Imágenes de páginas
PDF

ANSWER TO REMARKS IN THE "SPIRITUAL MAGAZINE." 451

and the firm conviction, arising from the correspondence, and from the veneration which naturally is conjoined with it, constitutes spiritual or saving faith. The more perfect the form is in which the Spirit of Truth, revealing itself in literal forms, expands, the more perfect is the faith; and thus the Christian faith, as to its form, is more perfect than the Jewish, the Mahomedan, the Bhuddistic, &c, and its essence may consequently ultimate itself more perfectly. And so it is with the Christian sects, the Catholic having mixed the expression of truth up with legends, or even obliterated it, the Protestant having imprisoned it in mere forms, words, and dogmas, or perverted truth into its opposite by the doctrine of faith alone; and so the New Church form is more perfect than the old Protestant and Catholic, because it does away with their errors and false admixtures. Why, then, lay so much stress on the relative imperfection here and there, while all perfection only is approximative? (To be continued.)

SPIRITUALISM IN ANCIENT TIMES.

There lived in the first century of the Christian era an apostolic man and writer, by name Hermas.* To his authorship is ascribed a literary document of very original character, called in Greek Hoi/a/v and in Latin Pastor, because under the appearance of a herdsman, a guardian angel acts the principal part in this religious romantic drama. This wonderful book contains abundance of good moral maxims and theological statements, now and then clothed in emblematical and mystical dress, under three different titles, namely, Visions, Mandates, and Similitudes, which all are intended to prove the existence of supernatural influence from the spiritual sphere over the minds of men, and the existence of intercourse between the visible and invisible worlds.

In the four visions we have from his hand, Hermas mentions how he several times was entranced, and in spirit conducted into another world; how he saw heaven open, and a heavenly being, under the image of a young or old woman in splendid garments, greeting him,—speaking to him in kindly words of warning, admonition, and consolation, and instructing him in Christian truth and heavenly virtues. In a few words, this woman appeared to Hermas as a faithful female companion, or tutelary genius, during his journey in the interior regions of the universe,—almost as Beatrice presented herself to Dante, in his

* See Codicis Apocryphi Novi Testamenti pars tertia, corante Joh. Alb. Fabricio, Hamb. 1743, pp. 736.

45'2 SPIRITUALISM IN ANCIENT TIMES.

Divina Comedia. But in the Mandates and Similitudes it is not a beautiful woman; it is a venerable pastor or a heavenly messenger,— an angel, who is his spiritual guide and instructor. As the Visions, so also the Mandates and Similitudes are written in the form of dialogue. In the sixth mandate the guardian spirit says to Hennas:—

"I have ordered thee in the first mandate to observe faith, fear of God, and penitence; now I will show to thee the virtues of these mandates, that thon mayest know their effects,—how they can lead to the jnst, as well as to the unjust. Believe, therefore, in what is just, and not in what is unjust; because justice has a right way, but injustice a wrong one. Take the right way, and abandon the wrong. The bad way has not a happy issue, but many causes of offence; it is rugged and thorny and leads to destruction, and is noxious to all men who come into it. But they who go by the right way, proceed equably without stumbling, because it is not rugged and thorny. * * * *

"Hear now first about faith. There are two geniuses with every man: one the genius of uprightness, and the other the genius of iniquity.

"How, asked Hernias, can I know that two geniuses are with man?

"Hear, answered Pastor, and understand. The genius of uprightness is tender, lenient, reverent, meek, and peaceful; therefore, as soon as he ascends in thy heart, he continually speaks with thee of justice, modesty, chastity, benignity, forgiveness, charity, and piety. When these virtues ascend in thy heart, thou shalt know that the genius of uprightness is within thee. Believe, therefore, in this genius and his works.

"Hear now, also, the works of the genius of iniquity. First, he is bitter, ireful, and furious, and his works are pernicious and destructive. When these ascend in thy heart,—when wrath, bitterness, concupiscence, luxuriousness, ebriety, avarice, haughtiness, and similar bad passions possess thee, be assured the genius of iniquity is within thee."

So far, Hermas is characterising the good and bad spirits who influence all our thoughts and intentions.

Like Hermas, Swedenborg also insists upon the presence of supernatural beings about and over us, and their intimate relations to us. As we know, he asserts that whatever we think and will is inspired by means of them. But he goes further in his extraordinary intuition, reasoning, and instruction. He not only teaches us that God governs the universe by inanimate physical forces, but also by living and intelligent entities. He investigates and exhausts also the whole doctrine which Leibnitz called Theodicea, and in a very rational and speculative manner ho shows how Divine Providence and human liberty can co-exist without prejudicing or destroying one another. He demonstrates more evidently and intelligibly than any philosopher or theologian before or after him his transcendental and sublime theory, and enables us almost palpably to comprehend how "there does not

SPIRITUALISM IN ANCIENT TIMES. 453

exist in any man one grain of will or prudence that is proper to him." With the strongest arguments he convinces us "that the Divine Providence, not only with the good but also with the wicked, is universal in things the most particular, and yet that it is not in their evils; that the wicked continually lead themselves into evils, but that the Lord continually withdraws them from evils; that the Lord cannot entirely lead the wicked out of evil and into good, so long as they consider self-derived intelligence to be all, and the Divine Providence nothing; that the Lord governs hell by opposites, and the wicked who are in the world He governs in hell as to interiors, but not as to exteriors," &c.; as we read in Swedenborg's excellent work, "Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Providence." (§ 285 and following.) If this book does not contain a true religious and Christian philosophy, we may well ask, What is truth, what religion, Christianity, philosophy?

Lund. A- K

CONFERENCE AND THE BIBLE SOCIETY.

To the Editor.

Dear Sir,—One excellent result of the deliberations of the late Conference is a resolution drawing the attention of the church to the desirableness of congregational and organised efforts in support of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

The claims of this society have been repeatedly set forth and urged in your pages by correspondents; but now for the first time the subject is brought forward, and definite action thereon recommended, by the General Conference. May we not indulge the hope that now, therefore, something will be done by us to remove the reproach that whilst we profess a higher reverence for the Bible than is held by any other religious body, we yet do less than any towards its circulation!

I am aware that some receivers of the New Church doctrines decline to subscribe to that society, on the ground that New Churchmen ought to devote their whole energies and means specially to the printing and circulating of New Church works. But surely we can wisely arrange to suitably support both these objects! However full our hearts may be with our special work, surely there ought to be room in our affections for the Bible Society; and, if the desire exists, means will be found to do something, however little, towards carrying out its noble aims.

This is the only great institution in the religious world in which New Churchmen can cordially and thoroughly co-operate with their

454 CONFERENCE AND THE BIBLE SOCIETY.

fellow Christians. Here is a bond of union in which we can join,— a platform of opinion on which we can associate,—a purely unsectarian work in which we can assist, and by so doing justify our boast of being of no sectarian spirit. They ask our support; let us be thankful for the call, and give it at once and gladly.

But I write now especially to urge that such support should be, in every case, given through an organised congregational branch, and in the name of the local society of the church. In the midst of nearly every New Church congregation are many individuals who privately subscribe to the Bible Society. Let these individuals permit their subscriptions to go through a branch society in the name of the church, and there will be additional uses resulting. Organisation in this movement is very important.

If only one shilling per annum from each of twenty persons can be obtained, there should be duly appointed a collector, a secretary, and a treasurer, and they should pay it over to the General Auxilary of the Bible Society in the neighbourhood.

By these means the existence of our own New Church societies would become favourably known to many thousands who read the Bible Society's printed reports, and no question could longer remain in their minds as to our belief in and reverence for the Bible, as the standard of faith and the fountain of truth.

Ignorant prejudices would thus be removed, and a favourable impression of the body be created in many minds, and especially amongst Bible reading and Bible loving people; amongst the clergy of all denominations, and with the more pious of the laity in thousands of congregations. This use to our neighbour ought not to be overlooked. It demands and well merits attention. An illustration of this occurred in the society of the church with which I have the happiness of being connected. When our branch society was formed, and its first year's sum of money paid over, it was of course reported to the committee of the Local Auxiliary as from the "New Jerusalem Church Branch Society," and we were informed that considerable interest was manifested, and much conversation and questioning took place amongst the ministers of the town who constituted the committee. Besides this, every year our list of officers and our balance sheet is circulated in the local reports, and affords opportunities for conversation with thoughtful men of other creeds.

Should any help be desired to start the movement, I can assure your readers that the Bible Society will gladly send a deputation to attend

CONFERENCE AND THE BIBLE SOCIETY. 455

any meeting for that purpose, and will always afterwards provide one or more speakers to give most interesting information at the annual meetings of the Branch, however small it may be.

A lady collector, a lady secretary, and a lady treasurer, are very usual officers of these congregational branches. Three lady friends may, therefore, easily agree to start the effort in their own locality, and on applying to the secretary of the parent society for an agent to attend a meeting, they will find all difficulties soon overcome.

Sincerely trusting that your readers may from month to month be gladdened by news of action taken in many societies to carry out this excellent recommendation of the Conference,

I am, Sir, yours very truly,

John Beagg.

"THE NEW CHURCH PULPIT." Manifold are the uses of preaching. It was instituted by the Lord Himself; • and as a regular practice, preaching is peculiar to Christianity. It has played no small or unimportant part in the great drama of human history. Christendom owes very much of its present position, and Christianity very much of its unquestionable success, to this agency, which was ordained by the Divine Wisdom, and which has been often crowned with the Divine blessing. A large portion of the literature of Christianity consists of volumes of sermons; and many of the ablest minds which have adorned the Christian era, have adopted the form of Sermons as the chief, or the only one, in which to convey their sentiments or express their views. Some of the noblest thoughts by which literature has been enriched, some of the most conclusive arguments by which the truth of Christianity has been proved, and some of the most impressive considerations by which Christian duties have been enforced, are to be found in sermons. Valuable as the hearing of discourses has been, the preservation of discourses is almost equally useful, and sometimes the perusal of them is even more instructive. Religious feeling has been deepened, and reflections on theology have been guided, corrected, and informed, by perusing sermons which may have rivetted our attention when heard, and which have been not improperly esteemed as literary treasures afterwards. Sermons permit of a more pointed style of address, and of a more personal, and therefore more impressive, form of illustration than essays, theses, or dissertations. The preacher, more than the teacher, can remind men of the blessings they enjoy, or impress upon them the recollection of their duties.

« AnteriorContinuar »