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that piety, when motived by charity, is doing good. For whatever deed promotes use, is use. He who pulls the rope that pulls the bell, pulls the bell. Whatever action is intended to conduce, and does conduce, to charity, is charity in action. If I show that true piety conduces thus to charity—that it eminently promotes the life of Christian uses, then, (if only because clearing the decks for action, when followed by the action, is an essential part of the action,) to the extent that I succeed, I show that true piety is charity.
I have marked a large number of passages in the writings of Swedenborg on external and internal worship, and on piety and charity. Of course I cannot ask you to listen to these to-night; but I think those best acquainted with them will bear me out in the assertion, that practically their gist amounts to this :—that piety without charity is nothing; yet that charity without piety is an incomplete thing :—that the life that leads to heaven does not consist in piety, in external sanctity, and the renunciation of the world; yet, also, that it includes them. “Life truly spiritual consists in piety from charity; in external sanctity from internal sanctity; and in a renunciation of the world during a life in the world. A life of piety is valuable, and is acceptable to the Lord, so far as a life of charity is conjoined with it.” (N.J.H.D. 123.) For whilst Swedenborg always sets forth charity as the sine quâ non of the Christian life, he is almost invariably careful to add something implying that piety is essential to the perfection of the Christian character. In thus teaching, he only enlarges upon the injunction of the Lord—“If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother:"—first fulfil every requirement of violated charity ;-and what then ?-Stop there ?—Be satisfied with that ?—Think you have done enough when that is accomplished ?-Not so: “First be reconciled to thy brother; and then, come, and offer thy gift." (Matthew v. 23, 24.) To speak to-night of the uses of piety at large were not within the
I will pass on, after merely reminding you that reading the Word, and books that assist us in understanding the Word, is itself, when done devoutly for the sake of use, an act of piety. It is that particular act of piety already spoken of as prayer that we are particularly to consider now. What then, let us ask ourselves, is the use of prayer ? But first let us ask Swedenborg. Swedenborg, (A.C. 1618.) “ during his abode in the world, ought not to omit the practice of external worship; for by external worship things
Man,” says internal are excited; and by external worship things external are kept in a state of sanctity, so that internal things can enter by influx: moreover, man is hereby initiated into knowledges, and prepared to receive things celestial: he is also gifted with states of sanctity, though he be ignorant thereof; which states are preserved by the Lord for his use in eternal life—for in the other life all men's states of life return.” In another place (A.C. 1175.) he tells us that they who are principled in essential worship observe the duties of external worship very diligently and attentively. Again, (N.J.H.D. 127.) he represents external worship to be as necessary to internal worship as the breathing of the lungs is to the motion of the heart. And once more (T.C.R. 539.) he states that supplication and confession is a duty incumbent on man. Now we know that “no heavenly love can animate our breasts while we are slow to perform our civil, moral, and religious duties.” (Liturgy, Evening Service.)
In considering the uses of prayer, let me enlarge first on the fact, that by its means man is “initiated into knowledges.” Prayer has great and peculiar value as an instrument of teaching. The late Mr. William Mason, of Derby, has expatiated much on this in the introduction to his useful book, “A Help to Devotion.” I could quote some most emphatic statements of his on this head, if I had time. Prayer of course, if it were done merely for the sake of teaching others, would be a hollow exercise; but that it is right to direct it to this end incidentally, our Lord Himself teaches, when He says—“I know that Thou hearest me always; but for their sakes I said it which stand by, that they might believe.” (Jno. xi. 41, 42.) And let me remind you of the experience of all pious mothers. A child has sinned against heaven and in its mother's sight. She takes it to her private room; she kneels down with it; earnestly but tenderly she lays the matter before the Lord in the child's hearing, and makes intercession for the transgressor. By this means she produces an impression on the child's mind which could not be so well effected in any other way. Over and over again the testimony occurs in the biographies of the good, that they owed most valuable and lasting impressions of the importance of attending to the things of eternal life to the prayers they heard ascend from the lips of their pious parents. In such cases piety has undeniably conduced to a life of charity.
Need I add, what all who really try it know, that when a mother prays thus with her child, or one friend with another, the praying exerts a peculiarly impressive instructional power on the person who is its organ? There is this effect, indeed, in all earnest, fervent, and free social prayer. For we are so constituted that we commonly feel our own life most fully and vividly when we feel it consentingly with one another. A joke is never fully a joke whilst kept entirely to oneself. I have seen a man take up “Punch” and read it from beginning to end without a smile ; but when a friend has come in and he has begun to read to him, the faces of both have been all in ripples directly. A very weak jest which would not pass muster in a small party, will be irresistible in a large and crowded meeting. If you want to feel what music is, play or sing to some one who sympathises with you in the love of music. Would you appreciate true poetry? Then read it aloud to a kindred spirit, or let him or her read it to you. And if you want to feel in all their strength the truths you utter in prayer,
utter your prayer aloud in the hearing of some friendly and consentient souls, who will assist your supplications, thanksgivings, and intercessions with their own.
At this point reference may fittingly be made to the chapter of Matthew which supplies our especial topic to-night. (Matthew vi. 5—8.) I am making much too large a demand on your patience to justify me in attempting to examine in detail the spiritual sense of this chapter
That I leave to those who come after. Let me only remind you that all the commentators are agreed that there is nothing in this chapter to cast any doubt upon the utility or necessity of external worship or social prayer. A man can enter into his closet and shut to the door, just as well whilst he kneels in the pulpit and lifts his voice aloud in the hearing of a congregation, as when he prays silently in privacy. “ The point of our Lord's exhortation," says Mr. Bruce, in his Commentary on Matthew,' “to avoid the example of the Pharisees, is in their praying in public places to be seen of men." "The Lord does not in this discourage public worship. He himself worshipped in the synagogue.” (p. 141.) It is not praying in public places that is forbidden; it is praying to be seen of men. When our ministers or our laymen ascend the pulpit they pray in public places, and they are seen of men ; but we assume, in common charity, that they are trampling the lust for admiration under their feet. When members of the choir, or of the congregation, sing aloud some hymn of supplication to the Lord, they do it in the hearing of men; but nothing in this chapter forbids that, unless the motive be to obtain glory of men. We do not caution each other in our quarterly meetings not to talk about the Lord and His kingdom, notwithstanding that the danger exists that the talk may be for the sake of getting glory of men. We give each other credit for a better motive. What we are forbidden to do, is to engage in works of piety from the love of human approbation, or from somo other worldly motive. We are not forbidden to seem pious; we are only commanded not to seem so when we are not so. Not piety, nor its manifestation before others; not prayer in the hearing of or in concert with others, does the Lord condemn; He only condemns hypocritical and heathen motives. If, then, any one should lift up this chapter of Matthew like a boulder stone, as is sometimes done, and hurl it at the head of any one who strongly recommends social worship in any of its forms, not excluding the “prayer meeting :" if some one, hurling this at his head, should expect thereby to crush him, let him be assured, on the authority of Mr. Bruce, Mr. Mason, the compilers of the Liturgy, and Swedenborg himself, that there is nothing in this chapter to cast the least doubt on the great utility or value of external worship and social devotion. One does sometimes meet with some whose ideal of a Christian association has seemed to be a society in which piety should be reduced to its most inconsiderable dimensions, and prayer practically extinguished except as a cold and dry form. I have not, I never could have, the slightest sympathy with a scheme of religion without piety. A true Christian society, I have concluded, cannot possibly be, either professedly or practically, a Society for the Suppression of Piety. Clearly, a man who calls religious conversation cant, and social prayer hypocrisy and humbug, cannot have much connection with either piety or charity.
In this chapter of Matthew there is indeed a most solemn and aweinspiring warning against all insincere profession of piety. But is there under the sun any religious community in which this danger is more at its minimum than in ours ? He must be very simple who fancies that by a loud profession of piety or advocacy of social prayer amongst us, he will come to be much troubled with the glory of men. However weak he may be, there will be no such excessive weight of glory for him that he will need to stagger under it. The danger for us seems to me to lie mainly in the opposite direction. Every one who values piety knows that it is lamentably possible to wish to seem pious in order to be seen of men. But it is also possible to wish to appear not pious in order to be seen of men. There is a peril in being tempted to pray aloud in order to get glory of men : there is also the danger of suppressing and smothering up all signs of piety, in order to obtain glory of men. There is a possibility of turning the blood of the heart of worship black, by denying it that outward piety which Swedenborg compares to its respiration. (N. J. H. D., 127.) There is a peril of being ashamed of the Lord and of His words, and of not confessing Him before men. If any one who hears me to-night in his heart believes that piety is a comely ornament and safeguard to youth, an elevating principle and practice in all seasons of life, and the especial comfort and glory of old age; if it is his earnest belief, as it is mine, that it should be the constant endeavour of every Christian society to nourish, foster, and develope a spirit of prayer as one of the essential promotives of charity; then, although dear to him be the esteem of his friends, and most precious the love of those he loves, yet let him not be false to his solemn conviction ; let him say out his thought, and live out his life ; and if laying stress on piety, or individual and social prayer, throw his friendships somewhat out of focus, yet let him accept the situation; and let the glory of men go where it may
One great use of free social prayer, and one reason why I recommend the prayer-meeting, is in its practical tendency to impress on all, and especially young persons, the importance of prayer in private as an individual duty. Perhaps the most valuable knowledge into which the prayer meetings my friends took me to when I was a boy, initiated me, was the knowledge that my elders considered prayer to be really useful and necessary. I could not doubt that they prayed much in private, when I heard them so earnestly and so easily pray in my presence. To this day I thoroughly believe that they did. “It is,” says Mr. Mason, “a comparatively small thing to imbue a child's mind with religious knowledge ;- but it is a great thing to convert that knowledge into a kind of spiritual ladder by which he not merely may, but actually does, young as he is, devoutly ascend to heaven in fervent aspirations to the Lord, holding frequent, sweet, and intimate filial communion with Him. Not until a scientific faith has become a pious faith do the truths of faith become the means of conjunction with the Lord.” (“Help to Devotion :" Introduction.) What is true of children, in this respect, is true of grown-up people. But whether for children or adults, the most effectual way in which you can teach prayer as a duty and privilege, is in letting them see you and hear you pray
Precept and command are as nothing compared with example.
It was thus that the Lord Jesus taught His followers to pray, as John also taught his disciples. He taught them by precept, over and over