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tion, and the severity of his condemnation of evil in others, is the sure sign, and the proper measure, of his own purity!
CIV. The remark that people do not detect their faults in conduct, and their errors in judging, because they have too good an opinion of themselves, may possibly be a self-evident truism ; but is there any living man who is altogether clear of its salutary yet condemnatory bearing on himself ? That must indeed be “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation,” which is useful and beneficial to all, and to none more so than the talented.
(To be continued.)
DISTINCTION BETWEEN EVIL AND SIN.
(From the “ Newchurchman,"* for January, 1843.)
Many persons, whose minds are not discriminating, are accustomed to confound the terms, evil and sin. They are by many, thought convertible terms. But there is a difference or distinction between the things signified by them, which it may be well to point out.
The distinction between evil and sin may be seen by a glance at these words, in Genesis xxxix. 9: “How shall I do this great evil, and sin unto God!” These are the words of Joseph, while a servant of “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian," and when he was tempted by his master's wife. It is needless to detail the circumstances of this case.
Our only object is to unfold a principle from the particular sentence before us. And, to do this, it is only necessary to remark, that Joseph says, “How shall I do this great evil, and sin unto God!” Here, doing evil, is shown to be sin.
There is, then, the same distinction between evil and sin that there is between an inclination to do what is wrong and the actually doing it. For Joseph was here tempted; and, as the apostle James says, (i. 14.)
every man is tempted when he is drawn of his own lust, and enticed.” The inclination, therefore, which drew away and enticed Joseph, was the evil; and to have obeyed the inclination—to have yielded to the enticement, and so to have done the evil, would have been sin. In other words, evil is sin in intimate conception, and sin is evil brought forth into life.
* A periodical work, devoted to disseminating the doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church, under the auspices of the Central Convention of the Receirers of those Doctrines in the United States, and published in Philadelphia.
This is a most important discrimination, which, if traced out in all its bearings upon theological matters, would lead to signal results. But we have no design of exploring the theological labyrinth with this thread
We wish to offer only one or two hints. With this discrimination in our minds, we may see, at a glance, how the Lord, by incarnation, assumed all the hereditary evil of human nature, without one particle of sin. For he took into his consciousness, by the body which he assumed from the mother, Mary, inclinations to all the evils which had become hereditary in human nature at that time, without acting a single one of those inclinations out. From evil and sin as thus discriminated, it
be seen, too, how, as the Lord declares by Ezekiel, “the son is not guilty for the sin of the father, but that the soul which sinneth, it shall die.” For the sin of the father, when propagated in his offspring, is a propensity to sin in the son, which propensity is hereditary evil; but the propensity to sin, or hereditary evil, which a son receives from his father, is not a sin in the son until, by the exercise of his own rational volitions, he makes it actual evil. Hence it is a divine law “that no one suffers any punishment and torment in another life on account of hereditary evils, but for the actual evils which he has himself committed."-A.C. 966.
From this discrimination of evil and sin we may see the truth of that other doctrine of the church, in which it is taught that evil which comes into a man's thought does not hurt him, except so far as he takes it from his thought into his will. For evil in thought merely, is not sin, because it is not yet done. But when evil enters into the will, it then hurts; for, in this case, it, so often as external bonds do not restrain, also comes forth into the act, and thus becomes sin. Hence the Word teaches, if the true believer “ drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt him ;” but “ye shall eat nothing leavened ; in all your habitations ye shall eat unleavened bread.” That is, false doctrine may be imbibed in the understanding, without destroying the soul; but the soul must inevitably be destroyed, if false doctrine is appropriated in the will.
We might show how this discrimination of evil and sin would enable us to understand the Lord, when he speaks of the sin against the Holy Ghost, which cannot be forgiven in this world, nor in that which is to come; and also the apostle, when he speaks of all evil being sin, and yet that there is a sin unto death which we may not pray for, and a sin not unto death which we may pray for. But we leave our readers to carry out the train of thought in their own meditations.
We can only add, further, that the definition of evil, which we have now given, as being an internal defection, will have a most important influence in correcting our estimation of evil, and will tend greatly to make us judge with righteous judginent" in determining that many things are really not evil, which we now imagine to be so. For instance, we are prone to think that evil is in the form. But we have now seen that evil is the perversion of good, which is the essence of order: or that evil is a total change of the qualities of the forms of things as they come forth from God. Hence, evil is not in the form, but in the essence. Again, we are prone to think that evil is in the thing; but the least reflection will show us that it is in the quality of the thing. Further, we are prone to think that evil is in the effect, whereas it is in the cause. Hence a correct estimation of evil will teach us, in the work of reformation, not to destroy the form, but to fill it with a new essence -not to do away with the thing, but to alter its quality-not to stop all effects, but to purify their causes—not to scrub the outside of the cup and platter, (much less to throw the cup and platter entirely away,) but to make the inside clean. For all things that exist, existing as they do originally from God, are good; they are only evil in the quality of their existence. For we have seen in a previous paper,—the conclusions of which should be indelibly stamped on our memory by repeated inculcation, that evil is the perversion of good; and this is the perversion of the divine order; and the perversion of the divine order, in respect to man, is that disposition of man's love, that determination of his will, and that activity of his understanding, which lead him to regard self and the world as ends of action, instead of God and the neighbour.
With this general, but distinct idea of evil as a universally reigning principle in our minds, we need not be set on a wrong scent in ferreting errors or correcting abuses in ourselves, in civil society, or in the church. We need not stickle about the form of our dress, or the form of our speech-we need not run a tilt against innocent pastimes-nor quarrel about the form of our government-nor dispute about the ritual, the ceremony, or any of that “economical law” which makes “ the dress” of the church. But ever looking within, and pondering on the nature of evil—as an internal defection, we shall join the Psalmist, and pray, « Who can understand his errors ? Cleanse thou me from secret ones. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” And then, in the purifying potency and effect of this prayer, sincerely and practically offered up, we shall see and feel the force of those divine injunctions---"Cease to do evil, and learn to do well”-“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me”-“Go sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and then come follow me”—“ If any man will enter into life, let him keep the commandments”—“ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first and great commandment; and the second is like unto it; thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself : on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” — These Do and LIVE!”
“To sin is to do what is evil and think what is false with study and from the will; for the things which are done with study and from the will, are such as go forth from the heart and render man unclean, (Matt. xv. 11, 17, 18, 19.) consequently, which destroy spiritual life appertainiug to him.”—A.C. 8925.
Not sinning denotes the preservation of spiritual life, for spiritual life is preserved by not sinning."- A.C. 8925.
THE MONTHLY REVIEW AND SWEDENBORG.
It has frequently been our lot to see Swedenborg and his important claims, both as a philosopher and a theologian, treated with indifference and contempt in the periodical literature of our country. Little did such title-page reviewers, superficial editors, and writers know that the field at which they glanced, and from which, influenced by vulgar prejudice and oft-refuted misrepresentations, they speedily turned, contained a wonderful mine of intellectual treasures, destined to enrich the human race with every good. This field, however, has now begun to be surveyed in a manner more worthy of intellectual enquiry and of professed rational investigation. Some time since* we noticed a review of Swedenborg's writings in the “Monthly MagazINE,” which, although marked by several misconceptions, was one of the fairest we had ever met with. And we have now much pleasure in stating that an article, characterized by diligent and impartial research, as to the life, labours, and claims of Swedenborg, and by an evident desire to arrive at the truth and honestly to state it to the public, has appeared in the “ MONTHLY REVIEW" for June last. Both this periodical and the one referred to above, enjoy, in the literary world, a well-merited eminence, both on account of the important subjects discussed in their pages, and the able and learned manner in which they are treated. The weight, therefore, which such periodicals have with readers in general
See Intel. Repos. for June and July, 1841.
is influential and great. The article in question is a review of the “ Animal Kingdom” of Swedenborg, lately, as our readers are aware, translated by Mr. Wilkinson. It is of considerable length, extending to thirty-six pages, between twenty and thirty of which are employed in giving an historical sketch of E. S. and his scientific and philosophical labors. This sketch is derived chiefly from documents well known to our readers, such as that of M. Sandel, the “Penny Cyclopedia," Mr. Noble's " Appeal,” &c., and especially from the small volume of Documents concerning the Life and Character of E. S., published by the Manchester Printing Society.
The writer of this elaborate article having passed through these Documents with an evident desire to weigh impartially and honestly their statements and claims to attention, says :
“ In truth, from all we have read of this truly great man, he was indeed a pattern of truth, chastity, honour, virtue, and learning. He was cheerful in society, and sought and obtained the companionship of all persons who were either eminent for talent or distinguished for knowledge. As a public functionary, he was upright and just, and while he discharged the duties of his station with great exactness, he neglected nothing but his own advancement.” (p. 177.)
The Reviewer next proceeds to “condense,” as he states, “what the followers of Swedenborg propound as his theological doctrines.” (p. 178.) Instead, however, of propounding what these theological doctrines are, the writer entirely confines himself to the peculiar state and position of Swedenborg as holding converse with the spiritual world. Not having read any of Swedenborg's theological works, he seems not to be aware that his theological doctrines consist of any thing else than communications with spirits, and the information thence derived concerning the eternal world and the state of man after death. This information, however, does not constitifte E. S.'s theological doctrines, which are entirely distinct; they are unfolded from the Word of God, and so luminously and powerfully confirmed by its divine dictates, and by every rational consideration, that the same may be said of his theological doctrines, as was said by M. Sandel respecting his philosophical system :-“The arrangement of which is so solid, and the component parts are so skilfully put together, that this system of doctrine never fails to claim the approbation of any man who will in sincerity and truth examine it," &c. Had the author of this article read any of Swedenborg's theological works, he would not, we are certain, have penned the following remark respecting the phraseology in which they are clothed :
“ It must be admitted that the language and the peculiar phraseology in which most, if not all Swedenborg's arguments and reasonings are clothed, present almost insurmountable barriers to the irregular assaults of the mere passive inquirer.