« הקודםהמשך »
unavoidable necessity of human intercourse and the existence of society; and to condemn it were as wise as to condemn the necessity for work, for the wearing of clothes, or for houses wherein to live. Still it is to be greatly regretted that love is weaker as a motive force than worldly interest. And how conformity to human authority from the principle of self-interest can be defended, when conformity from the principle of love and charity is refused, others may see, but I confess I do not.
We may now pause for a moment to gather up facts, to summarise our knowledge, to survey our position, to focus all we have seen, and, if possible, establish a principle of authority. In the first place, we have seen that the true form of government in the State is representative. Under this form of authority we saw men submitting themselves both to good and bad laws, paying taxes for work that they detest; hating drink laws, yet choosing to live among a sottish people; disbelieving in the State Church, yet submitting to disabilities; and we saw that the better the men the more rigid was their adherence to public authority. In the second place, we have seen men of all creeds, temperaments, tastes, and dispositions meekly conforming to the “habits of good society;" giving up the question of right for the question of utility, giving up the ear-tickling phrase, – better go alone than not go free, and conforming to the wishes and demands of others; and we have noticed how the most unconventional in theory, submit to a host of conventionalities. We have also observed that the wildest revolutionist hedges himself in with the strongest safe-guards; dines like a gentleman; asks, with becoming solicitude, “What is the correct card ?" is fastidious about niceties in behaviour, and would not wilfully offend customers, friends, or even strangers by taking liberties with social proprieties. We have seen how men obey club laws, trade laws, laws of etiquette, laws affecting their conduct in public and private, and laws against which their souls revolt, and of which they can say nothing sufficiently severe; and we have seen why this obedience is so instantly and so cheerfully rendered. We have seen that in some cases the law is kept from the principle of spiritual charity. How far this is the motive to the observance of etiquette, professional and social, or how far it is the source of obedience to penal enactments, and to compulsory laws in trade, it is not for any one to say. Still, it is quite safe to affirm, that the principle of spiritual charity or love actuates all who are being regenerated. In all other cases the motive is self-interest. The
ostensible motive may seem never so reasonable, it may seem to be order, charity, decency, safety, necessity, policy, respectability, gain,but in every instance the real motive will be the same; and obedience to law will proceed from the principle of self-love. But how far this motive prompts men to the observance of laws written or understood, no one has a right to determine. Laws must be obeyed either from a high or low motive. This all men are able to see.
The evil and the good alike are all agreed, that, without submission to government, neither the State nor society could continue its existence; and from this common perception of a primary necessity, human authority in the State and in society is at once accepted and venerated.
We now come to this law, that human authority emanates from the necessities of order, safety, and general well-being, or, as Herbert Spencer says in his “ Sociology :” “The unthinking ineptitude with which even the routine of life is carried on by the mass of men, shows clearly that they have nothing like the insight required for self guidance in the absence of an authoritative code of conduct.”
The principle of authority is the principle of necessity, while the law of submission depends either upon charity or self-interest. With the good charity is the motive to submission, and with the evil the motive to conformity is self-interest. Where either charity or selfinterest is at stake, men submit either with a good or bad grace to the requirements of human authority in the State and in society. And now we are in full view of the principle of Church authority, and of the principle of submission to its demands.
From the solid ground now under our feet we may venture to notice how human authority should work within the pale of the Church, and look at the peace and concord, the order and harmony, the unity and kindly co-operation, and the joy and delight of society into which good men only are admitted, and which is wholly delivered from selflove and the evils of the world. Such a society is fascinating to think of. One feels that to belong to such an organisation is at once a privilege and a foretaste of heaven. As we stand in the world and see men patiently toiling for vulgar interest, conforming to hard regulations, and labouring to please others and give them satisfaction; or as we stand in a refined circle of friends, and observe the courtesy, the polite deference, the kindly considerateness of each one towards every other one; as we note how each one is wishful to please, to avoid offensive topics, to honour his neighbour, and to add some little to the general enjoyment; or as we mark how careful all decent people are to walk within prescribed laws and customs, and to violate no propriety; we can only sketch to ourselves a very imperfect picture of the blessedness, and peace, and rest of society within the Church, where vulgar interest is shut out, and where every word proceeds, and every action is done, from the principle of love. We say to ourselves, if life is so pleasant in the outside world, it must indeed be delightful in the Church! And we pass into the Church with great expectations.
Such expectations are at once fair and natural. But it only takes a very short time for us to learn that we have calculated wrongly. We very soon discover, that in the Church men refuse to stand by any principle of authority whatever, and that what they do for,well, say for love in the world, they decline to do for love in the Church ; in fact, they decline to submit to authority for anything or anybody. In the world, men stand by a representative form of government, and obey representative laws as a duty and a necessity of order, safety, peace, and the general good. And if bad laws are made, they still feel it a duty, either Christian or otherwise, to submit unto them. But in the Church, from some cause or other, the principle of representative government is apt to strike men differently. If anything is decided upon contrary to our wishes, some of us do not hesitate to become a law unto ourselves. Representative laws, indeed, in the New Church, are in some cases a dead letter; and men who in the world would be shocked and scandalised by the suspicion that they knowingly broke established law, may be seen breaking one or other law of the Church as often as occasion comes round; and they may be heard advocating non-submission to other laws as a heavenly duty and a chief virtue. Why we thus act in relation to Church authority, while we so obsequious to authority in the outside world, let each one decide for himself. On the face of it, the inference is not flattering; and though selfinterest may possibly have nothing to do with conformity to authority in the State and in society, yet if it has not, why do we not act uniformly? Why, when the violation of law would not entail some loss, as in the Church, do we not adhere even to bad laws, as we do in the outside world ? Love acts uniformly and so does self-interest. If from love we submit to human authority in society, when we enter the Church we shall submit with the same readiness. But it is not so; and while this is the case there is no wonder that our progress is so slow, and that different sections of the Church have
been desolated by splits. When love as a motive force is as strong as self-interest, we shall feel that human authority in the Church deserves our reverence and submission as much as human authority in the world; we shall act uniformly; we shall not take offence at little things, and we shall not be deterred from attending church in bad weather, when we can attend to business or seek our own pleasure at the theatre or the concert. In short, when love is a motive force as strong as self interest, conformity to law in the Church will appear the same as conformity to law in society or the State ; it will appear not a matter of expediency, but an unavoidable necessity of order, peace, progress, happiness, safety, power, and association; the Church will then take her stand by the side of secular organisations, and upon her will rise the sun of a new and
As a proof that many are in the habit of breaking established law as often as occasion presents itself, I have only to instance the fact, that many people find one service on a Sunday quite enough to satisfy their religious natures, and more compatible with their notion of things as they should be, than two services; and yet these same people support the law that prescribes two services. This is enough to establish the fact, that in religious matters we lack the consistency of men of the world. No business man could or would expect his business to prosper, who should order his men to work morning and afternoon, and who should attend himself in the mornings or afternoons only. If God is not always on the side of the heavy battalions, we may rest assured that He is not on the side of the light battalions, marching without discipline, and making laws not for themselves, but for others to observe.
The above example is unfortunately not a singular instance; but
many cases the representative laws of the Church are studiously evaded. Some crotchet is pitted against law, or if not a crotchet, some opinion, wish, or pique, and the law suffers. As an instance of this, take the Sacrament. In every society throughout the Church there is a law to the effect that the Holy Supper shall be administered periodically, the number of adminstrations varying from three to twenty-four in the year. Of course, in every instance the law is or should be purely representative, and it is voluntarily imposed as a good and useful regulation. But, if this is so, the result is simply ruinous. The registered members of the New Church in England number 4497, and the average number of attendants at the Holy Supper is 1078.1 Thus three members out of every four throughout the Church, last year broke the law in relation to the Sacrament. And if we take the statistics of previous years, the numbers are worse rather than better. Figures speak for themselves; and such an evasion of law is not merely deplorable but ruinous. No state in the world could hang together, if three out of every four of its citizens were studiously to ignore its laws. And yet we in the New Church,—we, who claim to be the teachers of, and the only truly enlightened people in the world, make and perpetuate laws which three-fourths of us defy and evade. It is a spectacle to make angels weep, and it shows us that worst of conditions—a kingdom divided against itself. For the Church, the law of the Sacrament is not a law at all. As a Church, the numbers above quoted show that we do not practically believe in the Sacrament. Such a state of affairs claims immediate attention, and for our own credit's sake we ought either to keep the laws we make for ourselves, or otherwise avow our disbelief in them, and have them repealed.
With these examples before us, we may no longer wonder how it is that the progress of the New Church is so remarkably slow. We lack the discipline, the co-operative spirit, and the motive force which are everywhere dominant in the State and society. What we all need is, the willingness to do for love in the Church what we do either for love or as an indispensable requisite of self-interest in the world. This is one of the chief things we lack; we are a light battalion, badly disciplined, full of whims, refusing to appear at parade, sacrificing the Church for other claims, fond of individual rule, fond of being a law unto ourselves. What we need is, the compliance with the wishes of others, the generous courtesy, the graceful politeness, the kindly tolerance, and the conformity to human authority which we everywhere meet with, and which constitutes the base of order, association, unity, and success in the world. If love is too
1 The totals give a less favourable result than is here presented. But there are two things to be taken into account : First, of the societies who report the number of members, there are twelve who made no return of the number of com. municants. Second, the Sacrament is not always attended by the same persons ; some attend on one occassion, some on another. The largest number who take the Holy Supper at any one time would give a more correct idea of the entire number of communicants than the average ; but even that would fall short of the actual number. Yet, when every allowance is made, the number of those who partake of the Lord's Supper must be less than it ought to be, since every member should be a communicant.-ED.