« ForrigeFortsæt »
alone thou canst become a denizen of that better land, a partaker of that more blissful eternity! It is the Lord that cries to thee, ‘Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.'” (p. 205.)
It is, however, throughout the book, not in these passages alone, that we find the vital truth impressed on the reader, that such as a man's life makes him, such of necessity must his eternal nature and lot be; there are others yet more emphatic, revealing moreover an insight into spiritual laws, which at once makes us recognize the writer as spiritually akin to all who accept the revelations concerning the future life vouchsafed through Swedenborg. Speaking of the Messiah's mission, he says
“He came to help us to reconquer our lost liberty. But His redeeming life will be of no avail to those who cannot renounce the world, who cannot, like Him, live a righteous, innocent, and unselfish life. His atoning death will prove of no avail to those who do not possess spiritual freedom and magnanimity of soul sufficient to wish to please God rather than man, and to die as the Saviour died.” (p. 157.)
“In the realm of the All-Just, the law of retribution rules. The human spirit, which by its own will, and by rising above its animal nature-above ambition, sensuality, envy, gluttony, the love of revenge, and other vicious tendencies, attains to self-dependence, freedom, greatness, will be after death, a more perfect and mature power, a more divine creature; and will have made many steps forward in the path that leads to the highest goal which the Eternal Being has marked out in the infinite distances of existence. This spirit will have attained to a higher perfection than millions of other beings, and this is its Heaven. And again, if a human creature endowed with will, perceptions, and peculiar spiritual laws, nevertheless makes himself the slave of sensuality; is cunning, irate, ambitious, gluttonous, covetous, or, in other words, lowers himself to the level of an animal possessed of the mere germs of humanity—this spiritual being who has unresistingly allowed the self-conscious power within him to be overcome by the blind forces of nature, will after the death of the body be an immature, impaired, decrepit power. It has prepared for itself the low position it will hold in the scale of beings, and in the rank of only half conscious animal souls. Millions of glorified spirits in the enjoyment of ineffable bliss hover above it. Its state is near to annihilation, and this is its hell.” (p. 285.)
On this important question of practical religion, therefore, we feel that we can indeed go hand in hand with the author; though we may miss from the above some further perception, such as Swedenborg's writings reveal, of the marvellous workings of Divine Providential Mercy, tempering even these lowest states in accordance with the life's love of those who choose them, so that their very hell is still the happiest state they can enjoy. And though, on a cursory perusal, it might suggest itself to the New Church reader, that a more frequent expression of a sense of man's momentary dependence on Divine aid for power to work out his purification would be desirable, yet we are disposed, on examina
MEDITATIONS ON DEATH AND ETERNITY.
tion, to ascribe the lack of such expression rather to a child-like trust in, and taking for granted of, the presence and perpetual free bestowal of that Divine aid, than to any ignorance of its necessity, which the following passage appears fully to recognize :
“Save me, O Lord! from the painful discouragement which takes possession of me, when I think of my short-comings and my errors ; * * * for through my own strength alone I shall never attain to that which I ought to be, in accordance with Thy will and with the teachings of Jesus. * * But Thou, O merciful God, art my comfort and my trust! Accept my will for half the deed, my endeavours for half success, my conflicts for half the victory. Forgive me my trespasses ! Thou knowest how often I strive to lift myself up, though I fall back each time in helpless impotence.” (p. 372.)
It may, however, be candidly admitted that this truth of man's natural impotence for good, has not perhaps been borne in mind as stedfastly as we could wish, or even an isolated expression such as man's “holy pride in his own worth,” (p. 159.) jarring, we confess, to our ears, would scarcely have been penned; nor should we find in the chapter called “A Joy in the Hour of Death,” so much stress laid on the idea, that the sweetest joy and consolation of the dying Christian must lie, not 80 much in the thought of the Infinite Love and Mercy which has sustained and will sustain and bless his feeble efforts, as in the thought of the good he may have done, the love and gratitude he may have deserved of his fellow-men,—“the works that will follow him.” That others should cherish these thoughts of the beloved departing one, is right, is beautiful, but his own joy and comfort in departing were better sought from higher sources; and for this reason the chapter alluded to is the one we can least like or assent to in the book.
In respect to other points, we do not, nor can we expect to find here complete agreement with our own standard of faith. As regards the doctrine of the Lord, for instance, the writer, while escaping the errors of Unitarianism, and recognizing the Divinity of Jesus, nevertheless, undoubtedly holds Him as a separate and distinct Person from the Father. “The Eternal Son,” “ the Revealer of Eternity,” “the WorldRedeemer,” “the Divine Teacher,” “the Friend of Man,”—all these epithets we find applied to Jesus, but nothing to intimate any perception of the crowning truth that Father and Son are truly, essentially One; the Son being “God with us,” “God manifest in the flesh.” From this writer's point of view, we may say, the prophecy is still unfulfilled, that “there shall be one Lord, and His Name One;" the Divine At-one-ment, consisting in that full glorification of the Lord's Humanity which shows forth the Human and Divine made truly One in the Divine Humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ, has, for him, not yet been accomplished. But
this is all; for on the other hand, we find none of those false and dishonouring deductions concerning the Divine Character and scheme of redemption, which Christian theologians have so unfortunately drawn from the appearances, in the letter of Scripture, of a separateness between Father and Son. Accepting this appearance in all simplicity, he at the same time rejects all unworthy ideas of God, as “an angry God,” “a jealous and inexorable God," &c. (among such unworthy ideas he rejects the belief in a Devil, as wholly un-Christian, and “incompatible with the Omnipotence and Omniscience of God”); and warmly asserts the Divine Being to be, as Christ reveals Him, Perfect Love.
“We, however, will hold fast by that alone which Jesus Christ taught and revealed. And He, the Eternal Son, described the Father as the purest Love, in whom there is no particle of evil-as the All-Perfect Being, in whom, consequently, no human passion or weakness can dwell, who is alike incapable of anger, of vengeance, of jealousy, and of repentance. He blames the outbreak of such passions in man: how then could He find them praiseworthy in the Highest Being, in Him who is most emphatically Love and Goodness ?” (p. 44.)
Truly, pure in heart see God ;” and as such, we find our author unperplexed by the much-debated questions concerning predestination and the origin of evil. Of the former, treated in the chapter on “Eternal Destiny," he rightly perceives, that the appearances of fixed law and fate in the natural world, are indeed true as regards the natural world; but the spirit, he says, is ruled by very different law:
“And this law is, that it should become perfect, as its Father in heaven is perfect; consequently that it should maintain thc more exalted position assigned to it, and rule the lower forces, and not be ruled by them. *
* Man is consequently not pre-ordained to be the victim of sin and corruption, but to be made happy through his perfections. * * The pre-ordinations of the Lord are wise, just, and beneficent. Their end is, not to make us slaves without a will of our own, but to give freedom to our spirits. They work with our spirits in order to raise them above fate.” (pp. 148, 149, 151.)
And concerning the origin of evil :“What can I answer to this, poor doubter, other than in the entire universe there is no evil but sin? And sin is the work of man, springing from that freedom with which God has endowed him, to will and to do right or wrong.” (p. 44.)
Here, again, we may pause to recognize and rejoice in the perfect unison with our own faith on these points which the above passages afford, springing from the key-note of a worthy and elevated conception of the Infinite Love and Goodness of God.
Passing now to the subjects of which the work more immediately treats, Death and Eternity, namely, we think it would be impossible for any
Christian who has tasted the sorrows of parting or the consola
MEDITATIONS ON DEATH AND ETERNITY.
tions of religion, to read without the deepest sympathy, and warm responsive appreciation, the many touching and pious pages in which these subjects are handled. We are not indeed prepared to assent to all that they contain. We do not believe that
“ The less we know with certainty that which awaits us after this life, the purer, the more unselfish, will our virtue be on earth.” (p. 198.)
an observation which is indeed slightly inconsistent with the author's subsequent and very just remark:
“ If I possess the right of citizenship in two worlds—if I belong not only to the life here below, but shall hereafter, and perhaps soon, belong to a higher life also,-oh! then, it cannot be wrong for me to dwell at times on that wbich I have to look forward to, and which is ever drawing me towards itself by a feeling of indefinite longing.” (p. 373.)
But it must be borne in mind that all this was written under the conviction that nothing concerning the future life had been revealed with certainty by Providence; and for this same reason we find much treated speculatively, and miss a good deal more that could not even be speculated upon, which we now hold as revealed truth.
Consisting, too, as the work does of separate “ Meditations," which almost inevitably involve much diffuseness and occasional iteration, it would be difficult, and perhaps superfluous, to offer any very strict critical analysis or review of its contents. It appeals far more to the heart than to the head; and its soundest and most valuable deductions are those which come straight from a heart which, feeling in itself the love of God which is from God, argues thence to irrefragable conclusions concerning His ways and dealings with the creatures of His hands. Starting from such premises, it is easy to imagine how cheering, how elevating, are the views unfolded on the many various topics treated of. The fear of death, or of sudden death, the sufferings of the sick, the anguish of parting, the desolation of bereavement, the immortality of the soul, re-union with those we love in another life, the nature of that life as a better and higher one for all who have made no unworthy use of this,-on all these subjects we can promise the reader real edification from the perusal of this book. Well can we understand what unspeakable balm and comfort such perusal might afford to the heart of any mourner not hitherto versed in the spiritual philosophy of the two-fold existence for which man is created; while to those who are so versed, it will present a beautiful illustration, showing how far beyond all the wisdom of the schools is the enlightened faith which is of love; how far the simple logic of a loving heart can carry a willing learner, beyond all that the eye can see, or the ear hear, in this lower world of sense.
MEDITATIONS ON DEATH AND ETERNITY.
Space forbids our quoting many beautiful passages on the different subjects enumerated; but the following betrays such an accurate apprehension of at least one great cause of the mental darkness in respect to spiritual truths which has unfortunately prevailed, perhaps still prevails, too widely among the wise and learned in this world's repute, that we cannot forbear to give it :
“That uneasiness which some people feel at the thought of immortality and the future destiny of the soul, and which almost takes the form of doubt,” (well for them if it be only almost!) “is owing to their thinking that they must be able to give some proofs of that which it is as useless as it is impossible to prove. It is impossible, because most persons understand by proof, a kind of sensual perception and demonstration of futurity which no one ever could pretend to; * * * they seek a standard of measure among things sensuous, to aid them in forming a judgment of what the spirit may be, when raised above all sensuous things. * Thus it is that men learn to doubt that which they have lost sight of by seeking for it in a false direction. Because they cannot bale out the ocean with the hollow of their hand, the ocean becomes to them a thing of doubtful existence.” (pp. 275, 277.)
In conclusion, we think we cannot do better than present the reader with a few of the happy and luminous thoughts, some of them of almost aphoristic terseness, which we frequently meet with in the pages of this author. Some though embodying not unfamiliar ideas, come upon us almost with the force of novelty from the garb in which they are clothed; while to others which may evince less originality, we must still always yield a pleased assent, as eternally true and beautiful:
“The sunset of life here, is the sunrise of existence in the regions of eternity.” (p. 38.)
"After all, what are the terrors of death? * * The same God, O Soul! that divests thee of one garment, will invest thee with another.” (p. 136.)
Why should my soul be alarmed at the unknown road which it has to travel ? Is the path that I have to wander here below better known to me?” (p. 138.)
“ Now what is it to die? It is generally said to be a passing into eternity; but here already we are dwelling in eternity." (p. 267.)
“In Thy world there is no death, only life; and that which we call death is transformation. Thy entire universe is life.” (p. 191.)
“He who thought of me before I was, before I knew Him, will He forget me now I am ?” (p. 229.)
“ To those to whom death is a mysterious and therefore repugnant image, life itself can be little more than a confused riddle.” (pp. 245, 246.)
“Jesus, however, spoke of death as a going in to the Father.” (p. 253.)
“ It is unmistakeable that the spirit, while dwelling in the earthly body, is endued with a spiritual body, which is freed at the death of the former, and comes forth, as it were, as the blossom does from the seed.” (p. 376.)
“There is nothing painful in the thought of you, Oh! my departed ones; where there is true love, there is also true happiness." (p. 221.)