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THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.
Charity not infringed by Swedenborg's Exposure of the Errors
of a Perverted Church. I HAVE had occasion to observe above, that “piety to God and charity to man form the soul, both of Swedenborg's system and of his conduct.” It is certain that charity is affirmed, in his writings, as in those of Paul,* to be the greatest of Christian graces; yet his accusers pretend, that it is one in which he was extremely deficient himself. Upon the same ground, however, on which this charge is attempted to be established against Swedenborg, it might as truly be brought against the Apostle, and even against their Divine Master: it is purely because, in his writings, he treats evil as evil, and darkness as darkness, and does not, as those who are confirmed in false sentiments would prefer, “ heal the hurt of the daughter of the Lord's people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.”+
Scripture expressly affirms (in Matt. xxiv. and the corresponding chapters of Mark and Luke, in many parts of the Apostolic writings, and in the Revelation throughout), that the most deplorable evils and errors would successively devastate the Christian church, insomuch that a judgment would at length be passed on its corruptions, and God would depart from those who uphold them, to dwell with the new dispensation of pure Christianity delineated as the New Jerusalem : the Apostle, in a holy zeal, exclaims, “ Let God be true, and every man a liar:"\ but Swedenborg, only for declaring that God is true, and that his predictions are fulfilled, is charged with an unpardonable breach of charity. But what does this prove, but that conviction of error, now, as of old, is deeply resented by those confirmed in
“ And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hold on him; for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against him.”S
“ In the Baron's writings” says my guide“ the word charity is a very prominent word : of course we have a fair claim upon him, not only for the manifestation of much candor of exo * 1 Cor. xiii. 13.
† Jer. vi. 11. | Rom. iii. 4.
§ Luke xx. 19.
pression, but also for a great share of benevolent feeling and brotherly love. How far he has satisfied our claims or gratified our expectation, will
be seen in the following Extracts from a small tract published · By the Members of the New Jerusalem Church, who assembled in Great Eastcheap, London, 1788,' entitled, Reasons for separating from the Old Church,' &c. For the accuracy of these extracts the author does not vouch, but he will vouch for it that they are exactly copied from the tract in question.”* These Extracts he presents under the title of “ A Sample of Swedenborgian Charity.
As this tract has been also made use of by the Rev. Mr. Adam, who, in his work, “ The Religious World Displayed,” &c., gives the greater part of its contents as an authentic view of the doctrines of the New Church; whereas it was not drawn up as a view of the doctrines of the New Church, but only as a declaration of the errors of the doctrines called those of the Old Church ; as, also, it has been reprinted, as a subject for obloquy, by adversaries of the New Church in America ; I will here offer some account of its nature, and the occasion of its publication, from which it will be seen, that to give extracts from it as specimens of Swedenborg's writings and sentiments, is ex. tremely deceptive.
In the years 1787 and 1788, when the approvers of the writings of Swedenborg had become pretty numerous, the question began to be earnestly discussed, whether it was right and necessary for those who accepted them to form societies for public worship in a distinct manner, or whether it was more expedient for individuals to remain, for some time longer, in connection with the Church of England, or the various denominations of Dissenters to which they might previously have belonged. Tracts were written on both sides; and both drew from the writings of Swedenborg conclusions in favor of their own sen. timents. Public worship, however, in a distinct form, was commenced by those members of the New Church in London who approved the measure, in a chapel in Great Eastcheap, in 1788. By them, in justification of the step they were taking, and to induce their brethren to join them in it, was issued the tract in question. It, of course, was never intended for the public in general, but only for the readers of Swedenborg's writings. By them, the extracts from, or rather, references to those writings, would be rightly understood; but as, in many instances, the compilers give their own conclusions from the passages re. ferred to, rather than the words of the passages themselves, persons unacquainted with those writings would form from these statements an inaccurate judgment.
* Pp. 72, 73.
For instance: In most of the extract here cited, the words * Old Church” occur: but they are only found in one or two of the passages of the writings of Swedenborg to which reference is made ; and in one of them,* the “ Old Church" men. tioned is the Jewish Church. In explanation of the phrase, the writer I follow gives this comment; “ It may be necessary to remind the reader, that, in perusing these extracts, he is to bear ir. mind, that by the Old Church, so often mentioned, is to be u.derstood both the Roman Catholics, and Protestants of every denomination !” This however is not Swedenborg's account of the matter, but is quite inconsistent with it. His censures are always chiefly directed against the false doctrines of the Church, as established among Roman Catholics and Protestants, and only against those persons who are confirmed in those false doctrines in consequence of being immersed in evils of life. But so far is he from affirming that this is the case with all in the Christian world at this day, that he declares, that by the seven churches, to whom the Revelation is addressed, “ are described all those in the Christian church who have any religion, and out of whom the New Church, which is the New Jerusalem, can be formed.”+ Thus, he considers the inhabitants of Christendom, at this day, as divided into three great classes ; 1. Those represented in the Revelation by the seven churches to whom the book is addressed; 2. Those represented by Babylon; and 3. Those represented by the dragon and his two beasts : the two latter being those which constitue the “ Old Church,” but not the former, though mixed with them and undistinguished from them. The doctrines generally professed are, indeed, those of the two latter: but according to Swedenborg's view, in all denominations are many, who, although, for want of opportunity of knowing better, they profess the common doctrines, are not confirmed in the false sentiments which abound in those doctrines, but in their hearts, have an idea of the Lord's Humanity as being Divine, and who live in the habit of abstinence from evils. Hence we find him, even in the extracts cited to prove his uncharitableness, speaking so well of the state of many in the other world : hence he speaks of Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, as being in the centre of all in that world; of Protestants as being in the centre of all Christians; and of the Eng. lish as being in the centre of all Protestants. This would be inconsistency indeed, if he considered all who pass under the denomination of Roman Catholics, and all who pass under the denomination of Protestants, as belonging to what he sometimes, and his disciples more frequently, denominate the Old Church :” though the professions of faith generally received, * Ap. Rev. n. 707.
† Ap. Rev. n. 69.
according to which the public worship of all denominations of professing Christians is constituted, belong to the Old Church" only.
The extracts, then, cited from the “ Reasons for separating from the Old Church,” do not bear the harsh or uncharitable character which accusers would assign them, for three reasons : first, because the phrase, “ Old Church,” is not in general used by Swedenborg himself in the places referred to: secondly, because,
if it were, it would not be used in the sense assigned it by adversaries, but as applying more to principles than to persons, and by no means to all the persons who profess the com. mon doctrines : thirdly, because, to affirm of evil and false principles that they really are such, and thus to prevent persons from accepting, or abiding in, what would endanger their salvation, instead of being a mark of want of charity, evinces real charity, and concern for men's souls.
To show that such is the character of the warnings on these subjects as they exist in the writings of Swedenborg himself, we will take two of the strongest of the extracts adduced by my guide from the tract he mentions, and will subjoin the passages in the writings of Swedenborg on which they are founded.
An extract says, “That there is nothing spiritual remaining in the Old Church, but that it is full of blasphemy against the Lord :” and refers for its authority to Tr. Chr. Rel. n. 132, 133, Ap. Rev. n. 692, 715. In the Tr. Chr. Rel., in the preceeding article, it is shown, " That the Passion of the Cross was not Redemption itself, but was the last temptation which the Lord endured as the grand Prophet, and that it was the means of the Glorification of his Humanity, that is, of Union with the Divinity of his Father.” Then, at the place referred to, this proposition is advanced and illustrated : " That it is a funda. mental error of the Church to believe the Passion of the Cross to be Redemption itself; and that this error, together with that relating to Three Divine Persons from Eternity, has perverted the whole church, so that nothing spiritual is left remaining in it.” — The following are some of the strongest of the remarks offered in illustration of this proposition :
6. What doctrine more abounds in the books of the orthodox at this day, or what is more zealously taught and insisted on in the schools of divinity or more constantly preached and extolled in the pulpit, tha this: That God the Father being full of wrath against mankino. not only separated them from himself, but also sentenced thei to universal damnation, thus excommunicated them from hi favor; but because he was gracious and merciful, that he persuaded or excited his Son to descend, and take upon himself the determined cwise, and thus appease the wrath of his Father,
and that thus, and no otherwise, could the Father be prevailed upon to look again with an eye of mercy on mankind ? — But who that hath his reason enlightened by the Word, cannot see that God is mercy itself, and clemency itself, because he is love itself and goodness itself, and that these constitute his essence : consequently, that it is a contradiction to say, that mercy itself or goodness itself can behold man with an angry eye, and sentence the whole race to damnation, and still abide in its own divine essence ? Such dispositions are never ascribed to a good man, or an angel of heaven, but only to a wicked man, and a spirit of hell; it is therefore blasphemy to ascribe them to God. From this idea concerning God and redemption, the whole system of theology has lost its spirituality, and is become in the lowest degree natural: this was the necessary consequence of ascribing to God merely natural properties and attributes.” Here the author's language is undoubtedly strong; but if the sentiments it conveys are just, it assuredly is far from being too strong for the occasion. And where is there any absence of charity in it, when it is not applied to persons, but only to a system of theology."
The passages referred to in the Ap. Rev., are those in which these words are explained : 66 And men were scorched with great heat and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues.” — “And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail ; for the plague thereof was exceed
According to Swedenborg, this whole chapter relates to those in the Protestant Church who are arated from charity both in respect to doctrine and in respect to life.” He explains the first of the above passages as signify. ing, that such persons, “ owing to the delight of the love of self arising from dreadful evil lusts, did not acknowledge the Divin. ity of the Lord's Humanity :" and the second he interprets to mean, “ that they who have confirmed in themselves direful false persuasions, have denied truths to such a degree as to be no longer able to acknowledge them, owing to the repugnance against them occasioned by their inward false persuasions and evil lusts." His meaning is, that such is discovered to be their state at the time of the last judgment. Now to charge this with want of charity, is to reproach the sacred text itself, and not its expositor. The sacred text declares, that certain persons would arise in the church whose states would be grievous : and when the expositor affirms that these persons are they who are in faith separated from charity both in doctrine and in life, and who are in direful false persuasions and evil lusts; who will say that the application is unjust ? Will the opponent deny that there are,
* Ch. xvi. 9, 21.
66 in faith sep