Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

for all, both old and young. Here, too, there are agencies for carrying out the objects of the higher instruction which the ministers of the Church are expected to supply. Churches have been built and endowed by pious individuals, but most by the congregations themselves. An effort has been made, with less success than it deserves, to raise a Building Fund, from which Societies might receive assistance, in the shape of loans without interest, to provide places of worship for themselves. The education of ministers is not less important than the building of churches. In the early days of our ecclesiastical establishment, Societies were thankful, as our young and small Societies still are, to receive the services of one of their number, and from such supplies sprang ministers like Sibly and Noble. But however well this arrangement may work in such circumstances, it cannot be depended on for a regular and adequate supply. Whether men are to be educated or not for the clerical office is not an abstract question. It is one that Societies will decide for themselves; and the demand has already given a sufficient indication of the direction in which their choice lies. Assuming that those who are to efficiently discharge the duties of minister should receive a special education, a provision for supplying the requirements of the Church should be made by a body representing its views and purposes and seeking to promote its interests, as the Conference does. This is indeed one of the objects which the Conference pursues. But it seems at this time to demand awakened attention. Some of our most eminent ministers have recently passed away. Although their place may, and we hope will, be worthily filled, yet the coming in of the new does not appear to keep pace with the going out of the old. We have an institution and endowment for aiding in the work of training young men for the ministry. These are under Conference direction. Some obstacles have hitherto existed to the harmonious action of the members of Conference and the governors of the college; but as these are now happily removed, we may hope that the means of usefulness which the institution possesses

will be utilized to the utmost extent of which it is capable, and that it may be the means of providing the Church with an adequate supply of well-instructed and efficient ministers, zealous for the salvation of souls, and thus for the good of Jerusalem and the glory of the Lord. One of the uses of the ministry, as well as one of the aims of the Conference should be the extension, as well as the consolidation of the Church. Missionary labour is ministerial work. To convey to others the good tidings we ourselves have received, is a desire which every sincere heart must feel, and which it would be alike ungrateful and uncharitable to suppress. This was a commission which the Lord Himself gave His disciples. The Gospel may be preached without any wish to bring men within our own communion, although in this there is no necessary sectarianism. As a rule, those who accept the New Church doctrines would be better instructed and be brought under a better influence by connecting themselves with our body, than by remaining without. Should we deprecate or fear to counsel that which would be beneficial to a convert, lest we be charged with proselytizing? In this important branch of the work and duty of the Church, there are special agencies in the Missionary and Tract Societies, the National Missionary being a Conference institution. One other department of use, by no means an unimportant one, which the Conference occupies in regard to the externals of the Church, deserves to be mentioned. The essence of worship is sincere piety, and this no human power can produce, but the Lord alone. But the devotion of the heart always desires to put itself forth by the expression of the lips; and here human aid is often necessary and useful. One of the duties and uses of the Conference is to provide suitable forms of external worship, by which the members of the Church can unite in offering prayer and praise to the Author of their life, and of all the gifts and graces that can make that life useful and happy. Several efforts have been made by individuals to produce forms of prayer for use in congregational worship, some before and some since the first Liturgy prepared by order of the Conference fifty years ago. A new Liturgy, on which a Conference Committee has been engaged for several years, is now published, and will no doubt come into general use in those Societies who use a liturgical service.

Besides the uses we have mentioned, there are some of a general character which the Conference performs, that help forward the main object of its existence. It exercises a supervision over ministers and Societies to see that they do their duty. The duty of a minister is to teach and lead—to teach the truth, and lead to the good of life. But the lines of his duty pass into various ramifications. He is expected to keep his Society in a state of orderly, and therefore healthful, activity; to have the sacraments duly administered; to encourage social intercourse as well as social worship among the members; and to attend to the young as well as to the old ; and besides these, to extend his labours beyond the circle of his own congregation. The duty of the Society is to co-operate with the ministers in these and other means of social prosperity and individual improvement. The President's circular addressed to ministers, and the Secretary's circular addressed to Societies, contain a number of inquiries intended to draw their attention to their duties and uses, the answers to which are expected to supply information respecting their state and condition, so far as such information can do so; the sum of which gives some good idea of general improvement and progress.

All that the Conference does, or is intended to do, is to promote the welfare of that branch of the Church which it represents. The Conference is that branch of the Church itself, acting by its representatives. The ministers, it is true, are ex officio members; they sit by their own right. But supposing they had a separate interest, they are, by the constitution of the body, so small a minority, that they can do nothing by themselves.

It is also true that representatives do not always act in a way which meets with the entire approval of their constituents; and that even when they are elevated to the position of law makers, do not always think and feel precisely as they did when they were only law observers. This does not arise, altogether at least, from human infirmity, but from the new view which their altered position affords them. It is desirable, for this reason, that members of Conference, as of

any
other

representative deliberative assembly, should come unpledged, or unfettered by restrictions that would prevent them from acting upon their own honest convictions, such as they may be after deliberation. Otherwise what were the use of a deliberative body? That would not indeed be a deliberative assembly at all which consisted of men bound to take only one view of a subject, and to plead and vote in its favour. For what purpose do men come together to confer with each other, but to employ their collective intelligence to discover what is right or best to do, and what is the right or best way of doing it? In order to carry out this purpose, members should come disposed to learn, as well as prepared to teach. This is one great use of our coming together to deliberate, and one of the great benefits we derive from our deliberations, Isolated members are liable to form peculiar and narrow views. The same is true in a proportionate extent with regard to Societies. Each is subject to the law of limitation. Every Society is pervaded by some particular sentiments and views which mark it off from others. This is not in itself an evil, but a good. It is a variety. It becomes, however, an evil if the Society wilfully maintains its isolation, and refuses to blend its good with the good of others. It is with Societies as with nations. All have excellences, which others need, and defects which others can correct. One use of intercourse is to see our own defects and others' excellences. When we come together to pursue a common object, and one in which we are all equally interested, it is a duty we owe to ourselves, as well as to others, to freely receive as well as freely give, and, keeping our minds open to conviction, freely

accept that view which commends itself to our, as far as possible, unbiassed judgment. Our Conference is on the whole pervaded by this wise and generous sentiment; and the more it is so, the better will it be for the important interests which it is its function to preserve and promote. We sincerely hope that the meeting which now is 80 near will prove one of the most harmonious in action and fruitful in result that has ever been held. Actuated as all must be by the same end, which is the welfare of the Church, the means and measures by which that end is sought to be promoted may be safely left to the general, but we hope that they may be carried by the unanimous, voice of our deliberative assembly. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

Review s. OUTLINES OF THE RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY OF SWEDENBORG. By

THEOPHILUS PARSONS, LL.D. London: James Speirs. Small Crown

8vo, cloth, 318 pp. 2s. 6d. This neat and handy volume is an English reprint of the most recent work of the venerable Professor Parsons of Boston, and is a worthy addition to the three series of Essays, the Deus Homo, etc., by which its author is already known and respected, wherever the principles of the New Church have found any acceptance. Indeed, this latest production will probably, in some respects, surpass even the great usefulness of its predecessors. Since the days of Clowes, Hindmarsh, Noble, and the other early apologists of the New Church, such numerous and radical changes have occurred in the prevalent aspects of thought and the consequent methods of discussing religious doctrine and philosophy, that their able, and indeed invaluable, expositions and vindications no longer cover the whole field of criticism or possible objection. The task most incumbent on these pioneers of the New Dispensation was to establish the Scriptural soundness and authority of its teachings, proving that where they clash with older and generally accepted dogmas, they can yet claim for their divergence the sanction of the inspired Word ; and this task the champions referred to accomplished to perfection. Now, however, as foreseen by Swedenborg a hundred years ago, theological controversy has, in great measure, chosen another ground. Scripture, instead of being universally accepted, at least in the religious world, as the supreme arbiter of creeds and practices, is itself scrutinized and questioned ; its Divine origin doubted, or believed with so many exceptions and qualifications, that, as an article of faith, it is reduced to a minimum; and its declarations tested by the standards of natural science and philosophy, and admitted or disallowed in proportion as they square with these assumed, fixed, and certain data. This change is the inevitable consequence of the liberty to enter intellectually into the things of faith wbich has resulted from the Last Judgment, and is the necessary precursor of a juster estimate of the Divine Word, as containing an internal spiritual sense in which its glory and value pre-eminently reside ; and of the Divine works, even on the material plane, as themselves in harmony with spiritual truth, and affording by the great law of correspondence, continual illustrations of the methods and operations of Providence in the maintenance and government of the minds and souls of men, and of all the immortal interests of the unseen universe. It is a great merit of Professor Parson's latest work to discuss the varied themes of which it treats from the scientific and philosophical points of view, which the opinion of the present day respects most highly. He argues every question from the simplest and most obvious postulates, and, employing a spiritually enlightened reason according to the laws of sound and severe logic, wins, on behalf of the main doctrines of the New Church, the assent of every reader who weighs with unprejudiced candour the conclusions submitted to his judgment. Hence Dr. Parson's book is especially adapted for thoughtful inquirers dissatisfied with the dry bones of a self-styled but obsolete orthodoxy, yet demanding rational conviction before acknowledging that the effete dogmas, against which his heart and reason protest, have been superseded by a revelation of a mightier and more vital truth. Cheap as the volume is, therefore, we could wish for an edition at so low a cost as to facilitate its sale, in large numbers, at our public lectures, etc., and to encourage its general distribution by all New Churchmen having friends of intellect and culture, whom they wish to initiate into a knowledge of genuine religious and philosophical truth.

J. P.

THE CARES OF THE WORLD. By JOHN WEBSTER HANCOCK, LL.B.,

Barrister-at-Law. London : James Speirs, 36 Bloomsbury Street. Two works have been lying on our table during the last few weeks, from the perusal of which we have derived considerable pleasure. Both are the productions of intelligent men, both the writings of men we feel to have been striving after the truth, and who have in a measure found it. Both works are mentally and morally invigorating. One is “Letters on Social Aims,” by Emmerson, treating of various topics from “Persian Poetry” to “Immortality,”—a work throughout which the author is looking towards the truths which are eternal. The New Church reader will perhaps be surprised to find how frequently Swedenborg is referred to by Enimerson. We mention the book, however, merely because we have been reading it along with the “Cares of the World,” the other book referred to. Neither the one nor the other loses by the comparison necessarily made under such circumstances. Both will undoubtedly have different spheres of use. It is of the latter work only we propose to speak.

The “ Cares of the World” is obviously the work of one whose subject has grown into him. He lays before us in his writing no superficial, or to him accidental, condition of mind ; but shows us a reality, a form of wisdom adapted to substantial use, so crystalized that no mental geologist need be told that it is not a formation of yesterday. At first sight few subjects

« ForrigeFortsæt »