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I have not proceeded to analyse the replies from the Societies in Lancashire, because I conceive the average asked for does not give a just idea, but one less favourable than it ought to be.
There is, however, a further reason, and that is that the practice of the Southern Societies is far from being quite satisfactory; but the practice of the Societies in Lancashire is so deplorably inadequate, that it would be distressing to dwell upon it.
We must all strive to help each other in this respect. There are evidently some serious errors that hang about our minds, and prevent us being faithful to these highest duties and privileges of worship.
We should bear in mind that the Lord desires all who turn to Him to take the Holy Supper to help them at the beginning of their Christian life; not to be taken only at an advanced age, or in the hour of sickness tending to death; which He showed by giving it to the disciples at the beginning of their Christian career, before His own death.
Swedenborg says: “As often as a man prepares himself to partake of the Holy Supper, supposing him afterwards to abstain from one or more sins, which he then discovers in himself, it is sufficient to initiate him into the actual practice of repentance; and when in that state, he is then in the way to heaven, for he then begins from natural to become spiritual, and to be born anew of the Lord” (T. C. R. 530).
We ought then to begin at the beginning of our serious life to take the Holy Supper to help us to repent and live aright, not to put it off to the end. To do this latter is only another version of that death. bed repentance against which we testify so strongly.
The Holy Supper is for all sincere earnest Christians, not for a select few. The Lord gave it to all His disciples, and said, “Drink ye ALL of it.” Administering it to a small company, to 30 out of 200, to 12 out of 100, or 16 out of 180, is only an old error with a new face—the idea that true and full religion can only be carried ont by monks and nuns, and persons thought to be secure from temptation, because out of the active duties of the world.
Religion exists for life, not for isolation. Eat the Lord's flesh and drink His blood, and ye shall have eternal life. The Apostle's words about eating and drinking unworthily were spoken to the Corinthians, who had made the Holy Supper into a common and unseemly feast (1 Cor. xi. 27), which no one at the present day would think of doing. They have scarcely any application at the present day.
If a person is sincere, and a member of the New Church, let no weak fear deter him or her from the great blessing of being conjoined with the Lord in the Holy Supper. The Lord Himself says, “I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me."
Let us lovingly advance to meet Him, nor fear that what we do from obedience and faith can be other than blessed by Him, “Who satisfieth the thirsty soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.”
I would respectfully suggest that the President should next year ask the same questions I have asked, and precede them by asking for the number of members, so that our shortcomings may plainly appear.
ADDRESS FROM THE GENERAL CONFERENCE, AS
SEMBLED AT ACCRINGTON, TO THE MEMBERS OF
BELOVED BRETHREN,—In accordance with a time-honoured custom, the Conference at the close of its annual Session addresses an epistle to the Members of the New Church in Great Britain.
The year which has elapsed has been rendered noteworthy by the departure into the eternal world of three well-known and well-beloved ministers of the Church—the Revs. John Hyde, James Keene, and E. D. Rendell.
In the removal of our esteemed brother, Mr. Hyde, we have a notable instance of the great uncertainty of our earthly life. To us he appears to have been cut down in the fulness of his powers, and in the vigour of his manhood. But though his career was comparatively brief, it was full of earnest effort in the promulgation of New Church truth, to which his works bear ample testimony. May his departure into the Better Land be to us all a stimulus to “work while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work.”
The Rev. James Keene, after a long and active life, in the fulness of
years, “like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season,” has also been gathered to his heavenly home.
The Rev. E. D. Rendell has been long an honoured servant of the Lord. He had reached the ripe age of seventy-two, and in his writings has left behind him a monument of his ability and industry which the Church will long and lovingly cherish. Through many months of severe trial and suffering he ever exhibited a calm and patient demeanour, looking forward to his release with a sweet serenity of spirit truly beautiful to behold. He has now, we confidently hopez rejoined his brethren in the heavens, still with them to work in the cause of truth and righteousness, enlarging the sphere of heavenly influences, and so enriching and strengthening the Lord's Church on the earth. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”
In looking at the Christian world outside our own communion, while we observe many gratifying evidences of religious progress, we çannot fail to be struck at the same time with the painful fact that in a professedly Christian Church there is a growing irreverence for the Divine Word. The ideas prevalent regarding its inspiration are of the vaguest possible character. While on the one hand it is confessed
men wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" on the other it is openly affirmed that the Scriptures are not free from errors -that the early chapters of Genesis express ideas current in an ignorant age, and are therefore unadapted to the conditions of modern culture. As members of the New Church we are happily delivered from all confusion of thought regarding the plenary inspiration of Scripture
"In every age the Lord was kind,
And to the Church revealed His mind,
Chief of these blessings undoubtedly is the revelation of the TRUE NATURE OF THE DIYINE WORD, which the Lord has now vouchsafed to mankind.
The one great purpose of Divine revelation, as we understand it, is to redeem mankind from the bondage of sin-to lift men out of a condition of mere worldliness and sensualism, and so to elevate their thoughts and purify their affections, that they may enter into the joy and peace of the kingdom of heaven. How is this great work of regeneration effected? We answer not alone by teaching men truths, not simply by storing the memory with knowledges-however exalted these knowledges may be--not merely by the culture of the understanding. The WORD OF GOD is more than a revelation of truths. It conjoins heaven and earth; it unites angels and men. It is a GOLDEN LADDER, let down from God, whereby men may ascend into the heavens and enjoy community of thought and feeling with the angels. When it is read devoutly by men on the earth, angels are present, inspiring
HEAVENLY AFFECTIONS, surrounding the soul with holy influences, and 80 preserving it in a condition favourable to regeneration. The Lord is in His WORD. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD." As we read the Word with an earnest desire to be profited, the Holy Spirit flows down with renewing and sanctifying power. “Thy Word QUICKENETH me," says the Psalmist. The Lord gave the Word to men, as the consecrated medium through which He could exercise a quickening power upon them; as a means whereby His angels, who are “ministering spirits," might exert a saving influence upon all who are willing to be drawn to the Lord, infusing into their minds holy desires and devout aspirations. “The Word was given that heaven and earth may be united, or angels united with men, on which account it was so written that by the angels it may be apprehended spiritually, while by men it is apprehended naturally, and that a holy influence may thus flow in through the angels, by which the union is effected.”
When the Lord, as the Word made Flesh, walked the streets of Jerusalem, He bore the likeness of common men.
To outward appearance He was a mere man. But in His inner Divine Nature, how vastly different ! On the Mount of Transfiguration, when His indwelling Divinity streamed forth in dazzling splendour upon the disciples, we read that “His face did shine as the Sun, and His raiment was white as the light.”
Such is the WRITTEN WORD. In outward appearance it bears a resemblance to common books, but in its inner soul it is full of the Divine life. "My words,” said the Lord, "they are spirit and they are LIFE.” This "spirit” and this “life” pervade the whole of the Divine Word. Its varied contents-whether parable, prophecy, psalm, or history—are but media through which the Lord brings down His Infinite Wisdom to the capacities of men on the earth.
Glimmerings of the existence of a SPIRITUAL SENSE in Scripture have existed in all ages of the Church. Good Jeremy Taylor had some preception of it when he wrote :
“There is a secret in these books (the books of Moses) which few men, none but the godly, did understand : and though much of this secret is made manifest in the Gospel, yet even here also there is a letter, and there is a spirit: still there is a reserve for God's secret ones, even all those deep mysteries which the Old Testament covered in figures, and stories, and names, and prophecies, and which Christ has, and by His Spirit will reveal yet more plainly to all that will understand them by their proper measures. For although the Gospel is infinitely more legible and plain than the obscure leaves of the law, yet there is a seal upon them also : which seal no man shall open but he that is worthy. We may understand something of it by the three children of the captivity : they were all skilled in all the wisdom of the Chaldees, and so was Daniel : but there was something beyond that in him : the wisdom of the Most High God was in him. And that taught him a learning beyond his learning.
“In all Scripture there is a SPIRITUAL SENSE, which, as it tends directly to holiness, so it is best and truest understood by the sons of the Spirit, who love God and therefore know Him. Everything is best known by its own similitudes and analogies.”
A spiritual sense in the Scriptures is clearly implied in the words of our Lord :—“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets He [the Lord) expounded unto them, IN ALL THE SCRIPTURE, the things concerning Himself.” Moses, all the prophets, and all the Scripture do not in their letter testify of Jesus. There must, therefore, be a sense in which they all refer to their Divine Author. That sense is confessedly not reached by any of the common modes of interpretation, which are arbitrary in their character, and uncertain in their application.
Our Lord reiterates the same truth, when He says that on the two great commandments "hang all the law and the prophets." We must either reject as useless the largest portion of the Scriptures, or acknowledge the existence of a spiritual sense beneath the letterhaving reference solely to the commandments, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbour as thy self.”
This spiritual sense within the letter, dimly seen by many devout students of the Bible, is now clearly revealed to the Christian Church in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, “servant of the Lord Jesus Christ." It is the chief glory of Holy Writ. It differentiates the Bible from all merely human compositions. It marks as wide a distinction between the Word of God and the word of man, as that which eternally separates the living manifestations of Divine Wisdom in nature from their idead copies by man.
Every earnest reader of the Bible must feel at times a yearning for some mode of interpretation by which the dark passages of Scripture may be “opened,” their Divine Wisdom elucidated, and their seeningly disjointed members blended into harmony. “It is a matter of experience,” says Professor Tholuck, “that there is no greater source of disquiet to the young theological student than the endless variety of opinions in respect to the doctrine of faith and interpretation of Scripture, which are presented to him in the history of the Church and in the course of exegetical lectures. Who is there who would not at the first glance be justly disquieted, and even despair of any certain way of the understanding of the Scriptures, when on a single passage not less than two hundred and furty-three expositions are placed before us ?”