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In the prospectus of this work, we promised to give to our readers the creed of the New Jerusalem Church, as compared with the creeds of other churches. Our object, in this, was to point out clearly the difference between them, which could best be manifested by contrast. As preliminary, however, to the following article, we shall offer a few remarks.
The Christian world is divided into a vast number of sects, which profess doctrines, not merely different from, but oftentimes in direct opposition to each other, all of which, however, are said to be founded upon the same authority, the Scriptures, or word of God. Now, it must be evident, that, although some particular passages, when taken separately, may seem to favour this or that particular opinion, yet the whole, when taken collectively, must agree; or else the Bible is inconsistent with itself. This latter supposition ought not for a moment to be entertained by any professing Christian ; and we shall not, therefore, suffer a doubt upon that point to influence our investigation.
When sects were first established, they arose from a difference of opinion, as to the object of worship, the means of salvation, or some other tenet of faith and life, which appeared to their founders to result from a true construction of the Scriptures. Creeds were therefore instituted, and the test of proselytism was an ac-. knowledgment that the doctrines embraced were the doctrines of the Word. In process of time, however, when men became to
be less solicitous of the welfare of their immortal souls, and more prone to rest in the mere outward observance of religious forms, the creeds of their respective churches were, in a degree, lost sight of, and external bonds, such as frequenting the same place of worship, constituted the chief characteristic of their sectarian difference. Hence it has happened, that, in many societies of Christians, the doctrines of their particular church are unknown to most of the laity, and, in some instances, a part only of the articles of faith is professedly believed in. The consequence of this lamentable falling off, has been, that some congregations, without changing their denomination, have departed from the canonical tenets of their church; and we not unfrequently hear of persons, who call themselves by the same name, differing from each other, upon points the most important. Doctrines, in fine, are studied and understood by comparatively few individuals ; and theological knowledge is consequently of a very limited extent.
If, therefore, it be intended to compare the doctrines of any sect of the old church with those of the new, we are not to ask individuals the particular nature of their belief. We are bound to resort to the tenets laid down in books, by writers held to be orthodox, as those upon which the church was founded, and upon which it is supposed still to rest. If, for example, we wish to ascertain the creed of the Protestant Episcopal Church, we must look to the Thirty-nine Articles of its faith; if that of the Presbyterian Church, we can find it in the Confession of Faith, and the Catechisms. If persons, professing themselves to be attached to a particular church, do not, in reality, believe the doctrines of that church, the fault is theirs, if they do not renounce their allegiance, and associate themselves with those who acknowledge a faith similar to their own.
One of the chief arguments against the examination of any new system of religion, is, that our forefathers were as wise as their de. scendants, and what they maintained, we will not depart from. Little do these advocates of the infallibility of their ancestors, reflect upon the absurdity into which this doctrine must lead them. What would have been our present situation, had our forefathers themselves acted upon this principle ? How could the reformation ever have been accomplished, had not some enlightened and independent men, disregardful of the contempt and scoffs of their neighbours, raised their voices, and exerted their talents, in opposition to the Catholic dominion ?-Nay, to carry the investi gation farther back, should we not, at this day, all have been Jews or heathens, had it not been for the bold and resolute conduct of the primitive Christians, who, in defiance of threats, of persecution, and of suffering, abandoned the religious opinions of their forefathers, and with them their synagogues and their idols ? This reasoning is sufficient to show the imbecility and irrationality of that species of argument, which would lead a man to prejudge a system, without taking the pains of examining it, and to condemn it, merely because it was new.
We have known many persons assume the character of critics, and revile the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, who had never read a volume of his works, and it is a truth, that most of the calumny, which has been heaped upon this illuminated seer, has been propagated by those who have never examined into his system. The members of the New Church declare to their fellow Christians, and to the world, that in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a new dispensation of truth is made to mankind. This they do not merely think, as matter of opinion—they feel it, they know it, and so may all others, who, in a state of serious inquiry, and full purpose of mind to apply their knowledge to the regulation of their lives, will study, without prejudice, the same volumes. But this is a new system of religion, and there-, fore cannot be true! What! is the Christian world so fully satisfied with its present doctrines, as not to be willing to listen to others ? Are they so clear and satisfactory, as to create no doubts upon the mind ? or are many of them so difficult to be understood, that the only way in which they can be believed in, is to banish them altogether from the province of the rational faculty ?
It shall be the constant endeavour of the editors of this work, to enforce, upon all occasions, the doctrines of the New Church. They know them to be the doctrines of the Sacred Scriptures, to which the Christian world must sooner or later subscribe ; and, although their reception must, of necessity, from the nature of the prejudices which they will have to encounter, be slow and almost imperceptible, it will most certainly be sure.
The following Contrast was drawn by a member of the New Church, residing in the interior of this state, and was published, a few years since, at his individual expense.
Of God and the Trinity. Of God and the Trinity. IN unity of the Godhead THERE is but one God, in there be three persons of one essence and in person one ; in substance, power and eternity: whom there is a Divine TriniGod the Father, God the Son, ty of Father, Son and Holy and God the Holy Ghost. The Spirit,—and the Lord and SaFather is of none, neither be, viour Jesus Christ is that God. gotten nor proceeding ;-the-This Trinity may be comparSon is eternally begotten of the ed to the soul, body and operaFather ;-the Holy Ghost eter, tion in every individual man. nally proceeding from the Fa. The Father is the Divine esse, ther and Son.
the all-begetting Divinity,-an[Confession of Faith, swering to the soul of man
chap, ii, sect. 3.] the Son is the Humanity of There be three persons in Jesus Christ made Divine and the Godhead ; the Father, the united to the Father, or in Son, and the Holy Ghost; and other words, the Divine Humathese three are one true eternal nity,--answering to the body God, the same in substance, of man :—and the Holy Spirit equal in power and glory, al- is the Divine proceeding enerthough distinguished by their gy from the Father, through or personal properties.
out of the Son, answering to [Larger Catechism, the operations of the soul and question 9.] body of map together. There
fore, the Lord, as Father, is the first cause and creator of all things from eternity ;-as Son, the redeemer in time ;-and, as the Holy Ghost, the regenerator to eternity.
Of Predestination and Provi. Of Predestination and Provi
dence. 1. By the decree of God, for 1. God, from the nature of the manifestation of his glory; his Divine Love, willeth the sal
NEW JERUSALEM CHURCH.
some men and angels are pre- vation of all men and angels, destinated unto everlasting life, and created none for the mere and others fore-ordained toever. purpose of everlasting death; lasting death.
Wherefore, 2. Those of mankind that 2. Divine Love, through Diare predestinated unto life, vine Wisdom, hath provided the God, before the foundation of means whereby every man may the world was laid, according be saved ;-which means to his eternal and immutable refraining from evils as sins purpose, and the secret coun- against
acknowsel and good pleasure of his ledgment of God; and a life will, hath chosen in Christ, un- of Charity and Faith, on the to everlasting glory, out of his part of the creature. These mere free grace and love, with- are the means, conditions and out any foresight of faith or causes of salvation-and every good works, or perseverance in one receives from God the either of them, or any other power of using them as his own, thing in the creature, as conditions or
causes moving him thereunto ; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
3. The rest of mankind, God 3. Those who do not use this was pleased, according to the power, consequently cannot be unsearchable counsel of his own saved, as being unfit subjects of will, whereby he extendeth or the Heavenly life ;—but it is with-holdeth mercy as he pleas- contrary to Divine Love to eth, for the glory of his sove- with-hold the means of salva. reign power over his creatures, tion from any one. to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.
[Confession of Faith,
question 12 & 13.7