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This can be naught else than the Divine oversight, or government which infinite love inspires, and infinite wisdom plans and directs. The ruling purpose which it has in view is the everlasting happiness of men, or,—what is the same thing,—the building up of a hearen of angels from them. But genuine happiness can be realized only in the exercise of freedom. Man was, therefore, created a free agent. He is not a merely passive recipient of life from God, but is endowed with the power of using that life as if it were, in every sense, his own. This freedom renders possible a reciprocal relationship between him and his Heavenly Father,—the relationship of mutual love and eternal conjunction. But it also involves possibilities of an opposite character. Liberty to do good necessarily implies the power to do evil. The constant aim of the Divine Providence is to lead us to choose good, rather than evil, because only thus can heavenly happiness be attained. God, who is goodness itself, can give birth to nothing evil. All pain and suffering are the direct, or indirect, result of man's transgressions. But though they are not caused or sent by God, they are yet wondrously overruled by Him, and made, as far as possible, the instruments of improvement and correction.
God cannot be known or apprehended by finite men, except so far as He is revealed in a manner adapted to their finite condition. In order that His divine perfections may be duly presented to their sight or thought, they must be embodied in some outward form, by which their glory is veiled, at the same time that it is manifested. Such revelations have been made from time to time, and are found recorded in the Scriptures. But the greatest among them was accomplished in the birth of Jesus Christ. That event, according to the New Church theology, was simply God's way of coming into nearer and more definite relations to His human family. No second person in the Deity made His appearance, but Jehovah Himself, clothed with the form and nature of men, became their Redeemer. Those who beheld Him saw one who was externally “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," but internally “the mighty God, the everlasting Father.”
Thus the Lord Jesus Christ was, in very truth, EmmanuelGod with us. In Him the Divine and human natures co-existed, but not at first in perfect harmony; for the external humanity, being derived from Mary, partook of her infirmities. Hence it had tendencies to evil and was subject to temptations. But,
though tempted in all things like as we are, Jesus was without sin.
This was the Divine opportunity; for by overcoming evil in its assaults against Himself, He overcame it for men likewise, and redeemed them from the thraldom by which they were bound. His whole life on earth, rightly viewed, was a succession of conflicts with infernal spirits, in which He gained the victory.
This victorious warfare not only brought to mankind the help which it needed, but produced its permanent effect on His own human nature. That nature did not die in the sepulchre, but rose again, transformed, and glorified. Every tendency to evil, every vestige of self-hood, every trace of opposition to the perfect will of God, was gradually eliminated from it, and it was so permeated and transfigured by the indwelling spirit of the Father, that it became, itself, Divine. It was no longer the seat of two wills contending with each other; but one Divine will, Divine consciousness, animated and controlled it. Humanity thus glorified in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect embodiment and medium of infinite Divinity. He has, as He declares, all power in heaven and on earth. Seeing him, we see the Father. He is the one Divinely human, all-comprehensive object of our worship.
There is in Him a Trinity, but not a Trinity of persons. As every man consists of soul and body, from which proceeds his vital sphere or energy, so is it with the Lord. The essential Divine nature, which no one hath seen at any time, is within Him like a soul, and the Divine Humanity is as the body which makes it manifest, while there goes forth, through that body, from that soul, an infinite sphere of life, which vivifies and sustains creation. These three are the same as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are all comprehended and revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ. not only was, but is, and evermore will be, Emmanuel, God with us.
I embrace this idea of God, because it seems to me both reasonable and scriptural. It satisfies alike my mind and heart. It is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and the brief summary of New Testament teaching. It removes the doubt and mystery which have always enveloped the tri-personal theory, and have made the Christian conception of the Deity practically tritheistic. It presents for my adoration one personal God, infinite and indivisible, and yet it does not take away my Saviour, or relegate Him to a secondary or subordinate position. No
offended majesty, no fierce anger, no stern justice demands the dread alternative of universal human suffering, or the blood of a blameless victim ; but instead of this awful picture I see the perfect Love which is the fountain and the cause of being, giving itself utterly to men, coming to them visibly, borrowing their fallen nature to the end that it might be redeemed, and glorifying it with its own glory. In the Divine Humanity of Jesus Christ I behold that complete union of God with man which must ever be the connecting link between the Creator and the creation. I maintain that this doctrine, in its entirety, is new in the Church, that, nevertheless, it is the consummate flowering of the simple faith of the early Christians, which their successors perverted, and that when it is seen to be the central teaching of Divine revelation from Genesis to the Apocalypse, it opens the way for a second coming of the Lord to all who are willing to receive Him,-not a visible coming in the flesh, but a genuine spiritual presence in their hearts. It is the foremost vital truth of a new dispensation of Christianity, because it brings men into a new and living relationship with their God and Saviour.
The nature of that relationship is, of necessity, the simplest possible. No longer complicated by the idea of a plurality of Divine persons, and of faith in one of them as the means of propitiating another, it is all summed up in the words duty and obedience. The one Lord God, Father, Saviour, and Regenerator, stands before us saying, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” We prove our trust in Him whom we worship, by doing as He teaches. All other professions of allegiance are a mere pretense and mockery. The desire and effort to lead a good life are the essence of all faith. So far as they have place in any human heart, whether of Christian or Pagan, they lead on to Balvation and happiness. The ten commandments are mostly in the form of prohibitions. They point out evils which must be shunned, not good acts which must be done. And here our duty to the Lord obviously begins. We must shun all evils as sins against Him,-not because they are considered disreputable and entail unpleasant consequences, but because they are sinful in Nis sight, and He forbids them. Acting on this principle, we shall endeavor not only to avoid the outward appearance of evil, but to put away the very desire and thought of it from our hearts. Nor need we assume to ourselves merit in so doing, or claim a
reward of virtue. All that is good in us, and all our ability to contend with evil are of, and from, the Lord. They form part of the life which He, who is Life, unceasingly communicates. As well might the moon claim credit for her reflected light, as we for ours. Nor ought we to think of heaven as a reward arbitrarily bestowed at the end of earthly existence. It is, in its essence, a state of mind and heart. Behold,” says our Lord,
" the kingdom of God is within you." That kingdom is the government of Divine truth and goodness in our souls. Its happiness consists in the delight which flows from conformity to the laws of Divine order, or, what is the same thing, from the active exercise of love to God and man. So far as any one is in that delight, he is in heaven. Though this world may be his visible place of habitation, he is interiorly in the company of angels, and after the death of the body lives openly and consciously among them. Those, on the other hand, whose ruling love is love of self or the world, are in the exactly opposite condition. Their happiness consists, not in doing good to others and making them happy, but in selfish and sensual indulgences. To live in heaven would be no joy to them, but rather torment. Heaven is not in their hearts ; they spurn and reject it in their lives. Their state is described by the word hell. It is the state from which all are mercifully delivered, who, according to their knowledge and ability, give heed to the Divine admonitions. It is the state in which all eternally remain who refuse to submit themselves to the Divine guidance.
These, then, are the fundamental principles of the new Christianity, which I, albeit feebly and unworthily, espouse : First, one God,-Father, Son and Holy Spirit,--Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier,-made known in all His fullness, as the Lord Jesus Christ ; secondly, accountability to Him, as a living personal presence, in whose eyes all evil is sin, and who is the source of all goodness; and, thirdly, the Sacred Scriptures, laid open as to their interior spiritual contents, and shown to be a book of infinite wisdom, the eternal expression of God's truth to men. Many important, yet minor, doctrines are involved in these ; but these are the three essentials to which all the others are tributary.
It remains simply to be said, that when I speak of the New Church, I do not refer to any mere organization of professed believers who call themselves by that name. To such an organization I belong, and it supplies for me a want which cannot be met elsewhere. But the term New Church, in the broader sense in which Swedenborg teaches us to use it, is a new phase of religious thought and life, receiving its impulse from on high, and making itself felt throughout the world. Few intelligent men of to-day are too blind to see that the wondrous changes amid which we live are having their marked effect on Christianity itself. The old dogmas of a hundred years ago are, as it were, melting away in the warmth of a new and milder atmosphere. The sons discard, sometimes quite unconsciously, the cherished opinions of their fathers. Not only the beliefs, but the asperities, of former generations are disappearing. And still the change goes on. In the middle of the last century these things were all foretold by the calm Swedish philosopher, who subscribed himself “Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ,” as he expounded the deeper meaning of Scripture, and recorded his marvelous visions, in the devout belief that he was commissioned to proclaim the truths of a new dispensation. Certain it is that the trend of modern Christian thought, so far as it has deviated from the old standards, and still maintains its Christian character, has been in the direction which he indicated. A strange observer of the times must that man be, who imagines that the end of this new movement has yet been reached. Rather should we say that it has hardly begun. Fortunately, the ordering of events is not in our hands. The holy city, New Jerusalem, type of the church that is to be, is not built up by men upon the earth, but comes down from God out of heaven. It comes not with observation, but it surely comes; and everywhere around us are the signs of its coming.