Page images
PDF
EPUB

forfeited their lives to the outraged laws of civil society. Under this salutary system the public execution of criminals, which was intended rather as an example to the wicked and licentious than a vindictive punishment of the transgressor, was attended with the most beneficial results; for by a visible exemplification of the solemn truth, that “the wages of sin are death,” many a hardened and deliberate offender has been thereby arrested in his guilty career, reclaimed from the paths of error and sin, and ultimately trained to a course of sobriety and moral rectitude.

With “the march of intellect,” the boast of the present age of refinement, the march of religious ignorance and intolerance have unquestionably kept equal pace. If in the course of his official duties a minister is led to advocate the necessity of that “holiness without which no man can see the Lord,” he is as certainly stigmatized as a formalist or a legalist; he has the mortification of seeing his church deserted for some conventicle sprung up in its neighbourhood, where the more palatable doctrines of unconditional election and irresistible grace are thundered in men's ears ; where the hardened culprit is taught to believe that Jesus hath suffered and died expressly for the salvation of such malefactors; that the commission of crime is no impediment to his future wel. fare, and that in the appropriation of the Redeemer's imputed Righteousness by faith, he is as effectually absolved from all responsibility of his guilt, as though he had never sinned, and as fully entitled to the joys of the heavenly state, as the most pure and perfect saint in existence.

Under such a dense cloud of darkness, can it be a matter of surprise, that the burglar, the highwayman, or the murderer should meet death rather as a martyr than as a criminal ? Can the increase of crime with its awful consequences excite astonishment, when the day of public ignominy is hailed as a day of all other the most replete with delight and transport? when the wretch, who to a long catalogue of delinquencies, at last fills up the measure of them by imbruing his hands in the blood of his unsuspecting neighbour ; and having so done, can obtain a perfect remission of his guilt at the hand of some self deputed ecclesiastic? For how frequently do we behold the cold blooded murderer, the midnight assassin bolstered up by the emissaries of blasphemy and cant, declaring his most decided conviction of final acceptance with God, and that in language which the most pious Christian, who after a long life of virtue and goodness dies in peace with all mankind upon his quiet bed, would consider as the very climax of presumption. Upon society in general, and on the lower orders in particular, what must be the probable effects of such conduct, but a persuasion that the greater the sinner the greater the saint? what, in short, but the excitement of sympathy, nay even of horror on witnessing such heroic fortitude and magnanimity in the lamented malefactor, who, in a few short days, has most effectually completed the important work of repentance; complacent under absolution granted him by his misguided pastor, which alone is attainable through the abounding mercy and goodness of the Most High God.

It is really appaling as well as disgusting to be apprized of such palpable perversions of religious truth, and to the man of christian benevolence the subject makes a most solemn appeal, that his energies may be called forth in behalf of the unfortunate victims of such delusion and fraud. In the development of any established error, fraught with the most dangerous consequences to mankind at large; in attempting the application of a remedy commensurate with the malignity of the disease, we can only consult the records inscribed on the pages of inspiration, and modify our opinions and operations according to this infallible rule, all human resources being inefficient and destitute of spiritual life.

Far, very far be it from me to narrow the boundaries of the divine mercy, or to damp the Christian's hope in the hour when his extreme sorrow most needs it; equally far be it removed from my mind to substitute a pharisaical self righteousness for that sincere repentance, by which, and which only our blessed Lord hath given ús ány well founded reason to cherish a hope of his divine mercy and forgiveness; well aware, that after all we can do, even the very best of us, we are but “unprofitable servants.” This then brings us to the important inquiry, what do we really understand by this familiar term repentance !Is it, think we, an oral confession of our sins simply, extorted perhaps with the gallows in perspective? is it an excitement produced on the feelings by the wild incoherent fantasies of enthusiam, or the feverish ebullitions of an over heated imagination ? The prompt reply, is, nothing of the sort; for the original Greek word universally rendered repentance, by the translators of the New Testament, most evidently imports å change in the subject of it, even a thorough change of mind, from an approbation of evil, to an aversion from it; or a conversion of men's evil ways to their opposite, which is good. Again, repentance implies the taking an impartial retrospect of our past deviations from original righteousness, by secret self examination, to regard them with internal sorrow and grief of soul, accompanied with a determined resolution to forsake them, as being obnoxious in the sight of God, and of consequence, subversive of our present peace and future happiness. But I would ask, are these triumphant sallies of lawless depredators already hinted at, the harbingers

[ocr errors]

of this christian grace of repentance, that preparation insisted on by the baptist for the Redeemer's advent? or would this repentance be in exercise in a state of perfect freedom, unshackled with fear and terror ? I fear that for the most part, the reply must be in the negative ; for how many examples present themselves, where the royal prerogative of mercy has interposed to preserve the sinner from a violent death, who after all his professions of penitence has scarcely o’erstept his gloomy cell, than, like the sow washed from the mire, he has again resumed his wicked course of life, till at last the public executioner has released the world from his farther depredations ? These are humiliating facts to the man of serious sensibility, and such are the progressive but fatal effects of “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” instead'of resorting to the pure and unadulterated Word of God.

But how opposed to this dreadful delusion is the conduct of that man, who, deaf to the clamors of all sects and parties, deduces his instruction and consolation from the wells of eternal life and salvation, and regulates his conduct by the unerring principles of the gospel, which inculcate a uniform obedience to its divine precepts; a compliance with which communicates strength to the inner man, and insures his full victory over bis last enemy, preparatory to his taking possession of his heavenly inheritance. What was it, let us inquire, that supported the Patriarch and Prophets, the Evangelists and Apostles, under the most cruel persecutions and death ? what was it that upheld a Latimer, a Ridley, or a Hooker, when dragged by infuriated bigots to the stake and the fire ? not surely a momentary excitement of fanaticism; not surely a vain and empty persuasion, that Jesus by his blood shedding and death had cancelled their debt independent of their own co-operation, but that with holy joy and complacency they would look back on a well spent life, and exclaim with their suffering brothers in affliction, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up

for me a crown of eternal life in the heavens."

Here then permit me to request the serious attention of your numerous readers to the exalted privileges they enjoy, in the possession of the doctrines of the New Jerusalem Church, doctrines which it is our mutual duty to extend to the utmost of our power, because the Divine Word of truth is the rock on which they are erected, which men nor devils can never overthrow. In the concluding portion of Divine Revelation, our Lord positively assures us, that no murderer can have any part or lot in the kingdom of heaven, and that without genuine repentance, as the tree falls, so will it remain unchanged for ever. Such also are the declarations, of the New Church doctrines, which assure us, that he who is un. holy will be unholy still ; that the man who in the present life is at heart a sanguinary murderer, or an incorrigible robber, will remain the same in a future life, and for this sufficient reason, because they are evils grounded in the heart; they are his predominent ruling love, which love cannot be extirpated but with an extinction of life, and the extinction of spiritual existence is equivolent with annihilation, which is opposed to the laws of the Lord's Divine order.

Let it then be noticed with all the attention which the vast im. portance of the subject demands, that the mere death, or putting off the body, produces no change in the soul or spirit. Does a man unhappily live the willing slave of lawless passion, the deliberate robber, the relentless murderer, in the lust of gain, even at the expence of his neighbour's life such, there is too much reason to fear, will he remain to all eternity; and the only change he will experience by death, will be a more extended scope for the perpetration of crime ; for being a murderer in principle, as well as in practice, unobstructed by natural impediments, were he not restrained by the power of omnipotence, he would be in the constant thirst for murder in the spiritual, as he had previously been in the natural, world.

The too prevailing mistake on this momentous subject, is, that corporal punishment is in itself expiatory; but that any punishment, even death itself, will produce any radical change in the state and quality of the will and affections, is an error against which we can none of us be too much on our guard. Christian brethren be not deceived by the plausible sophistry of human contrivance, rest assured, “that which a man soweth, that shall be also reap.” If, therefore, through negligence or supineness, we permit the seeds of sin and evil to luxuriate undisturbed and uncontroled by any endeavor to correct their growth, the consequences will lead to certain shame and disgrace in the present world, and misery in that which is shortly to succeed. But on the contrary, if the seeds of virtue be really implanted in the mind, and cherished by culture so as to produce their corresponding fruits, the reward will be incalculable in the present life; and the end of such a man will be crowned with that peace of God which passeth all understanding.

Would we then profit by the awful examples of profligacy and sin, with which we are daily surrounded, would we escape the contaminating and dangerous doctrines by which wicked men are encouraged in their evils; be it our earnest prayer to the great Father of our spirits, that we may be preserved from the snares of error and falsehood, and more especially from the deceitfulness of our own hearts. Now is the accepted time and day of salvation ! in the grave, there is neither knowledge, wisdom nor device; and in every moment of our allotted time we are preparing ourselves for mansions in the heavens, or for that state of darkness and woe where hope can never enter. Solemn, awful thought! how should its reality and certainty excite us to watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation! with what earnestness should we lift up our eyes and our hearts to the great Majesty of heaven and exclaim with the psalmist,“ search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

T. F. CHURCHILL.

ON THE PHRASE INCARNATE GOD.

To the Editors of the New Jerusalem Magazine. GENTLEMEN,

I have no doubt but many passages might be found in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, like those produced by your correspondents, in defence of the doctrines of an Incarnate God, whose body is supposed to be Divine; and yet, without exception, they would only serve to shew, when connected with the explications and definitions which the author himself gives of what he means by a Divine Body, that he has been altogether misapprehended on the doctrine of the Divine-human of the Lord. Having remarked how repeatedly, and how studiously he endeavous to guard against mistake, by defining his own meaning of expressions, many of which are peculiar to himself, and which otherwise would inevitably have been perverted by all who could not, without difficulty, raise their thoughts above the gross imperfections of time and space even in what should be their purest and most elevated contemplations, it is to me no less astonishing, than deeply to be lamented, that another doctrine should have been substituted most completely at variance with those principles of reason, or universal truths on which the theology of the New Church is built. But until these universal truths be seen and applied, as the author in many instances has done, to all passages like those which have been brought forward by your correspondents, the church, on this its' chief doctrine, must continue to wander in the wilderness of the natural mind, walking about, and beating the ground, but not advancing, and mistaking the fallacies of the senses, for the interior truths of the Holy Scripture.

No one can understand, far less perceive, the doctrine of the Lord, unless he first learn to distinguish in his own mind between

« PreviousContinue »