Images de page

as the basis of religious fellowship. Their principal and almost only endeavour has been to examine, amend, and improve the internal and essential parts of the church, the articles of faith, and the moral doctrines; and in the way of Scriptural exegesis and deeper theological investigation, bring them into congruity and harmony with the true sense of the Word of God. From Swedenborg's time to our own, the Swedish defenders of his doctrines have in general sent their translations of his theological works, and their apologies for his whole dogmatical system, as amicable peace-heralds into the militant camp of the symbolico-scholastic Lutheranism; and it would be unjust not to recognise that these messengers, with the exception of a very few, have been at least not inhospitably received. To high and low, at the Court, in the universities, and almost throughout the whole country, they have in a friendly manner been introduced; and many of the old church have observed the admonition of the Apostle (Heb. xiii. 2):-" Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Thus we find a number of persons in all classes of the people, among peasants, tradesmen, clergymen, noblemen, even princes and kings, who have read and admired Swedenborg's theological works. It is known that Charles XIII., as Duke of Östergöthland, was a member of the "Philanthropic Society," whose principal purpose was to translate and publish these precious writings. But this society, as well as another Swedenborg association for "Faith and Charity," had no long duration. They both ceased when the men who had founded them were gone to a better world. We know also that Charles XIV., John, and Oscar, took under their protection, Geyer, Lundblod, and G. Knös, when some of their writings, composed in the spirit of the New Church, had brought upon these distinguished men either the accusation or the suspicion, on the part of some ultra-orthodox bishops and clergymen, of entertaining heterodox doctrines. Since Geyer, in the year 1821, was solemnly cleared by the jury from all charge of guilt for Swedenborg's sake, no layman or clergyman in Sweden, who has written anything in defence of the New Jerusalem doctrines, has been accused or stigmatised as "infidel," although almost every year some little book at least of this good stamp has appeared in the book trade. It seems as if the old symbolico-Lutheran anathemas have for ever been silenced, and their brutum fulmen extinguished. A milder genius has from day to day begun to prevail in our national church. Even the orthodox, so zealous before, have been more favourably affected towards the New Jerusalem and its heavenly doctrine, or as our Thorild names it, "The Third Testament, that of open truth." They now regard the

[ocr errors]

friends of Swedenborg rather as confederates or allies than as antago nists, and suffer them uncensured and unreproached to write and preach acccording to their conscience. They perceive, more and more, that no other means of interpretation but Swedenborg's doctrine of Correspondences is sufficient to explain the Bible and its spiritual and celestial sense, and to refute the speculative and hypercritical arguments of pseudorationalism, which aims at the full denial of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and the divinity of Christ. For this alteration in theological sentiment, our thanks are due to the Divine Providence. It is, no doubt, a very good omen. It proves that a new religious age is about to begin even in Sweden; and that our clergy, in general, are now-adays less fearful of "admitting the understanding in any theological subject" than they were in Swedenborg's time.

The more enlightened among our theologians do not preach a heartless and dead dogmatism, or "faith alone." On the contrary, they agree with Swedenborg, that love to the Lord, and charity towards our neighbour, are the essentials "on which hangs all the law, and concerning which all the prophets speak." They appear to have read and laid very much to their hearts the instruction of our great author, when in his Arcana Calestia, section 1799, he says-" Doctrinals alone do not constitute the external, much less the internal, of the church; nor do they serve to distinguish churches before the Lord; but this is effected by a life according to doctrinals, all which, whilst they are true, regard charity as their fundamental,—for what is the end and design of doctrinals, but to teach how man should live and become a real man? The several churches in the Christian world are distinguished according to doctrinals; and the members of those churches have hence taken the names of Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, or the Reformed, and Gospellers, with many others. This distinction of names arises solely from doctrinals, and would never have taken place if the members of the church had made love to the Lord and charity towards their neighbour the principle of faith. In this case, doctrinals would be only varieties of opinions concerning the mysteries of faith, which they who are true Christians would leave to everyone to receive according to his conscience; whilst it would be the language of their hearts that he is a true Christian who liveth as a Christian, that is, as the Lord teacheth." With kind regards to all friends, I remain, very truly, Your affectionate

Lund, 6th July, 1862.




Last month we recorded the judgment of the Court of Arches in the case of the Rev. Mr. Heath, incumbent of the church in Brading, Isle of Wight, which pronounced him guilty of heresy, and deprived him of his living. This month we have to record the decision of the same Court in the case of Dr. Williams and Mr. Wilson, two of the writers in the book entitled "Essays and Reviews." The great excitement which this volume produced in the public mind has caused the decision on the merits of the charge against these two gentlemen to be regarded with intense interest.

The "Essays and Reviews" were read, or read of, by everybody, and formed, for a considerable time, one of the leading topics of conversation. Most of the views maintained in them had indeed been advanced before by clergymen of the Church of England, and might be collected from their works, but no one volume had ever appeared in which were brought together so many heterodox opinions; nor has the church ever furnished so large a number of contemporary authors whose works are so deeply tinctured with naturalistic, now called rationalistic, opinions. It is not therefore to be wondered at that the orthodox and conservative portion of the church should take the alarm at the appearance of the "Essays and Reviews," and that the work should be severely criticised in religious periodicals, and that refutations of its pernicious doctrines should appear in separate works. But this was considered by some of the more zealous members of the body as not sufficient to fix upon the opinions of the essayists and reviewers the brand of heterodoxy, and prevent them from spreading among the people. Legal proceedings were therefore instituted against two of the writers, and the highest talent of the Bar was employed on either side. The decision of the Judge was looked forward to with intense interest, and has since formed the subject of as much comment, and has called forth the expression of as different opinions, as the "Essays and Reviews" themselves. But whatever views may exist as to its soundness, the judgment of Dr. Lushington is considered to be virtually, or in effect, an acquittal of the parties accused. Some of the charges have been sustained,

some have been rejected, and some have been partly sustained and partly rejected, and these are required to be corrected.

It is competent for the parties who have instituted these proceedings to come into Court again, but they must come with a curtailed number of charges, and with a diminished prospect of success. It is not to be supposed they will venture to renew the cause, and matters will therefore be allowed to remain as they are. Whether renewed or not, the careful and elaborate judgment of Dr. Lushington has brought out the legal bearings of the question, as it affects the theological liberty of the clergymen of the English Church. The Judge was careful to lay it down as a principle, that the Court in which he presides can decide upon opinions only as they are agreeable or contrary to the Articles of Faith in the Church, as these Articles are by law established. It is not there a question whether opinions are or are not in accordance with Scripture; nor is it a question whether or not they agree with the views of other clergymen or dignitaries-even the highest-in the Church. However highly he may personally respect the opinions of the bench of Bishops, as a Judge he has no authority to guide him but that of the law. The law has declared what are the doctrines of the Church of England, and by this alone he is bound to decide.

Although this principle is sometimes objected to in the proceedings of Church Courts, and of other tribunals where charges of heresy are tried, we do not regard the objection as well founded. A church which has drawn up or adopted articles of faith, is understood to have embodied in those articles the doctrines, according to the best of their knowledge and belief, of the Word of God; and so long as these articles remain unaltered, they are the proper standards by which the views of the members of the body are to be tried. To appeal to the Scriptures in such cases would be to call in question the articles of faith themselves, which would be to put the creed of the church on its trial, instead of the opinions of the individual accused, and which would unsettle everything and settle nothing. There is a point, however, on which there may be a question, that is, the interpretation of the articles,

and this, with the construction put upon the statements to which exception is taken, are the points on which the whole question turns in such trials and decisions.

In the Court of Arches the interpretation of the Articles, and the construction of an author's statements, rest of course with the Judge; and in the present case Dr. Lushington has ruled that there are some of the charges which a right interpretation and construction do not sustain. Another principle laid down by the Judge is, that clergymen may entertain what opinions they please; they are only accountable for erroneous doctrines when they teach them; that is, the ecclesiastical, like the civil law, only takes cognizance of overt acts. It is not till a priest has uttered his views in the pulpit, or written them in a book, that he is accountable for them to the Arches Court. But the Judge has decided not only that a clergyman shall only be accountable for what he has published, but that when he is accused, his very words must be cited, as also the words of the particular article in the Creed to which they are said to be opposed. On this ground some indefinite charges have been rejected, especially one that spoke of the dangerous tendency of certain views put forth,tendencies not being proper subjects on which to adjudicate.

The decision of the Judge in this case leaves no room to doubt that the clergy of the Church of England, as by law established, enjoy very considerable liberty of opinion, and at the same time no small degree of security against illjudged or illiberal prosecution. They do not, however, owe this to the Creed itself. Articles of Faith framed three hundred years ago, by men but recently emancipated from the yoke of the Romish dominion, must be rather narrow; and it is only by the Church being more liberal than her Creed that considerable liberty of opinion is allowed. It will hardly do now to attempt a forced conformity to a rigid interpretation of the Thirty-nine Articles. The case which has just been tried will not be the last to challenge prosecution. The human mind can no longer be effectually shackled by time-worn symbols. The understanding cannot always be kept under subjection to a blind faith. Man now can and will enter rationally into the things of religion. A new dispensa

tion of religious truth has given religious liberty to the human mind. It is that liberty which is now working in some, and which others wish to restrain. That liberty is not, however, accountable for all that is done under her influence, or even in her name. One of the first results of liberty is excess. The imprisoned mind, when once set free, has to learn to use its liberty without abusing it. Although emancipation makes the slave a free man, it does not necessarily make him a wise man.

Although we see in these "Essays and Reviews" a new mental freedom, we cannot expect to find in them a true and uniform spiritual intelligence. They manifest one of the first results of freedom-negation,-the denial and casting off of glaring errors. The negative theology, as it is termed, shows that we live in an age of pulling down. Men are beginning to see the errors of the Old Church, but they have not yet advanced so far into the light as to enable them to discern, or even generally to accept, the truths of the New.

The New Church is as a very small remnant, operating in the world, like remains in the individual mind, to moderate and correct, to purify and enlighten, and finally to subdue all things unto itself.

The signs of the times which these proceedings display, tell us that the day has dawned, and that the darkness is passing away. But they tell us also that it is our time to work. The affirmative principles-the heavenly truths of the New Jerusalem-are alone able to supply the religious want which men begin to feel, and guide them out of the labyrinths in which they partly acknowledge they wander.

It is our duty to make these truths known as extensively as our means will permit, that those who are prepared may receive them, and enjoy the great blessing which the truth confers.


LIVERPOOL.-INDUCTION OF THE REV. C. G. MACPHERSON. The services of the Bedford-street Society have for many years been conducted by a few friends from the Manchester district, amongst whom was Mr. G. Parry, whose continued services the society deemed themselves fortunate in securing, but whose secular duties, on his removal to Liverpool, prevented him

from efficiently performing those of the ministerial office. The society then called in the aid of Mr. F. Smith, who for a considerable time gratified and instructed the congregation by his very able expositions of the Word, and who has been a great means of inducing individual exertions for securing the services of a resident minister, as, however efficiently the Sunday services may be conducted, the want of pastoral superintendence must be very severely felt where a society has not a resident minister. Various meetings were held, at which a unanimous feeling was expressed that such steps should be taken as would conduce to the securing of a minister who would be likely to suit our wants. The Rev. C. G. Macpherson was solicited to spend some time amongst us, when the very able manner in which he conducted the **services, and his efficiency and zeal in the pastoral duties, soon drew all hearts to him, and it was unanimously agreed that in him they had found the right man. The services of Mr. Macpherson having been secured, his formal appointment took place on the 5th of June, at a general meeting; the following account of which was given in the Liverpool Mercury of the 6th:

"Last evening, a tea party and soirée was held in the school-room beneath this place of worship, in celebration of the induction of the Rev. C. G. Macpherson as the pastor of the congregation worshipping there. A large party sat down to an excellent tea, after which Mr. Geo. Pixton was called on to preside, the proceedings having been opened with prayer. Mr. Pixton, in addressing the meeting, observed that, as most of those present were aware, they had assembled for the purpose of cordially welcoming Mr. Macpherson on his coming amongst them. He had never known the congregation so unanimous upon any subject as they had been with respect to the appointment of the reverend gentleman. The latter had a combination of qualifications. He was an excellent preacher, a scholar, and a gentleman. He had already given them every satisfaction as a preacher, and as to his pastoral duties the chairman had no doubt they would be satisfactorily and efficiently performed. Mr. Macpherson had already set himself to his task in a very earnest manner, devoting a portion of his time to visiting the members of the congregation, and there was a great

deal to be done by that means. Reminding the meeting that, in order that their pastor's ministrations might be thoroughly successful, they as members of the church must strengthen his hands by their own individual exertions, the chairman concluded by hoping the engagement between the society and Mr. Macpherson might be of long continuance, and attended with profit to both minister and people. (Cheers.) Mr. Barnes moved the following resolution:

That this society, in giving expression to its hearty welcome to the Rev. C. G. Macpherson in his acceptance of the pastorship to which he has been called, would express the earnest hope that the relationship now commenced may be long continued, and conduce at once to the spiritual welfare of the society and the happiness of its minister.' Mr. Barnes expressed his hearty sympathy with the resolution, observing that, though his acquaintance with Mr. Macpherson had been but brief, he respected him, believing as he did that the reverend gentleman's heart was in the performance of his duties. He had given an earnest of his zeal in years gone by, having sacrificed a good 'living' (in the Church of England) and a good position in the world for conscience' sake; and that spoke well for his earnestness. Mr. Barnes congratulated the society upon having obtained the services of Mr. Macpherson, and the reverend gentleman upon his appointment as their minister-not in a pecuniary point of view, but because he had been called to labour in an almost unlimited field of action, Liverpool being one of the largest cities of the kingdom. He (the speaker) hoped that the reverend gentleman would become more and more attached to them as time rolled on, and that the connection might continue for many years. (Applause.) The chairman then called upon Mr. Parry to second the resolution, remarking that the latter had for some time performed the services of their church in a most efficient manner. Mr. Parry seconded the resolution in a very good speech, expressing his acknowledgments for the flattering manner in which the humble services rendered by him had been spoken of by the chairman. He assured them that his attachment to the church had undergone no diminution, though his connection with them as a preacher had ceased; and that he would ever be ready by voice or

« PrécédentContinuer »