Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

THE IMPORTANT USES OF THE EXTERNALS OF THE

WORD AND OF WORSHIP AS INDISPENSABLE TO SALVATION.

(An Address from the General Conference to the Members of the New Church in Great

Britain and Ireland.

BELOVED BRETHREN, It is our privilege to be made acquainted with the proper relation of things internal and external, appertaining to the church, and to the minds of its members. Internal things are the things of charity and faith, and they are also the internal things of the Word. External things are the externals of the church or of worship, especially the two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; and they are also the external things of the Word, as presented in its literal sense.

Internal things without external are like ends without means, or like a temple without a foundation, or a house without a door or gate of entrance; while external things without internal are like means without ends; they are also like a body deprived of life, yet still possessing an external comeliness so as to present an appearance of life.

These things being known to the members of the New Church, and it being perceived by them that internal things are of a higher degree of dignity and excellence than external, it too frequently happens that individuals complacently give themselves credit for the possession of these internal things, while, at the same time, they do not sufficiently attend to the external things which have been divinely provided, as the needful and proper means by which alone the internal things of charity and faith can be firmly established, and abundantly increased. To urge affection

N. S. NO. 121.-VOL. XI.

A

ately upon their brethren the right and diligent use of the external things of the Word, of the church, and of worship, is the purpose of this address from the ministers and representatives forming the Fortysecond General Conference ; because they regard it as certain, that the church can prosper in its internal things only in the degree that the external things of the Word, the church, and of worship, are held in due respect and reverence, and conscientiously improved as the divinely appointed means of such prosperity.

It is one of the sad features of fallen human nature, that it is not content to be what it can be, or to appear what it really is, but it must try to appear something more; so that those who are really the smallest possessors, are frequently the most extravagant pretenders to the possession of the constituents of spiritual intelligence. Through the Divine Mercy, and by the descent of the Holy City, New Jerusalem, we are now put in possession of the spiritual or internal sense of the Word. This sense constitutes, or is the perpetual source of, the wisdom of the angels of heaven, while the literal sense is more especially adapted to the characters and wants of men upon earth, It is not surprising, therefore, that the members of the New Church should set a very high value upon their privilege of thinking in unison, or in harmony, with the angels of heaven, by means of the spiritual sense of the Word. This privilege, indeed, raises them, as a body, far above all the other classes of professing Christians who refuse to accept it, and hence it is very natural that their attention and intellectual activities should be especially attracted to this their peculiar distinction. But although this be a natural, it is not exactly a desirable result; or one altogether free from spiritual danger. There is a danger lest the literal sense of the Word, that sense especially provided for the regenerating member of the church on earth, in order to the full and well founded formation of his character for eternity, should be comparatively undervalued and neglected, and possibly thrown into the shade, or even unjustly depreciated. This is a danger so serious, and so likely to occur, that the Conference would lack faithfulness to their trust if they were to abstain, through an over-nice sense of delicacy, from warning their brethren of its existence. They would earnestly and affectionately counsel their brethren, therefore, never to approach the spiritual sense of the Word as if it were merely some curious enigma, to be solved by human ingenuity, or by the exercise of that kind of intelligence which we properly designate as merely natural, self-acquired, and self-derived. It is in the internal sense that the sanctity of the Word principally resides. It ought, therefore, to be approached in the spirit of prayer, and with the

[ocr errors]

deepest reverence. “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground," is the sentiment best adapted to check a careless approach and rash aspirations in those who especially apply themselves to the study of the internal sense of the Word. But this sentiment is not likely to be realised unless the literal sense be rightly and duly appreciated. The real value of all our exercitations on the spiritual sense, will ever be exactly in proportion to the basis we provide for them in the knowledge of external goods and truths, loved for their use, and faithfully reduced to practice. The cultivation of the spiritual sense without a corresponding cultivation of the literal sense, is, in fact, but a species of spiritual castle-building in the air. By an active application to the expositions of the spiritual sense contained in the New Church writings, combined with a natural confidence, and some ingenuity, together with a retentive memory, considerable attainments in spiritual knowledge may, apparently, be realized. But this will be only an appearance, if the heart and conscience be not affected by that peculiar truth and good which Divine Mercy has provided for the purpose in the literal sense. The good of the spiritual sense must have an efficient external provided for it, in sound moral, practical, and experimental knowledge, with corresponding habits of life; and the truth of the spiritual sense must find its firm foundation in doctrinal conclusions, formed logically and justly from the literal sense, and illustrated and guarded by the deductions of sound reason, and the humble yet vigorous exercise of true intelligence in the several departments of sound knowledge. When such a basis is provided in the natural-rational, for the good and truth of the spiritual-rational principle, the church will be strong; and probably some extensive neglect in cultivating this basis, or wasted endeavour to build up an internal without it, is, at least, one cause of the weakness of the church heretofore in respect to the great Christian purposes of individual and combined activity. It is not meant, however, to recommend in any degree the cultivation of the externals of the church, the Word, and of worship, for their own sake merely, but for the sake entirely of the internal things of charity and faith, and thus for the sake of the Lord and his Gospel. Be persuaded, then, dear Brethren, to guard with all vigilance against the admission of

any notions or habits by which the literal sense of the Word comes to be neglected or lightly esteemed. Notwithstanding our possession of the spiritual sense, so far from valuing the literal sense less than those to whom that sense is the only sense of the Word, we ought to value it a thousand times more highly; since we can rationally see that“ in the literal sense Divine Truth is in its fulness, sanctity, and power," while at the same time we are guarded, by the knowledge of the spiritual sense, from the possibility of any serious misunderstanding of the letter; and this, indeed, is the highest use which, as inhabitants of this world, we can possibly realize from the possession of the spiritual sense ; a use, happily, attainable by those whose acquaintance with it is but limited, provided only they use diligence in drawing the doctrine of faith and life from the literal sense, and are faithful in forming their habits of judging and acting in conformity with it.

On the duties of attending the public services of the church, and of regularly holding family worship, the Conference will not dwell on the present occasion, only remarking, that the neglect of public worship by registered members of the church indicates a state of mind

very

far removed from that of heavenly order. It betrays a deficiency of gratitude to the Lord, and of love to the neighbour; indeed, it is difficult to see how such members can really believe :—they may have believed once; but their conduct too clearly shews that they have “ left their first love," and that their faith has become practically inoperative, or nearly so; and hence they are in great danger of having their “ candlestick removed out of its place,” (Rev. ii. 4, 5.) and of falling, in consequence, into spiritual darkness, and all its attendant woes and dangers.

The Conference proceed next to speak of those preeminent, because divinely instituted, externals of the church and of worship—the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper ;-prëeminent further, because of their prëeminent spiritual use and blessedness.

And, first, of Baptism. New Church parents are not reluctant to have their children baptized, unless they are restrained by the remains of some formerly existing prejudice of the Anabaptist persuasion, not altogether eradicated, or some personal connection with those who adhere to that persuasion. Parents are generally favourable to the regular administration of baptism; and why should they not be, seeing that it lays no individual burden upon themselves, while it bestows a great privilege (according to the New Church view of its uses) upon their children? But does not the baptism of the child lay an additional responsibility upon the parent? Undoubtedly it does. It does so by how much the public or ceremonial engagement to bring up the child “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” exceeds in solemnity the general acknowledgment of the parent's duty, resulting from the ordinary profession of Christianity. In seeking the baptism of his child the parent does, in effect, say, “I do hereby solemnly engage to do all in my power to lead my dear child to a true and living faith in the Lord.” He believes that attendant angels engage on their part, (in con

« ZurückWeiter »