« ForrigeFortsæt »
tempted and tried, it is often only the prelude to a better state.
A. You remember those words of Keble
“Thy God hath said 'tis good for thee
V. I feel them to be true. They are the only solution of the enigma of life.
A. But they are not only true as a source of consolation, they are true as a source of strength. Look at all the great changes which have taken place in the world's history, and the great characteristic of those who effected the changes will be found to be faith in their purpose. It was faith that spurred them on to exertion, and enabled them to persevere till their purpose was attained. The same results are found in common life. He who has faith in his purpose will be earnest in his efforts, and if his purpose be a Christian life, its earnestness will be measured by the sincerity of his faith in God.
V. You are right. But do you not think it essential that the faith should be true ?
A. Yes ; but if the faith be living it will ever strive to know more and more of God and of His Will. It cannot desire to remain in ignorance, because that would cripple its influence. Striving for truth as the guide of life, faith will make the known truth the basis of its trust in the unknowable. Every new perception of truth will deepen the confidence we have in God's Omniscience and Love. So will faith be true worship, and lead to filial service.
V. Through sunshine and shadow hope will spring "eternal in the human breast," for
“The steps of Faith
The rock beneath." A. And when the end seems far distant, or if we are inclined to doubt, we may say
“ Hath hope been smitten in its early dawn?
Have Faith and struggle on.” Look at yonder oak! How slow was its growth, yet how strong and majestic it is now! The sun is shining gloriously ; it is a pity to stay indoors ; let us take a stroll.
ALL RELIGION HAS RELATION TO LIFE, AND THE
LIFE OF RELIGION IS TO DO GOOD.
THEOLOGY and religion have often been regarded as synonymous, but this has been a mistake, a mistake fraught with much mischief to the spiritual welfare of humanity. A man may be a profound theologian, well-versed in the knowledge of the being and attributes of God, able to draw subtle distinctions between truth and falsity in matters of faith, and to descant learnedly on the various topics connected with the mysteries of the kingdom, without being in the slightest degree a religious man. Theology is a matter of thought and knowledge, whereas religion is a matter of life and character, and it no more follows that a theologian is necessarily religious, than that a man wellversed in the science of physiology is himself a perfect model of physical health and strength and beauty. It is well that we should always bear this fact in remembrance.
Perhaps no sentence in the writings of Swedenborg is more generally known and appreciated than the one that stands at the head of this article. We may justly regard it, even from the standpoint of mere theologians, as a grand centre around which the sublime truths of the New Dispensation all cluster. Every doctrine that distinguishes the Church of the New Jerusalem from the churches that have passed away has within it an element pointing to this great truth, and tending towards its explanation as a matter of theory and its development as a matter of life. And if the New Church, viewed either as a Dispensation or as an external organization, can only bring this sentiment home to the understandings and hearts of the people, she will succeed in her glorious mission of bringing about the era when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
The Christian world in the days gone by, as in the present day, has failed to realize that full communion with the Lord and heaven, hecause she has failed to bring into due prominence the life of religion. Religion has been regarded as a mere question of sentiment and thought and feeling, whose form was to be decided upon by the priests and ministers, and received and believed implicitly by the people at large. Nay, so thoroughly has the true idea of the nature of religion been lost sight of, that many have held the notion that the best way to become religious was to sever themselves as far as possible from contact with the world and the cares and duties and pleasures of
social existence. What a striking contrast to the religion of the Saviour of men, who went about doing good !
If Christendom had been sufficiently aware of, and sufficiently jealous for, the nature of true religion, our literature would never have been defiled with such expressions as “ religious bigotry,” “religious intolerance," religious quarrels,” “ religious bickerings,” and “religious wars." We might just as reasonably talk of “good evil, or “ virtuous vice," or “true falsity,” or “clean impurity,” or “white blackness." Religion has nothing in common with bigotry, and intolerance, and quarrelling, and bickering, and war; she is their sworn foe. These are the offspring and the sign of evil, and it is the mission of religion to extirpate them. If men professing religion engage in any of these things, it is because, like the two disciples of olden time who entreated their Divine Master to permit them to command fire to come down from heaven to consume the Samaritan villagers who had refused to receive them, they know not what manner of spirit they are of.
All religion has relation to life—the life of our everyday duties and employments ; for it is only in the performance of these that we live. . In these we find the sphere in which we can prepare ourselves for the life of heaven, and if we fail to embody our religion in our daily life, it is simply because we have not got any. Religion is not in any sense of the expression a flower
“ Born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air,"
but a thing to be ultimated in our dealings with each other in the outer world. We do not mean that a person should habituate himself to the use of what are termed "pious phrases ” in his business transactions, or always wear a long, serious face; on the contrary, we counsel caution in dealing with such people as seem particularly anxious to impress others with the intensity of their religious feelings by words and looks. “The life of religion” is not to talk good, or to look good, but to do good. We can do good without ostentation, and without looking melancholy over it; indeed, the so-called religious man, who wears a vinegar aspect, gives one the impression that religion doesn't
with him, and tends to repel rather than attract. Religion is doing good in the various stations of life to which it has pleased God to call us, from the heartfelt conviction that only in doing good can man fulfil his mission in this world, and prepare himself for the fulness of joy prepared for the children of our Heavenly Father in the world to come. It would be a waste of time for me to point out the various opportunities that occur to every man for exemplifying the life of religion in his own conduct. These opportunities are in all places at all times. If any reader of this should doubt the assertion, let him try to imagine some circumstance, condition, or duty where it is impossible. We have tried and cannot. We therefore conclude that we ought never to forget the theory, or neglect the practice, of the watchword of the New Church, “All religion has relation to life, and the life of religion is to do good.”
SYMBOLS, DIVINE AND HUMAN.
There are few things of such deep and lasting interest in the domain of religious thought and experience as the contemplation of Divine goodness and truth in their relation to the inner and outward spheres of human existence; for it consists in the contemplation of those principles not only in their essence but in their form and external development. The New Churchman has—thanks to a broad yet very definite range of spiritual logic-such a refined perception of the relation of spirit to matter and matter to spirit that, as the one is justly regarded as the appointed symbol of the other, he seldom loses sight of the laws by which each is governed, and of the interdependence and mutual harmony subsisting between them. With him
“ The world is God's broad comment on the Word,
Whose margin is Creation, and sense heaven.” With him, too, the seasons in their ceaseless changes are the outward and visible types of his inner perceptions and states of feeling, variable in themselves, yet constant in their existence, even as they have their origin in the perpetual source of all life, the Divine Essence itself. For even as a perennial fountain clothes itself in a raiment of gentle and beautiful spray, so the Divine life reflects itself in the minute and fragile elements of all lower forms of existence. It flows into them, and perpetually sustains them as its finite emblems, frail though these emblems are as compared with the parent spring, and evanescent as we see they certainly are if we but think of the littleness of time, and the greatness and grandeur of eternity.
The procession of Divine life into the ultimates of Nature presents to us many images of all-important truths, whose full meaning it would be difficult for the mind to grasp without using those images as external aids. They seem, indeed, to have been provided by the goodness of the great Teacher of men, if not indeed for their guidance, at least to confirm them in the verities of Divine revelation. They must, therefore, be taken as a means to an end. And even as “the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath,” this beautiful earth, which with its thousand harmonies is one abiding Sabbath, exists for man's especial benefit, and above all, for his spiritual edification. It is in this sense that we understand the words of St. Paul, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead." It is as though the Apostle had said we thus understand the hidden things of life— life as it is seen in the creation of man and his surroundings, and not merely the hidden things of human life, but even-yea, even-His eternal power
and godhead. We may not merely look "from Nature up to-Nature's God;" but also behold man, the principal intermediate link, of whom it was decreed that he should “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Carrying out the symbolism in matters of detail, we may discern from the wonders of each successive season images of the earthly and heavenly states of man, the latter having, when in their true order, full control over the former. We see an image of "his earthly state in the dull and creeping worm, and of his heavenly and regenerate state in the sportive and exulting butterfly” (T. C. R., 12). The latter succeeds the former in a natural, orderly, and progressive manner,
and instead of grovelling in its earlier condition as an unclean grub, it has left the earth, and dances merrily in the sunshine, and has its abode amidst the flowers. Truly, in respect to time, “That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Cor. xv.). It might be shown how the conquest of one of the states here indicated over the other is effected, but it would scarcely be within the scope of the present article. There is abundant evidence, and we may conclude from the