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ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE TO THE
MEMBERS OF THE NEW CHURCH IN THE UNITED
BELOVED BRETHREN,—The General Conference having brought to a close its Annual Session, turns with satisfaction to its custom of addressing a few words of admonition to the Members of our several Churches.
Many and various are the privileges we enjoy as members of the Lord's last and best dispensation of wisdom and love to the Church and to the world. The mysteries which have concealed the treasured riches of the Holy Word are opened for our instruction, and the genuine doctrines of truth, whereby the Word is to be correctly interpreted and intelligently understood, are now made known. The whole range of Christian thought and Christian duty is thrown open to our intellectual knowledge and spiritual culture ; and to us, therefore, the words of the Apostle relating to the period in the world's history we have now reached, are pre-eminently applicable“What manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting the day of the Lord.” All truth is practical, and by this test may its truthfulness be determined. Truth tends to goodness, and as it becomes united therewith attains its perfection and glory. Separate from love, it is a tinkling cymbal ; united with charity, it is the light of the world. At the head of all truth is the Lord Himself, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Man, created to become an angel, and while here invisibly associated with the angels, can only realize this great end of his creation by correct knowledge respecting the Lord. Swedenborg on this subject says : “The first and primary thought which opens heaven to man, is thought concerning God; the reason is, because God is the All in heaven, insomuch that whether we speak of heaven or of God it is the same thing; the divine (principles or things) which make the angels, taken together, are God; and hence it is, that thought concerning God is the first and primary of all thoughts which open heaven to man, for it is the head and sum of all truths and loves, celestial and spiritual. But there is given the thought of light and there is given the thought of love, the thought of light alone being the knowledge that God is, which appears as acknowledgment, but still is not so. By the thought of light, man has presence in heaven, but not conjunction with heaven, for the light of thought alone does not conjoin.” Knowledge respecting God is thus at the head of all finite intelligence. It occupies the highest range of human thought, and it pervades and fills with its enlightening and quickening influence every particular of human intelligence, and every effort of Christian life and character. United with the love of God and embodied in a life of obedience to His commandments, it is life eternal. All other knowledge is subordinate to this pearl of great price. All knowledge, however, which is genuine, has relation to it and is a means of widening and brightening our apprehension of this great truth. The mind most largely cultured, providing the culture be moral and spiritual as well as intellectual, is the mind most capable of fully entering into the glories of the knowledge of the Lord, and thereby most interiorly into the courts of the Lord. The Members of a Church to whom is revealed the marvellous wonders involved in the Doctrine of the Lord, should be careful to cultivate the knowledge of these wonders, and to bring into their life and conduct the sacred lessons of wisdom and holiness which are involved therein. Knowledge respecting the Lord is spiritual. It opens the spiritual faculties, and brings the light and love of the heavenly world to bear on all mental and moral culture. All other knowledges range themselves in order under this supreme intelligence, which sheds upon earthly sciences the lustre of a divine intelligence, and lifts them above the gross perceptions of sense to ally them with the wisdom of angels and of God.
But as members of the New Church we are especially interested in the
practical development of the truth. This development of truth in life extends to every particular of human conduct, at home and abroad. It embraces every thought of the mind and every action of the life. Let us glance at some of its prominent features. The prominent relationships of home are those of husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and mistresses and their servants. The duties arising from all these relationships of domestic life are inseparably connected with the duty which we owe to the Lord as the Husband of the Church, our Heavenly Father, and Lord and Master of all. It is the great privilege of the New Church to have a definite doctrine of marriage. With us marriage is more than the union of two for social and domestic benefits. It is not only a contract having mutual advantages for this life, but a covenant having relation to the interior nature of man, and instituted as a medium of promoting our highest culture and securing our present and future felicity. It is a union of souls as well as of bodies. And it is only a true marriage, laden with marriage delights, as it attains this its true character. All human good is the result of cultivation. It will avail us little to have a doctrine of marriage if we do not study its teaching and embody its requirements in our practice. If the wife is to be the love of the man's wisdom, the husband must cultivate wisdom; and as it is moral wisdom which is most attractive to the chaste female mind, he must study “the wisdom which cometh from above,"—the wisdom of knowing and loving the Lord and walking according to His commandments. And if the husband is really to find repose in the affection and feminine intelligence of the wife, true affection and the refined gracefulness and beauty of feminine intelligence must be carefully and diligently cultivated by the wife. We can only realize the blessedness of married life by an intelligent know ledge of the laws by which it is governed, and whereby its varied duties and requirements are to be understood and regulated. Clear knowledge will lead to wise practice, and this to mutual confidence and true order. Mutual co-operation in the training of children will exercise an incalculable influence for good; while discord, contradiction, and distrust will naturalize the best instructions and disastrously impair the moral influence of parents in the training of their offspring. The love of our children, therefore, and the desire for their eternal well-being, should be an additional inducement to the culture of the true principles and enlightened practices of true conjugial love. We pass over other domestic relations to dwell a moment upon the social
and worldly relationships of life. It is a teaching of Swedenborg that “all religion has relation to life, and that the life of religion is to do good.” And it is a further teaching of our great Author that the means whereby we are to do good are our several professions and employments in life. How difficult it must ever be to the natural man to realize that his worldly occupation is more than a means of money-making and worldly advantage. It needs, too often, the culture and discipline of a life-time to open the mind to see that worldly duty has a heavenly side, and that there is a divine meaning and sublime
purpose in the commonest employments of life. And are we, brethren, who have all the advantage of definite instruction, sufficiently careful to illustrate this truth in our life and conduct? Do we enter into business and prosecute worldly engagements simply to get money, or to do good to others? In the motive from which we act is stored the quality of the action we perform. If in our actions towards others we were influenced by the motive of love to the Lord, and thence of love to our neighbour, we should find our delight in ministering good to the neighbour. And what ample opportunities of ministering good are afforded in our several worldly occupations! Our earthly employments are so arranged as to instruct the ignorant, heal the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and minister innumerable blessings to all classes of the community. How much nobler and more excellent is life when animated by this Christian purpose, and guided by Christian intelligence, than when occupied only by the most sordid motives, and directed by self-intelligence and worldly cunning! Suffer, brethren, on this subject the word of admonition. Nothing is permanent, nothing yields true and lasting satisfaction to a rational nature, which is not builded on truth and righteousness. Whence has arisen these painful commercial disasters which have spread so dark a cloud and extended so withering an influence over large numbers of commercial men? Is it not the inordinate desire to be rich, leading to forgetfulness of the laws of charity, and indifference to the teachings of religious truth? But apart from these external considerations, is not the exemplification of this great doctrine of the Church one of the most powerful means of building up the Church and extending its influence in the world? All cannot enter into the interiors of Christian faith, but all can realize the beauty and excellency of Christian life. Were members of the New Church generally distinguished in all their worldly transactions by their active charity and manifested love of others, they would commend their faith by their life far more powerfully than they can hope to do by the didactic teaching of their doctrines. It is evermore true, “By their fruits ye shall know them;" and the New Church symbolized as a city of gold will be most truly known by her faith embodied in life, and manifested in ceaseless efforts to bless and to do good.-On behalf of the General Conference, very sincerely yours,
THE EMPLOYMENTS OF ANGELS.
SABBATHS, also recurring at stated periods, are reverently observed. Swedenborg describes a service he attended (T. C. R. 750), in a large semicircular building, containing about 3000 persons, who all intuitively knew their own seats, and indeed could not sit elsewhere, without losing their power of seeing and hearing, and interfering with the proper inspiration of the preacher. The sermon, on this occasion, was on the sanctity of the Scriptures, and the conjunction, by their means, of the Lord with both the natural and spiritual worlds; and the service lasted in all about two hours. In another place (H. H. 223), he states : “In order that I might understand the nature of the assemblies in their churches, it has been granted me to enter them sometimes, and hear the preaching. The preacher stands in a pulpit on the east; before his face sit those who are in the light of wisdom above others, and on their right and left those who are in less light. They sit in the form of a circus, so that all are in view of the preacher, and no one sits on either side of him so as to be out of his sight. The novitiates stand at the door, on the east of the temple, and on the left of the pulpit, but no one is allowed to stand behind the pulpit, because the preacher would be confused by it; and he is confused if any one in the congregation dissents from what is said, so that the dissentient is bound to turn away his face. The sermons are fraught with such wisdom, that nothing of the kind in the world can be compared with them, because the preachers in heaven are in interior light. The churches in the spiritual kingdom appear as of stone, and in the celestial kingdom as of wood, because stone corresponds to truth, in which they are principled who are in the spiritual kingdom, and wood corresponds to good, in which they are principled who are in the celestial kingdom. The sacred edifices in the celestial kingdom are not called churches, but houses of God, and are not mag