« PrécédentContinuer »
carry out the principles here laid down, in any sense detrimental to her interests ? On the other hand, would it not prove highly conducive to her spiritual benefit ? For, from a consideration of the exalted uses of the ministerial function, the solemn responsibilities incurred by those who enter on them are sufficiently obvious—responsibilities which ought not, on the one hand, to be lightly taken up, nor, on the other, should the office be lightly bestowed on persons who, although possessed of popular talents, and facility of expressing themselves, are yet deficient in some of the more solid qualifications which should adorn the doctrines they teach. This was foreshadowed in the Levitical law, which forbad any person of the seed of Aaron that had a blemish to offer the bread of his God, or come nigh to offer the offerings of Jehovah made by fire (see Levit. xxi, 17-23).
Instead then of depreciating the ministerial office, a true estimate of its exalted sancity, and the dignity of the uses it is designed to fulfil, would prove the best safeguard against the abuses which have crept. into it in previous churches. And what is there in its requirements beyond the power of those who fill the office, when aided by the Lord, to comply with? We conclude then that the statements of Swedenborg on its nature and requirements, are worthy of all acceptance, and are intended to be received by the members of the New Church in their entirety.
Conclusive as is the testimony of Swedenborg in favour of a ministry specially set apart for the office,-being called by the authority of the Church, and their own adoption of it,-in the extracts which have been adduced there are two collateral circumstances named by him worthy of note. Both will be found in the “True Christian Religion.' The first is the memorandum that in the year 1170 the Lord called together his twelve disciples who followed Him in the world, and sent them throughout the spiritual world to preach the Gospel, that the Lord Jesus Christ reigneth (n. 971); and the other the circumstance of the English in the spiritual world having priests appointed of great talents and distinguished character to instruct them (n. 807). It might also be added that the priesthood is a distinct order in the heavens; so that the testimony both of scripture and the doctrines are decisive on the subject.
But there are some who object rather to ordination than the existence of a distinct ministry. This subject, together with that of laying on of hands, I must reserve for another paper.
THE RELATION OF THE LORD'S PRAYER TO THE
COMMANDMENTS. The author of the Lord's Prayer is the author of the Commandments. The latter constitute the compendium of human duty. The former indicates the right manner of praying for help that man may do his duty. It is to be expected, therefore, that there should exist a more than arbitrary analogy between the law which enjoins what men ought to do, and the prayer which teaches what men ought to pray
for. Such an analogy does certainly exist, and it is not difficult to discern it.
In His Law the Lord enjoins that we should have no other God before Him, and that we should make no graven image to worship it. In His prayer He instructs us to address Him as Our Father." They only can thus address the Divine Being who in their hearts obey the injunction. Our Father is our God, and He is One. The wicked and idolatrous are like the Pharisees—" of their father the devil.”
The Lord enjoins that men should not take His name in vain. He also teaches us to pray that His name may be hallowed. The transgression of the Law is at the same time a violation of the meaning of
prayer is a command, because men ought to strive to attain to what they desire and ask for. The command indicates the prayer; because we must ask for help from the Lord that we may be enabled to do that which we ought to do.
The keeping of the Sabbath represents the rest of the Lord, the rest also of the soul in God. During the Sabbath, we more fully worship the Lord, more fully learn His ways, more fully submit ourselves to His will than at any other time. The Sabbath is the emblem of peace as well as restpeace from the Lord. He enjoins the keeping of the Sabbath, and He also instructs us to pray that His kingdom may come,
and that His will may be done on earth as in heaven. In heaven an eternal Sabbath reigns. When the prayer shall be fully realized below, then the grand Sabbatic era will have begun. Rest from labour, sorrow, and weariness, from the struggle for bread, and the toil of winning it, is involved in the earthly Sabbath. When the kingdom of “Our Father” shall have fully come, and His will be fully done, there will be no more sorrow, heaviness, or distress. Tears shall be wiped away from human eyes with the obliteration of grief from human hearts. The sob and the sigh shall be forgotten in the oblivion of the woe which caused them, and which they express.
He who enjoined the Sabbath rest will provide the food necessary for the Sabbath's consumption. Men toil that they may earn the wherewithal to eat. The Lord will even supply the food for the day set apart to His worship. While Israel remembered the Sabbaths they knew no lack. He who remembers the spiritual Sabbath in his heart and life will be fed each day by the Lord. Remembering the Sabbath and praying to be fed by the Lord are both expressive of the soul's trust in God. Trust that it shall be well with us. Trust for the coming of that state, of which the Sabbath was the memorial pledge, when the soul shall feed on angel's food, and be satisfied with the “daily bread ” of heaven.
Man's duty toward his neighbour is pointed out in the other prohibitions of the Divine Law. Man's duty toward his neighbour is pointed out in the other petitions of the Lord's Prayer. The forgiveness of those who trespass against us is necessarily incompatible with transgressions against the commandments of the second table. It is also an amplification of those commandments. The Law asserts the negative side of the duty, of which the petition asserts the positive. The Law enjoins that man shall not sin against the duty of love toward the neighbour, and specifies various sins. The petition enjoins the positive duty of love in the highest form of forgiveness. The great principle enunciated is similar in intention, though diverse in the form. The commandments lead up to the petition; the petition crowns the commandments. Just as the New Testament is a fuller revelation of God than the Old, so the prayer is ampler than the commandments. To live in the spirit of the prayer is, however, to obey the law in its letter and spirit too. Who could pray " Deliver us from evil,” and at the same time be living in the violation of the commandments? Who could pray the Lord to lead them not into temptation while they were in their souls sinning against the law which prohibits covetousness ?
On the two commandments of love to God and to the neighbour, hang all the law and the prophets (Matt. xxii. 40). These include all man's duties. Pertinent to these two commandments is every petition of the Lord's Prayer. That shows us what we must do ; this teaches us to pray for aid that we may do it. The spirit of the Christian dispensation is relatively higher than the genius of the Mosaic economy. God is revealed as the law-giver in the one, and in the other as Father.” The injunctions which seem to refer to human action alone in the one, are shown to refer to human feelings and thoughts in the
other. One seems pre-eminently a dispensation of truth in its severity, the other is rather a dispensation of the beauty of love. One teaches duty in the form of prohibition, the other teaches duty in the form of a prayer. God, the absolute King, is the great idea of the one ; God, the ever-ready helper, is the great idea of the other. The Jew might prostrate himself in reverential fear : the Christian may kneel in the confidence of love.
They are both necessary to each other, and they supplement and complement each other. United, they can neither be added to, or have aught subtracted from them. Just as the Word of God is complete in both its New and Old Testament, so the Divine law and the Divine prayer are complete, and completely one, uttered by the same Omniscient God for the same high purpose—to point man the way to heaven.
This divine prayer may truly be regarded as a universal prayer. It is universal as an indicator of man's spiritual wants : it is universal as a promise of all spiritual blessings; it is universal as furnishing a compendium of Christian duty; it is universal as supplying a description of all spiritual states; it is universal in presenting to us, as it were, a ladder of the kingdom of God; and it is also universal as including all the injunctions of the Divine Law. We must therefore conclude that no human wisdom could have combined in it so many surprising and important particulars, and that, consequently, the Lord's Prayer is worthy of the inspiration which produced it.
NATURAL PHENOMENA AND SPIRITUAL LESSONS.
NO. V.- ROOTS.
To raise a tree a small seed, sometimes extremely minute, is placed a few inches within the earth, and, provided there is due adaptation of soil and situation, a twofold action commences. The forces of nature, in particular warmth and moisture, act upon it from without, and simultaneously life from the spiritual world acts from within. These distinct but corresponding powers produce a twofold operation in the seed; it strikes a root downward in the earth, and sends a stem upward towards heaven. It is presumable that this double action proceeds as long as the tree lives; it is certain that it continues so long as it increases in height and lateral extent. Thus a definite relation is preserved between its dimensions above the surface of the ground and those beneath it; and it is by this means that a sufficient basis is acquired for the vast structure it may ultimately become—for the tall majestic stem and the wide-spreading branches. It is also by the clasping action of the rootlets, and the wide, firm grasp they obtain of the earth, that a form so particularly exposed to the force of the winds is enabled to resist their power, and even to gain strength from the conflict. As just remarked, the stem—the tree as distintinguished from its root-rises perpetually towards heaven, into air, light, and sunshine; the root, after a short downward growth, spreads in darkness further and further in a horizontal direction, weaving its fibrils, as the smaller rootlets are called, more and more closely with the earth, and in contact with its dead, unclean materials. The tree, rising and expanding both grandly and gracefully, annually clothes itself in a leafy garment of that universal green in which the eye delightedly reposes, variegated for a brief season by resplendent blossoms, succeeded by richly-tinted fruit. The foliage affords food and shelter to large colonies of insects of bright and delicate wing; and birds of sweet song or gorgeous plumage nestle in the branches, while the fruit yields sustenance both to man and the lower creation. The root, which shuns the great source of colour-light-borrows its dusky and unlovely hues from the decayed substances that compose the vegetable world in which its fibrils lie buried. It bears neither leaf, bud, nor blossom. Indeed, to be destitute of leaves, with a bud in the soil, is the great negative characteristic of a root as distinguished from the stem. It puts forth no symmetrical branches, but divides and sub-divides into rootlets and fibrils, according to circumstances, without perceptible order or arrangement, while within and around their intricate contortions unsightly worms and crawling insects live and multiply.
The tree as an entire structure, including all its parts, represents man, and embraces in its symbolism the whole of his being,—the natural and the spiritual parts, the earthly and the heavenly. All that rises above the surface of the ground appears to image something belonging to that portion of him which is intended to ascend above the material plane of existence, and still to live when the lower life ceases, not being, however, necessarily heavenly, as to all its particulars, but capable of becoming so. While all that is underground—the root-represents the sensual and earthly mind, which adheres to the body and perishes with it, the natural memory being