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The following is the passage in which he puts them forth in the most explicit form, and makes a show of supporting them by Scripture; "A Swedenborgian, according to an indulgence warranted by his great leader, * may go to a play,' may. sing a song,' besides some other little indulgences which it is needless here to mention. In addition to which, one of his chapters is headed in the following words : • That it is not so difficult to live for Heaven as some suppose. In the puritanical days which obtained in this nation about one hundred and fifty years or thereabouts, this kind of teaching would have been esteemed unorthodox ; neither do I think that the last quoted sentence, which makes heaven so easy of access, will very well accord with some passages in the New Testament, as for instance, ' Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.' - Give all diligence to make your calling and election
"If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear.” (1 Pet. iv. 18). And mark our Lord's words, for they are awfully emphatical : Enter ye in at the straight gate ; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: because straight is the .gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.' (Matt. vii. 13, 14). "Strive to enter in at the strait gate ; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able.' (Luke xiii. 24). And likewise we have in the parable of the sower and the seed, four kinds of hearers described, and yet only one of the four kinds finally attain salvation. (Matt. xiii. 3—9). Now, there being naturally too much inclination in our constitution both of body and mind towards laxity and indolence in spiritual duties, there appears no necessity that we should have the sanction of a written prescription for dealing with a slack hand, and for being at ease in Zion !"* More strange misstatement was never made than is couched in these sentences.
The doctrines of the New Church insist, as has been just shown, that the life which leads to heaven is of the most pure and holy nature : but they certainly do not affirm, as do the doctrines generally prevailing, that man has no power, either from himself, or from the Lord, to live such a life. Far from shutting up the kingdom of heaven against men, by telling them that the life which leads to it is so difficult that no one can comply with its requisitions, they encourage us by the assurance, That it is not so difficult to live the life that leads to heaven as some suppose ; and for this comforting, elevating sentiment, the design of which is solely to encourage those to set in earnest about the all-necessary work who otherwise might be dis.
* Pp. 3, 4.
heartened and to sit down in despair, the Scribes and Pharisees of modern times cry out against them, as giving a written prescription for being at ease in Zion! They would fain have it believed, that, in delivering this sentiment, our doctrines mean to encourage sinners in their evil ways, by intimating that they need not be over particular about yielding obedience to the commandments of God. Amazing perversion! The life that leads to heaven, it is constantly shown in our doctrine, is a life of genuine goodness; we are taught to believe, that, through the Divine Mercy, it is not so difficult to live a life of genuine goodness as some, who have never attempted it, suppose and represent: and this is construed as implying a license to live a life of wickedness, with the flattering unction, that a bad life will not exclude from heaven! And by whom is this perversion of our pure doctrines made ? By those who, in ef. fect, teach the very doctrine which they thus charge against us ! By those who, while they affirm that a good life follows faith as a thing of course, deny it to have any thing to do with, or to form any part of, the conditions of salvation! By those who affirm that a man may be saved by faith in his last moments, let the whole of his. previous life have been as wicked as it -may, and who thus practically demonstrate, that, in their estimation, a good life forms no part of the way to heaven! By hose who, in this persuasion, besiege the death-beds both of those who lived good lives and of those who have done the con. trary, to persuade the former that their having abstained from wickedness will not be of any avail in securing their happiness hereafter, and to assure the tter that their having lived in wickedness needs be no hindrance to their eternal happiness : but that both may now equally secure salvation by what they call faith! By those who, under this persuasion, throng the condemned cell and the platform of execution, and when the terrified ruffian, in the state of constraint that attends the certainty of present death, yields to the influence of their ex. hortations and prayers, exult in having destroyed, as far as in them lies, the eternal barrier between good and evil, and proclaim with triumph, that they have dismissed the plunderer of his fellows, the violator of innocence, the murderer of his brethren, to certain glory! If this is not breaking the divine commandments, and teaching men so, by encouraging them to believe that their lot in eternity will be the same as if they had kept them, it will be difficult to say what is. And yet these charge such breaking of the divine commandments upon the doctrines of the New Church, for teaching, that as no life but a life of goodness leads to heaven, it is actually possible to live such a life, and is even not so difficult as some suppose! Bus
here lies the secret. Such a sentiment overturns from the foundation the doctrine of faith and salvation by them professed. That doctrine all proceeds upon the supposition, that man cannot keep the divine commandments. Once establish the contrary to be the truth : once rescue the Divine Goodness from the blasphemous imputation of hàving given man a law that he can not keep, and then condemning him to eternal torments for the breach of it; and down tumbles at once all the fabric of the “ scheme of salvation,” which certain modern theologians have invented out of their own heads, and then fathered upon
the Word of God; though the Word of God lends no countenance to the fiction, and primitive Christianity knew nothing of it. When therefore the doctrines of the New Church vindicate the Divine justice from such aspersions, by affirming that man can keep the Divine Commandments, and that the Lord Jesus Christ did not come into the world to make his keeping them unnecessary, but to give him power to keep them in the manner he requires, the advocates of the common “ scheme of salvation” take alarm: but when our doctrines proceed a step further; when they vindicate the Divine Goodness as well as the Divine Justice, by affirming that, owing to the Divine Goodness, man not only has power given him to keep the Divine Commandments, but that the keeping of them is not so difficult as some suppose ; there are men who are ready to invent
fictions that may prevent so blessed and affecting a truth from making its way into the hearts and understandings of the penitent and sincere.
Is, however, the sentiment, which is found so obnoxious, true, * or is it not? Is it as difficult to live for heaven as some suppose, or is it not ?
There is nothing in this assertion, be it observed, which af. firms, absolutely, that it is not difficult to live the life that leads to heaven: for any thing that is here said to the contrary, it may be allowed to be extremely difficult; and yet all the adversary's remarks are levelled against the notion, that it is not at all difficult; as if this were advanced in the proposition. Thus nothing which he has said against it applies to the proposition itself, but only to what he has substituted in his thoughts, and sets before his readers, in its place. Accordingly, the texts which he quotes against it afford no contradiction whatever to the assertion, that it is not so difficult to live the life which leads to heaven as is supposed, but only to the notion, that it is so easy, or is a matter of so little importance, as to justify man in carelessness and indifference.
Thus, the first text which he cites is, “ Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” which refers neither to the
difficulty of the work, nor to its easiness, but only to the awful consequences of neglecting it which ought to excite us to set about it with the utmost solicitude : and this is a sentiment which every tenet of the New Church unites to confirm. To the same purport, though without allusion to the ill consequences of an opposite conduct, is the next citation : “Give all dili. gence to make your calling and election sure.” So, when Pe. ter, says, “ If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear,” he does not mean that to live the life which leads to heaven, or so as to be reckoned among the righteous, is a work of such extreme difficulty, but that they who do so live, and are accepted as righteous, have nothing to boast of — that there can be no works of supererogation, since, at the utmost, we are unprofitable servants, who can do no more than it is our duty to do. But our opponent seems to rely most upon the Lord's own words, which he justly denominates “awfully emphatical ;”.“ Enter ye in at the strait gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it;" And again : “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." But an attention to the context plainly shows, that the Divine Speaker is here referring to the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of entering the gate of heaven in the other life, when preparation has not been made for heaven by a suitable life here, but not to any extreme difficulty attending the living of such a life here. Thus the Lord carries on the subject by immediately adding to the last extract, “ When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets : but he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are ; depart from me, all ye workers of inquity. How plain is it from hence, that the subject relates to the im. possibility of entering heaven hereafter, if we have neglected our opportunities here, not to the difficulty of now applying those opportunities to the purpose for which they are granted
The gate of heaven is too narrow to let in any thing evil, or any evil doer who has not overcome his evil habits by actual repentance and by a suitable after life : it is only the gate of hell that is wide enough for these ; and it ever yawns greedily to receive them. To avoid this fate, and to secure the other, we are to strive now; before “ the Master of the house is risen
before he “ hath shut to the door,” which terminates our state of probation; and never does the Lord intimate that, be. fore the door is shut to, the work of acquiring the passport of admission, is a work of such extreme difficulty. There is a time in which we can work, and a time in which we cannot; and the one is separated from the other by the grave. As followers of our Divine Master, we are to “ work the works of our heavenly Father while it is day; for the night cometh when no man can work.'
“ Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.”+ Therefore, “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you."I Perfectly evident then it is, that the difficulty to which the Lord refers when he speaks of the straitness of the gate of heaven, is not the difficulty of so walking, during our day of probation, as to be able to find it, but the difficulty of finding it, and entering in at it, after death, - after having slept away all the twelve hours of our day here, instead of walking and working in them. If, also, his words could be so strained as to include the other meaning, it would be making the Divine Saviour contradict himself : for does he not say, “ Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls: for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light?"$ Here is a declaration which is perfectly clear and explicit : and when the Lord himself declares that his yoke is easy and his burden light, who shall contradict him by saying, that his yoke is galling, and his burden oppressive? To take upon us his yoke and burden, is to follow him : to follow him, is to live the life that he requires of us, which is the life that leads to heaven: and when he declares this to be easy and pleasant, who shall affirm it to be difficult and almost impracticable? The beloved disciple, than whom no one ever more completely took on him his Master's yoke, and was more highly qualified to speak of its nature, knew better : he says, 66 This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous ;"'|| or, as the original word literally signifies, " are not heavy,” or “ burdensome.” To keep the Lord's commandments, is certainly to ve the life that leads to heaven : if then his commandments are not grievous or burdensome, it is evident that to live the life which leads to heaven is not a task of such extreme difficulty. The opponent, however, declares that it is very difficult : evidently, then the New Church sentiment is true in the fullest extent, when it affirms, that it is not so difficult to live the life which leads to heaven as some suppose." * John ix. 4. * Ch. xi. 9. # Ch. xii. 35. ♡ Matt. xi. 29, 30.
|| 1 John v. 3.