Part IV. CONCERNING FAITH.
The Common Doctrine of the Old Christian Church, upon which all the sects rest their whole hope of salvation, is based upon this single statement of Paul:
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.” (Rom. 3:28)
This passage has been understood to mean that man is saved by faith alone, without good works, and hence Luther, in his translation of this sentence, rendered it “faith alone” (though the “alone” is not in the Greek), in order to emphasize and distinguish his own doctrine from the Roman Catholic teaching and practice of buying salvation with money or with acts of merit. Hence, also, Luther wrote to his friend, Melanchthon:
“Remain thou a sinner, and sin bravely, but confide and rejoice still more bravely in Christ. As long as we are here we must sin. This life is not the habitation of righteousness. It is enough that we, by the treasure of Grace, acknowledge the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. From this the sin shall not tear us loose, even if we, thousand and thousand times a day commit fornication and murder.” (Luther’s Epistles, Vol. I., Jena, 1556, p.345)
Thus it has come to pass that all the “evangelical” churches in Christendom hold fast to the teaching that man is saved by faith alone, faith in the blood of Christ. But this is not enough. By the “saving faith” is meant “the faith once delivered to the fathers,” the creeds set up by the contending bishops at the Council of Nice, or the “articles” laid down by the venal creatures of Henry VIII. This is the faith, without which man is declared Anathema Maranatha.”
And how is man supposed to receive this faith? Not by his own efforts, for he has been declared to be “like a stock or a stone in spiritual things.” He is said to have neither a free will nor a free understanding. He is totally passive and receives faith, it is said, by means of the “Grace of God” alone!
Without this saving “Grace,” thus extended to “God’s favored few,” no salvation is supposed to be possible, but through that grace man is said to receive faith in an instant; he is saved in the twinkling of an eye; the merit and justice of Christ are imputed to him, and he becomes “whiter than snow” in that same moment, no matter if he has been the blackest villain throughout his life. And all this without having fought a single battle against his own evil lusts and inrooted habits!
Good works are held to be of no account in this salvation, for good works,—before faith has been received,—are supposed to be inseparable from the idea of merit and self-righteousness. Hence all heathen, and all “unconverted” persons, are exposed to the wrath of God and eternal damnation,—no matter how upright, useful and unselfish have been their lives; whereas some murderer on the scaffold, some fiend in human shape, goes straight to Heaven, if he but receive and profess “faith” some moments before death!
Still, good works, though not essential to salvation, are held to be desirable and ornamental, the inevitable fruits and evidences of faith. Nevertheless, in themselves they contribute nothing to salvation!
But this scheme of salvation, easy and comfortable though it may seem, is based upon the above-mentioned passage of Paul’s,—misunderstood and misapplied,—and is, moreover, diametrically contrary to the entire Word of God, and to the plain teachings of Paul himself, and of the other apostles.
For by the “deeds of the law” without which man is justified, Paul clearly means the observance of the Jewish ceremonial law, from which Christians were to be absolved. The passage reads;
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. Is He the God of the Jews alone? Is He not also of the Gentiles? Yea, of the Gentiles also.” (Rom. 3:28, 29.)
But it is clear that Paul did not intend to absolve man from the duty of observing the commandments and the moral laws of God, as may be seen from the same chapter:
” Do we, then, make void the Law through faith? God forbid; yea, we establish the Law.” (Rom. 3:31.)
And in other places he says:
” Not the hearers of the Law are justified before God, but the doers of the Law.” (Rom. 2:13)
“We know that we all have knowledge; knowledge puffeth up; but charity edifieth.” (1 Cor. 8:1.)
There are these three: faith, hope and charity, and the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
Were we to quote all the passages in the Scriptures, where it is taught that man is not saved by his faith alone, we should have to introduce the whole Bible. But the following from James may suffice:
“What profiteth it, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and hath not works? Can faith justify him?”
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead, being alone.”
“A man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works. Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”
“Thou believest there is a God. Thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:14, 17, 18, 19, 20.)
If man is not saved and justified by faith or by faith alone, then by what is he saved? Let the Scriptures give the answer.
“By their fruits ye shall know them. (Matth 7:20.)
“A Book was opened in Heaven, and the dead were judged, all according to their works.” (Rev. 20:12, [3.)
“Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his works shall be,” (Rev, 22:12.)
“Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone.” ( James 2:24.)
But what have been the fruits of faith alone, and of the doctrines of justification by faith alone?
Horrible and sweeping as the charge may seem, the fruits of this doctrine and practice have been the entire ruin and spiritual destruction of the whole Christian Church!
Faith itself has been destroyed, for the light of truth has been taken out of it. The Word of God has been closed to faith, for men are not permitted to understand its simple teachings, since “the understanding must be held captive in obedience to faith,” the man-made faith of councils and assemblies. When men yield such obedience then they can be made to believe in any insane falsity, in any of the destructive heresies which from time to time have been hatched out in the Catholic Church and in the Protestant: the worship of popes and saints, predestination and what not?
And so also has the life of charity been destroyed in the Church by faith alone, as may be seen in the long history of wars, persecutions and crimes which have been committed in the name of Christian faith and Religion.
If these be the “fruits of faith,” then what shall we think of the faith itself? Look at the “benighted heathens,” whom Christians set out to convert. In what moral sense are Christians better than these? Are they more honest, sincere and truthful in their business dealings? Are they more faithful to their wives? More pure and temperate in their conduct? More tolerant and generous in their treatment of one another?
But it may be said: All this is not the fault of Christian doctrines, but it is because Christians do not live up to their teachings.
This objection, however, is not valid. Christians do live up to this fundamental doctrine of theirs, that “man is justified by faith alone.” Hence the ruin!
Do we conclude, then, that Faith is unnecessary to salvation? By no means, for as faith without charity is dead, so charity without faith is blind, helpless and impotent. But it must be a genuine, enlightened, free and living faith, and no mere knowledge in the memory, no blind persuasion, forced upon man by the fear of Hell.
Faith is necessary to salvation, but it is not salvation itself. It is a guide on our path, but is not the path itself. It is the lamp and light of our life, but is not life itself
And a genuine faith must be the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as revealed in His Word, a rational and loving conviction and trust in His Mercy and Wisdom and Providence. To Him and His Revelation the understanding of man owes loyal and humble obedience, but not to any man-made creed, dogma, bull or article. For what is a man or any number of men? Are they gods that they must be obeyed, without having to show that their commands are based upon the revealed Truth of God?
“Nunc Licet.” This is the inscription written over the entrance to a Temple of the New Church, which Swedenborg once beheld in the spiritual world. And it was explained to him, that this meant that “now it is allowable to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith.”
For now the inner recesses of the Word of God have been thrown open, so that he who desires can enter with his understanding and learn truths in unceasing abundance for the illustration and confirmation of his faith.
But no matter how much a man may learn, still he will not have faith, if he does not at the same time love and obey the Truth in his life. For light alone can produce no life, if not at the same time joined with heat.
“He that doeth Truth, cometh to the Light, that his deeds may be made manifest,” (John 3:21.)
“A new commandment I give unto you; That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13: 34.)
On these subjects read further “The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning Faith,” the “Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church,” and “The True Christian Religion” by Emanuel Swedenborg.
The Church is the Lord‘s presence and conjunction with man by means of charity and faith. Wherever these exist together, in any degree, there the kingdom of the Lord is established.
The Lord’s Universal Church, which also is called “the communion of saints,” consists, therefore, of all those who love the Lord and the neighbor, and who “have any light of religion from the Word of God, either directly or mediately through the universal traditions. This universal church thus, includes, all regenerating men, whether Christians or Gentiles, whether they live on this earth or on any of the countless orbs in the starry heavens. All these make one body before the Lord, of which He is the Head and the Life.
Within this universal body there is, however, and there must always be a visible, specific church, which consists of those who consciously know and openly acknowledge and worship the Lord as the only God of Heaven and earth; who believe in the Divine holiness and authority of His Word; and who earnestly endeavor to obey its commandments in their lives.
This “Church Specific” of the Lord serves as the center of light and life to the Church Universal, for to it the Lord reveals Himself directly, and through it the whole human race can have communication with Him and with Heaven.
The Lord’s visible Church has been instituted and organized by Himself by two universal means: Baptism and the Holy Supper. These are, representatively, the two great gates into the Church and into Heaven.
The washing of Baptism and the eating and drinking of the Holy Supper, do not in themselves, as external acts, save any man, but they stand as the constant signs and reminders that man must purify himself from his evils, and be born anew through the appropriation and conjunction of charity and faith.
The water of Baptism represents and corresponds to the Divine Truth, the “living water” welling from the Word of God. Only by washing in this water, by applying this Truth to his life, can man remove his evils from himself, and conquer in all temptations. This is what Baptism represents, and it is thus a sign to all that a man is of the Lord’s Church, or is to be brought up in it in order to be thus purified.
And being a spiritual act, at the same time that it is a natural ceremony, it is a sign to spirits and angels as well as to men. When a man or a child is baptized, such spirits and angels are associated with him as belong to that religion and faith into which a man is then introduced. Baptism into a faith in three persons in the Godhead associates with man spirits who worship three gods, but Baptism into the faith in one Divine Person introduces man among spirits and angels who worship the Lord Jesus Christ as the only God.
The most holy Sacrament of the Supper is also a purely representative institution. The sacred elements are not the actual material flesh and blood of Christ, as is believed in the Catholic and Lutheran Churches, for this is an utterly carnal superstition, nor do they stand as the symbol of the merely historical fact that Christ suffered and died, as is believed in the Reformed Churches.
But the bread of the Holy Supper represents the living bread that came down from Heaven, the Divine Love and Mercy, which is the very substance and flesh of the Lord, And the wine represents the “blood of the New Testament,” winch is the same as “the words that I speak unto you,” that is, the Divine Truth which the Lord teaches in His Word,
Eating represents communication and appropriation of the Divine Good and the Divine Truth. He that eateth this spiritual flesh and drinketh this spiritual blood, dwelleth in the Lord and the Lord in him. From this good a man receives charity, and from this truth he receives faith. And when charity and faith are joined in man, then he is conjoined with God and receives eternal life.
It is thus that the Holy Supper, as one comprehensive act of worship, represents the whole of the Divine work of Redemption and Salvation,
THE FOUR CHURCHES.
The spiritual history of mankind, or of the Church with men, has been like the life-history of an individual man. The Church, as a whole, has had its infancy, its adolescence, its manhood and its old age. After this death set in, but was followed by resurrection into life, through the establishment of a new spiritual and everlasting Church of God with men.
Each of these four ages has itself been a Church or distinct dispensation among men, and these four successive churches are represented in the Word by the statue seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream. (Dan. 2:31-35.)
The head of gold in this statue represents the “golden age” among men, the first or “Most Ancient Church,” the state of mankind when in Eden, the morning or infancy of the race.
The breast and arms of silver represents the “silver age,” the Second or “Ancient Church,” signified by Noah and his posterity. This was the noon and early manhood of mankind.
The belly and thighs of brass represent the “brazen age.” the third or “Israelitish ” dispensation, and the legs of iron, and the feet of iron mingled with clay, represent the “iron age,” “the Christian Church.” in which faith and charity passed into their night, old age and death.
Then a stone was seen, cut out without hands, which smote the image upon its feet of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. This represents the fifth and final Church or dispensation of the Lord, the New Church, the Church of the New Jerusalem, in which the “Rock of Ages,” the Divine Truth of the Lord, shall become a great mountain and fill the whole earth, lifting mankind nearer unto God.
On the spiritual history of these successive dispensations read further Swedenborg’s work, entitled “Coronis, or Appendix to the True Christian Religion.”
THE LAST JUDGMENT
In a little work on “The Last Judgment,” published in London in the year 1758, Swedenborg made the truly startling announcement, that this most momentous event had taken place the year before, in the spiritual world, and that “the former heaven and the former earth” had already passed away.
This statement, of course, is quite incompatible with the common theories of “the end of things,” according to which the visible world is to be destroyed in a universal conflagration, some time or other, when the stars and the suns shall have fallen down upon this little globe of ours.
But such ideas are based upon a merely literal interpretation of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew in which the Last Judgment is described. The words
“this generation shall not pass away until all these things shall he fulfilled,” (Matth. 24:34),
ought to show to anyone that “these things” are not to be taken according to the Letter, for in that case the generation of Jews then living would still be wandering on this earth.
But it was not the visible heaven and the habitable earth that were to be devastated in the day of Judgment. These are and will be good and perfect as the Lord in His wisdom created them, a footstool unto Himself, and a home for His creatures. By the earth, which should come to an end, is meant a certain state of the Church among men upon the earth, a state which has been consummated spiritually by the fire of evil love. Then, when the cup of abominations was filled to overflowing, the Lord executed a last judgment upon that state or that Church, separated the good from the wicked and formed a “new earth”or a new Church upon the earth in this world, and a “new heaven” in the spiritual world.
Such a last judgment has taken place at the end of each of the four successive churches that were described above The “Flood” was the last judgment upon the fallen descendants of the Most Ancient or Adamic Church. The “dispersion of tongues” at the tower of Babel was the last judgment upon the degenerate descendants of Noah, or the Ancient Church, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews was the last judgment upon the Israelitish dispensation.
Of this judgment upon the wicked Jews in this world and in the other, the Lord said: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out,” which shows that this was essentially a spiritual judgment.
But the Last, the final judgment, is described in these words:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.”
Spiritually discerned, these words signify that the Christian Church would come to an end, when there was no longer with it any living love of God and faith in Him; when the Church had lost all genuine knowledge and understanding of the Truths contained in His Word.
The “sun that was to be darkened” is the Sun of life, the Sun of righteousness, the Lord and the love of Him; it is this Sun that is seen no more, because the church has turned from it, and has permitted the golden calf of selfishness and worldliness to be worshiped instead of the Lord.
The “moon that was no longer to give her light” is the faith of the Christian Church destroyed by the belief in three personal gods, and by all the false teachings that have flown from this impure spring of theology. Faith is here called and compared to the moon, because as the moon receives all its light from the sun, so does faith receive all its life and all the light of truth from the love of God and of the neighbor. But when charity has been separated from faith,—as has been done in the Christian Church,—then its light is extinguished. By the “stars which should fall from heaven ” are not meant the suns and globes in the firmament, but the knowledges of truth and good from the Word, which all transmit their rays of light and intelligence from that fountain of all light. These have fallen from the firmament of the Church, because the understanding of the Word has been closed by grossly literal interpretations and by slavery under the dictates of man.
And the “powers of the heavens that were to be shaken” are the fundamental principles of the Christian Religion, which have been torn and twisted and utterly shaken to pieces by all the sects of Christendom in their disputes and wranglings, until ever-increasing multitudes, losing faith in all principles of religion, have left the ruined Church to seek the fatuous light of naturalism, agnosticism and atheism.
Thus it is that “the Last Judgment” is even now descending upon that Church which has forsaken her one Lord and Master. She can no more be revived or reformed, for she is dead and corrupt, and Christian in name only, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of every unclean and hateful bird.”
“And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.” (Rev. 18:2-5.)
THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD.
Not less wonderful than the teachings concerning the Last Judgment is the announcement made by Swedenborg that the Lord has come again, has effected His second advent in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
This advent of the Lord is not His descent upon the earth in a material body, visible to the corporeal eye, but in His glorified body, which is the Divine Truth in the Word. Thus is fulfilled, spiritually, the prophecy in Matthew:
“Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth wail,and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory.”
It is clear that these words are not to be taken according to the gross appearances of the senses. For we are taught that
“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here, or Lo there! for behold the Kingdom of God is within you,” (Luke 17: 20. 21.)
The second advent of the Lord is therefore an internal coming, an advent to the spirit of man, to his understanding and to his heart. Such an advent is far more effective of free internal conviction than would he a personal material appearance in the clouds, which would compel belief.
The “sign of the Son of Man” is that by which He makes Himself known to man, the Revelation which He has given in these latter days, and the “Son of Man” Himself is the Word itself, which now is revealed as it is in its internal power and glory.
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse, and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and His name is called, The Word of God,” (Rev. 19:11,13)
The “clouds,” in the midst of which He was to appear, are the obscure and sensual appearances of the literal sense of the Scriptures. These are what “kill,” if not understood according to “the spirit.” They are then like black and heavy clouds that shut out the light of the sun. But when understood in the spiritual sense, they become transparent and beautiful, revealing the “glory of God in the cloud.”
The Second Advent, therefore, has been effected by means of the new Revelation, which the Lord has given through the inspired mind of Swedenborg. From this Revelation it is now known that there is an internal sense in the Word of God, and what this internal sense is. The Scriptures are now no longer sealed, but opened and disclosed, and within them men may now behold the Divine Truth itself, the Son of Man in the clouds of Heaven.
Being a spiritual revelation, this Advent of the Lord took place in the spiritual world, and at the same time to the spiritual minds of men on earth, and it is this revelation of the Lord as the Divine Truth that has effected the Last Judgment in both worlds.
In the world of spirits this revelation appeared as “the lightning which cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west.” The vast congregations of wicked, hypocritical spirits, which since the dark ages had assembled in that intermediate world, and there had formed themselves into false, “imaginary” heavens, these were now cast down. Falsity and evil were now revealed in their true colors, and the wicked ones could no longer deceive and domineer over those who, though simple in their faith, yet loved the Lord and the neighbor.
These “simple good” were now redeemed from their oppressors, and were led into Heaven by the Lord, who thus formed a “new Heaven” out of these spirits in place of the former imaginary heaven that had passed away.
Hence there is now an entirely new condition and order in the world of spirits. The “Dragon,” the swarm of those who believed and lived in Faith alone without the good of charity, has been cast into Hell: they can no longer interpose them selves between God and man. The clouds have been dispersed and the Light of Heaven can now freely flow down to earth and operate among men.
New light has been given and a new state of freedom of thought, whence there has resulted a new and freer state among men on earth, since the time of the Last Judgment in the year 1757, But the effect of this new light and freedom depends upon the manner of its reception by man. A poisonous plant receives the light and heat of the sun as well as a useful plant, but the one turns all into poison while the other turns all into good.
So with men. Externally considered, the world has improved most wonderfully in the last century and a half. But morally and spiritually the Christian Church has not improved, but is going further and further into decay. This may be observed everywhere and every day.
In this, History but repeats itself. Think of the Roman civilization in the age that immediately followed the first advent of the Lord. Never before had there been a greater state of order, of culture and of civilization. But none the less immorality and infidelity increased as never before. Nothing could save the world but the victory of an entirely new religion, embodied in a new and distinct church or dispensation. This salvation was found in the Christian Church, which, beginning in the utmost obscurity among a few fishermen, yet grew until it had conquered the world. But, alas, at the same time, the world triumphed over the Church.
THE NEW CHURCH
This Fate, however, will not overtake the New Church, the Church of the New Jerusalem, which the Lord has now begun to establish at His Second Advent. For we have the Divine promise that it shall not pass away,
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven. And there was given to Him dominion, and glory, and a Kingdom, that all people and nations and tongues shall serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom that shall not be destroyed.” (Dan. 7: 13, 14.)
This Kingdom, this New Church, consists of those who have received in mind and heart the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem. This revelation is the crown of all previous revelations, for it is the fulfillment and unfolding of them all, and the reception of these Doctrines will make the New Church the crown of all the churches or dispensations that have been upon the earth.
This Church, like all new churches, will first be established among the few remains in the Christian world who are willing to receive the Lord in His Second Advent, but it will afterwards be established in its fulness and glory among nations who now are Gentiles and who have not shared in the corruption of the Christians,
The faith and life and worship of the New Church cannot by any means be together with those of the Old Church. The new wine cannot be put into the old bottles, for these would then break and the wine be spilled, But the New Church wilt be established entirely distinct and separate from the Old Church, and has even begun to be thus established.
The New Church, therefore, must have its own distinct organization, its own worship and sacraments and priesthood, its own education and science, its own social and moral and religious life.
In so far as the members of the Lord’s New Church develop these things by following the teachings of its Divine Revelation, in so far will be fulfilled on earth the prophecy of the Lord:
“Behold, I make all things new.”
The Second Advent of the Lord and the New Heaven and the New Church have been treated of especially in “The True Christian Religion, which Contains the Entire Theology of the New Church.”
THE PROGRESS OF THE NEW CHURCH
The office of Emanuel Swedenborg was that of an inspired revelator. He did not himself make any attempt to establish an external church or ecclesiastical organization. He simply published the Doctrines of the New Church to the world, and the receivers of these Doctrines were left in absolute freedom to apply the Doctrines to the more ultimate things of life, according to their best understanding and conscience.
At the time of Swedenborg’s death, in the year 1772, there were but few receivers of the Heavenly Doctrines in this world, and for some ten years afterwards little or nothing was heard of the New Church. Nevertheless, the seed of Divine Truth had been sown broadcast through Swedenborg’s own zeal in distributing his Writings, and it was germinating silently and unseen until, in the year 1783, societies were established in England for the purpose of translating and publishing the Writings of the New Church,
Eminent among the first disciples of the Lord in His second advent were two learned and pious clergymen of the Church of England, the Rev. Thomas Hartley, an intimate friend of Swedenborg himself, and the Rev. John Clowes, of Manchester, who spent a long and devoted life in the use of making the Doctrines known through the translation of the Writings and the exposition of the Internal Sense of the Word.
Another of the eminent “fathers” in the Church of the New Jerusalem was the Rev. Robert Hindmarsh, who was the first and chief promoter of the New Church as a distinct ecclesiastical organization. Many of the early receivers of the Heavenly Doctrines were filled with the fond hope that the new truths would gradually permeate and be received by the various sects of the old Christianity, thus effecting an internal reformation in doctrine and worship and life. Others, and Hind marsh chief among these, looked upon such a hope as utterly vain, and they were confirmed in this view, not only by the explicit teachings of the Doctrines themselves, but also by the lessons of universal human history, and by the evident signs of the times. Nor has the subsequent history of Christianity disproved their conclusions.
Inspired by these reasons and by their desire to worship the Lord Jesus Christ alone in His Divine Humanity, these early New Churchmen resolved to commune no longer with those who worshiped the three gods of the old Christian church The first step toward the distinctive establishment of the New Church was taken at London in June, 1787, when the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper were first administered according to the Doctrines of the New Church, This was followed in January, 1788, by the institution of the public worship of the Lord in His Second Advent, and in June of the same year by the consecration of a distinctive ministry or priesthood for the New Church.
These early efforts soon brought rich results. The readers and receivers of the Heavenly Doctrines multiplied rapidly, and a more general organization was effected in the year 1789, when the first “General Conference” of the New Church in Great Britain was held in London. Similar Conferences have been held annually since the year 1815. This organization includes at present about 6,000 members, with seventy-four societies and thirty clergymen. The principal societies exist in London, Manchester, Accrington, Birmingham, and Glasgow. The official organ of the General Conference is “The New Church Magazine,” a monthly journal, established in the year 1812. The “Morning Light,”is another journal published weekly in London.
One of the most useful of the various institutions of the New Church in Great Britain is the “British and Foreign Swedenborg Society,” which was instituted in 1810, and has its headquarters at No. 1 Bloomsbury street, London. Through the activity of this Society and its kindred institution in America, the Writings of Swedenborg have been kept constantly before the public, and are to be obtained, at present not only in Latin and English, but also in Welsh, Icelandic, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, German, Russian, Polish, Hungarian, French, Italian, Spanish, nay, even in Arabic and Hindi. With a single exception, not a year has passed during the present century that has not witnessed the publication of one or more volumes of Swedenborg’s Writings. There are on record about 1,500 different editions of Swedenborg’s works. The collateral literature of the New Church has been even more voluminous, and has passed almost beyond the possibility of recording. Among the most eminent of the New Church authors in England we may mention John Clowes, Robert Hindmarsh, Joseph Proud, Manoah Sibley, Samuel Noble, William Mason, Thomas and David Goyder, Augustus Clissold, E. D. Rendell, William Bruce, O. P. Hiller, W. W. Woodman, William Hyde, Jonathan Bayley, Rudolph L. Tafel, John Presland, and J. F. Potts, the compiler of the “Swedenborg Concordance,” not to mention a hundred others.
While the literary activity of the New Church had its first beginning in England, the young Republic in North America witnessed the first proclamation of the Heavenly Doctrines by the living voice. This took place in the year 1784, when Mr. James Glen, a Scotchman, settled at Demerara, lectured on these Doctrines in Philadelphia and Boston. The first of the receivers in America was Jonathan Bailey, of Philadelphia, who, in 1789, published an edition of “The True Christian Religion,” to which Benjamin Franklin was one of the subscribers. George Washington, in his later years, is said to have been a diligent student of these Writings, and President Jackson was a devoted admirer. We might mention other illustrious names, but refrain, for these can add nothing to the Divine glory of the Doctrines themselves.
The first Society of the New Church in America was established at Baltimore in the year 1792, and the first consecration of American New Church ministers took place in the same city in 1798. The receivers continued to increase, especially in Pennsylvania, New York, New England, and Ohio, and were united in a “General Convention” in the year 1817. This body still meets annually, and consists of twelve general State Associations. Connected with this body there are various institutions, among which we may mention the “New Church Board of Publication” and the “American Swedenborg Printing and Publishing Society,” both with headquarters at 20 Cooper Union, New York; a Board of Missions; a Theological School in Cambridge, Mass.; a Sunday-school Association and a German Missionary Union.
The organ of the General Convention is the “New Church Messenger,” a weekly journal issued at New York. The “New Church Review” is a quarterly magazine published in Boston.
Among other institutions of the New Church in this country we may mention the “American New Church Tract and Publication Society”and the “Swedenborg Association” both of Philadelphia, the “Massachusetts New Church Union,” at 16 Arlington St., Boston, and the Urban a University, at Urbana, O.
The education of the Priesthood and the youth of the New Church “in the Church, by the Church, and for the Church “has long occupied the serious attention of Newchurchmen in this country, and has led to the establishment of a Theological School, a College, and a Girls’ School in Philadelphia, and of schools for children in various cities in the United States, Canada and England, by a corporation named “The Academy of the New Church,” which was instituted in the year 1876, and which has its headquarters at 1821 Wallace St., Philadelphia. This body conducts also a publishing office and a monthly journal, the “New Church Life.”
“The General Church of the New Jerusalem” is the latest of the general organizations of the New Church in America, and is closely connected in principles with the Academy, It held its first “General Assembly” in June, 1897; it is distinguished, externally, by an episcopal form of government, and has its headquarters at the New Church settlement near Huntingdon Valley, Montgomery Co., Pa.
Connected with the external organizations of the New Church in the United States and Canada there are about seven thousand members, one hundred and twenty ordained ministers and one hundred and ten societies. Among the most eminent of the past laborers in the New Church in this country stand the names of John Hargrove, Adam Hurdus, M. M, Carll, Jonathan Condy, C. I. Doughty, Thomas Worcester, George Field and W. H. Benade, as founders and organizers; William Hill, Jonathan Chapman (“Johnny Appleseed”), Holland Weeks, J. R. Hibbard, B, F. Barrett, A. O. Brickman, J. P. Stuart and Chauncey Giles, as evangelists; Samuel Woodworth, Richard De Charms, David Powell, George Bush, Sampson Reed, Theophilus Parsons, T, B, Hayward, Abiel Silver, W. H. Holcombe, S. H. Worcester, N. C. Burnham, and W. B. Hayden, as expositors, scholars and writers.
The New Church has found its greatest growth where spiritual and political freedom most prevail; thus with the English-speaking race. Still, there is hardly a civilized nation on earth where the Heavenly Doctrines have not found some receivers and some degree of development.
In Sweden, the home of Swedenborg, the Doctrines were first received by two learned doctors of divinity, G. A. Beyer and Johan Rosen, who were subjected to severe persecutions even before Swedenborg died. Later on, the new revelations were accepted by a great number of Lutheran clergymen, and by men of learning, high station and birth. One of the Swedish monarchy Charles XIII, while crown prince, was a member of a New Church Society. Among these early disciples in Sweden we may mention especially Mr. C. B. Wadstrom, who, inspired by the Heavenly Doctrines, was the first person in this world to labor for the abolition of the African slave trade. He is now acknowledged as the “father” of this great movement. This period of progress was soon followed by an era of political and ecclesiastical persecutions. Religious liberty was totally stifled, and the New Church was not able to assume an outward form until the year 1875, when public worship was established in Stockholm. There are now four ministers laboring in Sweden, and one in Denmark; a publishing society has been established, and two monthly journals are supported.
The Heavenly Doctrines were first introduced into Germany by the famous theologian, Oetinger, in Wurtemberg, who suffered some persecution for his zeal. He was followed by Dr. Immanuel Tafel, professor at Tubingen, who labored for forty years in the work of republishing Swedenborg’s Latin works, editing many of his unpublished manuscripts and translating the writings into German. His literary activity was continued by Mr. J. G. Mittnacht and the present “Swedenborg Verein” in Stuttgart. But the New Church has by no means flourished as greatly in Germany itself as among the Germans in the free atmosphere of America, where numerous societies have been established and two German New Church monthlies are being published.
In republican Switzerland the New Church has made greater progress than in Imperial Germany. Receivers and societies have existed here since the beginning of the century, and are now united into an ecclesiastical union, with headquarters at Zurich, where the “Monatblatter” is published. The Rev. Fedor Gorwitz, superintends the work in Switzerland, and ministers also to the societies in Vienna and Buda Pesth.
In Russia there have been receivers of the Doctrines since the time, of Swedenborg, but they have not been permitted to labor publicly. Chief of these receivers has been the famous General Mouravieff, to whose influence is due the emancipation of serfs in Russia, under Alexander II.
In France, also, there has been an unbroken chain of Newchurchmen since the time of Swedenborg. The most eminent of these has been M. Le Boys des Guays, of St. Amand, wht.se literary labors for the New Church were similar to those of Professor Tafel, in Germany. At present the New Church in France has its headquarters at 12 Rue Thouin, in Paris, where public worship is conducted, and a journal, the “L’Eglise de l’Avenir,” is published.
Since the year 1872 the New Church has also had its own missionary in Italy, where Signor Loreto Scocia, resident at Florence, has labored for many years in the translation and publication of Swedenborg’s writings in the Italian language. In Australia, also, there are societies of the New Church in Sydney, Auckland, Christ Church, Brisbane, Adelaide, and in Melbourne, where a New Church monthly, “The New Age,” is published.
Societies exist also at Allahabad, India ; at Port Louis, Mauritius; at Port Natal, South Africa, and at Port of Spain, Trinidad.
In conclusion, a few words about the members of the New Church in general, to correct some prevalent misconceptions.
- The members of the New Church do not “set plates for the dead.”
- The members of the New Church are not “Swedenborgians,” or the followers of any mere man, for they look upon Swedenborg’s Theological Writings as works purely Divine and not the production of Swedenborg’s own genius or philosophy.
- They are not sectarians, differing from other Christian sects in some unimportant particulars of faith or usages, for the New Church is as new and as different from the Old Christian Church (Catholic or Protestant) as the latter was from the consummated Jewish dispensation.
- They are not Mystics, for they hold that men must, in all things, act “in freedom according to reason,” and yet they are not rationalists or free-thinkers, for they acknowledge that reason itself has no light, except from Divine Revelation.
- Finally, they are not spiritualists or spiritists, for they look upon any self-sought intercourse with spirits as not only useless and forbidden, but most dangerous to the spiritual freedom and salvation of man, Swedenborg was not a spiritistic medium, any more than John the Revelator. He never sought any communication with the other world, but his spiritual senses were opened by the Lord, in order that the new, final and crowning Revelation of God might be communicated through him to men on earth.