Imagens das páginas

harsh exposure of what we esteem the errors of the prevailing views on religion.

The second question, Are the seeds which the prevailing views of religion do afford, such as the soil of the human mind, in its present improved state of preparation, finds congenial to itself, and which it will willingly admit into its bosom?-may perhaps be answered without offence to any one: for it is a simple question of fact; and the fact, as obvious to every one, decidedly answers it in the negative. Is it not a fact which every one has observed, that the great bulk of mankind, at the present day, hold their religous sentiments much more loosely than was formerly the case? They, even, who are most decidedly convinced of the truth of the Christian religion in general, are, for the most part, much less tenacious than their fathers used to be of the truth of any particular scheme of it: indeed, were I to say, that few feel any considerable confidence in the truth of the doctrines held by their respective sects as the very doctrines of Christianity, I believe I should only state the sum of all individual experience on the subject. Among the evident signs of a great change which has taken place in the human mind, or in men's modes of thinking, this is one; that men are universally become more disposed than formerly to inquire into the truth of the doctrines which they are required to believe, and are becoming daily less and less capable of acquiescing in implicit faith without the exercise of their own reason and understanding: how then is it possible that doctrines, the chief of which have always been acknowledged by their advocates to be incomprehensible, to be matters of such a faith as rejects all interference of the understanding, because, if the understanding were allowed its exercise it would reject them;-how is it possible that such doctrines can retain their influence over the human mind in its present altered state? Most unquestionably true is the remark of a celebrated Christian orator, that the forms under which religion is usually presented, though sufficient to feed with spiritual sustenance the minds of men in past ages, are no longer suited to the necessities of the present, but are become as "lifeless and bare trunks containing in them neither sap nor nourishment."* Unsatisfying dogmas, if they

* Rev. E. Irving, in his Farewell Sermon at Glasgow.

led the well disposed mind to the acknowledgment of his God and Saviour and to the life of religion, might answer the main ends of true religion, so long as the human mind could simply acquiesce in them without inquiry: but when the human mind has come into such a state as to be satisfied with a blind faith no longer;when it also is prepared, by the improved culture of its rational powers, for the reception of the seeds of the pure and genuine truth;-it no longer finds such unsatisfying dogmas congenial to itself; it no longer can draw from them its needed stores of spiritual nourishment; and it refuses therefore to admit their seeds into its bosom. That this is, most extensively, the state of the human mind at this day in regard to the views of religion commonly prevailing, is too evident for the most determined advocate of those views to deny.

Then, assuredly, our next question must be answered at once in the affirmative; and it must be admitted, That there is a manifest necessity, if man continues to be an object of regard to his Maker, that a new dispensation of Divine Truth, adapted to the present state and wants of the human mind, should be communicated from its Divine Source:-in other words, that the long expected Second Coming of the Lord should in these times be revealed. This dispensation must be such, as to remove the clouds of error in which the beauty of pure Christianity has been long involved; to restore the right understanding of the Word of God, and conclusively to demonstrate its divine origin; to exhibit in a rational as well as Scriptural light the divinity of the Christian Redeemer, without the just acknowledgment of which no Church truly called Christian can exist; and to display in a satisfactory manner the nature of man's immortality and of his life hereafter, at the same time that it rediscovers the true nature of the means by which that immortality may be made an immortality of happiness. In short, it must be a dispensation which shall effect the union of reason with religion, without divesting the latter of its spirituality, as merely rational (as they are called) schemes of religion invariably have done; but which shall add spirituality to reason and exalt it with both. Whether the system of religion embraced by those who humbly trust that they belong to the New Church of the Lord, which they believe to be predicted in the Revelation under

the figure of a New Jerusalem, answers to this character, may in some measure appear as we proceed: but, without reference to any specific system, it seems difficult to deny, that the communication of such a dispensation of Divine Truth as we have here slightly sketched an idea of is essentially important to the present state and spiritual necessities of mankind.

For should such a dispensation be too long withheld, must we not answer our last question also in the affirmative, and conclude, That there is reason to apprehend that the rank weeds of Infidelity, which have already, in copious abundance, begun to appear, would overspread the whole field of the human mind, and blast all hopes of any real improvement, in wisdom and happiness, for the human race? The strong hold of Infidelity is, the irrationality of the doctrines commonly affirmed to be those of the Word of God. These are such as reason, when once it ventures to look at them, must reject: and when such doctrines are supposed to be those of the Scriptures, and the true nature of the Scriptures themselves is also totally misunderstood, the inevitable consequence is, that the Scriptures are rejected with them. Set then the Scriptures in their proper light; especially, prove that they are written by the laws of that invariable correspondence or analogy which exists by creation between natural things and spiritual, whence, while merely natural things are for the most part treated of in their literal sense, they are only used as types of purely spiritual ideas;— thus, prove that the Scriptures have in them a spiritual sense in which the wisdom of God in all its glory shines: then show what their doctrines really are, and evince that the genuine dictates of Scripture invariably harmonize with the genuine dictates of Reason,-that though they contain truths far beyond the reach of unassisted Reason to discover, they always are such as Reason, thus enlightened, accepts, approves, and can by numerous arguments confirm:-thus, exhibit the main topics of religion in their proper light; and you immediately deprive Infidelity of its power over the unsophisticated mind, that retains its unbiassed love of truth and desire of knowing it. But certainly, nothing like this is done in the views of religion commonly prevailing; and we see the awful consequences: we see, not only deism, but atheism, unblushingly avowed by numbers even in

this favored land; while on the continent of Europe it is too well known that they are far more universal, both among the Roman Catholic and the Protestant States. The fashionable school of divinity, even, through a great part of Christendom, led by the late Dr Semlar and the present Dr Eichhorn, allows nothing of the proper nature of inspiration to the New Testament, and denies it to the Old Testament altogether, insomuch that the Consistory of Wurtemburg have gone to the length of forbidding the clergy to take from the Old Testament the subjects of their sermons. Here are plain symptoms indeed of a growing tendency to Infidelity: Is there anything in the views of the Scriptures, and of the doctrines of Christianity, commonly entertained, which is capable of stemming the torrent? Is there not then reason to apprehend the most disastrous consequences to the human race, should the proper antidote be much longer withheld,-should the Second Coming of the Lord, in the sense explained above, be much longer delayed?


IV. To come to the conclusion of the present subject. What has been offered, may, I would fain hope, have been sufficient to satisfy all who consider the important subjects with due reflection, that our pretensions are not very extravagant when we affirm our belief, that a new dispensation of Divine Truth is in reality in this day communicated, and that we are actually living in the age of the Second Coming of the Lord. But some of you, perhaps, may be afraid to give ear to the arguments presented by the signs we have considered, and to admit the belief, that the light by which they are discovered, and the doctrines with which they are connected, are really those of the New Jerusalem, for fear of incurring the reproach of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the charge with which the world is ever ready to stigmatize all who sincerely believe that God exercises a providence in human affairs, especially in whatever relates to his Church, and who practically admit the acknowledgement, that the predictions of Scripture are not to remain a dead letter for ever, but that it really is possible, that what Divine Truth has foretold, may one day

* See the Intellectual Repository for the New Church, New Series, vol. i. p. 608.

come to pass. Indeed, none can consistently ridicule others for believing that a prediction of Scripture has come to pass, but they who in their hearts do not believe in the Scriptures at all, nor even in the Omniscience and foreknowledge of the Deity. It is true that there have been wild enthusiasts enow, who have grounded their idle fancies on the prophecies of Scripture. But how have such enthusiasts usually acted? By expecting some great thing to take place in outward nature, and themselves to be exalted to high honor and worldly dignity;-by fancying that Jesus Christ would come in person to reign on the earth, and that they that have faith to believe this would be made his vicegerents in the government of mankind;—with other extravagances of a similar kind, originating in a misconception of the true nature of divine prediction, and of the manner in which it is to be fulfilled. Look at the pretensions of the false Christs and false prophets that have arisen in different ages: and you will find notions of this kind to pervade them all. All such flights of enthusiasm find a complete antidote in the doctrine, which we are satisfied is as true now as at the Lord's first coming in the flesh, that his kingdon is not of this world. If we were, to hold out, as enthusiasts have done, peculiar privileges on this side of the grave, we perhaps might, like some of them, soon find many more disciples; but they would be such as would not be worth having, because such as, like unconverted Peter, savor not the things of God, but the things that be of men.* We have no worldly dignities to offer,-no, nor any short path to heaven. The only path to the blissful seats, with which we are acquainted, is the path of repentance and regeneration; and these works, we believe cannot be radically performed, but by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, believed in as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, received in humility, and combined with hearty obedience on the part of man. The law that regulates admission into the New Church or New Jerusalem, is, that "there shall in no wise enter therein anything that is unclean, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie;" by which we understand, that whosoever would be benefited by the new dispensa


* Matt. xvi. 23.

† Rev. xxi. 27.

« AnteriorContinuar »