תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

for its size the Church is well furnished with fairly-educated, sensible ministers.

Nor is it from any want of zeal on their part, as there is little if any inducement but love of the Church to lead any man into its ministry. The acceptance of its cares and responsibilities are well compensated for by inward feelings of joy and satisfaction, and if these were enough to live upon, and to bring up a family with, rich would they be who, from a devout and sincere love of the truth, enter the priesthood of the New Jerusalem. But the restriction placed upon them by their want of means is too often the cause of inefficiency, an inefficiency which makes itself felt in several ways.

We do not wish to enlarge upon this, we hope there is no need to do so; let the fact have its weight and worth in every Society to which it may apply, and especially in those where, perchance by a little self-sacrifice and devotion, it can be remedied.

True, the ministry of the Church is better paid now than could be afforded in its earliest times. The writer, talking with Mr. Hyde on this matter a few months before his departure, remarked that the present lot of the New Church ministry compared very favourably with the trials and hardships of the first devoted few. “Yes,” replied Mr. Hyde, “but that experience ought not to be repeated; once is enough in the history of a Church for that;" and, indeed, surely it is not a consideration of relative struggle and trial, so much as whether the Church as a body can do more for its ministry, and so place it on a better footing. We do not think means are wanting as a rule.

New Churchmen are intelligent, industrious and prosperous; not a few are wealthy, and the question is how far can they prevent their ministers holding a fourth or fifth-rate position in the Church at large; how far help them so to maintain themselves, so that, by the proper devotion of their whole time, without any doubtful forebodings or absolute hindrances, they can fully carry out their sacred trust and dignify their calling. It must happen that where a minister has other thoughts and cares to occupy his mind, and other labours to take up his time, his church suffers ; in truth, he is placed in a false position, he cannot give himself up fully and freely to his ministerial work, he cannot without shame and compunction renounce it; and though he may not between the two stools come to the ground, it takes all his care to preserve the successful balance.

The questions then arise : -Is there any help from these results ? Can the ministry be assisted so as to make it more a power in the Church, elevated in an educational point, and by the hearty help of the laity raised from its doubtful position ? On their solution much depends; the time for action and advance has come, and we believe that, when the Church at large fairly recognizes this fact, it will not be slow in assistance; but freely giving the hand, lift up one step higher in its progress the Tabernacle of God among men, the Church of His Second Advent.

R. G.

NOTES OF A VISIT TO THE NEW CHURCH IN STOCKHOLM

AND COPENHAGEN DURING THE PAST SUMMER.

BY M.A. OXON.

Having made a lengthened tour through Norway last summer, I naturally seized the opportunity of paying a visit to Sweden and Denmark, and availed myself of the occasion to pay some special attention to the existing condition of the New Church in those cities, and in Scandinavia generally.

I had read with much interest Dr. Bayley's account of his visit to these places nine years ago, and I was anxious to note if

any

material advance would appear to have been made in the interval. For it cannot fail to be a matter of special interest to the intelligent New Churchman to observe how the doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg are estimated by his own countrymen, and what prospect there is in Sweden itself of a rapid diffusion of those correct and important views of Divine Truth which he had so much at heart. The received religion of a country must necessarily be an important instrument in moulding the society and the intellectual advancement of its people; and we might hope that the country in which the new and Divine Light first upsprung should be the first to benefit by its illumination, and that the countrymen of him who was so divinely instructed should be among the foremost to flock round his banner, proud to think that from among them so great a prophet had arisen, whose teaching must slowly but surely sweep away error from the surface of the whole earth like a resistless flood.

But, alas! God Himself has said, and our own experience amply proves it, that “a prophet is not without honour save in his own country," and Swedenborg is no exception to this law of human nature. And perhaps, were there no other antagonistic influence than this, we should be prepared to find that Sweden was not the country to take a lead in the spread of the doctrines of the New Jerusalem, and this alone might perhaps free us from the feeling of disappointment which is naturally the first impulse when we discover that, instead of a flourishing church in that country, there is but a small band, who have great difficulties to contend with, and who, in spite of neglect and contempt and intolerance, are keeping together, and rejoicing in the doctrines which they have learned to hold dear.

Stockholm is well known to be a beautiful and picturesque city, and to contain in itself and in its neighbourhood much to interest the tourist and traveller ; but to the New Churchman it possesses a far enhanced interest as the place of residence of Swedenborg for so long a period; the place where so many of his important works were written; the centre, as it were, whence the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalern emanated. The residence itself of Swedenborg claimed an early visit, standing (as I was assured it still does) in the Horngatan, No. 43. This street is in the southern suburb of the city, a district not at the present day by any means the best part of Stockholm, although the street itself has a fair width, and is not far from the bridges. But the most interesting spot is undoubtedly a small summer-house still standing in the garden, to which Swedenborg was in the habit of retiring, and in which some of his most important works appear for the most part to have been written. This little edifice is of wood, and consists of a small chamber entered from between two tall poplar trees, and up three steps from the garden, and having a little window on either side the door. When Dr. Bayley visited this place in 1866, he reported that it was kept in good order and repair. In it was a small table, said to be the one on which Swedenborg used to write, and on which was placed a copy of the True Christian Religion, and over it a portrait of the author. There was also a visitors' book, which contained 200 names of persons who had visited the spot that year. I very much regret to say, however, that all this is changed now. The exterior had a rather dilapidated look, and on inquiring for the keys, they were brought, and I entered. The interior was worse than the exterior. The table had disappeared, the portrait was gone, there was no longer a visitors' book, and the walls were dusty and dirty ; a great hole in the paper on one side revealed the woodwork eaten with dry-rot, and before I could prevent her, the woman who brought the keys had torn off a piece of the wall-paper and a chip of the wood, which she presented to me as a memorial of my visit! And such as is the state of Swedenborg's garden-house, such appears to me to be too nearly the condition of the New Church Society in Stockholm.

It appears that Swedenborg's house and the ground and appurtenances belonging to it have recently been purchased by a speculator. House-rent is extremely high in Stockholm, and eligible houses are scarce; many persons of moderate means are forced to reside some considerable distance from the city from sheer inability to find decent house-room at a price which is not exorbitant. And as this high price of houses appears to be constantly rising, house property in Stockholm is considered to be an excellent investment. The house and grounds in question were recently purchased for the sum of 24,000 rix-dollars, equal to £1350.

The New Church Society at Stockholm is held together by the loosest bonds, excepting of course that bond which exists from the common acceptance of New Church principles. It is true that some fifty or sixty persons have expressed themselves as friendly to the doctrines; but there is little or no Church organization, nor anything to distinguish them outwardly as a society. They are in fact under very great disadvantages, both externally and internally. They have no church, nor do they possess any liturgy in the Swedish language; and it need hardly be said that they have no minister in the proper acceptation of the word.

This state of repression and starvation is mainly due to the attitude of the State with regard to the dominant form of religion, which is Lutheran. That attitude is one of intolerance of the harshest form against all other denominations; an intolerance which has only recently been slightly relaxed. The character of Swedenborg no longer commands the admiration of his countrymen, as it did when he was yet living among them, or before its influence among his immediate contemporaries had passed away with them; but in this day his followers are looked upon in the light of a despised sect, and his doctrines contemned by a people who are taught to look for salvation by faith alone. Swedenborg himself foresaw that this would be the case, and long since declared his belief that the doctrines of the New Jerusalem would make especially slow progress in Lutheran countries, such as his own; where people would pay

but little attention to views which must naturally be distasteful to them, and where (as I am absolutely informed is the case in some Lutheran churches) it is taught that “it is sweet to commit sin, in order that we may taste the pardoning mercy of God through the atonement made by Christ Jesus!”

It is only now for a year or two past that any other denomination than the State religion has been allowed to meet publicly. The law upon this subject has hitherto been absolute, and although it is now amended, this amendment has not been owing to any special regard for the New Church. It was the more influential denominations, and especially the Baptists, upon whom it pressed with equal severity, who appealed and agitated until they succeeded in getting the obnoxious law altered, and the New Church shares in the benefit of the removal of the disability. Up to that time the meetings of the New Church Society were held privately, we might almost say secretly, in the apartments of one of its members, and the exercises at these meetings were necessarily confined to readings from the Scriptures and voluntary prayers and addresses ; for, as before said, there is no Swedish liturgy, and of course no appointed minister. Now, for the first time, they are permitted to meet as the others do, with, however, this most important reservation, that they cannot take their children with them; for the law demands that all children shall be baptized in the Lutheran Church, and also brought up in it until the time for confirmationfor they must be confirmed also. After that rite has been fulfilled, however, and at the age of eighteen, but not sooner, they are at liberty to think for themselves, and to select what form of worship they will thenceforth follow. So that even now there is far from being perfect freedom of worship; and the feeling of Swedes against New Church doctrines especially appears to be very strong.

In the autumn of 1874 the New Church friends in Stockholm invited the Rev. A. Boyesen of Copenhagen to pay them a visit, and subscribed together to pay the expenses of that occasion. Mr. Boyesen made a missionary tour, an account of which will be found in the Messenger. He was there twice, and spent three weeks in Stockholm on each occasion, and there preached, much to the satisfaction of the Society; and on that occasion the New Church doctrines were for the first time publicly preached in Stockholm. I was informed, however, that subsequently another person had been lecturing on the subject, but so inefficiently as to excite the hostile criticisms of the Swedish press, and, as it was expressed, most of the good done by Mr. Boyesen was undone by his injudicious successor.

The Society (such as it is) at Stockholm meets at the Arbeitenforeningen ; but they have no minister and no liturgy. The friends are, without exception, poor ; that is, they all have to work for their living, and can only raise a small sum to defray the expenses of meeting, and to pay for an occasional visit, such as those of Mr. Boyesen last autumn. They are, however, extremely anxious for assistance to

« הקודםהמשך »