Images de page
PDF
ePub

time the Word, the nature of its inspiration, and the system of its interpretation, are the subjects which have for some time engaged the attention of theologians of almost every denomination. And it must be confessed by all who duly reflect upon these important subjects, that nothing in the doctrines of Christianity can be properly settled, nor can the rampant tide of infidelity against the Scriptures be checked and successfully overcome, until these great and fundamental questions are satisfactorily solved. The conceit and pride of merely human intelligence, can only meet with its proper antidote and its effective cure by a system of interpretation which can elevate the exposition of the Word, upon its spiritual rational ground, above the futile and pernicious attempts of merely human ingenuity, and of mere reasoning grounded in the fallacies of the senses, and in the appearances of the literal sense of the Divine Word.

Most true it is, that the Scriptures cannot be understood so as to be seen in rational or in spiritual light without a genuine doctrine to guide our thoughts, when reading the Word and meditating on its diviue contents. For, as the servant of Candace who, in Acts viii. 30, was asked by Philip whether he understood what he was reading in the prophet Esaias, replied, “ How can I, except some man should guide me ?” (verse 31.) in like manner, every reader of the Word can ask the same question; for the guide here wanted is the genuine doctrine and the true system of interpretation, which leads to the right understanding of the revealed Truth of the Word. Nor ought this to surprise us, when we reflect that none of the works of God, as the constellations of heaven, or the strata and formation of the earth, or of any of its productions, can be properly understood without a scientific doctrine to guide us in the right understanding of these wonderful works. Thus, Astronomy is a doctrine which teaches us how to understand the luminaries of heaven, without which the stars of the firmament would appear to be thrown together in inextricable confusion, whereas, that doctrine teaches us that they are all arranged in the most perfect order and beauty, and that their motions are so regular and uniform as to be regularity itself, and to govern the movements and transactions of men in their daily occupations. But the Word of God is in harmony with His works; and in its external appearance, or in its literal sense, can no more, as to its general contents, be understood without a doctrine to guide us than any of God's works in nature without a scientific doctrine to teach us their nature, their uses, and the order in which they are established. It appears that this argument, drawn from the analogy between God's works in nature and God's Word in Revelation, is well

established, and that it shews the necessity of a genuine doctrine to enable us to understand the Scriptures.

This, indeed, is admitted in all churches, hence their Creeds, their Symbols, and their Articles of Faith, according to which they profess to believe in the teaching of the Scriptures. But as these creeds and articles have no light in them to satisfy the rational inquiry of the human mind, but only tend to keep it in darkness, and under a blind submission to the obedience of Faith (which indeed is one of the tenets of the prevailing theology, called orthodoxy) without any understanding of the truths which constitute an enlightened and saving Faith ; these articles, and symbols, and creeds, are now in many parts of the Christian church breaking up and disappearing before the progress of the thinking mind. The members of this Society have, no doubt, heard of the celebrated volume of “Essays and Reviews,” and the numerous publications wbich have been the result of its appearance, and in which, as well as in numerous other mental phenomena, the truth of the above remarks is abundantly evident.

We have in these mental phenomena an evidence of the operation of that new and powerful influx which, since the Last Judgment in 1757, is operating from above upon the universal mind of our common humanity,—old ideas and dogmas, which, like candlesticks not capable of holding any light, are now being exposed as worse than useless, and by many are cast away as obstructive to the progress of intelligence, of regeneration, and consequently of salvation.

In this transition state of things, the members of this Society can, if they will but reflect, plainly discern the signs of the times, and can behold the effects wrought, by these spiritual influences, which, as we know, were set in operation more than a century ago in the world of causes, or in the world of spirits, from which human minds derive all their principles of thought, of impulse, and of action. And here it may be well to remark, that, as the last Judgment was a universal Judgment upon all forms of religion, of idolatry, and of superstition, throughout the world, to prepare the way of the Lord's second coming in the life and spirit of His Word, to establish the church founded on his Personal Oneness with Jebovah or with the Father in His Divine Humanity, as the rock upon which the church, "if the gates of hell are not to prevail against it,” must be built,—we behold almost the entire world in a state of agitation, of revolution, and of change, such as was scarcely ever before witnessed in the history of nations and of peoples. Thus, in China we behold the old elements of the ancient civilization of that country breaking up, chiefly from internal commotions as well as from

[ocr errors]

new

external aggressions, and a new order of things which, as a "new earth,' or a new ultimate, will, under the Lord's Providence, be gradually established in that part of the earth, the population of which is said to be about one-third of the human race. In India and its numerous populations, we already behold a great and thorough change in ultimates as taking place, and to a great extent as being consolidated and established. A "new earth" we may say, in the language of Scripture, is being formed. And in Europe, especially in Italy, the same process is being carried out. Babylon, the type of the love of dominion, and of power, grounded in the love of self, has, we know, been destroyed in the world of spirits, and its destruction is now being effected in the church upon earth. Every intelligent New Churchman can easily see that these great effects would necessarily follow the spiritual causes which have been set in operation, as preparatory to the formation of a Heaven and a new Earth,” or of an entirely new state of the church, both as to its internals and its externals, upon earth.

But as the states of a new church require new doctrinal principles for the reception of the new truths as the ground of their perception, so the friends of this Society have abundant reason to be more active and zealous than ever in the dissemination of its doctrines and truths, as the new vessels for the reception of the new wine of Truth, which the Lord has poured forth for the restoration and refreshment of His Church. For the Lord plainly declares, that the new wine cannot be poured into old bottles, because they cannot contain it, but that new bottles must be provided for the new wine of His Divine Truth, now opened from His Word through the revelation of its spiritual sense. And we firmly, yet humbly, believe that the various works published by this Society, supply in great abundance those new vessels of thought which are in harmony with the doctrines of the Lord's New Church.

The contest between the New and the Old Theology may be considered as consisting in this: it is maintained by the Old “ that the understanding, in matters of Christian belief, is to be held in obedience to Faith.” that is, the understanding is to be kept in a blind belief of the Truths and Doctrines of Christianity without any intellectual discernment of their nature ; whereas the New Church eschews this dogma, and maintains that it is now allowable for the understanding to enter intellectually into the truths and mysteries of Faith, and thus to enjoy an enlightened belief in the Truths of the Word, and in the doctrines of Christian theology. This is the great privilege and blessing of the New Dispensation. The people that walked in darkness have now seen a great light, and that this light may extend its benign influence is the great object of

this Society. It will at once be seen that the former of these statements is opposed to the developed condition of the human mind, and to its rational inquiries into the nature of Christianity, and into the grounds and principles of its faith and of its practice. The spirit of the New Age in which these characteristics are becoming more and more numerous, plainly demands a new system of ideas respecting all the subjects of the Christian life,—the Word, the nature of its inspiration, of its interpretation, and also of the genuine doctrines of Christianity; and we verily believe that only the writings of the New Church can satisfy this increasing demand. For, as education is now being so generally in operation, and annually improving its character, the rational mind will no longer be bound in chains by any theological dogmas and creeds, but will endeavour to burst its bonds, and to come into the light of Truth, and rationally, but humbly and thankfully, enjoy its discoveries in relation to the true doctrines of the Word, and to the realities of the spiritual and eternal life. We can easily see that the statement of Swedenborg, that now, since the opening of the spiritual sense of the Word, it is allowable to enter intellectually into the mysteries of Faith, is not only in agreement with the Lord's exhortation when He says “Whoso readeth, let him understand ;” (Matt xxiv. 15; Mark xiii. 14; Luke xii. 57.) but in perfect harmony with the growing conditions and requirements of the human mind, which will either rationally understand revealed Truths, or reject them altogether.

Nothing, then, can be of greater importance, even to the very existence of the church itself, and especially to the progress of man in the path of regeneration, than a true knowledge of the Word and of the mode of its interpretation.

We learn from our doctrines not only the true nature of the Word, in what its divinity consists, and the system of its interpretation, but we likewise learn its divine uses in effecting both the civilization and salvation of the human race. For we learn that the Word is the medium of conjunction between the Lord and man; that it is the source of all spiritual intelligence to angels in heaven and to men upon earth; that it is thus the medium of consociation with angels, and the only channel through which the Lord communicates all spiritual and also all natural blessings to mankind. Its truths are the means of our regeneration, purification, mental elevation, and salvation. We only become truly men and Christians in proportion as we receive its truths in our understandings, love them in our hearts, and practise them in our lives. Seeing, then, these Divine uses of the Word when its true nature is somewhat discovered to our perceptions, we can rejoice above the joy of our brethren of the various denominations who are not acquainted with this knowledge of the Word, when we behold it spread abroad through the agency of the Bible Societies in nearly all the languages of the earth. “This, indeed, is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." For the British and Foreign Bible Society is a modern institution, and did not commence its useful labours until about thirty years after the new influx from on High, as a result of the Last Judgment, had begun to operate and to manifest its power. It must therefore be accounted, especially by us, as one of the great results of the Lord's Second Advent; for without the Word as a medium nothing could be done, not even commenced, in the instruction and regeneration of the human race. Wherever the Word is carried, and especially if it in some measure be received, either in India, in China, or Japan, or in any other country, we behold the ladder of Jacob (Gen. xxviii.) planted upon the ground of that country, with its top reaching up to heaven, and the Lord above it, and angels ascending and descending upon it, and thus, as already stated, coming into consociation and communion with mau. Herein, also, we see the fulfilment of that divine prophecy relating to the Lord's Second Advent, that He would come “in the clouds of heaven ;" for the “clouds of heaven” are the literal sense of the Word, in which, by the spread of the Bible, He is now coming to all the nations of the earth; and eventually, as the natural state is prepared, He will also come “in power and great glory," or in the “spirit and life" of His Word; for the Word must first be received in its literal sense before it can be received “in its spirit and its life," or in its spiritual sense.

As to the mode in which the Word was inspired by its Divine Author, no other system can stand but that of a plenary inspiration, which means that the Word was spoken and dictated to those who wrote it down by the Lord Himself, in the very words in which we find it written in the original. It is, therefore, Divine not only as to every word, but as to every jot and tittle, of which the Lord speaks in Matt. v. 18, and which has been most providentially preserved in the original in which it was inspired. We are now glad to see in the theological discussions of the day, that many of the learned maintain this doctrine of a plenary inspiration as the only system that can vindicate it, as the Word of God, against the assaults of infidelity, and especially against the attacks of a negative rationalism, which is now so active amongst thinking minds.

When, however, the true system of interpretation is admitted and understood, there will be no difficulty in seeing that the Word is immediately and plenarily inspired by the Lord. For this system of interpretation shews that every word, every clause, and every verse, corresponds

« PrécédentContinuer »