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the New Church doctrine upon the subject we have been considering, be established by a deceitful handling of the Word of God, or by a fair, consistent, orderly, and rational principle of interpretation. If according to the latter, then we may be living in the time of the Lord's second coming. For it is said, that He will come upon men unawares,” and “as a thief,” and that it shall not be known “when the time is.” And as He once stood in person among the Jews and they knew Him not, so even now, spiritually,—in the genuine truth concerning Himself and the Church unfolded in his Word, He may be in our midst at his second coming, and we know Him not. Therefore, let every one examine for himself in the fear of God, and in the love of truth; for not only “in such an hour," but, perchance, in such a manner as we think not, the Son of Man may come.
“Watch therefore ; lest coming suddenly, He find you sleeping. And what I say un you, I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark xiii. 36, 37.)
DOCTRINE OF THE NEW JERUSALEM CHURCH CON
CERNING THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD, MENTIONED IN MATT. XXIV. 30; MARK XIII. 26; LUKE XXI. 27 ; AND OTHER PLACES.
" AND THEN SHALL THEY SEE THE SON OF MAN COMING IN THE CLOUDS.'
Mark. XIII. 26.
It was stated in our last lecture, that there is a pretty general perception among the enlightened and best men of the present day, that “the glory has departed from Israel”—that “beauty has fled from the daughter of Zion." There is a pretty general acknowledgment that the church is not fair and comely in her aspect—"beautiful as a bride adorned for her husband.” Has not Christendom, because of her unchristian deeds, and still more unchristian doctrines, become the reproach and derision of the Gentiles? Has not religion, even in christian countries, become, in the minds of multitudes, almost synonymous with bigotry, narrow-mindedness, morbid melancholy, and hypocritical cant? If it has not, then people do not think at all as they talk. We hear it almost everywhere confessed that the Church is in a broken, distracted, tottering, and forlorn condition; that the great body of men in Christendom-of those who profess the religion of Christ – is unchristian ;-that its heart does not throb with the love of the only Lord and Savior, nor does the life of genuine charity and faith circulate warm through its veins, but rather the life of self-love and self-intelligence. And among those who are determined to be honest, and true to their deep
convictions, many in their hearts are taking up this lamentation concerning Zion : "How has the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed ! How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel”! (Lam. ii. 1.)
But notwithstanding this general perception and acknowledgment of the existing state of the Church, people are very unwilling to believe that it has really come to its end; and that nothing canever bring it back to a state of union, order, peace and love, but a New Revelation, or a further and more lucid unfolding of the contents of God's Word. I am well aware, that, to most minds, the assertions, that the Consummation of the Age foretold in the Evangelists has already found its fulfilment in the consummated state of the first Christian Church, and that we are really living at a time which witnesses the fulfilment of that other prophecy concerning the second appearing of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven, must sound very strange--almost like the ravings of a madman. It seems very strange to most people, that so many great and learned men as there have been in the church, should so long have remained under a misapprehension of the true import of these texts.
And did it not sound strange to Jewish ears, when the humble Galileean (as the Lord appeared to them,) stood up in their synagogue and said, “ This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears—The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’"? (Luke iv. 18, 19.) At the Lord's first advent inquiry was made, “Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ" ? (John vii. 26.) And so dark were the minds of the Jews-so little did they understand the true meaning of the Sacred Scriptures, and the prophecies concerning the Lord's advent, that, after He had performed many miracles before their eyes, they took up stones on one occasion to stone Him, because
He said "I and the Father are one." That the
very same things, in their spiritual sense, should be said and done at the Lord's second coming which is spiritual, ought to be expected. We need not be surprised therefore, that multitudes, who think they see, but are declared blind by the truths of the New Dispensation, should stand ready to cast the stones of the literal sense of God's Word, at the pure spiritual truths of the New Jerusalem ; which truths are what is meant by the second appearing of the Lord.
In our last lecture, we attempted to show, from the testimony of the Sacred Oracles themselves, that “the Consummation of the Age," spoken of in the New Testament, denotes a consummated state of the first Christian Church; i. e. a state of so little genuine charity in the great body of the church, and of such general darkness in respect to spiritual things or the true meaning of God's Word, induced by false doctrines which men have framed, that it may be truly said of her, “The sun is darkened, and the moon has withdrawn her light, and the stars have fallen from heaven;" —in a word, that it is proper to say, because it is true, that the Church has spiritually come to its end. In order, therefore, that a New Church may be established and exist upon earth, when such a consummated state of the former Church takes place, it is necessary that there be a new revelation, or a new dispensation of divine truth to men.
Now, it is maintained by the New Church, and taught in its writings, (as may be learned from the passages already cited, that the Church instituted by our Lord at his first advent, has spiritually come to its end; and that a new dispensation of truth has been made to the world in the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, which revelation or new dispensation is claimed by the New Church, and is also repeatedly declared in these writings, to be that second and glorious appearing of the Son of Man upon the clouds of heaven, which is foretold in the Evangelists.
Whether this claim be sufficiently well-founded or not, is a question which it is not my province to decide
for others. I would have each one decide it for himself, by a diligent and faithful exercise of the faculties which God has given him, taking heed lest any man deceive him. And I may here add, that every year, men of acute penetration, sound learning, and humble spirit, are settling this question in their own minds beyond a doubt ;-settling it, too, in that way which the spirit of true religion, as well as of sound philosophy, dictates--by honest, patient, careful, prayerful, thorough examination. One of the marked peculiarities of the New Church, is, that men cannot come into it blindly, or by subjecting their understanding to their faith. They must come in, if they come at all, by the active exercise of their understanding, and the appropriate use of all their noblest faculties. They must have their minds enlightened with the beams of truth, which, when seen in cloudless splendor, is her own indubitable witness.
Nor is it my purpose in this lecture, to prove that the theological writings of Swedenborg are of such a character as justly to entitle them to the claim of being regarded as a new revelation, or as a fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the second coming of the Lord. I trust that those, whose minds are free from
undue prejudice, and who are, from a right motive, honestly seeking the truth, will be able to settle this question in their own minds, when they have heard the exposition of some of the prominent doctrines contained in these writings, which it is the purpose of these lectures to present. At present, I design only to show, that the doctrine revealed to the New Church concerning the Lord's second advent, is not only in agreement with enlightened reason, but with all that the Sacred Scriptures teach, which has any relation to the subject. This doctrine is, as already intimated, that the second appearing of the Lord is not to be in person, or in a manner agreeing with the strict letter of the text in which it is foretold ; but that it is to be in the power and glory of the internal sense of his Word-his own truth unfolded to a more interior degree, and in a more luminous manner than had ever been done before.
Does this doctrine concerning Messiah's second ad