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yet been realised. Hence has arisen a very general idea concerning a Millennium,—and although we cannot but regard the common opinion so described as the result of a mistaken interpretation of the Word, yet, it must be confessed that many of the passages on which that opinion has been founded, refer to a condition of the church in which its enlightening and spiritual influences are to be experienced in the common concerns of man's every-day life. It is plainly stated that “the Lord shall be King over all the earth : in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one." (Zech xiv. 9.) He also said—“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people; and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.” (Jer. xxxi. 33, 34.)
Among the more remarkable predictions which refer to the condition and influence of the church in the world, is that which describes the descent of the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven. A great voice out of heaven declared this to be “the tabernacle of God with men; and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people; and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” (Rev. xxi. 23.) It plainly refers to the establishment of a new church, which has its origin in God, and comes down from heaven with His glory to enlighten mankind. By this all preceding dispensations are to be superseded, its light is like unto a stone most precious, clear as crystal. It is to disperse the clouds and darkness which have been induced through the perversions of its predecessor, and to bring into activity a purity of truth and loveliness of obedience which cannot fail in promoting the most eminent blessings among mankind.
Of course this dispensation can exist in the world only so far as its principles are received in freedom ; and it can be influential for truth and goodness there only so far as men acknowledge and lovingly obey them. Although it comes down from heaven, that is not the source of the men whom it is intended to refine and bless. It finds mankind in a state of intellectual ruin, and proposes to repair and rebuild them by its inner influences and outer teachings. It does not force its holy designs upon our attention, but it invites us to consider and accept them,--a state of freedom for this purpose having been prepared, opened out, and secured to all the race. Its existence was preceded by a judgment wbich provided for the liberty of our love in all things,—though that liberty becomes more wide or narrow as the love is directed to ends more exalted or debased. Without this liberty there would be no responsibility: the cessation of freedom would be the end of manhood. The New Church has been created as the medium for the communication of new and improving influences to the world. It is the realisation of a blessed prophecy by which to carry on the work of restoring intellect to spiritual things, and planting a deeper heart for holier use in the religious nature of mankind. The genuine reception of its principles cannot be otherwise than of the utmost advantage to the world. An individual here, a society there, un institution in one direction, and a combined effort in another, are as so many stars in a new constellation, which for a time may attract but little attention from the multitude; still, thoughtful and earnest inquirers, who look into the intellectual firmament, will not fail to perceive some new phenomena, full of portents, pointing to improved changes in the world's activity and proceedings. Society in general may not be disposed to refer those advantages to the existence and influence of a new dispensation in society,--still, beneficent advantages hitherto unknown are in operation; and what Christian, who believes that "every good and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father of light,” (James i. 17.) will venture to deny that He is the Source of them, and that by them He is manifesting the influence of a new dispensation in the world? The will of some may be indisposed to come to this conclusion, but there are the facts for their understanding to explain otherwise if it can. The phenomena are not only presenting themselves to common observation, but they are asking the pious and considerate for a solution of their cause ; and we feel assured that that which is offered in the descent of the New Jerusalem must commend itself to all fair and honest thinking.
Every good and wise man is such in consequence of his receiving from the Lord those heavenly principles ; thereby he becomes a new man. “ If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, and all things are become new.” (2 Cor. v. 17.) He thereby becomes a medium for communicating many blessings to the society by whom he is surrounded. He is, as it were, a sort of intellectual centre from which issue numerous radii of various advantages to a wide circumference. The same is true, though in a greater degree, of a wise and virtuous society; and, surely, every one may see that something similar, though to a still wider extent, must characterise the existence of a true church in the world. An institution of which God is the Founder and the Light, must be preëminently wise and good; goodness must be its inmost quality, and that will be the life of the wisdom which will guide
and ennoble its activities. It is therefore plain that such an institution must be the medium for communicating and extending valuable influences to the world at large. It is, as it were, a grand man in the world, whose heart is love, and whose lungs are wisdom; and which, by their healthy action, maintain the circulation of living influences to the far extremes of society, with the view of imparting to it a new and vigorous constitution.
The true church of the Lord is not an ideal or abstract thing; it is a real existence in the lives and characters of men, giving them power for benevolence and use. It is men's reception of its principles which renders it something in the world; without this reception it is, as to the world, a mere nothing; the ages of non-reception have always been dark and retrograde. The church, then, of which God is the Author, and the principles of which men are the orderly recipients, must be eminently influential for good. This must be its result whether it exists in a small or in an extended form. Wherever a society of the church exists, it must operate beneficially upon the community surrounding it. The heat and the light of heaven, however limited their reception, must warm and illuminate, to some extent, the locality to which they have access. If a heavenly light exists, its beams will radiate; it must be influential for good; some minds will be attracted by its brilliancy; they will be led to edification and delight. Such facts have come to our knowledge, and we are as certain of them as of any truth we ever learnt. But it will do good to others which we do not see; it may not do it in the precise way in which we might have hoped for and supposed; our expectations may have looked for outer manifestations and acknowledgments greater than those which have appeared ; and so disappointment may have chastised and afflicted us. In our admiration of the light, we may have forgotten the clouds with which a preceding dispensation has obscured the minds of others. We may have omitted to make allowance for the difficulties which that dispensation has imposed upon them, in the way of the prejudices it has formed, the worldly interests which it has created, the personal friendships it has promoted, and those fears to break away from them with which it has inspired the natural man. Moreover, in our anxiety for a more open manifestation of the influence of spiritual truth, we may not have sufficiently remembered the outer sacrifices which many would have to make by an open avowal of that which may be inwardly admired. They may not yet have seen it to be a duty; and others may be held back by an old example ;-they may be waiting to see whether any of the rulers of the Pharisees believe. Still those
hindrances do not interfere with the fact that the church is exercising a beneficent influence in every quarter where its light has reached. It will not—it is not fairly to be expected that it will produce a sudden illumination in the world, break up the prejudices, or destroy the errors and evils which have been so long growing and inrooting themselves into the very heart of society. These results can only arise from a long-sustained and well-directed effort to promote them. Among the first influences of the church, beyond those of attracting the attention and animating the exertions of a few isolated receivers of its truths, will be a modification of the resistance and a weakening of the prejudices of society, and the introduction into it of a better feeling and a freer thinking upon subjects of a theological nature. These uses of themselves are good; and, although they may not be of so distinctive a character as we could wish, it is plain that, so far as they are good, they are verging towards distinctness, and must ultimately lead to it. Society is plainly undergoing a variety of interior changes, all of which are favourable to the clearer recognition of the presence of spiritual truth in the world. There are many who may not acknowledge this ; nevertheless individuals know that it is true; and it is verified in almost every locality where the New Church has been fairly planted and intelligently represented. It contains a power which must leave its impress; in some cases it may be seen, in others it is not. Still there can be no well-founded doubt that the interiors of general society are experiencing ameliorating changes-changes favourable to the advancement of a sweeter charity and a sounder faith.
All the beneficial changes which take place in the interior states of society arise from the influence of the Lord's church; that is, from the influx of truth and goodness into receptive minds; and through these minds they are presented to the external consideration of others not so receptive, so that in time, in conformity to the apostle's simile, “a little leaven may leaven the whole lump.” The influence of the Lord's New Church in the world during the short period of its existence, bas made more intellectual progress, induced more actual changes in the internal states of society, and contributed more largely to the building up of sound practical thinking among mankind, than did the first Christian Church during the first three centuries of its operation; and all readers of ecclesiastical history know what a state of mental obscurity was then began; nor can they be ignorant of the long darkness which followed, together with the stop and stand-still which were put to all progression in religious knowledge. Hence we gather that the heavenly influences now in operation are more intellectual than were those which followed the first advent. The Lord had things to say which society at that period could not bear; (John xvi. 12.) these He reserved for another coming. They are more interior in their nature, and so adapted to promote more permanent results; they belong to His second advent and the descent of the New Jerusalem. The one has taken place; the other is in the process of being accomplished. He has come by revealing the power and glory of His Word; and the descending of the New Jerusalem is in the process of being proved by the progress and advantages which society are enjoying. All right and reasonable considerations of the influence of the Lord's New Church in the world are encouraging; and, although it may not be for us to know the times and the seasons when its loveliness and light will be more openly and generally confessed, we ought to value those evidences of its existence which we now so abundantly possess; and, also, to adore that Providence by which its present position has been accomplished. As to its principles and purposes, it is the light of the world. A city set upon a hill cannot be hid. Its light is permeating all the activities of society, and exercising an intelligent influence in every direction. Since the commencement of its operation in the world the whole platform of civilization has been raised, and it is now enjoying a position, the height of which has had no parallel in the history of Christianity.
The Lord's church is for the world's benefit and blessing. The designs of Providence in reference to it, are not to separate it from the world, but to keep it from the evil thereof. It is not intended to break down any of the institutions in the world which can exist fairly by its side, and which, therefore, do not contravene its moralities and justice. The forms of government, the civil affairs of state, and such other things as belong to societies of men, so far as they conform to truth and use, may remain as they have been. So also the outer forms which the preceding church may have adopted for its worship, and the different societies into which its people have been separated, may be continued, so far as order is maintained and use promoted. Whatsoever is really wrong in any of those outer things will, in the process of time, be detected by the new light which is abroad, and corrected in the new freedoin which will be felt.
Although the descent of the New Jerusalem has been attended with the enlargement of elegant and useful knowledge, in almost every department of learning,-although it has stimulated valuable enterprise in a thousand directions, and realised a variety of advantages undreamed [Enl. Series.- No. 100, vol. ix.]