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something existed after nothing.' To this I replied, “This arcanum cannot be explained, unless it be known that no one is good but God alone, and that there is not anything good which is really good, but from God. Wherefore he who looks to God, and wishes to be led by God, is in good; but he who turns himself away from God, and wishes to be led by himself, is not in good. From which it is manifest that man himself is the origin of evil; not that that origin was implanted in him from creation, but that he, by turning from God to himself, implanted it in himself. When the serpent said, “In the day that ye shall eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil ye shall be as God," then because they turned themselves away from God, and turned themselves to themselves, as to a god, they made in themselves the origin of evil : to eat from that tree signified to believe that he knew good and evil, and was wise from himself, and not from God.' But the two angels then asked, “How could man turn himself from God, and turn to himself, when yet man cannot will, think, and thence do anything but from God? Why did God permit this ?' I replied, “Man was so created, that whatever he wills, thinks, and does, appears to him as in himself and thereby from himself: without this appearance, man would not be man; for he would be incapable of receiving, retaining, and, as it were, appropriating to himself, anything of good and truth, or of love and wisdom. Whence it follows, that without such appearance, man would not have conjunction with God, nor, consequently, would he have eternal life. But if, from that appearance, he induces in himself a belief that he does will, think, and thence do good from himself, and not from the Lord, he then turns good into evil with himself, and thus causes in himself the origin of evil. This was the sin of Adam.'»*
Here the subject is presented in outline, and in so concise a form that it may be at once comprehended and easily retained. But yet, to give a satisfactory elucidation of the matter, it will be necessary to go into the subject more in detail, and historically. For the question may reasonably be asked, “If Adam (or mankind), that is, the men of the Most Ancient or celestial Church, were so wise, and had interior light from heaven, how could they fall into so fatal an error as to mistake this appearance for a reality? Did they not know that all their thoughts and affections, all their wisdom and love, came from God every instant, and that it was only an appearance that they lived of themselves? How, then, could they be led away by the serpent; that is, how could they be seduced by the fallacies of sense, so as to believe the contrary?”
Treatise on Conjugial Love, n. 444.
This is certainly a very reasonable question, and well deserving an answer, and it is answered in the Divine Word in its spiritual sense : the exact process of the fall is there described. We will endeavour to present a summary of it. London.
0. P. H. (To be continued.)
"A READER," having asked for some “New Church light,” on the subject of Intercessory Prayer, “H. S. S.,” in the April and May numbers of this magazine, gave that Reader considerable light, I hope, on duty, in respect thereto. Much, however, depends upon the state of mind of the inquirers, in framing suitable replies in such cases; and, lest those excellent papers should have fallen short of the Reader's hopes in any way, a few additional remarks are humbly offered.
If the inquiry comes from one just merging from the gloom of old church theology, he will have a peculiar idea of Intercession, because of an incorrect idea of God. The general notion amongst Christians is, not the simple Prayer for others; but interceding with God, on their behalf, and thereby influencing Him to grant what he previously withheld. We, in the New Church, know the prevalence of this fallacy, hence the constant prayers to God—"for Christ's sake.” But, in the New Church idea of prayer, no change in the Lord is ever dreamt of. “With Him there is no variableness, nor shadow of turning.” “He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Let us again refer, with “H. S. S.,” to the beautiful prayers in our Liturgy, which, though intercessory, must not have attached to them any notion of altering the Divine Love towards us. In making known our wants, the Lord is not made wiser, but ourselves rather; and it will not imply any change in Him, in case they are granted; nor does it imply His unwillingness, should our wishes not be realised, but only an incapacity to receive, on our part.
What can be the use, then, of praying for the church, particular and universal,” it may be asked ? The first part of the prayer imploring the descent into the soul, of the virtues and graces,—“the strength of Zion and the beautiful garments of Jerusalem,”—for power to keep the commandments, &c., can only be understood to mean, the cultivation of those principles by him who prays, and which he is supposed earnestly to desire. If that desire be sincere, can we imagine that the Lord would withhold the spiritual blessing? But the next portion
refers to the impartation, by the Lord, of those blessings to others ; "interceding,” as it is said, for the extension of His love and light over the whole world. Exactly similar is the prayer for the graces of the ministry, and for the principles of right and good government in our native country. That, in all these, the cultivation of charity and brotherly love are inculcated,—the love of the neighbour and the love of the Lord,—must be very evident to most minds, but not any additional development of clemency in the Lord.
In offering public prayer for the blessings of good government, we do but educate our minds religiously into our civil duties, submitting ourselves to the laws of the realm, and the “ powers that be ;'' “ rendering to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's,”—teaching the people respect for such government as we have; and if better is prayed for, surely we do not expect the Lord will bestow it without our cooperation, by the use of orderly means. Nevertheless, we must seek the power and guidance, in humility, at His hands; thus establishing by prayer, states of obedience and brotherly love. So with regard to the prayer for ministers ; he who prays—being a minister—if he does so from his heart, must be greatly benefitted and instructed by thus putting himself in an attitude of mind whereby he becomes more receptive of blessings ever flowing—not called forth thereby—from the Lord. His love is incessant; being Himself it can never become less or greater in intensity, except in its effects, by a change in the subjects of its reception. His wisdom and providence are ever unceasingly active, and therefore can never be moved to greater activity or vigilance on His part. “Our sins separate between us and our God." He changeth not, “ therefore are we not consumed.”
There is, however, the angelic channel, whereby the Lord doubtless works unconscious effects, and influences our spirits in a thousand ways for good ; and it may be that some of those influences are made to surround us by the prayers of others. If, for instance, we most earnestly and persistently pray for the spiritual blessing of any of those we love, or let it even be for recovery from sickness, or other evil, we necessarily bring the angels and good spirits associated with us into closer contact or affinity with the object upon which our affections are placed. If, then, “angels are His ministers,” they may carry “healing on their wings,” of which we can form but a poor estimate. But, admitting this beautiful idea of the New Church, still, no change in the Lord can be predicated, but only the channels and influences we set in motion by our prayers, which become new
vehicles of communication between us and our ever and all-beneficent Father.
A Primitive Methodist preacher once informed the writer that when they set their minds upon a wicked sinner to convert him, they could generally succeed. Some two or three of “the class” would wait upon the man and tell him they were going to pray for him. Afterwards they would by repeated efforts induce the man to go to meeting; if they managed this they had him safe, for they all in turn prayed or besieged the throne of grace for him, until he shouted for mercy. These are nearly the terms in which the relation was put, and if true, the spiritual influences brought into play would seem to confirm the New Church ideas above alluded to. And these ideas encourage us, in every possible way, to “pray to our Father in secret," but not with the hope of changing His love towards us ; nor should they lead us to the next fallacy of praying to saints or angels, but to the Lord Jesus Christ, " who only hath life.”
But further, on this subject, the author of “A Help to Devotion” (the late Rev. W. Mason), has an able discourse in that volume, wherein he observes-"It is a favourite notion of some enthusiastic religious professors (and it is one as inconsistent with just views of the Divine nature and government as it is absurd in itself) that prayer moves the arm of Him who moves the world.' But how evident is it to the reflecting mind that all the movement or change is in the worshipper himself, who prepares himself, by the change of state which prayer induces upon him, to become the subject of Divine operation.”
And with regard to “Intercessory Prayer,” he says, in the same discourse—“ It is worthy of remark that the only persons the Lord commands us to pray for, in direct terms, are those whom we should be least likely to pray for if we consulted our merely natural feelings, namely, those who despitefully use us and persecute us.” But the intelligent New Churchman perceives the Divine wisdom in this requirement, as bearing much more powerfully on the person praying than on those he prays for, which latter can only be influenced through angelic, or what may be termed unconscious agency, whilst the refined charity, the really angelic principle of forgiveness therein involved and cherished by the former, is undoubtedly a foundation virtue of the kingdom of heaven. The Divine law given to the Jews, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” is, and ever will be, the spiritual law of the Christian ; for the Lord tells us, “the measure we mete out to others will be measured unto us.” The principle of hatred or of love to our neighbour which we cultivate in this life will stamp its deep photograph on the soul; so that any fancied revenge or injury we inflict on others does but write in our “ book of life” its counterpart.
It would therefore appear that the principal use intended by the Lord in commanding us to pray for others, even those we do not love, is for our own spiritual benefit, that we may be denuded of self, and become principled in that heavenly charity which “covereth a multitude of sins," which sins our Heavenly Father is ever ready to forgive, if we repent of and shun them.
THE USES AND DUTIES OF NEW CHURCH SOCIETIES.
[An essay appointed to be prepared for the meeting of the New Church Ministers in Lancashire, April 8th, 1868; and now published by request. ] The subject I have selected for the essay which you have done me the honour of appointing me to prepare, is “ The Uses and Duties of New Church Societies.” The formation of New Church Societies, wherever the doctrines of the New Church are received, is, I think, a necessary and an advantageous thing. It is necessary, because where men agree on religious topics, they will be irresistibly led to associate with each other. Religious doctrines point to religious worship. Those who hold specific doctrines will desire to worship together, if only occasionally, according to the spirit, and in the light of those doctrines. They will seek to communicate their views to others, in conversation, by suitable works, and in other ways. They will desire that their children shall be brought under the influence of the doctrines which they themselves hold. They will wish to avail themselves of the most effective means for the dissemination of their views among the public, seeking, in this way, not to “hide their light under a bushel.”
These simple principles underlie all attempts at organization, in connection with every system of religious thought. It is easy to trace the successive steps by which one receiver of certain religious doctrines would gather around himself a group of friends who had been convinced by his arguments; how these friendly gatherings would become regular meetings, at stated intervals, for reading, conversation, and prayer; how these meetings must develope into hiring a larger room, when private houses should become too small to accommodate the increasing numbers, or when some other friends from a distance came over to join them; how this would lead to the establishment of regular Sabbath worship, the building of churches, the appointment of ministers, the erection of schools, and the collection of such isolated societies into