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sort. John Flaxman was a very beautiful character, and his modest and gentle nature gave to his friendship the force of a very strong attraction. He was always an earnest reader of the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and was for two years a member of the committee or vestry of one Mr. Bond's congregation, which met in Cross Street, Hatton Garden. His two years' experience, however, sorely tried him, and he left it (see White's 'Emanuel Swedenborg, his Life and Writings,' vol. ii. pp. 607, 608) and returned to Church of England, in which he remained a devout member until his death.
“How such a man, so pious and intelligent, could have remained so long as two years a member of such a body, is one of those things very difficult to understand.
"It had no beginning in the mind of Swedenborg. He encouraged no schism, and he instituted no sect.
"He certainly in his Writings uses the term 'New Church,' but he meant by them (as he explicitly teaches in his Writings) a new and renovated State-Instauratio Ecclesia-of the Church of the last century, from what he regarded as a moribund condition.
"Now this so-called 'New Church' was founded by one Robert Hindmarsh, a printer, in the year 1787, who was expelled from it in 1789, on the ground of his immoral opinions.
"It is now little other than a corporation, being thus registered under the Companies' Acts, 1862, 1867 (see Minutes of the New Church Conference for 1878,' 'title-page'). Its present condition and teaching power must be lamentable indeed, if we may regard the present President's address delivered at one of the meetings associated with their annual Conference just concluded (see Morning Light, August 23).
"I am not myself a Swedenborgian either by profession or conviction; but I sometimes read the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg very much to my profit, and I have no doubt that if my brethren did the same, they would, by so doing, help to extinguish this sect, and find a great aid in giving more exact expression to the catholic teaching of the Church. A WEST-END VICAR.
66 September 13, 1879."
To refute the only point worth notice in this letter it is but needful to refer to the authority indicated and quote the very words which the West-End Vicar omits to do. The reference he gives is to White's
"Emanuel Swedenborg," etc., vol. ii. pp. 607, 608, where we find "John Flaxman was a member of Proud's committee in Cross Street. Sorely tried was his gentle spirit with their brawls, and gladly did he make his escape from the litigious crew. Faithful he remained to Swedenborg, but his two years of the New Jerusalem Church was sufficient. He rarely attended public worship of any kind afterwards."
The very slight acquaintance of the West-End Vicar with the subject respecting which he writes is evident from his blundering over the name of Mr. Proud's Society in Cross Street, which he calls “
Where is there one word about Flaxman returning to the Church of England, and continuing a devout member to his death? There is not a syllable upon the subject. On the contrary, Mr. White says he continued faithful to Swedenborg. The chapel of which he was one of the committee was only kept open two years. The Society was too
weak in its then early days to sustain so large an undertaking, and they were compelled to relinquish it, and so ended Flaxman's connection with the committee. The language respecting the brawls of the litigious crew which sorely tried the gentle spirit of Flaxman is, we fear, of Mr. White's own composing, when his own spirit was sorely tried by being summarily dismissed from the situation of book-manager, which he had abused. We find no other authority for so severe a statement. It ill becomes a vicar of the Church of England, whose excessive quarrels too frequently thrust themselves into every newspaper, to make charges against a quiet orderly body of Christians founded only on the harsh words of a discarded servant.
It might be inferred from the letter that Flaxman was only associated with the New Church for two years. But from Mr. Hindmarsh's "History of the Rise and Progress of the New Jerusalem Church," p. 23, from which probably Mr. White's facts but not his comments were derived, Flaxman was one of the early readers of Swedenborg who met with Mr. Hindmarsh and others on Sundays and Thursdays in a chamber in New Court, Middle Temple, in 1784.
It was in 1797 when Cross Street was opened, so that he had associated already before the two years at Cross Street with the same gentlemen for the same end, "promoting the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem," during THIRTEEN YEARS.
The West-End Vicar cannot conceive how so beautiful a character as Flaxman, so pious and intelligent, could have remained so long as two years a member of such a body. Now that he finds that when
Cross Street was closed he had been connected with such a body FIFTEEN YEARS, his wonder must be greatly increased, unless he concludes that he has been misinformed, and that, at least as to the great majority, the rest of these were beautiful characters too. He would be New Church in mind and life, wherever for convenience he attended for worship; his living and dying a member of the Church of England being altogether a West-End Vicar's myth.
That there were occasional differences of opinion amongst these early men in the New Church, as there were amongst the apostles in the early days of the first Christian Church, is not to be wondered at; but that as a whole they were devoted, self-sacrificing servants of the Lord must be admitted by all who know their history and regard the truth as a sacred thing, especially in relation to the character of others. The excellent Hindmarsh might construe certain portions of Swedenborg's work on Conjugial Love somewhat differently from others of his brethren is possible enough, but that he would in any way desire to favour immorality of any kind no one can believe who is at all acquainted with his life and with his writings. The remaining remarks of the West-End Vicar we may dismiss with the observation that it is evident his knowledge of the subjects to which he refers is of the flimsiest character. He says he is not a Swedenborgian either by profession or conviction, which is evident. He speaks slightingly of the New Church having legally incorporated itself, as if the Church of England were not also a corporation. We are only disposed to add that should he be enabled to grasp the great principles unfolded by that illustrious writer for the New Church, he will be better able to judge how far one who accepts them in sincerity, and has the opportunity of offering his worship in unambiguous words to His only God and Saviour, can remain in a Church whose prayers as to the greater part are addressed to one God for the sake of another, and commits all the world to perdition who do not accept the dogmas of the Athanasian Creed. The New Church originated neither in the mind of Hindmarsh nor of Swedenborg, but in Him who sits upon the throne of heaven and said, "Behold, I make all things new." She was to begin with a few according to Swedenborg, and so she has; a few among the clergy and a few among the laity. We commend to the consideration of the West-End Vicar the weighty words of Swedenborg: "The Church at this day is devastated to such a degree, that is, is so VOID OF FAITH AND LOVE, that although men know and understand, still they do not acknowledge and still less believe, EXCEPT THE FEW WHO ARE IN THE LIFE OF GOODNESS, and are called the elect, who now
may be instructed, and amongst whom A NEW CHURCH IS ABOUT TO BE ESTABLISHED. Where such persons are the Lord alone knows. WOULD BE FEW within the Church" (A. C. 3898).
Those few were found, of whom Flaxman was one and Hindmarsh another; a few who for conscience' sake dared to stand out for the Lord Jesus, His kingdom and the regenerate life, amidst the prejudices and corruptions of an evil generation, the result of what the West-End Vicar admits was a moribund or dying Church. The MORIBUND CHURCH has the same false doctrines to the present day, dares not alter even a few expressions lest the weak edifice should crumble, and where its condition has been improved, the improvement has been compelled by the State. Hail then to the noble few who feared the Lord and stood out for truth and goodness, and spake often one to another! The Lord remembers them when He makes up His jewels.
Others of the few who are by the Lord made the nucleus of His New Church remain externally united with their former religious associations, though their gentle spirits are often sorely tried, both by the false teachings, the perverse forms of worship, and the narrow-minded bigotry of those with whom they are connected. Yet they bear for the sake of the truth they hope to introduce to others, often because they have no New Church Society convenient with whom they are able to worship, and also for other personal reasons. These, whether in the Church of England or in Nonconformist bodies, though they may not outwardly unite with their New Church brethren, respect them, and are respected by them. The saintly rector of St. John's, Manchester, Mr. Clowes, and the no less estimable Mr. Hindmarsh, who laboured in the same town, Manchester, were always the best of friends.
The Rev. Aug. Clissold and others of his ministerial brethren in different parts of England, warmly reciprocate the good feelings evinced by their brethren who have freed themselves from the trammels of the Establishment. These, on the one side and the other, live in the element of charity described by Swedenborg when he said, "The several Churches in the Christian world are distinguished by their doctrines, and the members of those Churches have hence taken the names of Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, or the Reformed and Evangelical Protestants, with many others. This distinction of names arises solely from doctrines, and would never have existed if the members of the Church had made love to the Lord and charity towards their neighbour the principal points of faith. Doctrines would then be only varieties of opinion concerning the mysteries of faith, which they who are true
Christians would leave to every one to receive according to his conscience, whilst it would be the language of their hearts, that he is a true Christian who lives as a Christian, that is, as the Lord teaches. Thus one Church would be formed out of all these diverse ones; and all disagreements arising from mere doctrines would vanish, yea, all the animosities of one against another would be dissipated in a moment, and the kingdom of the Lord would be established on the earth" (A. C. 1799).
This and similar expositions frequent in Swedenborg we would commend to the thoughtful study of the West-End Vicar. His letter has a tone peculiarly like that of many other letters which some time ago appeared in the Kensington News, all, it is curious to remark, connected with the West End of London.
These letters indicate a great desire for the study of the Writings of Swedenborg amongst his clerical brethren, which it is thought would do them good, and in which we heartily concur; although, looking at the Jewish, Mohammedan, and Romanist Churches, our hope of Churches reforming themselves finds little encouragement in history.
But why assail with so much bitterness those whose efforts are incessantly directed to diffuse the truths these Writings contain, and to live and worship in harmony with them? They are only doing now what the Churches it is hoped will do at some distant period. Such vituperations as the letter to the Guardian remind us forcibly of those our Lord condemned when He said, "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered" (Luke xi. 52).
WHERE SWEDENBORG LIVED.
SOME years ago the late Mr. J. S. Hodson published a prettily got-up pamphlet, with illustrations of the remains of Swedenborg's residence at Stockholm, his native place, and his last abode in his own country. The little book contained a view of the house from the street, and one of the summerhouses, the most ornamental, which Swedenborg had built for the reception of visitors. An appeal was also made to the New Church public to subscribe for the purchase of the property, and thus preserve to future generations the spot where the most celebrated man of his age lived in simplicity, and received the scholars and· statesmen who called upon him. Some eighteen or twenty years have passed away, and relics more to be venerated than the birthplace of the bard of Avon have, it appears, considerably suffered. A prophet has no honour in his own country. The good people of Stockholm troubled not themselves about the condition of the dwelling-place of the greatest ornament of their nation. One might imagine that the countrymen of Swedenborg, whatever they may think of his theological * The pamphlet has no date, and I cannot remember the year of its publication.