Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

research on the external plane, but in this natural expansion of thought they beheld but the budding of the fig-tree's branch. Life was necessarily bounded by the conditions in which it was received. The forms of the rose and the nettle were very different but the life was the same, and Mr. Presland said he regarded all this stir of thought in Europe as but the preparation for the reception of a more spiritual life. He was amazed when he considered the marvellous prescience displayed in the writings of Swedenborg, produced as they were amidst the midnight gloom of thought. And when they found that there was scarcely a change effected, no improvement in the present, no marvels in the future, but what was not, he did not say in detail, but the principles of which were not enunciated in the writings of the New Church, the inference was imperative that they were more than human writings, that they came to us with more than human authority, and that therefore it was their duty to strive with all their power to communicate them to others.

He said that

Dr. J. J. GARTH WILKINSON seconded the resolution. after the very eloquent address of his friend his task was a very easy one. He would say one word with reference to Mr. Presland's remarks as to the liberal political institutions alluded to in the resolution. He would take a smaller view of them in one sense, and suggested that the dissemination of New Church opinions would involve the absence and almost death of party spirit in the country. Party had been the great regulator of men's actions. Joseph Hume was said to have expressed his readiness to swear that black was white if party required it. Under the influence of the New Church the

only question raised upon any proposal would be whether it was good and true. This he called the platform of justice. The resolution itself was made up of planes, or platforms, as our American friends would style them. Without these planes no influence of life and truth from heaven could be received, and therefore the new circumstances of the age really consisted in the formation of new planes of light, of life, and of action. The freedom of the press was another subject of great interest. He regarded as especially wonderful the fact that in great journals, side by side, the contest of opinions was allowed. It must be admitted that this was a platform of charity. Of course one of the most vast platforms that could exist was that of education. He entirely agreed with the remarks of Dr. Stocker as to education in natural science. One thing also he approved, the teaching of drawing. If the shapes of things bore a correspondence to their quality, it was of the utmost importance that their forms should be accurately delineated and known.

A movement was going on independently of the Churches themselves. It reminded him of the landscape in the Isle of Wight, where the rock called the Blue Slipper had allowed the chalk cliffs to slip out of their place. Almost all parties agreed that, in the words of the resolution, humanity was preparing for the reception of an interior rational system of religion. Even materialists thought they

were pleading a new religion. The disciples of positivism themselves considered their principles to amount to a new religion, and with most remarkable self-denial even shut themselves off from the idea of heaven, lest it should divert their thoughts from the religion of earth. The only thing no party admitted was the reception of such a system of religion as that of which the resolution spoke. None wanted it given, they wanted only the work of their own faculties. A great synthesis was wanted, and an agent to bind men together, and that, he believed, the works published by that Society could supply.

The resolution was put to the meeting and carried unanimously. The Rev. Dr. BAYLEY proposed "That in the opinion of this meeting the only system of religion which satisfies at the same time the religious yearnings and aspirations of a sincere believer in Christianity, and expresses in a tangible, rational form the highest spiritual ideals capable of being reached and seized by enlightened human thought, are contained in the doctrines of the New Church, which the Lord revealed to mankind at His Second Coming through the instrumentality of Emanuel Swedenborg." He said that at that late period of the meeting, and considering the heat of the room, he was sure he should be forgiven much expansion of the resolution he had read, the more so since it was in itself a nice little speech. It contained this happy circumstance, that in the writings of Swedenborg we had what the souls of good people crave for, that was to say, a degree of certainty. It would be the experience, no doubt, of all in that room, that at the present time there was a universal confusion, a huge upheaving. Everything was being questioned. This was largely so in the pulpits. The almost universal theme was that there was a strange upheaving. This had been the opinion of priests whom he had met on his last autumnal journey. They complained that there was a disposition to question everything, to doubt long-established authority, and to be on good ground somehow. Now in the New Church, on all the various subjects of religious and intellectual thought, they were able to say they did know what was right on those subjects, and that they had concerning them a conception as clear to their spiritual sight as light to the natural eye. Dr. Bayley said he was recently making a statement of this kind to a very high authority, who had said to him, "But who can understand anything about religion?" and further inquired how water placed on the face of a child in baptism could take away his sins, or how the bread and wine when blessed by the priests could possibly be changed into the body and blood of our Lord. Well, Dr. Bayley had said, nobody could understand that, but there was a right way and a wrong way of understanding these things. They believed that they could understand all these matters by simply going to the Lord Jesus Christ, and letting Him teach them. As to the Trinity it was only necessary to take our Lord's words, "The Father in Me," and they could understand it. The reply made was that that certainly put the matter in another light altogether, and Dr. Bayley proceeded to say that in this manner all

the yearnings of the human soul, all the aspirations of the heart might be satisfied. But he wished to press very urgently upon his friends not to be too soon satisfied with general remarks and general declarations. Many sometimes were content to take them for granted, and failed to take an opportunity of reading the writings for themselves. They would remember that there was a very interesting portion of the Gospel which told how the disciples murmured amongst themselves because they had forgotten to take bread. They also should not forget to take bread, but should read a little of Swedenborg every day. He had lately been revising the "Divine Providence," which he called a golden book. The poet spoke of "linked sweetness long drawn out." But this book was loving wisdom long drawn out. If they would read a page every morning they would find their minds so strengthened with some golden aphorism that they would find themselves throughout the day more kindly hearted, more lovingly tempered. Thus when Swedenborg was showing the goodness of the Lord, he said that the end of creation was to form a happy heaven out of the human race, and therefore it was the object of the Divine Providence to provide that every one should be capable of being saved, and they are saved who acknowledge a God and lead a good life. Such a sentence spoke for itself. Such was the bread he advised them not to forget. He should like to quote again from the same book, where Swedenborg said that since man is by his nature unregenerate, he is while unregenerate in hell. This should be a real statement to make a man stir himself, and endeavour to remove those sorrows and sins which would go on unless those works were spread amongst men. There was more in the words of the Psalmist than was ordinarily supposed when he said, Great, O Lord, is Thy mercy, for Thou hast raised me from the lowest hell." Dr. Bayley concluded by advising his hearers to multiply all the means of diffusing the good and truth contained in the writings of Swedenborg. By so doing they would leave the world far better than they found it, and at the same time help themselves to reach the grand and eternal home of all.

[ocr errors]

This resolution was seconded by Mr. R. JOBSON, who said he might have wished that so important a resolution had been intrusted to one more able to do it justice than himself. But their esteemed Secretary was a thorough man of business and duty, and though slim and slender of form, was also possessed of great resolution and firmness of purpose, and so there was no help but for him to do his best. It was in the first place necessary to have a clear idea of what was Christianity. During the past 1800 years it had undergone many changes and modifications, but it had outlived them all, and still survived. Christianity at the present day was made up of many sects-some large, some small, some old, some new, some so narrow that they expelled from their midst those who could not subscribe to their creeds, others so broad that they had no defined creed at all. So great was the variety that existed that the impartial observer might almost be inclined to despair at the hope of ever seeing harmony established. What was the

cause of those differences? He would endeavour to point it out and to suggest a cure. The cause was that instead of taking their doctrines from the Bible as a whole, they selected different truths, or rather appearances of truth, and elevated those into their creed, to the exclusion of others. Thus Tripersonalists laid hold of those passages appearing to favour their views, whilst another party, looking only to the declarations concerning the oneness of God, styled themselves Unitarians. A third-the Calvinists-thought they found in the New Testament confirmation of their views as to predestination, election, and free grace; whilst a fourth set their chief trust in the baptism of adults. A fifth so carnalized and literalized those passages relating to the end of the world and the second coming of our Lord that they looked forward to a huge convulsion of nature, the sun, moon, and stars were to disappear, whilst the small minority of believers were to fly they knew not where. The Roman Catholic section of the Church so perverted the truths of the Bible as to Peter, that they believed the keys of heaven to be placed in the hands of a frail and erring mortal. Could profanation be more complete than this. How true it was that the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. He might mention other sections, but these divisions were caused by human conceptions merely. They could not ever have been intended by Him who said, "Be ye one, even as I and My Father are one." Sooner or later these distinctions must disappear, and harmony take their place. But how was this to be accomplished? Not by refusing the right of Christian burial to unbaptized infants; not by raising walls between Churchmen and Dissenters in their churchyards; not by suspending ministers who could not accept the ordinary doctrines taught about hell-fire; not by forcibly closing the chapels and seizing the little property of those who claimed the right to worship God according to their conscience. No, union was not effected by deeds of harshness, cruelty, and wrong, but by Christian love and charity. The cure must be made by an interpretation of Scripture which must be spiritual and at the same time rational, and capable of satisfying the aspirations of every believer in revealed religion. Was there such a thing under the sun? He believed the antidote might be found in the writings of Swedenborg, by which the cardinal doctrines of Christianity were rescued from mere literalism. Mr. Jobson wished the Swedenborg Society every success in its labours, for he thought they might look forward to the diffusion of those writings, as calculated to effect the restoration of our Lord as the Prince of Peace, under whose sway religious strifes and animosities should yet be made to disappear, when peace should reign within her walls and prosperity within her palaces.

The resolution was put to the meeting and passed unanimously. The Scrutineers having presented their report, the SECRETARY read the list of the gentlemen elected to form the Committee of the Society during the ensuing year. They were the Rev. Dr. Bayley, Rev. W. Bruce, Rev. J. Presland, Dr. Stocker, Rev. Dr. Tafel, and Messrs. Bateman, Elliott, Gunton, Jobson, Thexton, Watson, and H. R. Williams.

Rev. Dr. BAYLEY said they had now completed the ordinary business of the meeting, but that he should like to propose a hearty vote of thanks to their esteemed Secretary for the admirable work he had done in connection with the Society. His tact and talent had made him even more than a secretary and a half, and really he was so unexceptionally and so lovingly active that he might say he had never seen his equal in such a post.

The Rev. W. BRUCE seconded the resolution, and said he would merely observe that Dr. Bayley might have said not only that Mr. Elliott was more than a secretary and a half, but that he was also half the Committee.

The resolution was carried by acclamation, and Mr. ELLIOTT expressed his extreme obligation for the kind manner in which the Society had received his efforts. He had now had the honour of being their Secretary for seven years, which he believed constituted a term of apprenticeship, and that he was now entitled to rank as a journeyIf they would accept him in that capacity he should be happy to act as Secretary for another year.

man.

Mr. JOHN SMITH proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman. He said they must all feel it had been good for them to be there, at so pleasant a meeting. He was especially pleased to see so large a number of ladies present. While our mothers and wives and sisters took so deep an interest in the Church, there was no possible fear for its stability. Their Chairman was always earnestly and zealously labouring, and whilst they had such a man among them, they must all feel that the Church could not suffer any harm.

The CHAIRMAN having briefly responded, the benediction was pronounced, and one of the most successful anniversaries the Swedenborg Society has ever celebrated was brought to a conclusion.

Reviews.

THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGE: BEING A PROPHECY NOW FULTHE WRITINGS OF EMANUEL With a Preface. London: Longmans, Green,

FILLED AND INTERPRETED IN

SWEDENBORG.

& Co.

THIS Volume of 140 pages consists of Swedenborg's exposition of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, with an introductory preface by the Rev. Augustus Clissold. With the exposition our readers generally are well acquainted, but the preface, which occupies 60 pages, will be quite fresh to them. In this preface the writer deals with the question, "Is it possible that the Primitive and Apostolic Church can fall away, and again be restored; or, in other words, can it be subject to a state of decline, and of renovation?" As in his other works, so in this, Mr. Clissold draws his answer to this inquiry from the writers of the Christian Church itself. We understand that Mr. Clissold's

« ForrigeFortsæt »