good of innocence, as among the Gentiles, and also among several within the church.” (A. C. 4736.) “What is false is not imputed to any one who lives well according to the dogmas of his religion, inasmuch as it is not the fault of such a one if he does not know the truth.” (A. C. 455.)

The criterion of membership in the Lord's Church, consequently, is the doing of good from love towards God and man.

Who are truly enrolled in this church only the Lord can fully know. The interior purposes and affections of a man's spirit can be concealed from other men in this life: though they will be openly made manifest in the other world. Hence the Lord's Church is not a visible ecclesiasticism of any name, although it will ever prompt men to combine for religious purposes.

It is a church invisible to man, known to the Lord alone, and comprises the good out of every ecclesiasticism, denomination, and sect of Christians, and indeed, all the good, whether or not they belong to any organized body of Christians at all.

This being the character of the Lord's Church on earth, it can be plainly seen what is the character of the Lord's New Church. It is not a man-made external organization. It does not consist merely of the few professed receivers of the doctrines of the New Church communicated through Swedenborg. The Lord's Church is one and indivisible. It still embraces all the good in all denominations who have lived since the Second Advent of the Lord, whom He is gradually

leading in freedom to the knowledge and acceptance of the sublime verities of the new dispensation, as most fully made known through Swedenborg. The old dispensation has passed away; the new has begun. The old Church, as a Church, has ceased to be: there is no Church of the Lord save the New Church now existing on earth; and this Church is blessed with the promises of the greater glory, and is working itself out of the trammels and limitations of the past under the Divine Providence of its Great Shepherd and Head. We can with justice speak of “the old doctrines," or of “the old theology;" but the phrase, “the old Church,” really means the state of the Church before it came to its end at the Second Advent; that is, before the New Church was established. Every good man is a member of the Lord's New Church—for there is no other Church now existingalthough he

may not yet have become a conscious or a full receiver of the true theology of the New Church. The Lord looks at the internal states of men as to goodness, and not at the external circumstance as to what man-made organization the man has joined. We forego the real glory and greatness of the Church if we adopt any less catholic conception of it than this.

Within this Church there is room for an endless variety of organizations. They will grow up out of the wants of men. They will be as diverse in form of government and in ritual as are the characters of those who compose them. Thy will fluctuate in form of government and in ritual according as their members change. The question of the comparative excellence of any two or more of them will obtain its only satisfactory answer according as they are most fully adapted to the states of their members. Episcopal, or Presbyterian, or Conference, or Congregational modes of government are best for those whom they best suit. An ornate ritual, or severe simplicity in forms of worship, are best for those whom they best suit. To the extent that man-made organizations most fully promote devotion and stimulate active charity, to that extent each one is good and best for those for whose tastes and wants it is best adapted. So little that is decisive is said in the New Testament as to the organization of the church, because the Divine Providence intended to leave such matters to the wants, circumstances, and intelligence of men. No one form of ecclesiastical government, or of ritual, is, per se, better or worse than another. Human organizations are like “ temples made with hands,” in this respect—they should everywhere be the best that man can devise and construct; but it should always be remembered in regard to both, that they were made

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