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every beast of the earth, describe the circles of their natures. Every tree likewise has its beginning in the bud, whence it proceeds to its full stature, and by degrees dies away till it falls to the ground. The case is similar with every shrub, and with every twig, nay, with every leaf and flower, and even with the ground itself, which in time becomes sterile; and likewise with all stagnant water, which by degrees grows putrid. All these are alternate consummations, which are natural and temporary, but yet periodical; for when one thing has passed from its beginning to its end, another springs up like it, and so every thing is born, and dies, and then is born again, to the intent that creation may be continued. The reason why there is a like law in respect to the church, is, because it consists of the human race, of which, in its common form, it is composed, and one generation of men succeeds another, and there is a variety in the minds of all, and iniquity, once rooted in their inclina. tion, is propagated to their posterity; nor can it be extir. pated but by regeneration, and this can only be effected by the Lord. II. THAT THE PRESENT DAY IS THE LAST TIME OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, WHICH IS FORETOLD AND
THE LORD IN THE Gospels, AND IN The RevelATION.
757. That the consummation of the age signifies the last time of the church, has been shewn in the foregoing article; whence it is evident what is meant by the consummation of the age spoken of by the Lord in the Gospels, Matt. xxiv. Mark xiii. Luke xxi. for it is written, “ As Jesus sat upon the Mount of Olives, His disciples came unto Him privately, saying, Tell us when shall these things be, and what is the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the age .?” Matt. xxiv. 3 : and then the Lord began to foretel and describe the consummation in all its successive states, even to His advent and that then He should come in the clouds of hea
ven with power and great glory, and should gather together His elect, with many other particulars, (verses 30, 31,) which in no sort came to pass at the destruction of Jerusalem. On that occasion the Lord described these events in prophetic language, every word whereof is weighty and significative; the spiritual import of every particular expression may be seen explained in the ARCANA CELESTIA, n. 3353 to 3356, 3486 to 3489, 3650 to 3655, 3751 to 3757, 3898 to 3901, 4057 to 4060, 4229 to 4231, 4332 to 4335, 4422 to 4424.
758. That all those prophetic declarations of the Lord to his disciples were spoken of the last time of the Christian Church, is very evident from the Revelation, where there are similar events foretold of the consummation of the age, and the Lord's advent, all which are particularly explained in the APOCALYPse Revealed, published in the year 1766 :now, as the particulars spoken of by the Lord to His disci. ples, concerning the consummation of the age, and His advent, coincide with what He afterwards revealed in the Apocalypse by John, concerning the same subjects, it is evident that he could have meant no other consummation than that of the present Christian Church. The end of this church is moreover foretold in Daniel, wherefore the Lord saith, “ When ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, whoso readeth, let him understand,” Matt. xxiv. 15, Dan. ix. 27; in like manner also in the other prophets. That there is at this day, such an abomination of desolation in the Christian Church, will further appear from the Appendix, where it will be seen, that there is not a single genuine truth at this time remaining in the church, and also, that unless a new church were to be raised up in the place of the present, “ no flesh could be saved,” according to the Lord's words in Matt. chap: xxiv. 22. That the Christian Church, such as it is at this day, is consummated and laid waste to so great an extent,
cannot be seen by those on earth, who have confirmed themselves in its falses, because a confirmation of the false is a denial of the true, and for this reason, he who is in such a state places as it were a vail beneath his understanding, and so keeps guard that nothing else creeps in to pull down the ropes and stakes, by which he has built up and put together his theological system like a strong tent. Add to this, that the natural rational principle can confirm whatsoever it pleases, whether it be false or true, and both, when confirmed, appear in similar light, nor is it known whether the light be false, such as is experienced in a dream, or whether it be true, such as is seen in the clear day : but the case is altogether otherwise with the spiritual rational principle, such as they enjoy who look to the Lord, and from Him are in the love of truth.
759. Hence it is, that every church composed of such as see by the above light of confirmation appears to itself as if it were the one only church which enjoyed the light of truth, whilst all others which differ from it are in darkness; for they who see by the light of confirmation, are not unlike owls, which see light during the shades of night, but in the day time see the sun and its rays as thick darkness. Such was, and such also is, every church which is in falses, when once it is founded by leaders, who being sharp-sighted as lynxes in their own conceit, form to themselves a morning light from their own understandings, and an evening light from the Word: thus, did not the Jewish Church, when it was altogether laid waste, which was the case when our Lord came into the world, contend loudly, by its scribes and lawyers, that because it possessed the Word, it was the one only church which was in heavenly light, although at that very time they crucified the Messiah, or Christ, who was the Word Itself, and the All in All thereof? And what does the church, which in the prophets and the Revelation is understood by Babylon, contend for else, but that she is the queen and mother of all churches, and that others, which recede from her, are illegitimate children, who ought to be excommunicated; and this, notwithstanding she has thrust down the Lord the Saviour from His throne and altar, and placed herself thereon in His stead? Does not every church, be it ever so heretical, when once it is established, fill all countries and cities with a cry, that it is the only one which is orthodox and ecumenical, and that it is in possession of the Gospel, which the flying angel preached in the midst of heaven, Rev. xiv. 6? And who does not hear the voice of the vulgar echoing the same cry? Did not the whole Synod of Dort look upon the doctrine of predestination as a star falling from heaven upon their heads, and kiss it as the Philistines did the image of Dagon in the temple of Ebenezer at Ashdod, and as the Greeks did the Palladium* in the temple of Minerva ? for they called it the Palladium of religion, not aware that a falling star is a meteor composed of a false light, which, when it falls on the brain, can confirm, by fallacious arguments, whatever is most false, even till it is believed to be a true light, decreed to be a fixed star, and at length peremptorily pronounced the glory of all constellations. Who can speak with stronger persuasion of the certainty of his phantastic opinions, than an atheistical naturalist ? and how heartily does he laugh at the divine operations of God, the celestial principles of heaven, and the spiritual principles of the church? What lunatic does not fancy his own infatuation to be wisdom, and another's wisdom to be infatuation? Who can distinguish, by ocular vison alone, the false light of rotten wood from the light of the moon? Who that has an aversion to sweet smells, which is the case with those who are affected with the morbus uterinus, does not repel them from the nostrils, and give the preference to stinking odours ? Not to mention other cases of a similar kind. These instances are adduced for the sake of illustration, and to evince that it cannot be discovered, by natural light alone, before truth shineth in its own light from heaven, that the church is come to its consummation, in other words, that it is in mere falses; for the false does not see the true, but the true sees the false; and every man is so constituted, that he can see and comprehend the truth, when he hears it; but if he is confirmed in falses, he cannot introduce it into his understanding so as that it may remain there, because he can find no place for it; and if by chance it gain admission, the crowd of falsities before collected cast it out as heterogeneous. III. That THIS LAST TIME OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH,
* It may be proper to acquaint the unlearned reader, that the Palladium was an image of Minerva, supposed to have fallen from heaven, which the oracle declared would preserve the city, so long as the image remained in it, from being taken and destroyed.
18 The very Night, IN WHICH FORMER CHURCHES HAVE set.
760. That since the creation there have been four churches in general on this earth, in a regular succession one after another, may appear both from the historical and the prophetical parts of the Word, but especially from the book of Daniel, where those four churches are described by the statue that appeared to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, chap. ii. and afterwards by the four beasts ascending out of the sea, chap. vii. The first church, which may be called the most ancient, was extant before the flood, and its consummation or end is described by the flood. The second church, which may be called the ancient was, in Asia, and part of Africa, and this was brought to its consummation and destruction by idolatries. The third church, which was the Israelitish, began at the promulgation of the decalogue on: mount Sinai, was continued by the Word written by Moses and the prophets, and was consummated or ended by its profanation of the Word, which profanation was at its fulness when the Lord came into the world, wherefore, He being