Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

410

ADDRESS DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF

earthly life, but especially of his spiritual and eternal life; for this is the life which is essentially worthy of the Divine Word, which in itself is eternal, to contemplate, and thus to provide for the eternal salvation of mankind.

But in order that the Word might be fully revealed, so as to be the source from the Lord of all spiritual intelligence and wisdom, both to the angels in heaven and to the man of the church upon earth, the Lord instituted the Jewish Church, in which everything was representative of divine and spiritual things; shewing us by external types and shadows, as the apostle says, the things of love and of faith, which really constitute the church and the salvation of man. The institution of the Jewish Church as the representative or type of a church, rather than a church itself, was thus chiefly for the sake of the Word, which was revealed in that church. It was on this account that the Jews were called the Lord's peculiar people and a “holy nation,” (Exod. xix. 5, 6.) not because they were more His people, or more holy than the people of other nations, but because they had the Word revealed amongst them, and were on this account “a peculiar people and a holy nation." The history of this people, therefore, formed the basis or the literal sense, upon which and through which the Word could be revealed as we have it now amongst us. But we must not look upon this divine history as we would upon a mere secular history as written by any distinguished worldly historian, such as Livy, Gibbon, or Macaulay, whose object it is to convey to us, in a correct and pleasing form, the facts and events of earthly history; on the contrary, we must look upon the history of the Jews from a higher standpoint, even from heaven, and see therein the states of the church represented, and the divine laws and conditions of salvation revealed and established. For to reveal these laws and conditions of salvation is the primary object of the Divine Word; and the principal facts—not taken in consecutive order—in the history of the Jewish people, are the external means by which the divine Revelation was effected. Herein Dr. Colenso and others have erred, in looking at the history of the Jews from a merely earthly stand-point, and not as a typical and representative statement of divine truths relating to man's regeneration and the establishment of the church.

Now, as the theological works of Swedenborg, and the writings published by this society, are alone capable of delivering the mind from doubt and infidelity respecting the Word, and thus of placing the disciple of Revelation upon a rock of security against the attacks of a negative rationalism, we have every motive and every urgent inducement to proceed with the publications of this institution. For there is no

THE MANCHESTER PRINTING SOCIETY.

411

period in the history of the Manchester Printing Society in which the lovers of the Bible make a more earnest appeal for the aid, which of the Lord's mercy, we can supply. For so long as the nature of God's Word and the mode of its inspiration are not understood, there can be nothing but obscurity and confusion as to theological and spiritual things amongst men.

The inspiration of the Word, according to Swedenborg, is plenary, that is, as to every word and every expression, yea, as to every syllable, and, in the original, as to every iota and as to every tittle, If it were not so, the correspondences, according to which it is written, would not be complete, and the Word could not be the medium of conjunction between man and the LordWe are consequently glad to find that a numerous party at Oxford, headed by the Rev. Mr. Burgon, are now advocating the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures, according to the statement of Swedenborg, as the only ground upon which the Word can be vindicated against Dr. Colenso and the entire school of negative rationalists, who admit of only à partial inspiration, to be decided by rational investigation, and by what they call a Biblical criticism; and in this way they pretend to decide which portions of the Divine Word are truly inspired and which are not. It is obvious that this idea of a partial inspiration opens wide the door to every phantasy which the rationalist may entertain, and entirely destroys the basis upon which a divine Revelation can stand. · In conclusion, we must not relax our efforts in promoting the object of this Society, which is to make known the true doctrines of Christianity as developed from a right understanding of the Word, and to shew the nature of the Word itself, and of its spiritual sense, and thus to vindicate it against the attacks of a negative rationalism, and of a rampant infidelity. This is the great mission of this Society, and may the Lord, in His mercy, grant us strength, and supply us with means to accomplish the glorious objects of this heavenly mission.

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE.

No. I. CARRIED on by the rushing stream of action-roaring, eddying, foaming as it goes—how few of us have the courage to anchor aside for a brief space and ask—Why? Whence? Whither? How few so far steady themselves as to be able to look life in the face, and strive to understand the spirit that lies within it! Most of us are with emphasis the creatures of our circumstances, and in place of forcing these into our service to

[blocks in formation]

yield such help to us as may be in them, we are plastic in their hands, and allow them to mould us as they will. That high nobility of nature which comes only of a right estimate of life and its aims,—which lifts the soul to a region where it is neither afflicted by the loss of that which men can take away, nor greatly exalted by the gain of that which they can give —is not a growth to which the moral climate of our times is highly favourable. For, weighted though it is with the burden of an eternal future, myriads, to-day, play with life as with a bauble given to amuse the thoughtless hours of a life-long childishness. Or if multitudes, on the other hand, rush into life with strong passions and absorbing objects, these so overmaster the spirit, and so magnify themselves, that the eye is blinded and the heart deadened to those high purposes which should make all others subordinate. In truth, the heathen Carpe diem is very largely the motto of to-day, and we rush about to pluck the flowers of pleasure that perish as we pluck them, and struggle for the advantages of affluence, position, and power, as though success or failure were to fix our eternity for heaven or hell. And so life, with many, loses all wholeness and symmetry, and becomes a thing of miserable fragments, made little and vulgar by the smallness of the motives that animate and move it. .

But if worldly passions that make the heart hard, sensualism that makes it gross and heavy, frivolities that induce upon the mind a purposeless inanity,—if these prevent us standing still for a space, and asking ourselves earnest questions, it is not the less true on that account that life does not end, and that the course it takes here fixes its path through an eternal future. So that whether we think of it or not, heaven or hell will come out of our lives. Hence the questions—"Why am I here at all ?”—“What shall be the end of my having been here?”—cannot be put off, and left unanswered, save at the risk of loss so great as to be incapable of calculation by any arithmetic of ours. They are here pressing day by day to be answered. Over all the conflicts of political strife,-all the wild struggle for wealth and precedence and power,—all the busy hum of the machine of society, as its thousand wheels run round and round in ceaseless movement,—they resound in the ear of the individual man, asking for an answer. In their importunity they seem to say—“You are not simply a unit in a political party,--not alone a worker among the striving multitude for wealth and place,-not alone a wheel in the ever-whirling social machine,—you are a man with the heavy responsibility of life imposed upon you.” And it is to the fact of the ceaseless duration of the spirit-life that they have neither taken up nor can lay down, of themselves, that men need to be awakened; and

[blocks in formation]

to this other fact, that the residuum of character left behind in that great process of composition and decomposition ever going forward in the chemistry of life—is decisive of their eternity. But as Gulliver was bound down to the earth by an indefinite number of Lilliputian ropes and pegs, so are men held in the grasp of an earthy and purposeless life by the multitudinous littlenesses in which they allow themselves' to be absorbed. They are slow to rouse themselves to an effort for freedom. The inert spirit is unwilling to breast the hill that leads to the summit of high purpose, whence all things are clearly seen in true order and fair proportion. Now and then a calamity awakens them, and they hear with terrible distinctness the great questions of life, through all their gloom and misery. When pleasure palls upon the favourites of fortune and the golden apple turns to bitterness and ashes in the eating—the sense of wasted life brings up these questions, perhaps, too late. · When gratified ambition brings no quiet to the spirit, but leaves it still the prey to the fear of losing that which has been gained, or to a craving for greater acquisitions—do these questions never press upon the empty soul, unsatisfied still, even in the attainment of its life-long objects? And if, in the eager pursuit of wealth, the successful man feels that at the moment when the fruits of his long labour are matured, health and appetite for their enjoyment have departed— he, too, may find it difficult to evade the importunity of such questions. And he who, with powers of outward enjoyment unimpaired, finds that the millenium of idleness and luxurious living to which work was but the dreary pathway, is itself indefinitely more dreary than the path he trod to reach it, he may begin to glimmer into the consciousness that he has not fitly answered the great questions of life.

But in some sort it may be said that the lives of all men are an answer to the question—“Why am I here?” The answers given by some, indeed, are uttered in a very illogical and stammering way, and are wholly a mistake. Others proceed at first in a clear and distinct manner to give their reply with the promise of accuracy and force, but anon leaps forth some gross non-sequitur, and the whole edifice that promised so fair in its foundation falls down into chaotic ruin. Some, again, grow out of confusion and utter darkness into all order, beauty, and light, and their answer to the problem is a fair thing to see on earth, and brighter yet, when seen in heaven. In answering other questions which take less than the whole of life for the development of a full reply, we may correct the errors of a first effort by a second. But in our life-answer to this question the reply is final and decisive; the lesson of life is not twice learned—the answer which life gives

414

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE.

to the question which the mere fact of life propounds, never can be repeated. And, again, life devours those who answer its question wrongly. The total destruction of the humanity of man is the penalty of error; and hell is the outcome of the mistakes of all those who, from perversely evil hearts, have wrongly read the meaning of their life. No: the wasted years come not back. The hours and days given up to the pleasures of sin have left their indelible record on the soul, their part of the answer to the question which life propounds. Those acts of life in which justice, truth, and what is noble and pure in humanity, have been sacrificed that so the love of power, wealth, and position may be gratified, all leave their deeply graven lines upon the character, and help to answer the question of life. And the reply which heart, mind, and life have given, when read off, is judgment, and fixes our eternity. This life-reply is, in truth, our character—what we are, as the outcome of what we have been, and have done. For character is left behind, after the evanescent and fleeting things of life have passed away, and remains essentially immutable through a boundless future.

The great question of life, then, is one that admits of no evasions. We cannot postpone our answer; it accumulates line upon line every day we live. It may be with some, perhaps with many, that life in its purposeless vacuity has given no place for honest and sincere in-looking. It may be that the mere fact of being alive here, with an immortal life, has never forced itself upon the thought as one involving responsibilities almost overwhelming. But their ignorance or indifference does not alter things. The inevitable consequences are marching on with a slow and regular movement, just the same as though they knew and felt all the weight of life. If the angels have been allowed no room for action within the spirit, infernals have been none the less busy in weaving the web and woof of life. And even in Christendom—where, alas! the Christian spirit owns limits indefinitely narrower than the Christian name how many are crying out with all the energy of heart, mind, and life, their response to the problem of existence in the words—Money, Power, Social Distinction, Luxurious Ease,-telling us in acts, more than words, that beyond these life has no purpose. When they lose these, how they go moping through the world as though the blue sky were covered with sackcloth, the green earth with sand and ashes, -as though the sunshine had gone utterly away,--as though the soul, its goodness, truth, and purity, heaven with its ceaseless happiness, and God, infinitely good and wise, did not remain to them still! Had they risen to a conception of the true end of their lives, neither would the acquisition of these things make them giddy, nor the loss of them sad; they would at

« AnteriorContinuar »