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and his joys. Eighthly, it must never be forgotten that the doctrines of the New Church are not merely a philosophical system of thought; they necessitate, compel, and direct men to worship, and the worship will need to be as new in some of its forms as the doctrines are new in most of their teachings.
The chief and the full reply to the objection, however, will be seen when we understand the higher use and duty of our societies. The doctrines of the New Church point to the direct worship of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only God of heaven and earth, and declare that such worship is an inestimable spiritual advantage. Where is the Lord Jesus directly worshipped, save in the churches of our societies ? The doctrines of the New Church inculcate holiness of life, charity, as the grand fundamental of all religion ;—where can this doctrine be so plainly and so consistently heard as in the churches of our societies ? The doctrines of the New Church assert that there is a spiritual sense in every portion of the Word, profitable for instruction in righteousness ;—where can this sense be continuously and openly expounded, save in the churches of our societies? The doctrines of the New Church teach that there is an important benefit to be obtained from the harmony of spheres among worshippers, when with “ one heart and with one voice” men unite to praise the Lord ;-if this is possible anywhere, it should pre-eminently be the case in the worship of those who are in agreement as to the object of worship, the uses of worship, the character of the Word, and the real quality and value of Christian life.
The great and most important use of our societies, consequently, is in the promotion among their members of an earnest, a genuine, and an advanced Christian life; the aid which they might, and ought to afford, in the formation of a truly Christian character; the means and opportunities which they should supply to all their members for truly religious usefulness in the places wherein they are situated. They might be, and, if they are to continue to exist, they must increasingly become, schools for the education of men and women in piety, purity, charity, faithfulness, and uprightness; until to be even nominally a New Churchman should be publicly recognised as a certificate of character, and the title of a New Churchman should be synonymous with exalted goodness springing from the love of God and of the neighbour.
If a man is really desirous of attaining a high spiritual state, of realizing continual direction as to what he ought to shun and do, of obtaining continual consolation and help from the Lord, of truly bringing into subjection the lower affections of his nature, of becoming more and more meet for the Master's service, there is no system of religious doctrine which will afford him so much assistance as that of the New Church. When it can be said that constant association with the members of our societies will tend only to confirm these desires, and will only help them to bring forth fruit, then, and not till then, will our societies have begun to perform the spiritual use which it is in their power to subserve. We are to a certain extent practiced theologians, but if such knowledge lead us not to a deeper humility, and to a more faithful obedience, it is a kind of knowledge which “puffeth up.” The danger of “faith alone” is everywhere great: it is greatest of all in New Church societies. That proprium is altogether diseased which boasts of the spiritual knowledge it possesses, when, if it were only applied, it would but the more condemn the boaster. Perhaps our young men may have erred too much in this direction.
We need to cultivate more fully a genuinely religious life. I should like to see in every society of the New Church such work being carried on as is comprised in the formation and operations of benevolent funds, the visitation of the poor, and the institution of ragged schools. We have done much for the rich and the intelligent; what are we doing for the ignorant and the poor? I should like to see the breaking down of the barriers of caste and class in all our societary meetings. I should not object to see meetings for reading the Word, intermingled with earnest, social prayer. I should like to see more attention given to extemporaneous prayer in our public, social, family, and private worship of God. I feel confident that by these, and like means, our societies might become heavenly associations, conjoined with angels, and successful in the best sense,-in promoting the spiritual progress, in the love and practice of goodness, of every one of their members.
Wherever the doctrines of the New Church are truly received they will have this tendency in the individual; and the same tendency will be seen in a society consisting of men who truly embrace them. If, weighed in the balances, our societies be found wanting in these matters, we may increase, and perhaps all the faster, in numbers and in wealth, in congregations and in ministers, in elegance, eloquence, and music, as well as in our literature, yet the dread name “Ichabod” might be written over the gates of our churches; for then all the glory will have departed. The doctrines which we hold point to a life which is far higher and more spiritual than is revealed in the doctrines of the former dispensation ; and if we can only say that the results of our
societary operations are as good, and our societary influence as spiritually wholesome, as that of other denominations, we really confess that we are worse ; for with such doctrines, we ought to be far better than all others. A church should be a man's spiritual home: if it falls short of this, it fails of its purpose ; and the man who has tried us, and who feels all the more desolate because of this new disappointment, may justly seek elsewhere. It is, therefore, our great and bounden duty to strive to render our societies so loving in their spirit, so helpful in their knowledge of Divine truth, so large-souled in their charity, and so active in promoting spiritual uses among men, as that wherever we can find those who are weary of the jealous bickerings of cliques, the shallow denunciations of sects, the miseries of mysteries, and the coldness of churches, we may be entitled to say to them, “Ho! ye. that are weary, rest with us!” The church of the Lord Jesus should be a heaven on earth : not till we have realised this purpose have we come up to the Divine idea. When thus the Lord's house is established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, the nations will flow unto it. “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” God speed the day !
ARIADNE. [Extracted from the MSS. of the late John Bogg, Esq.] THE fable of Minos and Pasiphaë probably refers to a period of the church when the only good influencing mankind was not spiritual but natural, and when such judgment received the praise of its subjects as related to the laws, customs, and statutes of this world, rather than to those which prepared man for heaven. This was called by the ancients the brazen or copper age, and it gradually declined from interior natural goodness to exterior, and at length to a merely sensual state, named the iron age; when the images of virtue and goodness which had formerly delighted men's minds, as the means of recalling the excellences they symbolised, were themselves worshipped as gods, and thus the one Divine Being was divided into numerous deities of various aspects, like different rays of feeble and variegated light from the heavenly sun.
From the story we learn that Minos was presented by Neptune with a beautiful white bull to be offered in sacrifice,—type of a pure natural affection derived from and due to the Lord. But when man refuses to be led by Divine Wisdom from seeking to have his own will, or rather when he does not acknowledge that his will or love of goodness is from a spiritual source, in such case the natural affection sinks into a merely sensual state, so that he gives himself up to evil desires, which is represented by Pasiphaë's producing a minotaur, a bull-headed man,a monstrous union of spiritual intelligence with natural goodness of a sensual quality,—which is so very destructive to all true intelligence and real goodness in the church or its members, that Minos, the representative of the intellectual power, is said to have compelled the inhabitants of Athens to yield up yearly seven of their young men and seven maidens to be devoured by it. At length one of the young men, named Theseus, aided by one of the maidens, Ariadne, who gave him a clue to guide him through the labyrinth where the monster dwelt, destroyed the minotaur, and having rescued the others, sailed with Ariadne from Crete. Here we see a representation of the fact that when the mind reforms, natural truth-the truth of the Word in its literal sense-represented by Theseus, commences the work; but truth in the mind without its affection is powerless ; Ariadne must give Theseus the clue ; affection for truth must give true thought the clue to successful combat against the spiritual foe. The clue however is not Ariadne's own; the fibres for spinning it must be obtained elsewhere ; both truth and its affection in the mind need higher guidance, and this comes from above, from heaven,—angels there who are in a similar desire to know truth ; these, enlightening man's affection, enable it to weave together such threads of thought as will be useful in delivering the mind from the mazes of false ideas, and wandering labyrinths of evil loves, and will give a clear perception of the dangers of the intricate path, and the best method of rescuing the good and true principles of the mind from destruction.
Swedenborg says that threads of a beautiful semi-translucent appearance, like silk, are seen when truth is derived from good; otherwise they are white, hard, and fragile. He also says (Diary V., 3379.) that a poisoned sphere was explored by a blue thread; and as the experiments of Franklin beautifully showed that the erection or depression of the minute fibres of a string or thread exhibited the electrical plus or minus state of the atmosphere, we may learn by analogy how truth from good, represented as a thread in the spiritual world, may serve accurately to test or distinguish atmospheres derived from good from those of a deleterious or poisonous quality that arise from evil, and may thus serve as a guide to the earnest searcher after truth, enabling him to advance towards one and avoid the other.
May not the labyrinth into which Theseus penetrated to destroy the minotaur, be the type of the combination of the legion of spheres from the infesting spirits of hell, which, without some truth serving as a distinguishing test and guide, would form a maze of evil influences around man that would render his access to or egress from their central monstrosity impracticable ?
After marriage with Ariadne, Theseus deserted her on the isle of Minos, where Bacchus, god of wine, found her, and became her husband,—an incident which probably represents the change in the mind during regeneration, being first led by truth, finally by goodness. When, surrounded by a sea of doubts, the spiritual mind rests upon the truth of its faith as upon an island, it finds merely natural truth, such as that of literal precept in the Word; no longer the true object of its affection, it yearns for goodness, and feeling deserted, like a forsaken wife, mourns its own deficiency; but goodness, to the mind that sincerely desires it, cannot fail to come. Bacchus (who, as god and cultivator of the vine, represented the goodness which presides over and cultivates the affection for spiritual truth) arrives at the island : the heart's affection recognises its proper lord, and, dwelling no more in its lonely isle of faith, goes forth into the world, happy in being wedded to the goodness that comes from and leads to heaven. And finally, the crown of seven stars, the gift of Bacchus to Ariadne, is exalted at her death to be a constellation in the sky; so wisdom—the crown of beauty to all who wear it, and the source of whose splendours are all heavenly knowledges which spiritual goodness bestows on those who love it-becomes, when all that is earthly in the mind has perished, exalted into the mental firmament, the highest regions of the mind, where, though ever shining, their radiance is only perceived when the light of love is darkened and the moon of faith grows dim.
GENERAL CONFERENCE. The ensuing General Conference will be held at Salford, commencing on Tuesday, August 11th, 1868. Secretaries of Committees who have not yet forwarded their reports to the Secretary should take an early opportunity of doing so.
F. PITMAN, Secretary, 20, Paternoster-row, London, E.C.