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in their newness, and are filled with their pristine vigour. While this is the case, the church is a New Church, all things with it are made new; and its newness continues for ever. Time itself, considered in itself, does not and cannot affect it. It is in itself a work of, and belongs to eternity, and cannot be affected by time. This state of the church may be considered as denoted in the following passage of the Word: “And I have led you this forty years in the wilderness : your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot” (Deut. chap. 24, ver. 5; chap. 8, ver. 4).
Age and its infirmity as applied to the man of the church, and dilapidation and ruin as applied to a temple, dedicated to the purposes of worship by the members of the church, on which account it represents the church, are the work of perversion. The true church admits of no natural decay, but is daily renewed by the Lord who fills it, and is the essential constituent of every thing, by which it exists in man. In heaven there is a perpetual spring in regard to the significations of the life of angels in vegetable forms, and an increasing newness and variety in all their buildings, which are given them by the Lord, as the outward forms in which they live, in all their correspondences to their inward life. In this way also, I conceive, the right reception of the genuine truth of any divine dispensation, makes its recipient a New Church; and could he also be seen in the manifestations of his internal character, in its correspondences, we should find them as accompaniments to his persevering improvement in holiness, exhibiting a perpetual freshness and vigour.
No doubt, the various past dispensations of divine truth, have been accommodated, in some degree, to the recipients to whom they were first given ; and though all were the Word of the Lord, full of infinite wisdom, and were written in heaven as well as upon earth, as the records of eternal instruction for both angels and men, yet to each dispensation we may allow peculiarities, suited to the men to whom they were first given.
The children of Jacob, to whom the Mosaic dispensation was given, were not then capable of becoming a truly spiritual church; and their necessary intercourse with heaven as the church, though only representative of the church, was miraculously effected by their strict observance of the Mosaic ritual, till the fulness of time, when God could be manifested in the flesh for the salvation of the whole human race, and to lay the foundation of a church which should last for ever. The spirituality of the Mosaic dispensation was first proved, appreciated, and enjoyed by the Christian Church; and though not at first
in all that fulness in which it may now, and for ever, be experienced by the member of the New Church signified by the New Jerusalem ; yet in such a degree as to make a true Christian Church on earth, from the members of which, the Christian Heaven has been formed, in connexion with which, the New Church on earth shall for ever subsist. All that has been built upon the gospel foundation, by the perversion of the genuine doctrines of Christianity, must be cleared away, and the real superstructure be erected thereon, by the New Jerusalem dispensation.
Nothing therefore can be more distinct than the New Church and the old, perverted, falsely called Christian Church, but not the Christian Church in reality. Had it continued in its genuine character, it would never have been old, or have been marked by dilapidation and deformity.
In a perverted reception of a perverted doctrine of Christianity, there is nothing of genuine Christianity. The temple in it has been thrown down so completely, that one stone has not been left upon another. Any structure that may have been erected according to the perverted vision of its builders, on divine exploration and judgment, will prove to be nothing but a fabrication of merely human invention; and though it may appear as a reality to the deluded, when sought by the light of genuine truth, it will be found to have vanished like the baseless fabric of a vision, and not to have left a wreck behind.
I should, therefore, be very sorry to have it understood by the members of the New Church, that I am the advocate of any amalgamation of the perverted Christianity of the present day, with that of the New Church or of primitive Christianity. Nothing can be more opposite than the truth and the perversion of it, and no other relationship can afterwards subsist between them, than that of opposites.
The same thing more fully developed does not make it, properly speaking, a new or different thing. The Gospel is, and for ever must be, the same. But the doctrines of the New Church, and the influence of the New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven, enable the humble recipient to see in it millions of realities and beauties, which did not appear till seen in the light of the Lamb that gives light to the holy city. The Gospel contained in it, on its first promulgation, infinite things, as it does now, and will do for ever; but the light of the New Jerusalem alone is sufficient to enable the Christian to see them in their internal reality and glory. It is peculiar to this dispensation that the Lord, who comparatively veiled himself, even to his apostles and first disciples, in a cloud, now removes it, and
appears in his glory. His glory, which Peter, James, and John, beheld on the mount with overwhelming awe and astonishment, it is our privilege steadily to behold, by spiritual vision, in the confidence and adoration of love. It is only in this way, I presume, that the Gospel as first promulgated by the Lord and his apostles, has become, as it were, a new gospel. It never was, and never can be, in reality, old, though in its essence more ancient than creation itself. It is in this way that the Lord, as to the letter, has fulfilled his Word, “Behold I make all things new.”
But I must call to mind that you are nearly weary of this subject, and will hasten, therefore, to a conclusion. I hope these general remarks may shew that there is but little difference of opinion between J. C. and myself.
In the discussion as to the proper name for the New Church, not on our own account, but on account of the world, and especially of the Christian world, I endeavoured to shew that the appellation New Christian Church was calculated to render the New Church odious to Christians in general, and would be very improperly substituted for the designation, New Jerusalem Church. On this part of my former paper, I do not yet see any thing to retract or materially to alter. That such an amalgamation, [the word is J. C.’s, and not in my former paper] if the word can be allowed at all in reference to the foundation and the structure raised upon it, takes place between the Church of the Lord and his apostles, and the New Church signified by the New Jerusalem, is stated by E. S. himself, as quoted in my former paper, (page 176, U. T. 674.)
I do not now need to discuss with J. C., the manner in which the apostles executed their mission in the spiritual world. My argument does not appear to me to be affected by any consideration of it, which was, that the Lord in his merciful providence, in order to accommodate the deeply rooted conviction in the general Christian mind, that the apostles published to the world the true Gospel, and all the essential truths of Christianity: he called them together, as stated in the quotations, and sent them throughout the whole spiritual world, as he had at first sent them through the natural world, to preach the Gospel anew. No doubt the purpose of this was to shew the identity of the church planted by the Lord and his apostles, and the New Church which he was about to establish in the world by his second advent and the descent of the New Jerusalem : though in latter times, there were millions of sincere Christians, from whose eyes those glorious truths of the Gospel, revealed in the New Jerusalem dispensation, had been
concealed by the perversions and falsifications invented and imposed upon them by the false teachers of Christianity.
That all such, in the world of spirits, might be led voluntarily to reject all errors and embrace the true and pure doctrines of Christianity as now revealed in their genuine character, the Lord was pleased to employ, again, for their more ready and full conviction, the apostles who were first sent into the world with the glad tidings of salvation. I really think there can be no serious difference between J. C. and myself upon this subject, if he will look again at the matter advanced in my former paper. I will, therefore, leave it to your readers and himself to draw their own conclusions as to the fairness of my comment; for I do not like to dwell upon a proposition sufficiently demonstrated.
As to the phrase, new Christian heaven, I expressed, in my former paper, the confidence I felt as to its frequent use. At the time of writing, I turned to various portions of the works of E. S., where I thought the phrase was likely to be found, and looked, moreover, in Nicholson's Dictionary, with the result stated. I have since, in looking after other matters, found numerous instances of Swedenborg himself using the phrase: and, therefore, the advocates for the designation, New Christian Church, are entitled to all the sanction afforded by this authority. I still consider the phrase, in itself, to imply the idea of two Christian heavens, an old and a new one, or a former and a latter one. But E. S. has sufficiently protected this phrase from such a construction : and, therefore, if those who prefer the designation New Christian Church, use it in the same sense as E. S. uses the designation new Christian heaven, they will find that no distinction will be pointed out by it, from the former Christian Church; and as its use may excite strong prejudice against the New Church, unnecessarily, as I think I have sufficiently shewn, it had better be discontinued altogether.
I will now direct your attention to a few passages, in which E. S. uses the phrase, new Christian heaven, in order to shew that he only means by it one Christian heaven, or a new heaven distinct from the ancient and most ancient, constituted of all who have been true Christians in the world, from the commencement of Christianity, as well as of all the children of Christians who have died in infancy.
In the Apocalypse Revealed, chap. 14, we find the following, in the first clause of the spiritual sense. Of the NEW CHRISTIAN HEAVEN, described, verses 1–5. E. S. thus comments upon the first verse: “I saw, and, behold a Lamb, &c., signifies the Lord, now in the new
heaven, collected out of those in the Christian churches who have acknowledged the Lord alone to be the God of heaven and earth, and have been in the truth of doctrine, originating in the good of love from him through the Word.” The author, after a few other explanations on the subject, proceeds, “ The heaven here treated of is the heaven collected out of Christians from the time of the Lord's being in the world, and from such of them as approached the Lord alone, and lived according to his precepts in the Word, by shunning evils as sins against God. This heaven is the new heaven from which the Holy Jerusalem, the New Church upon earth, will descend” (Apoc. chap. 21, ver. 1, 2). “ But the heavens which were formed before the Lord's coming, are above it, and are called the ancient heavens; all of which likewise acknowledge the Lord alone to be the God of heaven and earth : these heavens communicate with the new heaven by influx” (n. 612). Again; “ By, as it were a new song, is signified the celebration and glorification of the Lord in the new Christian heaven ; in the present case, particularly, the acknowledgment of him as the God of heaven and earth, which he is acknowledged to be in the ancient heavens : this is implied in the expression as it were'; for as it were a new song, signifies as though it were new, when nevertheless it is not new.” That the new heaven mentioned in the Apoc. chap. 21, ver. 1, is a new heaven composed of Christians, and that the former heavens consist of the ancients and most ancient men; also that the Lord is acknowledged in these last heavens to be the God of heaven and earth” (Ibid, 617). These passages will be sufficient to shew that E. S. uses the phrase new Christian heaven, and likewise to shew the sense in which he uses it,—not to designate two or more distinct Christian heavens, but one and the same. In Ibid, n. 623, he calls it the new heaven of Christians; which appears to me the correct designation, if accuracy of language be of any importance in the matter.
In 631, “new Christian heaven” occurs twice, and some distinctions are pointed out as to their formation from those of the church of the Reformed, and those of the Roman Catholic Religion.
Many particulars of the Christian heaven, occur in Ibid, n. 876. “ In this new Christian heaven, are all those who from the first establishment of the Christian Church worshiped the Lord, and lived according to his commandments. In that heaven, likewise, are all the infants or little children of Christians, because they have been brought up by angels in those two essentials of the church, which consist in acknowledging the Lord to be the God of heaven and earth, and in leading a life according to his commandments in the decalogue.