« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
let it learn its province, and keep within its limits. Let it not lay its unhallowed hands upon the Ark of God, or enter with daring footsteps the Holy of Holies.
Let no one imagine that we shrink from an answer to the question we have proposed. We are prepared unequivocally to affirm, that the principle, which we have contended for as necessary, is no longer wanting. He, who gave the Word, can alone commu. nicate the laws by which it is written, and by which it must be interpreted. He alone can illustrate what is obscure, and reconcile what is discordant. This He has done through the medium of Emanuel Swedenborg, “ a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of Heaven."
The evidence, on which this assertion rests, this is not the place to unfold. That it is not mere assertion, every one will soon find, who examines with independence, diligence, and humility. The investigation, which an affirmation apparently so bold may induce, would soon convince the inquirer, that we have been hastily judged by those, whose limited knowledge has little qualified them, to decide upon a subject so vast and so profound. We earnestly desire the severest scrutiny, for in no other way can the evidence be understood, on which our faith is founded. And let those, who conceive us to be deluded, remember, that our assertion is not to be disproved, and that our claims are not to be invalidated, by general charges of extravagance and enthusiasm.
We are aware of the prejudices that generally prevail against a new dispensation, and we are aware, too, that the same opposition has ever been manifested when Divine Truth has been communicated to the world. Whether the disposition to reject this Truth, implies that it is unnecessary; or whether the endless diversity of opinion which prevails respecting the doctrines of the Gospel, be an evidence that further light is useless, let the objector judge.
It is worthy of remark, that those who have examined this subject with the closest attention, and who are consequently best acquainted with its merits, are considered as totally unqualified to decide
upon the question; and that those, who are almost entire. ly ignorant, are appealed to as authority, and followed as guides. And we cannot but observe, that those whose high character for talents and learning gives them an extensive and commanding influence, seem insensible of the solemn responsibility they assume, in censuring without knowledge, and rejecting without inquiry.
To philosophical minds, one of the fairest tests of any system of faith, is the influence it exerts on the understanding, affections and life, of those who embrace it. To such we would recommend an examination of the work before us, as calculated forci. bly to illustrate the tendency of the doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church.
The young woman who is the principal writer in this correspondence, appears to have had scarcely any education, except that afforded by the study of the Bible and the writings of Swedenborg. The Advertisement prefixed to the work by the pub. lishers, informs us, that “ Miss Jones has never enjoyed the advantage of more than one quarter's tuition, and that in a country school ; can scarcely write legibly, and is almost totally ignorant of orthography ;” and that her letters are published verbatim, corrected merely as to orthography and punctuation." It appears also that she was acquainted with only one member of the New Jerusalem Church, and that the doctrines, she believes, have been derived only from the sources abovementioned.
The causes of the correspondence are found in the following extract from her first letter to the Rev. Mr. Johnson, of whose church she was a member.
“ You are the man under whose care I placed myself, when I sincerely and openly avowed my belief in the doctrines you profess; I, therefore, consider that you are the person, to whom I should make known my change of senti. ment. I should have remained in silence, as I have done for two years past, without the least thought of its being wrong for me to do so, thinking that God alone was the Lord of the conscience, had it not been for hearing the new manner, in which the table of the Lord was barred at Pleasant Valley. Mr Osturn appeared very fearful, that any should commune with him, who did not believe exactly as he did. He inquired of a member of Mr. King's church concerning his faith ; and on finding that it did not agree with his own, he threatened to inform Mr King. And after satirizing the character of a man,' that he knew nothing about, on account of his writings (which he confessed he had never read) he added, " I have long intended to examine into your religious experience, and I cannot administer the ordinances to a person of your faith.” And on the Sabbath following, after giving a general invitation, added, “there are some, there are some ihat it is not proper to in. vite. We expect you to believe in common with us, such and such doc. trines,” which contained the sum of his belief. I felt shocked at the situation I was in ; shut out from my master's table by a man, for no other reason than not believing just as he did! after which prohibition, to approach would have appeared like dissembling, since I did not believe the doctrine he ad
. Emanuel Swedenborg.
vanced, although it as yet remained unknown. I considered that this could not be the table of the Lord, for that is free to all who love him and keep his commandments :—this must belong to a man, therefore, I have no right to it. And I do not wish to offend God nor man, nor put any to the trouble of searching after my faith. For the satisfaction, therefore, of the church, to which I nominally belong and love sincerely, I do openly declare my belief." Pages 5–6.
Here follows an avowal of her belief concerning the object of worship, and concerning Redemption, with the “ reasons of this belief.” This acknowledgment is made with so much modesty and humility, that we cannot but reflect with Honour on the feelings with which it was received by the church. The paragraph which immediately follows this statement, is worthy of notice for the simplicity, yet earnestness and force, of the appeal which it contains.
“Now, sir, I have seriously and plainly set before you and the church in general, my belief, and judge ye of it rationally, and not according to the appearance of things, but judge ye righteous judgment; remembering that ye are stewards, and will also hereafter be judged. It now remains for you to determine, whether you think me worthy to enjoy church privileges as heretofore with you. If you cannot hold fellowship with me while I worship the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as the only God of the universal heavens and earth, I wish my dismission from the church, I leave my case with my merciful Saviour, who hath opened my eyes, that I might see wondrous things in' his law, which I should make a poor return for, if I was ashamed to confess his name before the rulers of my people, for fear of being turned out of their society. You may think that I am ignorant and proud, considering my. self wiser than my father, and despising instruction. But if you do, you will judge me wrongfully. And the Lord, in whose presence I feel myself, knows me, and I am sure, will not condemn me for such a crime, for I am sensible that of myself, I cannot know any thing, and in the sincerity of my soul, in humble prayer and fasting, have I sought the right way; and the motives by which I have been inspired, are the love and fear of the Lord. I thing it essentially necessary, that all people should have correct ideas of the object of their worship, since life eternal depends upon it. To me, therefore, it appears absolutely necessary for all, humbly to look to the Lord for light in their understandings, while they read the revelation he has made of himself. For is it not from him alone, that all true instruction and understanding of the sacred word is derived ? For we cannot believe a thing merely because we hear it asserted. There must be a rational understanding, which brings with it a conviction of the truth, before there can be any true faith. We may, indeed, blindly assent to what we have no knowledge of, but this cannot with any propriety be called faith or belief."
(Review to be continued.)
ON THE DIFFERENT DEGREES OF DIVINE TRUTH, Manifested to the three Churches which have received the written
Word—the Israelitish, the Christian, and the New Jerusalem.
There are two principal sources of spiritual instruction,—the Word of the Lord and the operations of his providence. Whoever would improve in knowledge and holiness, must, from the light of the former, carefully attend to the order, the wisdom, and the goodness continually manifested in the latter. Thus we shall in some measure be enabled to discover those laws of divine operation to which all things are subject, and which have for their end the salvation of man. One of the first of these laws, which attentive observation presents to the mind, is, that the Lord at all times imparts whatever man is capable of receiving and applying to use.
This is powerfully iHustrated by the adaptation of divine truth to the characters of those to whom it is communicated. The Is. raelitish nation, from their gross and sensual character, being able to receive only the lowest order of truth, the Word was written with this order for its ultimate or external sense. Those, with whom the Christian Church was established, being less sensual, were capable of having a superior degree of their minds opened, which should receive a corresponding order of truth. Those, with whom the Lord is now establishing the New Jerusalem Church, being susceptible of still more interior illumination, another degree of truth, far above what has before been derived from the Word, is opened for their direction. It is our present object to exhibit the different senses of the Word, received by these three Churches. In giving the sense of the Word, which we believe to have been received by the Israelitish nation, we shall doubtless disturb the prejudices of some, who are accustomed to regard this people as chosen of God, on account of their own excellence, not considering that the wicked and idolatrous may be made the medium of a divine blessing, without being par. takers of it. From the history of this nation, it is evident, that in general they acknowledged nothing to be good and true but what concerned the body and the world, and that the ends which influenced their actions regarded merely bodily and worldly life. Few of them had any knowledge of the Lord, or a future state of existence. This nation, then, was selected to receive the Word,
because it was of a character so external or corporeal, that it could not understand genuine truth, and consequently could not profane it. A real Church was not established with this people, but merely the representative of a Church.“ To represent a Church, and not to be a Church, is to worship things external, and to call them holy and divine, but not to acknowledge and perceive them by faith and love from heaven.” That the Word might be carefully preserved, as a medium for communication with heaven, an extraordinary providence was exercised over this representative of a church.
This is not the place for a particular description of the character of this nation; but we considered it necessary to apprize the reader of the low rank in which we shall place it, that he may, if necessary, prepare himself to censure or approve with equal candour and intelligence.
Previous to the comparison, which we are about to institute, it may also be useful to make some remarks on the manner in which a degree of truth, above that received by the Israelitish nation, was communicated by our Lord and his apostles.
Whoever reads the Word with attention must have observed, that the authority of the merely literal sense of the Old Testament remained undisturbed, until the preaching of Jesus Christ. We then find a different principle adopted. Instead of confining himself to the literal sense, it appears that, from a full view of truth, external and internal, he deduced those general doctrines, which are, as it were, indices to the truths from which they are derived. These doctrines were communicated to the apostles, and taught by them. The number of texts from the Old Testament, illustrated in the New, is very small. The Christian Church has not possessed any means for understanding the true sense of the Old Testament, except so far as it is apparent from the light of general doctrines ; yet, by the assistance of these, it has been enabled to derive a very different sense from that acknowledged by the Israelitish nation. A large part of this Testament, however, is generally considered as antiquated, and of little value, except as history. But so far as any other use is at. tached to it, it is made to teach truth, applicable not to the Jewish people, but to Christians. What with the former related only to the body and the present world, with the latter is applied to the soul and the world to come.