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THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
The New Church Doctrine of Life, a Doctrine of Genuine
Holiness. I am now finally to appeal to you, my Candid and Reflecting Readers, on the subject of the Christian Life ; and I trust I shall not find it difficult to convince you, that when our doctrines affirm, that a life of righteousness, but not of Pharisaic righteousness, is the life that leads to heaven, they affirm the pure doctrine of the Scriptures, and maintain it as a doctrine of genuine holiness.
Among the accusations which have been brought against the doctrines of the New Church, there is none which will appear more extraordinary to future ages, none which at present appears more supprising to those who know what they are, than the monstrous charge of their being opposed to true holiness of life: Yet the writer whom I chiefly follow has thought proper to affirm, that the enlightened man who was made the instrument of deducing those doctrines from the Scriptures, comes under the condemnation of the Lord's words, when he says, 66 Whosoever shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Other assailants, almost without number, have endeavored to deter the public from examining the writings of Swedenborg for themselves by similar unfounded aspersions. Without offering any thing but gross misrepresentations to support his imputations, the writer I follow goes on, through two or three pages,* moralizing on the “awful responsibility” lying on the writer, the translators, and circulators, of “ false doctrines and loose principles ;” as if such guilt were incurred by the writer, translators, and circulators, of the doc
* Pp. 4-".
trines and principles of the New Church ! Yet why should any exient of calumny surprise us? when truth has always re: ceived the same treatment on its first promulgation, and be. fore its doctrines were so generally known, as to make evident to all the falsehood of such accusations. The writings of the early Christian apologists are filled with accounts of the monstrous fictions which were invented to blacken the then new re. ligion and those who received it. All the most celebrated Re. formers, at the era of the separation from Rome, were repre. sented as monsters of impiety: an imputation, certainly, which was grossly scandalous and unfounded, though I would by no means represent those upon whom it was cast as maintainers of genuine truth. No more could I affirm this of the original Methodists: but this is no reason for representing their excesses as worse than they were : yet their severe antagonist, Bishop Lavington, concludes his celebrated work entitled The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists Compared, with a delineation of the abominations which were practised at the Eleusinian mysteries, and intimates his conviction, that the private meetings of the Methodists (and he quotes passages from their writ. ings as countenancing the charge) were not more innocent. But why advert to inferior instances to evince how naturally both genuine and comparative truth, even to the mere zeal for what is believed to be the truth, are maligned and misrepresented on their first appearance ? Do the opponents of the doctrines of the New Church strain them to a sense which does not belong to them ? the Lord Himself, by his representative, David, complains that his divine sentiments were similarly perverted : “False witnesses did rise up: they laid to my charge things that I knew not :” “ Every day they wrest my words."* Do they affirm of the doctrines of the New Church, which are formed from the pure truths of the Word of God, that they teach men to break the divine commandments ?
The disciple is not above his Master; and the teachers of the professing church said of the Word of God himself, when Incarnate among them, “ We know that this man is a sinner.”+
The whole of the verse of which a part is so calumniously applied to the illustrious Swedenborg, with the verse which follow's it, delivers, in the most explicit manner, the Lord's doctrine respecting the species of righteousness which was to distinguish his disciples : “ Whosoever,” he declares, “shall break one of these least commandments, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, Except your righteousness shall exceed * Ps. x.xxv. 11; Ivi. 5.
† John ix. 21.
the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven."* It is here most decisively taught, that a life of righteousness, but not of Pharisaic rightcousness, is the way to heaven, I propose then to show, that the doctrine thus advanced is to be understood in all the fullness of meaning which the Lord's words naturally convey ; that to invent any interpretation of them which tends to evade their evident purport,
– to break, or diminish the force of, any of the divine commandments, is to incur the condemnation which they pronounce; and that the doctrine they teach, is, in all its integrity and purity, the doctrine of the New Church and of the writings of Swedenborg; which thus is a doctrine of genuine holiness.
By a life of righteousness, it will of course be understood, we mean a life of obedience to the Lord's commandments : and that such obedience is required of all those who call themselves his disciples, is so evident in Scripture, that scarcely any can be so bold as openly to deny it; though many break the force of the commandments respecting it, by straining their language to a different meaning. The whole of the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New, is nothing else but the code of God's commandments, with an ample comment respecting the rewards which Divine Goodness bestows on those who keep them, and the punishments which unavoidably overtake those who persevere in disregarding them. Under the Jewish dispensation, the keeping of the commandments of God had rewards in this life attached to it, and the disobeying of them was followed by punishments in this life ; and when such disobedience became national, it was to be followed with expulsion from their own country, and exile and captivity in foreign lands. Accordingly, when the Jews, having long refused, by obedience to the divine commandments, to render of the fruits of the vineyard to its rightful Lord, proceeded to the direful extent of casting the Divine Heir out of his own vineyard and slaying him, they were finally ejected from being tenants of the vineyard, or from being the recognised church of God in the world, and with it, agreeably to the nature of the punishments with which, under that dispensation, disobedience was attended, they were miserably distroyed by foreign invaders, were finally cast out of their own land, and have been abject wanderers in foreign countries ever since ; exhibiting a standing monument before our eyes of the awful consequences of disobedience. But many modern teachers will here exclaim, “ Yes! but the case is quite different now: they were under a covenant of works, but we are under the covenant of grace.” True, I answer, from the
* Matt. v. 19, 20.
doctrines of the New Church : we are under the covenant of grace: but in what does this grace consist? In the power which is bestowed upon man, in consequence of the increased divine aids and communications of the Spirit which are the blessed effects of the Incarnation of Jehovah in the person of Jesus Christ, whereby he is enabled to keep the divine commandments from that inward ground, in the spirit and not in the letter only, — in the heart and mind as well as in the outward form, — which is intended by the Author of those commandments, the God who looketh at the heart. We are under grace! “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ ;” and “ as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to as many as believe on his name.” Believing on his name, then, does not, of itself, make them sons of God, but brings the power of becoming such ; in other words, it is indispensably necessary to our receiving from God the power to keep his commandments in the spirit as well as in the letter: and“ he that hath my commandments, and keepeth them," saith the Lord Jesus Christ,“ he it is that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him :'+ which is only another mode of declaring, that such shall be the sons of God.
If we were to cite all the passages in the discourses of the Lord Jesus Christ in which he declares that the keeping of his commandments, in other words, a life of righteousness, is indispensable to admission into heaven, we must quote a great proportion of his instructions indeed, including the entire burthen of the whole. More, surely, cannot be necessary, to remind Christian readers of the constant tenor of his exhortations, than to repeat the sublime and pathetic conclusion of the longest of his discourses, his sermon on the mount. That whole discourse is a series of precepts enjoining righteousness of life; and he closes it with saying, " Whoseever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise man which built his house upon a rock : and the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house ; and it fell not; because it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand : and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”\ So, how plainly are the conditions of admission to eternal happiness laid before us, in the parable of the sheep and the goats! To the sheep, with words of the highest tenderness and affection, the Divine Judge enumerates a num.
* John i. 17, 12. † Ch. xiv. 21. | Matt. vii. 24 — 27.
ber of good works, as representative of a life of charity and goodness, which he says they had done, and done to him: and these are expressly denominated the righteous : to the goats, the same words are mentioned as having by them been entirely neglected: and the discourse concludes with saying, “ And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."* And the doctrine of the Epistles is precisely the same as that of the Gospels, though much mischievous industry has been employed to set them at variance; and many theologians of high name have thought they have effected a glorious achievement, when they have made the Apostles appear to contradict their Divine Master, and when they have extolled the sentiments thus forced from their Epistles as the genuine gospel, and depreciated the opposite sentiments of Jesus Christ as not “ evangelical.”+ Paul, however, plainly enough teaches, that it is righteousness of life which enables man to stand in the judgment, and to obtain admission into heaven, “ God,” he declares, “ will render to every man ac. cording to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seck for glory and honor and immortality, — eternal life : But unto them that are contentious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, - indignation and wrath : tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil ; but glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good.”I So, the same apostle assures us, that to produce this life of obedience is the design of the grace of God: “ The grace of God," saith he,“ that bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present evil world; looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Here the apostle plainly tells us, that the grace of God, of which he elsewhere speaks so often, is given to enable us to live righteously; that it is by living righteously, that we shall be prepared to stand before our Saviour and Judge; and that the design of his coming into the world, whence we re
* Matt. xxv. 34 — 46.
† See a Sermon of Nathan Taylor, an old divine, in the Methodist Magazine for July or August, 1823, Toplady, in his posthumous tracts, quotes the words of Paul in Acts xiii. 39, as the doctrine of the gospel, in opposition to the words of Jesus in Matt. v. 48, which he treats as the abrogated doctrine of the law. It would be easy to multiply examples.
| Rom. ii. 1 -10. § Tit. ii. 11 14. That the above is the proper translation, see before,