« הקודםהמשך »
The following course of Lectures was originally prepared not with any view to publication, but in the hope that they might be a means of making the doctrines of the New Church, as contained in the theological writings of Swedenborg, more generally known in this city. It was believed by the writer that the public generally were under an entire misapprehension in regard to the character both of Swedenborg and his writings. And he also thought it quite possible that there might be some persons among us, sufficiently dissatisfied with the leading doctrines of religion as taught in the prevailing Church, sufficiently desirous of finding some purer and more rational Theology, and sufficiently in the good of life, to enable them to see and acknowledge that the doctrines of the New Jerusalem are in reality all that they claim to be—the very doctrines of heaven. The result has proved that the writer was not mistaken. The Lectures, on their delivery, were attended by a greater number of persons, were listened to with a deeper interest, and were received with more favor than he had any reason to expect. They have been a means under the Divine Providence of opening the eyes of some, and leading them into the Holy City-leading them to see and acknowledge the Lord in the power and glory of His second appearing; while many others, it is believed, have received from them an impression in regard to the writings of Swedenborg quite different from what they had formerly entertained.
It is from considerations like these, and from a desire that these Lectures may be more extensively useful, that the writer, at the solicitation of his friends, has been induced to put them in this permanent form. They have been somewhat enlarged since their delivery, chietly however with additional extracts from the writings of Swedenborg and the Sacred Scriptures. With this exception they are offered to the public substantially as they were
delivered. They contain nothing which is not already well known to all who are familiar with the writings of Swedenborg. And as it was not for such persons that they were originally prepared, but for those who have little or no knowledge of these writings, so it is chiefly for this latter class that they are now offered in their present form. The writer desires to be regarded only as a medium of the truth which they contain. And if the truth has suffered some obscuration from a want of perfect transparency in the medium, it may on that very account be better adapted to the mental vision of those for whom these Lectures were originally designed ; just as the light of the sun may be better suited to the state of some eyes, when its effulgence has been dimmed by passing through colored glasses. If these Lectures should prove useful in preparing the minds of any for the admission of stronger light-useful as an introduction to the writings of Swedenborgthe hopes of the writer will be fully answered. They lay no claim to originality; and in point of rhetorical merit they may be deemed sadly deficient. The sole aim of their author has been, not merely to give his opinion or any other man's speculations upon the subjects here treated of; but simply to unfold and elucidate some of the leading doctrines of the New Church as they are revealed in the writings of Swedenborg. And if this has been done in a style that some may deem ungraceful and homely, his only apology is, that, in his opinion, the truths of the New Jerusalem are so grand and momentous, that they require not the graces of rhetoric or any other human adornments to enhance their beauty or their power.
No one of much elevation of mind who looks round him on the present aspect of the prevailing Church, can fail to perceive that there are
famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” He cannot fail to perceive that “the body of Christ” is rent limb from limb with intestine feuds. The Church is everywhere in "great tribulation.” On all sides we hear of “ wars and rumors of wars." Brother betrayeth brother to death, and the father the son. Christian faith is separated from christian chari. ty, and brotherly love nowhere abourds. Men who profess the religion of Christ, are seen to be sensual, selfish, and worldly minded. And if we examine attentively the religious doctrines which are acknowledged as fundamental in the prevailing Church, we find them deeply imbued with that sensualism, which has main
tained its grasp upon the human mind ever since the Fall, and which forms the basis of the reigning philosophy of our times, The consequence of all this is, that religion has nearly lost its hold upon the minds of multitudes. A deep-rooted scepticism is apparent almost everywhere. And even among men professedly religious, there seems to but little faith in spiritual things.
But in this “Consummation of the Age” there appeareth “ the sign of the Son of Man in the clouds.” Amidst the surrounding gloom “a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun " has already dawned upon the world. The Holy City, New Jerusalem, is seen • coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." As yet, not many have surveyed its length, and breadth, and height, because not many have the golden reed to measure the city.” Not many have yet seen the glory of Gud that shines therein, because there are not many who desire to “walk in the light of it.” “ The light shineth in darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.” The Lord, at his second advent, is standing in our midst, but the eyes of men are " holden, that they should not know Him."
The writings of the New Church are eminently pure and spiritual. They contain the truths of the spiritual sense of the Word, such as the angels receive, and are calculated to make men like the angels. They are addressed to us as rational and spiritual beings. They open to our view the spiritual world, and unfold the laws of spiritual life. And because the truths which are contained in these writings are thus spiritual in their character, they are often called dark and mystical; for so they appear to those whose minds are imbued with the doctrines of sensualism. Spiritual truths must needs appear dark and mystical to persons who have no faith in the reality of a spiritual world, and no love for spiritual things. The charge of mysticism which is often brought against these writings, is itself a sufficient commentary upon the spiritual state of those who make it. (who are the Lord's true, spiritual disciples) it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all things are done in parables."
Among the theological writers of the Old Church at the present day, there are few of any acknowledged merit, who do not perceive and lament the desolation that reigns in Zion. Still they do not see, and are unwilling to admit, that there exists any necessity for further revelations. They thirst for purer truth than
is commonly taught, but they also thirst for the reputation of being its discoverers. It is therefore difficult for them to receive revealed truth, because then they fail of that worldly honor for which they pant. “ How can ye believe, who receive honor one from another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" They urge the necessity of destroying all creeds and formularies of faith, and returning to the purity of primitive Christianity. And by what light would they return? By the light of self-derived intelligence—the same delusive ignis fatuus which has conducted the Church to her present “land of darkness.” Vain expectation! For if it be through the love and pride of self-intelligence that the sunlight of heaven has been extinguished in the Church, can we rely on this same blind guide to lead us back to truth and duty? The mind of man in itself is opaque. The Divine Mind alone is luminous—the light of the world. Can the human mind, therefore, unaided by truth revealed from Heaven, ever disperse the clouds which its own reasonings have induced, and which now darken its sky by shutting out the beams of heaven's own Sun? Never. Besides, the Divine Providence never retreats. Its course is always onward. The earth rolls not back on her axis to find the morning, nor retrograde in her orbit to find the spring ; but forward forever. And as well might the silverhaired man of eighty-blind, palsied, and leprous-by the simple effort of his will, return to the freshness and bloom of youth without a dissolution of his material body, as could the Church-blind as she is from the accumulated falses of nearly eighteen centuries -palsied in every limb—leprous and ulcerated at the heart's core -of herself return to the freshness and bloom of her youth, without a medicine from the Great Physician to unseal her blind eyes, or a voice from the Lord, saying, “ Rise and walk.” She can never experience a radical cure, without a New Dispensation of truth from Heaven.
The whole history of God's dealing with mankind is proof of this. When the Jewish Church was consummated through falsifying the Word and holding fast the traditions of men, the Lord did not leave it to reason its way back to the innocence of Eden and the true meaning of Moses and the Prophets, but He made a New Dispensation of his own truth to men.
He came into the world, not to destroy or abrogate the law previously delivered, but rather to explain its meaning and show how it had been perverted. He came “not to destroy but to fulfil,” or fill