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There is one passage in the Scriptures to which all the potentates of Europe seem to have given their unanimous assent and approbation, and to have studied so thoroughly, as to have it quite at their fingers' ends; Luke ii. 1. "There went out a decree, that all the world should be taxed."
Agur said, (Prov. xxx. 8.) "Give me neither poverty nor riches;" and this will ever be the prayer of the wise. Our incomes should be like our shoes; if too small they will gall and pinch us; but, if too large, they will cause us to stumble and to trip. But wealth, after all, is a relative thing; since he that has little, and wants less, is richer than he that has much, but wants more. True contentment depends not upon what we have, but upon what we would have; a tub was large enough for Diogenes, but a world was too little for Alexander.
If the apostle were again to appear on earth, since all the multifarious denominations of Christians would claim him, which would he choose? The apostle shall answer, (James i, 27.) “ Religion pure and undefiled before God, even the Father, is this, to oversee orphans and widows in their affliction, to preserve himself unspotted from the world.
Review of Books.
The Philosophy of Religion; or, an illustration of the Moral Laws of the Universe. By Thomas Dick, author of the "Christian Philosopher." G. B. Whittaker, London, 8vo. pp. 638.
THE views which this writer offers to the notice of his readers concerning the future state of mankind, have induced us to notice his work; his book is divided into four chapters, and each chapter is subdivided into several sections; the style is pleasant, and the language good. In page 22 of the introduction, we have the following remarks;
"We dwell in an obscure corner of God's empire; but the light of modern science has shewn us, that worlds, a thousand times larger than ours, and adorned with more refulgent splendours, exist within the range of that system of which we form a part. It has also unfolded to our view other systems dispersed throughout the voids of space, at immeasurable distances, and in such vast profusion, that our minds are unable to grasp their number and their magnitude. Reason and revelation lead us to conclude, that all these worlds and systems are adorned with displays of divine wisdom, and peopled with myriads of rational inhabitants. The human mind, after it has received notices of such stupendous scenes, naturally longs for a nearer and more intimate inspection of the grandeur and economy of those distant provinces of the Creator's empire; and is apt to imagine, that it would never
weary, but would feel unmingled enjoyment, while it winged its flight from one magnificent scene of creation to another. But although an inhabitant of our world were divested of the quality of gravitation, endowed with powers of rapid motion adequate to carry him along "to the suburbs of creation," and permitted by his Creator to survey all the wonders of the universe, if a principle of love and kindly affection towards fellow-intelli gences did not animate his mind, if rage and revenge, pride and ambition, hatred and envy, were incessantly rankling in his breast, he could feel no transporting emotions, nor taste the sweets of true enjoyment. The vast universe through which he roamed would be transformed into a spacious hell. For there appears from reason and experience, as well as from the dictates of revelation, an absolute impossibility of enjoying happiness, so long as malevolent affections retain their ascendancy in the heart of a moral intelligence; in whatever region of universal nature his residence may be found. It must therefore be a matter deeply interesting to every intelligent agent, to acquire correct notions of the fundamental principles of moral action, and to form those habits which will fit him for the enjoyment of true felicity. In the illustration of this subject, I shall pursue a train of thought which, I am not aware, has been prosecuted by any previous writers on the subject of morality, and shall endeavour to confirm and illustrate the views which may be exhibited by an appeal to the discoveries of revelation."
We are happy in being able to confirm the author's testimony on this head, to a very considerable extent; there is a clearness in his perceptions of christian duties, which far surpasses, in our estimation, the opinons of Theologians generally; had he been acquainted with the DOCTRINE of LIFE for the New Jerusalem, the points which he has laboured to establish, he would have found, stated and confirmed in the clearest and strongest language, viz, that all Religion hath relation to Life, and that, the life of religion is to do good. In our present number, we cannot give more than a few of his excellent remarks on the future state of man: we shall however, avail ourselves of future opportunities to select other portions of his work for the perusal of our readers:
"We may learn from the subject we have been illustrating, what notions we ought to form of the nature of a future stale of happiness, and of the preparation requisite for enabling us to engage in its employments. The felicity of the future world will not consist simply in a change of place; nor will it consist chiefly in a change of sentiment or opinion. Its foundation must be laid in the principle of love, and in the complete renovation of the moral powers of the human mind, without which, no celestial scene could produce permanent enjoyment. Although all the Theologians who now exist were united in opinion about every article of the system of Divinity; and although they were transported to the most splendid world that revolves around the star Arcturus ;* after the first transports, arising from the novely and the grandeur of the scene, had subsided, they would enjoy little more happiness in that orb, than they do in this terrestrial sphere, unless
This writer in common with many modern christian Theologians seems to imagine that other earths in the material universe, may be intended for the reception of man on his departure from this world; he does not appear to be aware, that the world of spirits is perfectly distinct from the world of matter; but as he is evidently well acquainted with the noble science of astronomy, it will doubtless add to his pleasure to be informed, that the two worlds, i. e. the natural or material and the spiritual, are quite distinct from each other; the splendid, numerous, and ponderous earths which roll round their respective Suns, are simply, or merely seminaries for supplying the spiritual world with inhabitants; and there can be no reason to doubt that this will ever be the case; and that while the material universe is thus maintained through the instrumentality of its various suns, there is a spiritual sun, by which the whole universe is sustained; which sun though it be not the Lord himself, is the first, or proximate emanation from him: and it is this sun which is alluded to in these merciful words, "he maketh his sun to shine on the evil and the good, and his rain to descend on the just and the unjust."
See either of the following works by Emanuel Swedenborg: The Wisdom of Angels concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom; or the work on Heaven and Hell.
they were actuated with moral dispositions and affections very different from those which many of them now display. For, not only rancour and malice, but even coldness and indifference to the welfare of others, would prevent happiness from being enjoyed in any region of the material universe. All who believe in the reality of a future world, indulge in anxious wishes to be made happy when they pass from this mortal scene to the world of spirits, even wicked men, indulge the hope that God will ultimately be merciful to them, and admit them then to the joys of heaven. But this is impossible, in the very nature of things, unless they be "renewed in the spirit of their minds," and endowed with those holy dispositions which alone can qualify them for relishing substantial happiness, and for participating in "the inheritance of the saints in light.' How could malignity associate with benevolence, contention with friendship, or war with peace? How could the sons of discord dwell in unity, in an assembly where all is harmony and love? How could the malicious and revengeful spirit find delight in the employments of kindness and pure benignity? The thing is impossible, unless the moral order of all worlds were completely subverted. Such characters will be banished from the abodes of bliss; not by any arbitrary decree of the Almighty, but in virtue of the moral constitution of the intelligent universe. It is, therefore, evident, that the happiness of heaven must be founded upon the exercise of love, affection, harmony, perfect good-will to others, and the infinite variety of ramifications into which such principles may diverge; combined with profound views and affections in relation to the Deity. When these and similar dispositions are uniformly exercised, without the least mixture of any one ingredient of moral evil, it is easy to conceive with what transports of delight the inhabitants of heaven will contemplate the displays of Divine Power, Wisdom, and Goodness. From the preceding illustrations we may learn something of the nature and essence of future punishments. If the exercise of love, in all its diversified modifications, constitutes the essence of happiness, the unrestrained operations of malevolence must be the source and the sum of misery. We cannot form a more dreadful picture of future punishment, than by conceiving the principles of deceit, and malignity, and the passions of pride, hatred, malace and revenge, raging with uncontroled and perpetual violence. We need represent to ourselves nothing more horrible in the place of punishment, than by supposing the Almighty simply to permit wicked men to give full scope to their malevolent dispositions, leaving them " to eat of the fruit of their own ways, and to be filled with their own devices." The effects produced by the uncontrolled operations of such principles and passions would be such, as may be fitly represented by the emblems of "the worm that never dies," of "devouring fire,' and of their concomitants, "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth." We intend to notice this work again in a future number.
REMARKABLE JEWISH SECT.
The New Baptist Magazine for April contains a letter from M. Mayers, at Vienna, giving an account of a most remarkable sect of Jewish believers in Poland, called Sabbathians, from their founder, Sabbathia Zewy, and also Soharites, on account of their veneration for the book of Sohar, the pricipal cabbalistical work, and which they receive as the highest authority and word of revelation, to the prejudice of the Holy Scriptures, which are considered subordinate to the Cabbala, by many of which they are to be explained.
On their settlement in Poland they declared their total rejection of the Talmud, and published the following confessiou of faith. They are distinguished for their strict morality and integrity, and only marry among themselves.
let. "We believe all things commanded by God at all times, as well by positive doctrines as traditions; and we do not only consider ourselves in duty bound to obey all precepts and omit all prohibitions contained in this law, but also to enter minutely into the examination of these doctrines in order to comprehend the mysteries hidden under the letter. To this end God said to Abraham, ‘I am the Almighty God, walk before me and be thou perfect,' Gen. xvii. 1; and to Moses, 'And now Israel what doth the Lord thy God require of thee,' &c. Deut. x. 12, 13. This proves, that it is our duty to obey the Lord and his precepts and statutes, and to seek to comprehend the truth of his doctrines without any error. Next to this, it becomes us to fear and honour the Lord, according to the words of the Psalmist, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,' Ps. cxi. 10. Yet this alone, the fear and love of the Lord, is not sufficient; we must also acknowledge the power and greatness of God by his works. Therefore David said on his death-bed to his son, 'Know thou the God of thy father and serve him,' 1 Chron. xxviii. 9. Upon these words in Samuel, (1 Sam. ii. 30,) Them that honour me, I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed;' the Sohar comments, that it were better for that man not to have been created, who does not comprehend to magnify the name of the Lord, for we are created and put into this world, for no other purpose than to seek to understand the mysteries comprehended in the Divine name.' David says, 'The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him in truth, Ps. cxlv. 18; upon which the Sohar asks, 'Can we then call upon God in untruth?' answer, yes: all those who call upou God without knowing him, call upon him in untruth. From the preceding, it is therefore plainly to be seen, that each man is in duty bound to believe in God, and in law, to acknowledge Him, as well as his statutes and justice, and to search deeply into the mysteries of the Thorah . Those whose belief is conformable to this, fulfil the will and commands of God which He has promulged by Moses, and these only, deserve the name of true Israelites.
2nd. "We believe, that the writings of Moses, the prophets, and all earlier teachers, are not to be taken literally, but figuratively; and as containing a secret sense hid under the mere letter. These writings are to be compared to a beautiful woman, who hides her charms under a veil, and expects her admirers to take the trouble of lifting it; which is also the case with the Word of God, being hidden under the veil of a figurative sense, which cannot be lifted even with the highest human ingenuity, and greatest degree of wisdom, without the assistance of divine grace. In other words, the things spoken of in the Thorah, must not be taken literally, according to the mere phraseology, but we must pray for the teaching of the Divine Spirit, to be enabled to discern the kernel which lies hid under the mere shell or husk of the letter. We therefore believe, that it is not sufficient merely to read the words of the prophets, to know the literal meaning, but that it requires Divine aid, in order to understand, in many places the fundamental of the letter; and thus we find David prays, 'Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,' Ps. cxix. 18. If king David had been able to understand the Word of God by his own enquiries, he would not have thus prayed; but his supplication was to comprehend the secret and hidden mysteries of the Thorah. To this effect are also the words of the Sohar: "Woe to the man who asserts that the Thorah is a mere record of historical facts of ancient times, and contains but a narrative of common things; If this were the case, it might also be composed in the present time. But the narratives and subjects contained in the holy writings, are only used as figures for the mysteries deeply hidden under the letter. And whoever considers the primary sense as the principal object of the Scriptures, is guilty of death, and forfeits all claim to a future state. Therefore, says the Psalmist, lighten mine eyes,' Ps. xiii. 3; (that is to say that I might discern the secrets hidden under the letter of the law,) 'lest I sleep the sleep of death.' In another passage, it is remarked by the Sohar,' If the Thorah were only to be taken in a literal
sense, why should David say,The law of the Lord is perfect, more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold,' Ps. xix. It is therefore undeniable, that great and many mysteries are hidden under the letter of the Thorah, to enquire into which, it is the duty of every one who wishes to become orthodox.
3d. "We believe, the best and only true interpretation of the Thorah, of all others, to be the Sohar; but that the Rabbis, in the Talmud, have in many places, falsely explained the Holy Scriptures, by many wrong views they have given of the Divine attributes, and contradicting the fundamental doctrine of love to our neighbour. [Here follow numerous quotations from the Talmud to prove this, which I have omitted translating on account of their prolixity.]
4th. "We believe in one God, eternal, without beginning or end, the only creator of the universe and all it contains, both visible and invisible; according to the words in the Thorah, 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,' Deut. vi. 4; and in the Psalms, Thou art great, and doest wondrous things, thou art God alone,' Psalm lxxxvi. 10, that is to say, not like earthly kings who cannot have their commands executed without human means; but God created heaven and earth without the co-operation of any other being, and his Providence alone directs and governs all.
5th. "We believe, that though there is but one God, yet that there are three persons DIY in the Deity, which without any separation or distinction from each other, from a perfect unity. This truth is not only contained in the books of Moses, but also in all the writings of the prophets and other parts of the holy Scriptures. It is said in the Sohar, That the Thorah begins with the letter Beth, which is formed by two horizontal lines and one vertical, that point to the unity of the Three. This belief in a Trinity in unity is founded upon the holy Scriptures, where the doctrine is plainly taught in innumerable instances; as a proof of this, we shall quote a few passages here. It is said by Moses, Gen. i. 2, the Spirit m of Elohim, in the plural, moved upon the face of the waters;' were there but one person in the Deity, Moses would have expressed himself thus, the Spirit of Jehovah or El, moved; from this it plainly appears, that it was his object at the outset of his writings, to inculcate the doctrine of a Trinity of Parzufim, Persons, in the Deity. He says further, God said, let US make man in OUR image after OUR likeness,' Gen. i. 26, upon which the Sohar comments, Two there are and One, which makes Three, and these Three are One.' Again it is said, Gen. iii. 22, Jehovah Elohim spoke, behold the man is like one of US.' If there were not three Parzufim (Persons) in the Deity, why does it say Jehovah Elohim, in the plural, Jehovah alone would have sufficed; it was unquestionably thus put to prove the Trinity. It being said 'the Lord came down to see the city and the tower; and further, 'Go, let US go down and there confound their language,' Gen. xi. 5, 7; the question naturally occurs, to whom did Jehovah speak this? He would not have thus familiarly spoken to the angels, who are his ministering servants, to whom he would have addressed himself in the language of command, and not in a way of request; we conclude therefore, that God spoke to his co-equals, the other Parzufim, of the same authority and dignity with himself. We find it further recorded, that three men appeared unto Abraham, Gen. xviii. 2, and yet on seeing them, he said, 'My Lord,' xviii. 3. How can it otherwise be explained, that he should have seen three and only addressed one, if these three were not one. Moses commands the Israelites 'to take the blood of the paschal lamb, and strike it on the two side posts, and on the upper door post,' Exod. xiii. 7; upon which the Sohar asks, why is this to be done just upon three places?' 'In order,' it is answered, 'that we should behold on these three places, our perfect faith in the Triune and holy name of God; which is another proof of the three Parzufim (Persons) in the Deity. 'It is said by Moses, Deut. iv. 7, 'What nation is there so great who hath Elohim so nigh (0) unto them as Jehovah our God?' If there were not