« ПредишнаНапред »
will adduce one passage which places the subject in a very clear and strong light. In explaining the Lord's promise to Abraham (Gen. xxii. 18), “ In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," the author says,
“ This signifies the salvation of all who are principled in good, the nations of the earth signifying those who are in good. Besides this arcanum, it is further contained in these words, that by the church, which is here the earth, those who are out of the church are saved. For thy seed is faith grounded in charity. No others are in faith grounded in charity but those who are within the Church ; for faith grounded in charity is truth of doctrine adjoined to good of life. For the case is this: the Lord's kingdom on earth consists of all those who are principled in good, who, though dispersed throughout the whole earth, are still one, as members of one body. ... The church on earth is like the heart and lungs, and those who are out of the church resemble the parts of the body which are supported and kept alive by the heart and lungs. Hence it is evident that without a church in some part or other of the earth, the human race could not subsist; as the body cannot subsist unless it has a heart and lungs. It is for this reason that, as any church is consummated, that is, becomes no church, because there is no longer any charity, then by the Divine Providence a new church is always raised up; . . . and this to the intent that there may be a conjunction of heaven with the human race by the church ” (A. C. 2853).
I may here remark that the same circle of life, that I already spoke of, is implied in this similitude : for the blood which flows from the heart to every part of the body, flows back, and on its way passes through the lungs into the heart again. In passing through the lungs, the blood is brought under the purifying and vitalizing action of the air, which the lungs inhale. And here we see one of the important uses which the visible church performs even to those who are out of its pale. By the visible church not only is the tide of life kept constantly flowing, but its vitality is preserved, by being brought under the purifying and vitalizing influence of the truth, which the church intellectually receives from the Word. For the grand distinction between those within and those without the visible church is this: Those within may be in good and in its corresponding truth, and may therefore be in the marriage of good and truth, even in the world; while those who are out of the Church may indeed be in good, but cannot be in its corresponding truth, and therefore cannot be in the heavenly marriage, or have the heavenly marriage in them, till they enter into the spiritual world, where their good will receive, and be purified by, and united to its truth.
The condition of those without the Church where the Word is not, compared with the condition of those within the Church where the Word is, is very beautifully illustrated by our author. Plants, he says, that are in shady places, where the direct rays of the sun do not penetrate, never fail to grow, provided the sun be risen above the horizon. So the poor heathen who live in the shady places of the earth, where the direct rays of Divine Revelation have not yet penetrated, may nevertheless grow in goodness, by the indirect light and influence of that sun which they never behold. But those who are faithful to the light, they now receive, but whose source they see not, will live in eternal sunshine in the world above.
Meantime, it is no injury, but, on the contrary, a great benefit to them, that there are others who enjoy the direct rays of the sun. It is for their sake, as well, and as much, as for the sake of its immediate recipients, that the Word is placed on earth, as it is settled in heaven, and that a visible Church should exist from it on earth, through which there is conjunction with the Church in heaven.
Since, without a Church on earth the human race would perish, it is divinely provided that when a Church comes to an end another shall succeed in its place. In the world there have been several churches. And now, in these days, the last and crowning dispensation has been established. The Holy City, New Jerusalem, has come down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And what is the adorning of the Church, that prepares her for her espousals ? The Word is her adorning. Her sun-garment is woven of its truths of love, her starry crown is formed of its truths of wisdom. She not only possesses the Word, but she understands it; for “it is not merely the Word, but the right understanding of the Word, that constitutes the Church, and that determines its quality” (T. C. R. 243). And as the Word cannot be understood without doctrine, therefore is the New Church a city as well as a bride. Yet “the true doctrine of the Church is the doctrine of charity and faith” (A. C. 2417); and these in the New Jerusalem are equal, for “ the city lieth four square, and the length is as large as the breadth.”
Like every one that has preceded it, the New Jerusalem is a visible Church, as well as an invisible. It is as true of the collective body, as of the individual, “ that the Church cannot exist with man unless its internal be spiritual and its external natural; there being no such thing as a Church purely spiritual, nor a Church merely natural ” (Coronis, 19). The New Church must have not merely an abstract, but a concrete existence; it must in the current phraseology exist as an " organization.” It has long been a question among the recipients of her doctrines, whether the New Church is to find its ultimation in preexisting organizations, or to form an organization of its own. And as each view has found supporters, and both parties have acted on their convictions, we have what have been called Separatists and Nonseparatists. I mention this, not for the purpose of reviving the controversy, but rather of staying it. It seems to me that both views are legitimate, and both practices useful. I know of no authority for maintaining one to the exclusion of the other.,
Old forms may receive new life, and new life may create new forms. This however is certain,—whether the forms be old or new, the life must be new. It is the life and not the forms that constitutes the church. Not a century ago it was seen by illumination from heaven that in the Christian world there was no church and no religion. (A. R. 275). Yet the Christendom of which this was said had churches, existing as powerful ecclesiastical establishments, with venerable creeds and imposing ceremonials, a learned clergy and a devout people. Yet with all these outward symbols of religion, a New Church had become a necessity. This church, whatever its outward form, must be new in vitality; it must be in the doctrine and life of love to the Lord and charity to men. Without these principles a church is not a Christian church, however perfect. its outward form; with them, it is not only a church but the church, however imperfect its organization.
“Let this truth be received as a principle, that love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbour are the essentials on which hang all the law and the prophets, and thus that they are the essentials of all doctrine and all worship, and all heresies would vanish and would be done away, and out of many would be formed one church, howsoever differing as to doctrinals and rituals, either flowing from the above essentials or leading to them. Such was the ancient church, which extended over many kingdoms. Supposing this to be the case, all would be governed as one man by the Lord, for all would be members and organs of one body, which, though they are not of similar forms nor of similar functions, have nevertheless relation to one heart, on which they all depend, both in general and in particular, be their respective forms ever so various. In this case every one would say of another, in whatsoever doctrine or whatsoever worship he was, This is my brother. I see that he worships the Lord, and that he is a good man.” (A. C. 2385).
A church which holds and acts upon this enlarged view of Christian unity may, without any claim to personal merit or divine favour on the part of its members, regard itself as the true church, free alike from the spirit and the form of sectarianism. But the unsectarian character of the New Church rests upon another basis besides, though not separate from this, and of which I propose to treat in a future number.
ON FAITH, NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL. The Lord said to Thomas, “ Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed," and hence some have argued that man ought to believe on mere authority, without understanding, as, for instance, on the authority of the Pope, or on that of some creed, or of the Church, or, with ourselves, on the authority of Swedenborg. But this is not the Lord's meaning, which the internal sense of the Word presents.
Thomas was a disciple who represented those members of the Church who may be called the sensual. These are the lowest class. They see the Lord wounded, and cannot acknowledge Him otherwise. They can only believe on some sensual ground, such as the evidence of the senses, that of miracles, or that of authority. But they are not therefore rejected by the Lord from His Church. For they are sincere, they are willing to believe in their own way; and when such evidence as they can receive is presented they acknowledge the truth, as Thomas did, saying, “My Lord and my God.”
Now the faith of these persons is what is called in the Writings natural faith. Natural faith is therefore a good thing, it is accepted by the Lord, it is saving, and those who possess it in this life will become angels. But they do not attain to that state which is here called blessed. Their angelic or spiritual life is of a lower order than comes under the application of this term. For the Lord says to Thomas, who represented them, “Because thou hast seen thou hast believed ; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” The persons represented by Thomas are therefore not the “Blessed."
The higher faith here alluded to by the Lord is spiritual faith. This is faith without seeing. But it is not therefore faith without understanding. The “seeing” spoken of by the Lord is such sight as Thomas had just experienced, namely, external, sensual sight. There is however another kind of mental vision, which is internal. It is that of our spiritual mind. We possess a higher faculty for the understanding of truth than the natural reason, for we can make acknowledgment of truth from an interior perception of it as truth. A man born blind believes there is such a thing as light, because so many other men see it and describe it to him. But he only believes on their authority. How different is the case with those who see the light every day! To them the light is its own authority for believing in it. It is true that in this example our faith is still sensual, because based upon the evidence of the senses. But what is meant is, that there is a faculty of the mind which stands in the same relation to truth that the eye does to light. When this spiritual faculty is open we receive the truth directly into the soul, we see mentally by it, and rejoice in its glory. Truly blessed are they who can thus live, and thrice blessed be the holy name of Him who has conferred upon us so great a privilege; that is to say, upon those of us who are willing to enjoy it.
Spiritual faith therefore is an internal acknowledgment of truth. It is insinuated into the mind from within and unknown to us, just as an infant learns to receive the light of the natural world, that is, to see, without knowing anything about light or the organ created to receive it. The Lord is therefore the sole agent in effecting the change from natural darkness to spiritual illumination. And this is a point which must never be lost sight of; because in the same degree that we attribute this power to ourselves, to that extent we make it to be of our proprium, and thus evil. It is then, of course, neither saving nor a source of blessing. We cannot therefore make a greater mistake, or do ourselves a greater injury, than to pride ourselves upon the exercise of this divinely-given faculty. The “ blessedness” consists in feeling that the Lord is present in our minds, giving us every moment this sublime capacity, and filling the whole soul with the glory of His goodness and truth. Any feeling of pride at once dispels this blessedness, and by thus robbing the Lord we cheat ourselves. The faculty is indeed conferred upon us to use as our own, and in the exercise of it we feel as much happiness as though it were really ours; but this is because our kind Creator wishes us to enjoy its use in freedom. How greatly therefore do we abuse His kindness when we glory in possessing it. It is ours to use, but that is all ; the glory is the Lord's, because this faculty, with everything else that is good in us, is His, and His alone.
Properly regarded, then, we can see that there is no presumption in our demanding to understand what we are required to believe. For it is the Lord's will that we shall believe the truth on its own clear and illustrious evidence. It speaks with authority, and not as the Scribes. The Lord desires that we should not be content to rest our faith on the external authority alone of His own infallible' word, but that to its outward testimony we should add that inward evidence which the truth ever bears to itself in the understanding and heart of the regenerate man. The truth is its own witness. A right state of mind is all that is needed to enable us to receive it. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the