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Review. OTHER WORLD ORDER : SUGGESTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS THEREON. By WILLIAM
WHITE. London: E. W. Allan. 1876.
“Men willingly believe what they wish to be true.”—Julius Cæsar. Mr. White, the author of “Swedenborg; his Life and Writings,' -a work in two volumes, and subsequently of a condensed edition of the same in one volume,-is again before the public to set forth “plainly and pleasantly” his conclusions, which he declares “are the fruit of long and irregular meditation,” in a small work of 166 pages, divided into various chapters of mysterious denomination.
In the preface, Mr. White alludes to the incapability of many to recognize the supernatural, whilst others dislike any reference to it. “Hence,” he says, “if certain of my acquaintance proposed to read this book, I should say, 'Pray do not, for you will think me a fool, and I may be tempted to consider you one for so regarding me. This imaginary dialogue would evince the possibility of difference of opinion as to the merits of the work before us; and this I think we shall see is far from unlikely, when we consider the absurdities he would have us believe.
Of the first chapter, under the heading of “Personal,” little need be said, except that our author is a Scot,” and that his parents were members of the Society of Friends. Mr. White owes his acquaintance with Swedenborg to the fact of his chancing to pick up a copy of “The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine" on a second-hand bookstall, which he "read at odd moments.” The perusal of this volume interested him, and led to his purchasing “Heaven and Hell,” and also to his attendance at the New Jerusalem Temple, where he was introduced to the late Rev. O. Prescott Hiller of America, in whose ministry, and in his acquaintance with the congregation, Mr, White affirms “that he felt translated to a happier world.”
"In Swedenborgianism,” Mr. White says, “I did not get rid of the notion of eternal damnation, but was taught to refer the existence of hell entirely to human perversity. God desired to take all to heaven, but all would not go, as I find I wrote at the time.
“True doctrine declares that the Lord never turns away his face from man, never rejects him, never casts any one into hell, and is never angry. The Lord is continually withdrawing man from evil and leading him to good, but man's freedom the Lord never constrains. If man will love evil, and will do perversely, the Lord does not prevent him. That man should go to hell is at variance with the Divine design; but to infringe man's freedom would be to destroy his life and withdraw from him all that is human, reducing him to the level of a machine or a brute. Those who are in hell, cast themselves thither, and keep themselves there."
This is New Church, founded on a just conception of the Divine Being, and the only rational conclusion a spiritually thinking mind can come to. If Mr. White had contented himself with these truths, instead of striving to work in his homespun speculations, many of his readers might have been spared the perusal of his “Other World Order.
In the second chapter, Mr. White lays his foundation by endeavouring to explain the “mystery of evil.” What we characterize as evil, Mr. White would say is but a negation of good, and this he confirms by quoting two lines from Tennyson, which run thus
“Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill !" and'adds that “the poet expresses no vain hope, but one so reasonable that it may pass for certainty.' In further explanation, Mr. White writes, “To my mind the question admits of but one answer. Sin begets sorrow and suffering, and by sorrow and suffering we discover our sins, and are afflicted until we hate and forsake them, and are educated from animals to men and women in the process. Consider how hearts are enlarged and enriched by breaking! Consider how intellect is developed by hardship and difficulty !”
Here Mr. White makes no distinction between sorrow and suffering. Suffer. ing is the necessary result of sin, while sorrow implies repentance. A criminal
may suffer the penalty of his crime, and regret exceedingly his detection, without feeling the least sorrow for the offence. This is invariably the case, and when such are released from custody they are as bad, and perhaps worse, than they were before. The penalty of sin will not eradicate evil. The torments and sufferings of the hells will not transform the devils into angels. The devils may dread punishments, but they delight in the evils which cause them. As the Christian finds great reward in keeping the Divine commands, so the devil finds satisfaction in transgressing them. Hearts are broken by repentance, not by suffering the penalty of sin, and the hardship and difficulty which may develop the intellect are permitted by Divine Providence, and have no connection whatever with that which is evil.
“This transitory world”—which forms the subject of the third chapter—Mr. White designates as “simply a place wherein to get born and to make trial of our powers.
Permanent social order in this life he maintains is an impossibility. What will our philanthropists and social reformers say to this? Why do we pray that the Lord's will may be done on earth even as it is in heaven? This prayer, Divinely taught, is of far greater value than Mr. White's opinions. We do believe, and with very good reason, that the world is growing better every day-old things are passing away, and all things are becoming new. National Education
exerting her noble influence, banishing ignorance, superstition, and tyranny. Men are beginning to think for themselves. The Individual Church is being constructed, and the kingdom of heaven is extending from heart to heart. Surely these great and powerful agencies are conducive to social order!
Our author now turns his attention to Swedenborg, and commences his chapter with some advice to those who are about to read the writings of this illustrious Swede. He says :
“I am sometimes asked, "What work of Swedenborg would you advise me to read?' It is a question that requires various answers. To one I may say, “Do not try to read him: for you he has no message. But as a rule I reply, Read any book you fancy, and anywhere in the book.' Swedenborg, with a vast show of method, has little method; or, at least, little method that answers to the order of modern thought.”. If the advice
Mr. White gives to his readers as to the perusal of Swedenborg is derived from his own experience, some explanation will be afforded of the curious and erroneous conclusions he deduces from isolated and disconnected passages of the writings. In order to attain a just conception and a right understanding of Swedenborg, a systematic and orderly study is indispensable. Swedenborg was essentially a Methodist; all he wrote was set forth in order, and if Mr. White's conception of “modern method” will not compare favourably with the order which is characteristic of the writings of Swedenborg, it can be, we should say, nothing less than disorder.
Passing over Mr. White's remarks concerning Swedenborg's cardinal principle, The Grand Man and the Economy of Humanity, which need no comment, we find ourselves confronted by a chapter bearing the obscure heading, "How Devils are utilized.”
In order to illustrate concisely what Mr. White intends to explain, I append the following passage from his last chapter:-“Lord Palmerston once inquired, “What is dirt ?' and answered, Dirt is matter out of place,' which is precisely what I have been trying to say about human nature; that what we call bad men and women are men and women out of place, and when put in place, and kept in place, are no longer bad, but blessed in themselves and to others. Thus the remedy for the disorder of humanity is the organization of humanity." If, instead of the organization of humanity, Mr. White had said the organization of man, he would have been nearer the mark. Humanity is composed of men and women, and society of individuals; and the state of humanity or society depends entirely upon the quality of the individuals of which it is formed. Social order, therefore, will be promoted in proportion as individual culture is attended to. Society cannot do for man that which he will not do of himself. Therefore Mr. White's remedy is useless: but how about the evil? Will misplacement explain the depravities of our day? In some instances circumstances may alter cases, but this is rarely so with those who are inwardly corrupted. The good old Book tells us that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man" (Matt. xv. 19, 20). This conception is also clearly defined by Milton in his “Paradise Lost"
“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."
And if we did our duty,
It would be full of love." Mr. White's argument, therefore, that "criminals are no more than forces mis. applied, to whose utilization we are at present unequal,” is contrary to Scripture and sound reason.
Mr. White goes on to say that “there is nothing in the worst man living that is not in the best man living. The propensities of the worst are included in the best, but in the best are held in subordination by superior forces or faculties. In the worst, on the contrary, superior forces are either absent or latent or inade. quate.” From these remarks it must be concluded that regeneration in many cases is impossible. Is not this predestination in its worst form? If a man has no superior faculties to appeal to, how can he be responsible for his wrong-doings ? Where is his conscience? Depend upon it, the Lord has endowed all his creatures with the ability to become regenerated, and they have themselves alone to blame if they desire to remain in darkness.
"Love of self, not iniquity,” is the title of the next chapter, and here Mr. White maintains that a devil (i.e. a man or woman governed by self-love) may remain a devil, and at the same time be useful to others, comfortable and prosperous. It is not required for the redemption of sinners that they get 'new hearts,' or that seeds of good be developed in them ; but taking them as they are, I believe that they may be so placed as their natures (such as they are) may have full scope, and yield nothing but satisfaction to themselves and their neighbours.”
Here Mr. White dispenses altogether with regeneration, which is so emphatically taught throughout the whole Bible. Self-love, which we are taught in the writings, together with love of the world, constitutes hell, and is the cause of all depravity and misery, Mr. White assures us is not iniquitous. According, then, to him, devils may be comfortable and prosperous, while he “questions whether even the kingdom of heaven could hold together without pains and penalties.” Where then is the contrast between angels and devils ?
In the chapter entitled “What Swedenborg says,” Mr. White affords us an example of the way in which he bends and twists Swedenborg to confirm his cherished sentiments. All students of Swedenborg acknowledge that the “Lord is life itself,” and that all things “live and move and have their being” in Him, but this will not satisfy Mr. White, for he would maintain that the Lord is not only the fountain of life but the Creator of evil, and hence the “life of hell.” This is a gross misrepresentation. There is nothing in the writings more thoroughly treated than the origin and nature of life, and it is difficult to conceive how a wrong conception could be arrived at. In the D.L. and W., n. 4, we read “that the Lord is life itself, and that angels and men (and devils) are recipients of life,” and elsewhere that life is of one quality, and is modified or perverted by its recipient. It is true, therefore, that the devils have their being from the Lord, but their evils which constitute their life are self-acquired.
The most unjust attack Mr. White makes in his “Other World Order" is in attributing Predestination to Swedenborg. He says, “In his (Swedenborg's) ardour against Calvinism he forgot his own principles, forgot that he was himself a Predestinarian.” This he endeavours to prove by the citation of a few disconnected passages from the writings, which lend little or no warrant to this fallacious assertion. Mr. White must be reminded that it is not wise to throw stones from glass houses. Throughout his work Mr. White manifests himself as a Predestin. arian of the most inveterate order. He tries to show us that every man is what he is obliged to be; that he is a slave to his organization, and that many have no superior qualities to appeal to. Phrenology is introduced to teach fatalism, and those passages in the Bible which do not tally with Mr. White's notions are made nil.
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The only predestination which Swedenborg teaches is, that the Lord wills that all should be saved, and thus predestines all to heaven. Perhaps it will be well for Swedenborg to defend himself:-
“Sound reason dictates that all are predestinated to heaven and no one to hell. . . . The end of creation is a heaven from the human race. Every man is created that he may live to eternity in a state of happiness; thus every man is created that he may come into heaven. Divine love cannot but will this, and Divine wisdom cannot but provide for it. It is therefore of the Divine Provi. dence that every man can be saved; and that they are saved who acknowledge God and live uprightly” (D. P. n. 322, 331).
It will not do for Mr. White to look at Swedenborg through the spectacles of his own preconceived ideas.
The reminder which Mr. White gives to students of Swedenborg, possessions govern experience in the spiritual world, and what you are you see," is not applicable to the writings of the New Church, but may serve as a very good caution to Modern Spiritists.
The Bible has now to be modified and corrected, in order to accord with the “Other World Order."
“As for authority," writes Mr. White, “I have none to offer apart from evi. dence. What is not credible in itself I would not attempt to enforce by Bible, Church, or Pope. Carlyle's adjuration is irresistible, What the light of your mind, which is the direct inspiration of the Almighty, pronounces incredible,that, in God's name, leave uncredited ; at your peril do not try believing that.'
This is a very convenient basis of credence. What a man cannot understand he is not to believe. Perhaps Mr. White could tell us what we can understand ? Is Infinite Wisdom to be measured by human reason !
Mr. White tells us that the “ Bible no more declares infallibility than the Pope.” It is not necessary that truth should proclaim itself infallible, for nothing is infallible unless it be true. The truth has all power in itself; it is self-supported by internal evidence, and appeals to the intuition for acceptance. The Bible, in its true light, is only appreciated by those who obey its precepts“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that do His commandments” (Ps. cxi. 10). " The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. ii. 14). The Bible, the book we designate the Word of God, has surmounted triumphantly all the perils it has been exposed to; in vain attempts have been made to crush it-the Pope's bull was of no avail—the fires of Smithfield could not sear the impression that it had made from the minds of her noble martyrs. Despite priestcraft and superstition it now stands prominently forth as a beacon-light to direct the human bark to its desired haven. Surely this can be no other than the Word of God!
It is amusing to see how Mr. White interprets Scripture to meet his views, and, had I space, I would dwell on some of the examples, but these are unimportant.
Such, then, is the nature of the book we have under the title of the “ Other World Order.” Mr. White's “suggestions” and “conclusions can only be regarded as the speculations of a superficial observer. This epithet is not a misnomer, but is deduced from Mr. White's own words, and also from the advice he offers to those who are about to read Swedenborg. Like the Chinese, inverted order seems to be Mr. White's hobby. He would whitewash evil and pronounce it good. He would have us believe that locality (not the mind) makes the man -- that devils may be happy and angels miserable—that Swedenborg was a Predestinarian, and that the Bible is fallible. This life, to Mr. White, is but an empty dream, and “we are here to blunder and to discover ourselves blundering, and of the life to come we are told that “our experience affords little beyond hints.” These conceptions may perhaps satisfy Mr. White, but a true New Churchman must soar higher. He knows that heaven exists, because he has the kingdom of God within him. The spiritual world to him is a grand reality, of which he needs no external manifestation to confirm, and what is called death is but the gate by which he enters his Heavenly Father's home. HUGH EVANS.
NEW CHURCH COLLEGE.
BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY. ference, having the same grand en-The annual meeting of this Society deavour to put within the reach of every was held on Wednesday, the 3rd of inhabitant of the globe a copy of the May, in Exeter Hall. The chair was Bible. No nobler emulation, my Lord, occupied by the president, the Earl of could stir these two great peoples ; may Shaftesbury. The abstract of the Report, nothing less worthy ever arise to incite read by Rev. Mr. Jackson, gave the them. The Society for which I speak is following account of work and expendi- represented, for the last few years, by ture:—The free income of the Society an average yearly income of 600,000 has amounted to £116,000, whilst the dollars, and an average yearly issue of addition of the sums received for Scrip- nearly 1,000,000 volumes, and for the tures sold, both at home and abroad, sixty years of its existence, represented and on account of the special fund for by a total income of 18,000,000 dollars, Indian colporteurs, make a total of and an issue of 33,000,000 pies. £222,320. The expenditure has amounted During the past year it has been someto £212,251, showing a balance in the what crippled by the sad financial Society's favour of £10,000. If an ditsurbances of the country, yet it average of ten years be taken, it will be has grown to be a fixed institution, found that the Society has during that and is bent more resolutely than ever period received £1,919,000; and has upon the great work to which it is spent £1,915,500 ; leaving a balance to called.” the credit side of the account of only Speaking of the modern cry, so com£3500. The present engagements of mon in England and in Germany, that the Society involve an expenditure of the setting up of a book for our guide £122,000. The issues of the year have is mere book-worship, the neglecting of been as follows: From the depôt at reason and nature and intuition, and home, 1,500,000 copies; from depôts no better than an African fetish or abroad, 1,100,000 copies ; giving a total papal superstition, the speaker said for the year of 2,600,000. The total If there be any weight in this objection, issues of the Society now amount to surely a resolution ought not to be 76,400,000 copies.
passed, in which we proclaim this Bible The meeting was addressed, as at as the voice that breaks the silence beformer anniversaries, by a number of tween heaven and earth, and urge you
One of these was Rev. Dr. to go forward in distributing the Book. Thompson, of New York, who re- Book-worship! What is this book-wor. presented the American Bible Society. ship that our critics sneer at ? Is a Špeaking of this Society he said—“It is truth any the less a truth that it is a Society formed upon your own model, written and handed down in a book ? governed by your own principles, ad- Suppose Sir Charles Lyell has discovered ministered in your own methods, and and settled for us the gradual process of co-operating with you in the great work the earth's formation, suppose Darwin of providing the Word of God in every has discovered for us the solution of the tongue. In the foreign field we, for the origin of species; will that be any the most part, use the versions which your less true that they have written it in a liberality has provided ; in other in- book ? What would not any one of stances we have been happy to supply those philosophers give for the assurance you with versions prepared by American that this book would be read a thousand missionaries and placed at your dis- years hence, that there would be worposal ; and there have also been cases shippers in those far-off generations who where we have shared with you the would name them side by side with expense of the translation and the issue Bacon and Aristotle? It is not the of foreign versions. Then, as to the homage to a book that they are afraid of. field at large, with a wise and Christian It is this Book, and what is in it. courtesy we have divided that field so as And wherefore? Because we are pleased to work in it jointly without inter- to recognize in this Book an authority,