« AnteriorContinuar »
embraced the doctrines of the New Dispensation, which afforded to him so much consolation and happiness; and he delighted in presenting them to his family and friends,many of whom received them with affectionate earnestness, and long will they revere his memory. In 1826 he removed to London, and for many years attended divine worship in Crossstreet, under the late Mr. Noble. Ill health and family afflictions led him to call in Mr. Bateman, a valuable and sincere friend, and warm advocate of the church, who finally introduced him to the Argyle-square society, then under the ministry of the late liev. T. C. Shaw. In 1837 he was left a widower, with three young children, daughters, each of whom, on reaching an age to be a comfort to him, rapidly sank under the fatal disease of consumption, of which their father died. Deeply as he felt their loss, he was supported under these successive trials by a firm reliance on the infinite love of his Saviour God, and a belief in the realities of the eternal world, as revealed in the writings of the church. Bereaved of all his dearest earthly relations, he retired to his native place in 1859, and spent the few remaining years of his life in reading and distributing the works of the New Church,—living ip obedience to the Divine commandments, grounded in self-renunciation, as the means by which the divine work of regeneration is effected in the soul. E. S.
Departed, May 5th, into the spiritual world, Miss Emily Ann Twiss, in her 29th year. This departed sister was a member of the Peter-street Society, Manchester. From her earliest years she was characterized by a devout and reflective spirit, and in her youth, unlike most other girls, she preferred retirement to playful association with others. About eight or ten years ago her parents came to reside in Manchester, and joined the Peter-street Society. Here her mind was especially directed to meditate upon the New Church doctrines, and upon the Truths of the Word as opened by their instrumentality. She regularly attended the worship of the Lord on the Sabbath, and, as often as her health permitted, came to the Tuesday evening meetings. By conversing on the Truths of the Word, and on the state of the life after
death, her devout and reflective mind found its proper nourishment, and her affections became awakened to a powerful and holy love of Truth, manifested chiefly by a strong desire to understand the spiritual sense of the Holy Word. About four years ago she was attacked by a grievous illness, arising from an internal malady, which baffled the skill of the doctors. During a period of more than four years she often suffered intensely from this complaint, and it was the wonder of all her friends that nature could hold out so long. She was, at times, deeply depressed in spirits, and experienced direful internal temptations. Her only comfort was from the Lord, through His Word; and she often repeated some of the Psalms, and especially the 43rd, which, together with the Lord's Prayer, and the occasional taking of the Sacrament, afforded her the strength she needed. Her mental sufferings and temptations increased towards the last, when she was reduced to a state in which, at times, she seemed deprived of the hope of salvation. On these occasions, other friends of the society besides the pastor visited her, and by their united prayers and consolations dissipated, of the Lord's mercy, these tempting influences from the powers of darkness. From all these trying states, she rose up with the conviction, as expressed by the Psalmist, that "it was good for her that she had been afflicted." She felt that, whilst her external man, by these trials, was decreasing, her internal was increasing, and at length, with her countenance irradiated with celestial smiles, she passed from this earthly state of suffering into "the joy of her Lord." The writer of this notice has had much experience in visiting the sick, and in watching the development of mental states previous to their departure, but during the four years he was in the habit of visiting this departed friend, he witnessed so much progress in the spiritual life, as manifested in the love of the Truth, that, he trusts, his own states were thereby much benefitted, for the school of affliction is the school of humility and of spiritual improvement. This experience will also, no doubt, be the blessed lot of her parents and relatives who lament her loss.
J. H. S.
Cave & Siveb, Printers by Steam Power, Hunt's Bank, Manchester.
NEW JERUSALEM MAGAZINE.
No. 117. 'SEPTEMBER, 1863. Vol. X.
ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE TO THE MEMBERS OF THE NEW CHURCH THROUGHOUT THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND.
Every earnest receiver of the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem, and every well-wisher to the progress of the Lord's Church among men, must sometimes have wondered at the slowness of its growth. Principles so calculated to exalt the character and justify the operations of God, and at the same time to purify, develope, and content the souls of men, ought, one would think, to he everywhere eagerly received. And considering that these principles are at once in accordance with all the true discoveries of science, all the best and noblest perceptions of human intellect, and all the inspired declarations of God's most Holy Word, the tardiness of their reception appears to the natural mind as the more remarkable. Let us, then, endeavour to investigate what may be some of the hindrances and what some of the helps to the progress of the New Church.
There can be no doubt that the external organization which we are accustomed to regard as the nucleus of the church does not increase with much rapidity. Established in 1788 (when, on May 18th, the name, "The New Church signified by the New Jerusalem in the Revelation," was adopted), it is more than seventy-six years old. In 1862 it consisted of only forty-seven societies, with about 3,243 registered members; and, presuming that the congregations worshipping at our various chapels are composed of only one-half members of the societies,
394 ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE
this affords us about 7,000 hearers. This number is scarcely larger than that occasionally addressed by one popular preacher.
That these statistics do not adequately represent the numbers of the receivers of the teachings of Swedenborg, we can truthfully assert. There are many who are known, but who are not connected with any society. There are some others who consider a separate external organization unnecessary, if not improper, and who never seek to become known to, or acquainted with, the members of our societies. Many more hesitate at breaking the ties which unite them with other denominations of Christians, or who—conceiving that they more successfully disseminate the truths of the New Dispensation among those who have learned to respect them by long acquaintance, and over whose minds they have obtained influence by long association—remain externally unconnected with our organizations. There are many more who are partial receivers of the doctrines, the number of whom it is impossible to estimate. In the case of all these we may rejoice that although not externally associated with us, they are still of us,—united in the perception, love, and practice of the same heavenly principles. It is one of the noblest, as well as one of the most soul-contenting truths of the New Dispensation, that the good of all denominations of Christians, who acknowledge the Lord Jesus, and who strive to live according to the Ten Commandments, are members of the Lord's church. The noble and the pure, the loving, and the holy of all denominations, may thus be truly claimed by the disciple of the Lord Jesus as co-believers in the truth, united in the sacred communion of the church, and yoke-fellows in the service of mankind.
But the external organization represented by this Conference is relatively small. Yet the argument that from the smallness of our numbers would seek to deduce the incorrectness or impracticability of our doctrines, is radically fallacious. Truth is truth, whether it counts its adherents by myriads or units. Universal adoption would not prove falsehood to be truth, nor universal rejection truth to be falsehood. The Gospel w*f as true when the little group around the Saviour constituted the avowed church, as it was when Constantine lent it the sanction of his authority and the popularity of his patronage. Perhaps it was far more truly held in the days of its insignificance than in those darker days of popular profession.
The fact of the smallness of our organization, however, remains, and deserves consideration. What, then, are some of the chief hindrances to its growth? All churches have an internal and an external work to perform. The internal work consists in seeking to establish and
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE NEW CHURCH. 895
confirm its members in the Truth,—to edify by sound instruction, and thus to endeavour to direct them in, and incite them to, the attainment of Christian virtues, growth in spiritual graces, and advancement in the regenerate life. The external work consists in propagating the faith. "There are two movements in the church: one is effected inwardly, and its object is its preservation; the other is effected outwardly, and its object is propagation." The term proselyting ought not to alarm us. The Christian religion is eminently a proselyting religion. Preaching, which is peculiar to Christianity, no other cultus having adopted it, was the direct injunction of the Lord, and it has been the great means of procuring the triumph of Christianity. So long as the Word remains, so long will the command—" Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel unto every creature," or "Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of all nations," be obligatory upon the church, forming at once their commission, and their code of instructions. In the very nature of things an external organization must strive to perpetuate its existence by the addition of new converts to the truth, and thus of new members to its societies. So long as the internal of the church grows in its love of goodness and a life of righteousness, there will be, not only no danger in, but an increasing necessity for, a corresponding external enlargement. The double movement must proceed together—tho internal, that it may remain truly a church, the external, that it remain anything. We must confess that in both our internal and external duties we have come sadly short. Without false accusation we must lament that New Church societies, in which above all other bodies there ought to prevail love of God, holiness of life, the charity which forbeareth and strives to bind up the broken-hearted, to strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees, have too often been made rather the arenas for profitless contests, discussions about doctrine, and too frequently resulting in intellectual pride.
The General Conference would most affectionately seek to impress upon the societies, that the real advancement of the church can only be the result of the real spiritual growth of the members individually,— that superior knowledge should only lead to greater humility, a stricter inspection into, and a more scrupulous watch over the evils of our nature, a deeper fidelity to God, a truer devotion to holiness, a fuller spirit of prayerful looking up for help in temptation, a nobler integrity, a more abundant charity, and an increasing desire for intimate communion with the Lord. Truth is only the means to a higher end— goodness. Truth is only the way into the Temple of Holiness—goodness is dwelling therein. Truth is only the garment with which our nakedness
396 ADDRESS FEOM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE
may be clad; the practice of the truth is the putting it on. Truth is only the sword with which our evils may be overcome; resistance to evil is the victory it achieves. Truth is only the guide to the Way of Life; obedience to the truth is the walking therein. And truth received into the memory and the merely natural rational mind can only increase the condemnation of those who, having the Light, yet walk in the darkness,—who knowing the Lord's will, yet do it not. The first hindrance to the growth of the church is this, then, that too many of its members are too indifferent to, or too regardless of the necessity of, becoming in heart and life members of the Lord's church as it appears before Him; that some are more concerned for the minute accuracy of exegetical statements than for the attainment of that holiness and purity which is the end of all truth; that, thus, they are in danger of becoming shrewd intellectual critics rather than devout Christians.
The second hindrance to the growth of the church consists in the apathy with which too many view all efforts toward introducing the knowledge of the doctrines to those ignorant of them. Whenever men agree as to the desirableness of an object, they necessarily associate together for its accomplishment. Those associations will be as separate from all others as their objects are distinct. While such associations are inevitable, they are also praiseworthy, as they alone render possible the attainment of that object. In so far as such organizations are useful, they deserve the assistance of all who approve of their object, in order that they may be rendered more efficient. Any lack of efficiency must be increased by the withdrawal of the support they were entitled to expect; and which support, if rendered and maintained, would have made them effective. The external organization of the church is of this kind. Men seeking to disseminate the Truth are thereby associated for the better accomplishment of this object; and the knowledge of the Truth involves the responsibility of its dissemination. Those who know it are the trustees in trust for its preservation; and the preservation of the truth is only possible by its dissemination. The Divine Providence has placed within our reach vast engines for disseminating the Truth. The press stands at the head of the list. By the publication and circulation of the writings of Swedenborg, the distribution of tracts, pamphlets, and books, the more extensive advertisement of our literature, maintaining and improving the excellence and circulation of our magazines, and by availing ourselves of every opportunity of obtaining admission for our views into the columns of the periodical press of the country, we may hope to reach many minds anxious and prepared to embrace the Truth. All