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TO THE MEMBERS OF THE NEW CHURCH.
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—the 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
ADDRESS FROM 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 distiuct. 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
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE NEW CHURCH.
these important means are at our command, and they deserve to be more extensively adopted.
A second great means of dissemination is by pulpit and platform lectures. A larger number of efficient preachers and lecturers is one of our great wants. Societies require ministers, and the public need missionaries. There are, among others, two reasons for this deficiency -the spiritual coldness that has daunted young men, and the lack of pecuniary support. It is in the power of the societies, in some measure, to remedy both these defects. The General Conference is glad to believe that in both these respects some progress is being made. The Conference is endeavouring to make some productive use of the fund bequeathed by a generous receiver of the doctrines for the education of young men for the ministry, and appeals to the church to increase the means and opportunities of their usefulness.
The third great hindrance to the growth of the church is the naturalmindedness of the age. There is a wide-spread spiritual desolation in the world. Forms of religion that fascinate the imagination, doctrines of religion that soothe the conscience, ideas venerable from age and respectable from popularity, teachings that demand neither intellectual exertion to comprehend nor much self-denial to practice, with establishments that are elegant and fashionable, are most supported. The doctrines of the New Church especially demand self-sacrifice from those who receive them. Profound in their analysis of man's selfishness, they are exacting upon man's life. Revealing clearly the way of salvation, they unveil the refuges of self-delusion and self-excuse. We cannot wonder that many should be offended at their exposures of human meanness, and regard them as impracticable because demanding such practical righteousness. It is only because of this characteristic, however, that they are suited to the spiritual wants of mankind, presenting the real medicines for man's spiritual diseases. While we lament the natural-mindedness which prevents their acceptance, we need only rejoice in the spirituality of the doctrines. It would be indeed unfortunate for the church, if less truth had been revealed in order to accommodate human unwillingness to receive the truth.
Another great hindrance to the growth of the church, is the mental sluggishness of the age as to the truth of religious doctrines. Mind is achieving sublime triumphs in other departments of thought, while any effort to correct the superstitions of the dark ages, and the traditions of contentious councils and wrangling synods, is regarded with horror and aversion. The New Church labours under a double difficulty. Men of the world frequently find fault with the doctrines because they require 398
ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE
too much effort to understand them, and at the same time prefer the old dogmas, which they confess are Inscrutably mysterious. Theology is a science as enlarging to the intellect as any other science. Indeed to a rational and true theology all other sciences must minister as handmaidens. Enlarging the intellect, theology must require its exercise. Either one of two consequences must result in relation to the theology taught by the scribe of the New Dispensation. If it is not greatly in advance of the ordinary intellectual stand-point of the times, mind, in its inevitable progress, will speedily advance beyond it. If it is greatly in advance of that ordinary stand-point, the numbers willing and able to adopt it must be few, because so far in advance it may be so unpopular. It is so comprehensive that the mind may seem burdened with weight of new thought, dazzled by the very excess of light. In its universal grasp, however, it embraces truths adapted to the capacities of the most simple, and principles supplying problems to the most erudite. Without admitting the existence of anything of an exoteric and an esoteric nature in the doctrines of the church, it may be well suggested that to its more simple principles and those most easily understood, should be given the greatest prominence in our public ministrations, lest in the effort to satisfy the few we omit the enlightenment of the many. This injudi. ciousness may increase the effect of the hindrance now under consideration, when it must be the constant desire rather to simplify the profound than to mystify the simple.
While these hindrances, on the one hand, might serve to dishearten the believer, as well as tend to impede the spread of belief, yet we shall do well to consider the important HELPS the church is receiving.
All must have observed how great is the improvement lately taking place, as to moral tone and intellectual accuracy, in our current literature over what was the case even twenty years since. Ideas which we were once disposed to regard as peculiar to the readers of Swedenborg, are being circulated through poetry, novels, reviews, and the periodical press, thus cultivating a pure taste and inculcating higher truths. As the internal of the church is goodness and truth, so whatever tends to their diffusion is a help to the advancement of the church. Even the pulpit is following in the wake of the press in this respect. The number of preachers is certainly increasing who add to a higher perception of spiritual truth a greater boldness in outstepping the cold trammels of old creeds, in the advocacy of a deeper and broader and truer Christianity. And with the increase of such preachers there is a proportionate increase also in the numbers of hearers desirous of pulpit services of a more practical and less speculative character, which, if only too little adopted
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE NEW CHURCH.
in their lives, is yet demanded by their enlarging intelligence. The New Church, viewed in its true aspect as goodness and truth, rather than as an external organization, may be anticipated to largely permeate society by such means, and to have its success extended. A third valuable help is afforded in the fact that men of earnest sincerity, considerable scholarship, and extensive influence, are striking at the foundations of many effete ideas still lingering among the religious world. Unconsciously they are aiding the development of higher views by manifesting the baldness and insufficiency of previous opinions. While often mingling serious, and, indeed, grave errors with their clearer perceptions than some of those they seek to combat, yet the tendency of their labours is to induce investigation and to promote thought. Divine Providence, in the deep and strong love and veneration preserved among good men for the Bible, has supplied a preventive to many of the injurious effects of their writings; but which veneration will, in consequence of such writings, require to be supported by higher views of inspiration, and a broader comprehension of the object for which the Word has been given. Indirect in its action, that tendency is still direct in its results to the spread of the truths of the New Church. The number of such writers is increasing, and their efforts must all conduce, unconsciously to themselves and often in despite of their purposes, to the growth of the church. The increase of our external organization must ever be subsidiary, in the heart of every real member of the Lord's church, to the development of goodness and truth among men, and we must, therefore, hail all such indications as portents of hope, speaking promises of the ripening of the harvest.
A fourth help, and of the operation of which these outward signs are only the demonstration, is one which, though not openly visible, is yet certain. The new heavens are daily increasing in number and influence, and we know that their operation will continually promote the increase of the church upon earth. From these “new heavens” the “new earth” can only proceed as their out-birth and ultimation. They will be fruitful in the formation, and in the use, of instrumentalities through which to work out their high purposes. Herein can we see the hope and duty of our external organizations. In so far as they become serviceable and efficient ministrants of these heavenly influences, in so far will their powers be employed and their capacities developed : in so far will the Lord accept and bless our labours here. But it is only by growing into harmony with the Divine will that we can become blessed instruments under the Divine Providence. Only so far as by regeneration we can enter into consociation with the