« VorigeDoorgaan »
faith of the New Church teaches repentance, reformation, regeneration, and thus the remission of sins, by man's co-operation. The faith of the former church asserts the imputation of Christ's merit, as included in the faith so conferred; but the faith of the New Church teaches an imputation of good and of evil, and at the same time of faith; and that this imputation is agreeable to the Holy Scripture, but the other contrary to it. The former church maintains the gift of faith, including the merit of Christ, while man is as a stock or stone; it also asserts a total impotence in spiritual things; but the New Church teaches a faith altogether different, not a faith in the merit of Christ, but in Jesus Christ Himself as God, the Redeemer and Saviour, asserting a freedom of will in man both to apply himself to reception and to co-operate with it. The former church adjoins charity to its faith as an appendage, but not as possessing any saving efficacy, and thus it forms its religion; but the New Church conjoins faith in the Lord and charity towards the neighbour as two inseparable things, and so forms its religion; not to mention several other points of disagreement." (T. C. R., 647.)
So much, then, as regards the character of the two faiths respectively. Of the consequences resulting from mixing the two, he speaks as follows:
"From this brief enumeration of the discordances and disagreements between them, it is plain that the faith and imputation of the New Church cannot possibly be together with the faith and imputation of the former or present church. Such and so great are the discord and disagreement between the faith and imputation of the two churches, and so entirely heterogeneous are they, that if they could be together in a man's mind, such a collision and conflict would ensue, as to prove fatal to every principle of the Church in him, and in spiritual things the man would either fall into a delirium or into a swoon, in which case he would neither know what the church is, nor whether there is any such thing as a church. What then would he know of God, of faith, or of charity?" (Ibid. 648.)
In a subsequent portion of the same paragraph it is added
"Since the faith of the former Church is described in the Revelation, chap. xii., by the dragon, and the faith of the New Church by the woman encompassed with the sun, who had on her head a crown of twelve stars, we may judge by comparison what would be the state of a man's mind if they were together in one house the dragon in that case would stand near the woman about to bring forth, intending to devour her child, and when she should flee into the wilderness he would pursue her, and would cast water like a flood upon her, that she might be swallowed up." (Ibid.)
Such, then, is the description of the results which, according to Swedenborg, arise out of an intermingling of the old with the new. Not that it is to be inferred that consequences to this sad extent follow on the practice we have under consideration; that the tendency is in the same direction, although differing in degree, is, nevertheless, true. What, for instance, is the position of one who has thoroughly adopted the doctrines of the New Church, and thinks under their influence, when present at the service of the Church of England for instance-
and it is there mostly that the parties in question transfer their attendance where the prayers, with scarcely an exception, are directed to God the Father for the sake of the Son? and where, as in the Litany, three distinct objects of worship are addressed in succession? Can he enter into worship where the merits of the second person are pleaded with the first person as the ground of salvation? Will not the interior convictions of his mind offer a standing protest against what is passing around him? and thus a collision similar in kind, if differing in degree, be excited within him? What advantage can he expect by withdrawing from a form of worship congenial to his sentiments, to one which, notwithstanding many excellences found in it, is directly opposed in its fundamental principles? It may indeed offer the prestige of respectability, and other similar external inducements; but where is the spiritual advantage to be derived? If the statement of Swedenborg is to be received as an authority, the reverse is the case. And it is obviously so. Collision of the interior thought with the sentiments communicated from without must necessarily produce confusion, ultimately weaken our attachment to truths of the New Church themselves, and in various ways injure our spiritual state.
It is a circumstance too patent to be ignored, however painful and humiliating the admission of it may be, that in many, if not most of the instances referred to in this paper, this change was followed on the parties making it having improved their social position. To whatever cause this is to be assigned-whether from worldly success having engendered pride, or excited into activity germs of this passion before lying dormant, or whether the new influences by which they found themselves surrounded were too strong for their religious principle, is not for me to judge; but certain it is that, whilst moving in a more humble sphere, several of them were devoted members of the Church, and distinguished for their activity in its uses; and what makes the anomaly the more striking is, that, with scarcely an exception, they retain their intellectual convictions. How far their conduct is consistent with duty, and how far it is the proper return to the great Giver of all good for His kindness, thus to forsake the temple where, according to their own convictions, He is worshipped in His true character, I must leave for them to determine.
It has been said, on the other hand, that good New Church sermons may often be heard from Old Church pulpits. That may or may not be true; but it does not affect the question under consideration. The character of the worship is, to say the least, of equal
importance with that of the instruction conveyed in the sermon. And the possibility of occasionally listening to a discourse to which no exception can be taken, does not appear to me to offer a valid reason for habitual attendance on worship in which it is impossible to join, except under strong mental reservation.
Another remark which has sometimes been made is, that there are many excellent persons within the pale of the Establishment. No one, it is presumed, will deny the fact. But those who argue thus appear to forget that the same argument, if legitimate, is of much wider application. There are, doubtless, many estimable Christians in the Romish communion; would that circumstance, however, be considered a reason for a Protestant leaving the services of his own church to join in the adoration of the mass? It has been stated by some travellers that many Mahomedans and Pagans are better than some Christians; but who would assign that as a reason for giving the preference to Mahomedan or Pagan rites rather than Christian worship? It may appear hardly credible that reasons such as those just noticed should be seriously offered, but such is the case; and this will supply a sufficient apology for troubling the reader with the above brief reference to them.
In the preceding strictures there is no intention of disparaging the Established Church or those associated with it. We rejoice to believe that many in her communion are doubtless the subjects of sincere piety and religion. They worship God according to the lights which they possess, and most assuredly will not be condemned for misapprehensions which have arisen out of circumstances beyond their control. It is in relation to those who have accepted the doctrines of the New Church, and who believe that all worship addressed to any other object save Jesus Christ is spurious, and are yet habitually present at such worship, that these observations have been penned. Even in this case we have not written in the spirit of condemnation, but of expostulation and we again ask if such do not commit a practical solecism, to the hindrance and injury of their spiritual state.
That there may be cases where members of the New Church may feel themselves not only justified in attending the services of a Church with which they are not in accord, but under the necessity of doing so, is cordially admitted. Where families live in localities remote from New Church worship, and consequently have no alternative but to attend the services of other bodies or withdraw from public worship altogether, it is for the head of a family so situated to consider how far
the order and welfare of those whose interests are in his charge demand such a course. There is, it is true, the alternative of Sabbath services being performed in the family circle; but this may not always be convenient. There are again instances where persons holding official positions in the Church have received the New Church doctrines, and do not see their way clear to break off their connection. The position of such appears to be similar to that of Naaman, who, on his miraculous recovery from leprosy, determined that thenceforward he would "offer neither burntoffering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto Jehovah ;" but whose duty required of him to accompany his master to the house of his god. Rimmon. He consequently adds, "In this thing Jehovah pardon Thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, Jehovah pardon Thy servant" (2 Kings v. 17, 18). Elisha's answer was, "Go in peace."
But after making every legitimate allowance, there does not appear to be any valid reason to justify the practice which has called forth the remarks offered in this paper. It should be remembered on the part of the members of the New Church, that what is highly esteemed among men may be abomination in the sight of God (Luke xvi. 15). In the days of our Lord there were some of the chief rulers, we are told, who believed on Him, but did not confess Him, because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. With the New Church, externally considered, it is "the day of small things." It does not possess the attractions for the external man which some others do. So it was with Christianity at its commencement: "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble," ranged themselves under her banners. An assembly of poor fishermen and their associates would present but few attractions to the wealth and fashion of that day; but weak and contemptible as was the Church in the eyes of the world, it nevertheless possessed an inward force and power which ultimately subjected a large portion of the world to its influence. It is no less certain that a triumph equally great awaits the New Church. In the Divine economy human agency is associated with the Divine operation; nor is there, rightly considered, a position more honourable than that of faithfully and cordially co-operating with the Lord in bringing in His glorious reign, when the kingdoms of this world shall be brought under His rule, when there shall be one King over all the earth, and His name one.
[LETTER from Dr. L. Tafel to Mr. H. Butter, Secretary of the Swedenborg Society.]
STOCKHOLM, November 1, 1868.
DEAR SIR,-Some time ago I sent you an account of the results of my investigations respecting the manuscripts of Swedenborg, which are preserved in the Academy of Sciences here. I now send you an abstract of my work of collecting documents about him, in which I have been engaged for the last three weeks.
I. I made it a point of collecting the Latin and Swedish originals of all the documents published by my uncle. You will agree with me that it is of importance to have the original documents to resort to, in case unscrupulous biographers of Swedenborg make an unwarrantable use of translations. I am happy to inform you that I have succeeded in obtaining a copy of almost all the original documents. The Danish original of General Tuxen's letter, quoted by Mr. White, I shall get before returning to London, for I have discovered its whereabouts.
II. I have collected all the biographies and biographical notices published of Swedenborg in Sweden. In all of these I found information which has not yet made its way into the English New Church literature. I have also been fortunate enough to discover a manuscript life of Swedenborg, written in part from oral communications by members of the Society pro fide et caritate, which existed in Stockholm in the early part of this century, and about the doings of which not much has been known. This Life is contained in the unprinted journals of this Society, with other interesting and useful information. I found there some letters of Castanier, after he left London, which I have not seen in print before; also extracts from the minutes of the 'Exegetical and Philanthropical Society" of Stockholm, which flourished in the last century, with some of the documents that were read before it. These furnish the originals of some of the documents published by my uncle. I had all this copied for the use of the Church. A copy of this manuscript journal was in the library of the family of one of the original members of the Society pro fide et caritate; and last year, through the kindness of Madame Ehrenborg, it was presented to the New Church Society in Stockholm.
I made also a thorough examination of the documentary history of Sweden in the Royal Library, which fills nearly one thousand volumes.