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enjoyment of life? again; why did the Almighty suffer his chosen people to wander in the wilderness forty years, and indure the most severe trials and strugglings, suffering hunger and thirst, and many other calamities distressing to human nature, instead of bringing them at once as it were into the land of Canaan, to enjoy its milk and honey? In fact a vain objector may take up this ground and say, "Why were not the Holy Scriptures, if they are calculated to reveal the Being of a God, and to show mankind the way to heaven and happiness,-written at a much earlier period than they were; and why keep the world so long without that Book, which contains so much light and heavenly information? These vain objections may be urged against every thing—against every dispensation of Divine Mercy, yea against every improvement in science, and against the progress of literature in general.
Such objections to the Christian Religion as these, ought not to be ranked among the number of objections at all; for if they are examined they will be found to be poor, weak, and futile. The coming of Jesus Christ into the world took place in what the Holy Scriptures term the fulness of time (see Gal. iv. 4) the fulness of time implying the most proper season for such an event, the time which was exactly suitable for such a revelation of the divine goodness and mercy. Every dispensation of truth to mankind must have a commencement, and whenever this is made to enlighten mankind, and to bless them with higher degress of knowledge and goodness; they should rejoice and be glad in the day of light, and not presumptuously arraign the Divine Being and say "Why was not this revelation made before " O! thoughtless, erring man! think of the sin of such a vain objection, and hide thy guilty head!
A similar objection to the above is frequently made to the doctrines of the New Jerusalem: thus many object to them by saying "What! have all the bishops of the Christian Church, and all the great, and good and learned men who have written in defence of the Christian Religion from the Apostolic age until now-have all these been wrong in their judgment, and have they all propagated false doctrines? and if the doctrines of the New Jerusalem made known in the Writings of Swedenborg, be true-if they unfold the true spiritual sense of the Scriptures, and reveal clearly the knowledge of Jesus Christ as the One true and living God of heaven and earth, and otherwise bless the human race with superior views of heaven and eternal life-why was not this Revelation made known before? why keep all this fund of light and knowledge back from mankind until now?" These objections can be answered, and are most satisfactorily answered by a single sentence of our Lord's—
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now," John xvi. 12. The Lord, who alone knoweth the hearts of his people, is the best to judge of that state of the mind, which is suitable to receive a dispensation of Divine mercy; for it certainly would be useless to communicate any spiritual knowledge of Divine things, if the state of the mind and life was not able to receive it. How important then, are these words of our Lord— can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Matt. xvi. 3. Are we so taken up with the cares and follies of this life-so absorbed in the things of sense, as not to discern the spiritual things of heaven, and the state in which these things can alone be received? There is every reason to believe, that man, as a rational and intelligent being, is capable of perpetual improvement. The great progress which is now being made in the arts ard sciences, and in every branch of literature is a proof that no limits can be set to human improvement, and that the happiness of the human race will increase in proportion to the growth of true science, intelligence and wisdom. If, then, no reasonable and valid objection can be made to the progress of natural science, and to that knowledge which is connected with the arcana of nature, I see no reason why we may not improve in religion, and greatly increase in the knowledge of those important realities which are connected with the imperishable soul of man, and with the vast concerns of an eternal state! It cannot be unreasonable to suppose that we are capable of this spiritual improvement, but highly reasonable, and nothing but the most blind attachment to old things will prevent us from rising in divine knowledge, and obtaining clearer views than we now possess of the pure doctrines of the true Christian Religion.
Our Lord, when present with his disciples in the flesh, taught them to expect in the latter times, a brighter day of light and glory than existed at that time! a day in which he would no longer speak to us in proverbs, but would show us plainly of the Father, a day in which he would clearly reveal those many things which he could have made known in the days of his advent in the flesh; but which were in mercy kept back, because the state of the people could not bear the splendour of so exalted a light. Are we then, never to expect the arrival of this bright day of religious glory? are we to reject all new discoveries of truth and righteousness upon the ground that they are new, as if the Lord had never given us any expectations of a further revelation of himself? Surely not; for this would be the very extreme of folly. We cannot, then, reject the doctrines of the New Jerusalem because they were not made known before-now is the appointed time! the fulness of time! and the bright day of salvation.
We take great pains to observe the signs of the times as far as they regard the temporal things of this life; but we are too often careless and indifferent of these signs when connected with the spiritual things of an hereafter: thus our Lord complains of this want of observation, where he says, "when it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning it will be foul weather to-day; for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times ?" Among the many signs and wonders which are to take place, as so many forerunners of our Lord's second glorious appearance in the clouds of heaven, by which appearance the many things are to be revealed, are three very striking ones; they are mentioned by our Lord in the 24th of St. Matthew's Gospel, and are these, viz. The sun shall be darkened -and the moon shall not give her light—and the stars shall fall from heaven.-If we lift up the soul to contemplate spiritual things, I am persuaded we shall be convinced that now are the last times; and that light is sprung up to cheer the spiritual traveller in his way to the kingdom of peace! But how do we expect the fulfilment of this prophecy made by our Lord? do we literally and naturally expect the sun to be darkened, and the moon to withdraw her light, and the stars to fall from heaven? If we do it is most evident that we have not as yet discerned the signs of the times; and this is the more to be lamented because when these things take place, "then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven," and then shall he be seen coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. It is perhaps but little known, because we have not sufficiently attended to the signs of the times, that a similar prophecy to this recorded in Matthew is mentioned in Joel, where it is said, "The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble; the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come." ii. 10, 30, 31. This prophecy is said to have been fulfilled at the time of our Lord's advent in the flesh, for the Apostle Peter on the memorable day of pentecost, when all the Apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance, and to declare to all the wonderful works of God, said, while some were mocking and charging the disciples with being full of new wine, "be this known unto you, and hearken to my words, this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God,
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come." Acts ii. 17, 20. Here then the Apostle distinctly declares that the prophecy in Joel alluding to the sun, moon, and stars withdrawing their light, was then fulfilled notwithstanding our sun, moon, and stars underwent no such change, and did we but carefully observe the signs of the times we should be convinced that the prophecy in Matthew which speaks of the sun and moon becoming dark, and the stars falling from heaven is this day fulfilled and fulfilling, and that the Son of Man, the Lord as Divine Truth, is now making his appearance in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. If we make a true discernment of the signs of the times, it must be a spiritual discernment, and by this kind of discernment we shall perceive that by the sun, when mentioned in Scripture, is meant, not that luminous body which is the centre of our system, but the Sun of Righteousness, the Lord Himself with respect to his Divine Love; for this is the sun, whose enlivening beams will bless us with every heavenly virtue, cause Zion to bud and blossom as the rose, and fill the soul with joy and gladness! When the Divine Love-this Sun of Righteousness-is received into the human will, and made as it were the ground of all our actions and religious faith and worship-then the sun shines in all the glory and dignity of its strength, but when self-love is the secret and moving spring of all our actions both religious and worldly, then in the language of prophecy the last times have arrived and the sun is darkened. The same spiritual discernment will also teach us, that by the moon is meant, when shining, a pure and enlightened faith in the One Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ—but when this faith is obscured and perverted, and a false faith is instituted in the church, which directs its votaries to a belief in a division of the Divine Being into plurality of persons, which in itself is monstrous and unholy, then, again, in the language of prophecy the moon does not give her light, and, the stars have fallen from heaven. The stars denote all the knowledges of divine and heavenly subjects in the complex, which are said to fall from heaven when they are either rejected, or prostituted to selfish and worldly purposes. Such, then, is the spiritual signification of this prophecy recorded in Matthew, and if we carefully discern the signs of the times, we may now discover that these are the last days, and that the Son of Man, is now descending in the
clouds of heaven with power and great glory. The doctrines of the New Jerusalem, which, alas! although but little known in this busy world, are nevertheless the doctrines which unfold these interesting subjects to the mind in the clear light of day. They teach that by the Son of Man is meant the Lord with respect to the Divine Truth, and by the clouds of heaven, the literal sense of the Holy Word; for every literal sentence, verse and word, is as a cloud, which contains within its bosom, the pure unspotted truth in its internal glory and divinity. Hence then, by the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, we are instructed that the Lord will most powerfully reveal himself in his Word, and that by the opening of the literal sense, which is most completely done in the doctrines of the New Jerusalem, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Very Divine Truth will be seen and acknowledged in all the splendour and dignity of his divinity as the only true God and eternal life, in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily. The last times, or last days denote the end of any particular dispensation; thus the last days of the Jewish Church were when the Lord made his personal advent in the flesh, for then the Jewish Church passed away, and was succeeded by the Christian. The consummation of the age, or, as translated, the end of the world, recorded in Matthew, may be viewed as the last days, as the end of that dispensation of truth established at our Lord's advent in the flesh; these last days were brought on by corrupt worship-by denying the Divinity of the Lord on the one hand, and by dividing the Deity into plurality of persons, and instituting worship upon such a baseless fabric, on the other. These last days are to be succeeded by the glorious appearance of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, and by the introduction of a brighter day of glory, denoted by the descent of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, in which happy state of religious truth, the glory of the latter house will far exceed the glory of the former. Can we take a view into the religious world, and there behold the wars and rumours of wars- -the different and even opposite doctrines which are taught, and declared to be Christian doctrines, without being forcibly struck with our Lord's words, where he says, "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many." Matt. xxiv. 4, 5, and again, Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." ver. 11, 12. False prophets are false doctrines, and these deceive by turning us out of the path of true uprightness, when this deception is accomplished, then iniquity abounds, and when this abounds, the love of many waxeth cold. Amidst all this confusion