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273 THE PRODIGAL SON.
created at all. But as he possesses this part of his composition in common with the animals, it is not here that we are to look for what properly and peculiarly belongs to him as a man, and from which, consequently, his nature, as a man, should be designated. He derives his nature as a man from the spiritual part of his constitution; by virtue of possessing which it alone is that he is a rational, an accountable, and thence an immortal creature. This, his peculiar and distinguishing part, it is, the welfare and proper attributes and qualities of which he should especially regard and cultivate. When he does so, and sets the affections, desires, and perceptions of the spiritual man above those of the natural or animal, he is in all respects truly a man, and lives in, and according to, his own proper and distinguishing nature. When he sinks all the affections and perceptions of his mind into the natural or animal man alone, he approximates to the brutes, and actually goes out of himself as a man. According to which just and striking view of the subject, how disgraceful, as well as degrading, is the immersion of man in sin, and in low, grovelling, animal pursuits! What greater shame can be conceived, than for any creature to forsake its proper nature, and to invest itself with the nature of creatures in an immeasurably lower sphere of existence? To descend into vice, is, in man, as really unnatural as it is sinful and fraught with the seeds of misery. That part of man's nature which is prone to evil, and which is, in reality, in its separate and unregenerate state, nothing but evil, is not properly the human nature, though we commonly call it so; and immersion in it, or a prej dominating regard to its impulses and desires, is as foreign to man's true nature as it is criminal, and is especially criminal because it is unnatural.
When, however, man sees this, and truly repents of it, and feels art earnest desire to rise to a state more congenial to the true essence of his being, he in a measure returns into his proper self by that very perception and desire, as it is solely from this, the better part of his composition or his true nature, that such a perception and desire can be infused into his bosom from the Lord. He then longs to return to his father's house, to that state in which the spiritual part of his frame has the supremacy, and in which, therefore* he can dwell in communion with his Heavenly Father. He perceives that the lowest state of those in whom spiritual views predominate and supply the ruling motives, is far more desirable than any state can be of the natural mau alone; and in the humility and contrition with which he is penetrated, from the sense of his shameful unworthiness, he dares not to lift his eyes any higher, but would gladly take the lowest seat within the precincts of the kingdom of the Lord. THE PRODIGAL SON. 273
This is expressed by what the prodigal, on coming to himself, is represented as saying,—by which saying is denoted the thought of the mind of a person in such a state,—" How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare," implying a perception of the superiority of those who are in the lowest state of the reception of spiritual gifts from the Lord,—that is, of those who, in some respects, appear as merely natural men, or who, though in the reception of spiritual things, and in a state of good as to life, yet live more in the natural man than in the spiritual, though in the natural man under the influence of the spiritual, and who are thus led to obey the Divine laws, to abstain from evil and do good, with a view to heaven as a place of reward, more than from the positive love of the good, which, nevertheless, they do. Such characters are always denoted in the Word by hired servants; they are servants, not sons, as acting more from mere obedience and a sense of duty than from love, and thus from freedom, and as looking to heaven as the reward or wages, so to speak, of such obedience. Yet, though this is but a low motive, and consequently a low state, those who conscientiously live a life of obedience from such a principle are accepted with the Lord, and receive a measure, to the utmost that they are capable of receiving, of heavenly good and blessedness, while the Lord is ever desirous to communicate still more. This is what is meant by its being said, that the hired servants of the prodigal's father, by whom is meant the Lord, have bread enough and to spare. Such also is the first state with all who enter on the regenerate life. In passing from a merely natural state to a spiritual one, a man cannot possibly, at first, do otherwise than look at heaven as a place of reward, rather than desire it as a state of love and holiness; so, likewise, he necessarily will begin to yield the commandments a dry obedience before he can enter into that state of charity and love which is their great end and object. Hence this is the state which alone the prodigal at first thinks of attaining; and as this state is only attainable by setting the Lord before us, looking to Him, seeking communion and conjunction with Him, turning from evil because it is sin against Him, and doing good because He commands it, and both by a communication of power from Him alone,—therefore the penitent of our text proceeds to express his salutary determination by saying—" I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants."
Here we will pause for the present; and here, my brethren, allow me to say in conclusion, is obviously the language of deep humility and true 274 THE PRODIGAL SON.
repentance. Who is there amongst us who has not need to make it his own? Happy shall we be if it is indeed the language of our own hearts! To arise, always denotes, in Scripture language, elevation out of evil into good, or from any inferior state to a higher. How ought we, then, ever to be aiming at thus arising,—to rise more and more completely out of the defilements of our hereditary evil propensities, and of the evils which we have actually appropriated from that stock by life and practice, and to ascend higher and higher in the reception and appropriation of principles and states of genuine goodness and truth! To go to his father, is to return to the Lord; and ought not this to be the most earnest desire and fixed determination of every one who knows that he has a Heavenly Father indeed, in whose presence and communion alone are to be found the blessings of life and peace? To say to this all-gracious and holy Being—"Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son," is surely to express a sentiment which all who are conscious of any breach of the Divine, paternal laws (and who is not?) must feel to be the most just and becoming that can possibly be conceived. Who is there that can be sufficiently proud and self-righteous not humbly and adoringly to take it up? And who possessing any state of humility, will not acknowledge that, if stations in heaven are apportioned according to strict desert, the lowest will exceed his merits,—that it will be reward enough for him to be made as one of his Father's hired servants? Let us cultivate, my brethren, these sentiments of sincere repentance and humility; and we may rely that, thus returning to our Heavenly Father, we shall be received by Him with all a Father's love!
M. MATTER'S "LIFE OF SWEDENBORG.
The work of M. Matter, which has been more than once mentioned in the pages of the Magazine, is now published. A copy has been kindly sent us by our brother, M. Harle, of Paris, accompanied by a letter, which we insert. We hope to be able to give some account of this important work in our next. It is-beautifully printed on fine paper, and forms an octavo volume of 436 pages:—
"Paris, 13th May, 1863.
"Dear Sir,—'I send you by this same courier one copy of Professor Matter's newly published volume—'' Swedenborg, sa Vie, ses Ecrits, et sa Doctrine.'
"M. Le Boys and I, and some other friends, have read this book through. Our common impression is, that however incorrect in some M. Matter's "life Of Swedenboro." 275
points, according to our view, and however deficient in exposition of doctrine, the book will be very useful, under the Lord's Providence, in leading some of the more searching and reflecting among men to a knowledge or to a higher estimate of Swedenborg.
"I do not know, in fact, that till now, in any country, so considerable a work, of such interest, and so nearly approaching to a just estimate of our author, has ever been published by a non-Swedenborgian of so eminent a philosophic and literary character. In this consists, I think, the great import of the event.
"It must be observed that tbe work had been commenced with not quite so favourable a disposition, and a progress is remarkable in it in the sense of higher estimation; and let us add what M. Matter writes to M. Le Boys, expressing his thanks for the received help to his work:—' Should I be so happy as to have to publish a second edition, I shall gladly introduce such improvements as cannot fail, I hope, to be suggested to me.'
"We hope, in fact, M. Matter will continue to progress more and more in his appreciation of our doctrines, and assist in bringing others to the knowledge of them.—I am, dear Sir, yours truly,
AN OLD CHURCH TESTIMONY TO THE DOCTRINE OF
FREE-WILL. The Calvinistio Predestinarians had found in the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testaments, the most explicit assertion of God's Omniscience, and of His constant attention to the minutest concerns both of the natural and of the moral world. These notions they found agreeable, we must not say to philosophy (for of that these pious men had but a scanty portion), but to what, in many cases, is a better guide, to the natural sense and feeling of a virtuous mind. The belief thatthe world, and themselves as a part of it, were under the immediate care and protection of the wisest and best of Beings, had taken possession of their honest hearts more firmly than it seems to do of some men's understandings; and they set themselves to contest with the fiercest zeal, and without any scrupulous examination, every doctrine that might seem to contradict it, and threaten to rob them of the holy joy and comfort which flowed from that persuasion. They did not understand that the foreknowledge and the Providence of the Deity, and that the liberty that doth really belong to man as a moral agent, are things perfectly consistent and naturally connected; they did not hesitate a moment to deny the freedom of human actions. But this
276 AN OLD CHURCH TESTIMONY TO THE DOCTRINE OF FREE-WILL.
was a dangerous error; for, in truth, the proof of our liberty is to every individual of the human race the very same, I am persuaded, with the proof of his existence. I feel that I exist; and I feel that I am free; and I may with reason turn a deaf ear upon every argument that can be alleged in either case to disprove my feelings. I feel that I have power to flee the danger that I dread; to pursue the pleasure that I court; to forego the most inviting pleasure, although it may be actually within my grasp, if I apprehend that the present enjoyment may be the means of future mischief; to expose myself to present danger, to submit to present evils, in order to secure the possession of a future good. I feel that I have power to do the action that I approve; to abstain from another that my conscience would condemn ;—in a word, I feel that I act from my own hopes, my own fears, my own internal perception of moral fitness and discongruities. Happy, thrice happy, they who act invariably by these perceptions! They have attained* to the "glorious liberty of the sons of God;" but whenever I act from other notions, I feel- that I am misled by my own passions, my own appetites, my own mistaken views of things. A feeling always succeeds these unreasonable actions that, had my mind exerted its natural powers in considering the action I was about to do,—the propriety of it in itself, and in its consequences,—I might, and I would, have acted otherwise. Having these feelings, I feel all that liberty which renders the morality of a man's actions properly his own, and makes him justly accountable for his conduct.—Bishop Horsley.
REVIEWS. Jesus Christ, The Saviour Of The World. In Seven Sermons. By Horace Field, B. A. London: William White, 36, Bloomsbury-street, W. C. 1860. Price One Shilling.
Though it be now three years since its publication, we believe that the little book of Sermons entitled by Mr. Field—"Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World," has been as yet but little read and inadequately appreciated amongst us. We desire, therefore, to take this opportunity of commending these Discourses to the attention of our readers, and expressing our own warm sympathy with the tone and spirit of their teaching. We can answer, not for ourselves alone, but for more than one friend to whom we have had the pleasure of introducing them, for the delight and refreshment of spirit to be drawn from their wealth of loving reverence, of child-like trust in the Lord, of earnest aspiration to become like-minded unto Him, and of enlightened perception of the