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THE NEW CHURCH AS A SECT.

To the Editor.

SIR,The New Church has now assumed all the features of a sect. The outward and visible announcement to the world that another has been added to that Babel of confusion which afflicts the Christian world is, the erection of a small building of questionable Gothic, into which is seen to enter every Sunday a small and intermittent stream of members, but which for the rest of the week stands silent and deserted. A closer examination discovers that a load of debt weighs like an incubus on the few well-to-do families who attend, whilst the services are conducted either by a minister who is miserably underpaid, or by a member whose attention is already absorbed by a trade,—this building--if not observed with a compassionate silence by more flourishing religious bodies around, or, if it should attract a more lively attention, regarded as the hoisting of an opposition flag, a competitive concern

is exciting a tacit feeling of opposition and antagonism unfavourable to a candid examination of the new creed.

A question arises whether a receiver of the New Doctrines should not maturely consider whether he should too hastily leave the sect in which he has been brought up. Would he not do more good service if he stayed amongst his old family connections, and then, as it were, from the interior of the citadel, communicate with the garrison, and expound, and explain and discuss his new ideas, which would be the more readily listened to, as he had as yet made no change, no outward demonstration of estrangement and breaking of old ties.

Especially with regard to the Church of England: here we have an establishment which is recognised by the State, and which, with certain errors of doctrine, and some grievous defects of administration, is yet an orderly and decorous form of worship, and recommends itself to a large part of the nation by its tolerant spirit and susceptibility of amendment. Let any man who has become imbued with the new ideas of Swedenborg ask himself, whether it is not advisable to remain in the fold of his old church, where, without exciting a spirit of hostility, he could shew the superiority of the new doctrines to the old ones. Will not such a man, if he hastily joins the New Church Society, find that he misses the old responses, the venerable church, the influential, and learned, and

gentlemanly ministers, the instructed choir, and the presence of a large congregation, by their numbers exciting an influence almost electric? Must he take for granted that a church which in one reign curtailed its articles, and in another abolished two obnoxious and intolerant services, will not in time listen to further reforms, disdaining, as it does, any pretensions to infallibility. The attempts to build up the New Church into a sect have created much trouble, and this readiness to incur debt in order to build chapels so little characterised by the decent and solemn elegance which ought to pervade temples for the worship of God; or if so characterised implying deeper indebtedness, smacks somewhat of that worldly and inconsiderate spirit almost approaching to immorality, which is now dragging Methodism to the ground.

Swedenborg, who himself punctually attended the Lutheran Church of Sweden, more intolerant than the Church of England, can hardly be satisfied, supposing him to be present in the spirit, with the embarrassment, and the distress, and the anxiety pervading the Committee of a New Church Society which has overbuilt itself—a dilemma which opens a door to future bickerings, and prompting the lukewarm to secession.

If we assume thus hastily the outwards of a sect, can we promise our selves that the internals of sectarianism will not insinuate themselves into our minds ?

I am aware this will not be a very popular view, and that the ire of those active spirits who love to be engaged in organization, and to be busied in building and in borrowing and in lending, and who are not altogether insensible to the glories of leadership, and the turmoils of negotiations to the dictation of plans and the honours of salutation in the market-place-will hardly tolerate this view of the position of the New Church, but I look to the Editor's spirit of fairness to insert even an unpopular view of an important question.

G.

REPLY.

There are two points in the above paper which require a few remarks. The first is, that of designating the New Church as a sect. The writer seems to imagine that the Church of the New Jerusalem is a sect, and, consequently, a section of the former church, which is now, as to its actuating principles, passing away. We are perfectly aware that people who know little or nothing of the New Church think that it is nothing but a sect, and that it ought to be designated by no other appellation. But those who do know something of the New Church well know that it is not a sect, and that it is erroneous to consider it as a section, or as a denomination of the Old Church. To constitute it a sect of the Old Church, it must, as the term implies, be cut off, as a shoot from the old

stock, and derive its sap, more or less modified, from the old root; but the Lord's New Church is neither a shoot from the old stock, nor does it derive its sap of life from the old root. Its shoot is derived from an entirely new germ, which is the Lord, in His Divine Humanity ; whereas the Old Church, in its orthodox forms, is a growth from the tripersonal creed of Athanasius, which the New Church believes is the origin of all the falsities of doctrine that have so long and so fatally inundated the Church with every kind of falsehood and of evil. Now, it is an improper use of language to say that a tree which has sprung from an entirely new seed is a section of an old tree, or a graft from its trunkwe mean a tree which, from its barren and corrupt character, only “cumbers the ground," and which, by the process of judgment, we know has been cut down, and its roots blighted and withered with spiritual death. In making this remark, we do not mean that all the members of this consummated church partake of her evils and falses. Far from this is our thought; for we well know that in the consummated church there is a great remnant, signified by the one hundred and fortyfour thousand, out of every tribe and denomination, who have the “ seal of God in their foreheads.” To these the New Church addresses itself, and presents to them the precious seed of its heavenly doctrines from an enlightened interpretation of the Word, and affectionately exhorts them to come forth and “ to behold the King in his beauty,” even the Lord Jesus Christ, with his face shining as the sun, and his garments white as the light, as the one only Divine Person of the Godhead, “ in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily," and as the one only true Object of worship to angels and men—the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

The New Church is, consequently, no more a sect of the Old Church than the Christian Church, in its beginning, was a sect of the Jewish.

Another point to be considered, as suggested by our respected correspondent, is that of worship. He would, it seems, advise those who receive the doctrines of the New Church to remain, for the sake of earthly ties and connexions, in the denomination or sect in which their lot has been cast, and especially in the Church of England, which is “ tolerant,” and which, in the progress of events, is likely, “ both as to doctrine and administration, to be much improved." This, we doubt not, will be the case, especially under the influence of a new reform in Parliament, as a new ultimate medium in the hands of the Lord's Providence. However dear the “ earthly ties and connexions ” may be which associate us with a consummated church, yet the voice of truth peremptorily commands those who receive the doctrines of the Church of the New Jerusalem,

saying—" Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. xviii. 4.) For to give any countenance, either by our presence or by other means, to what we believe to be erroueous and false, is certainly to be in danger of being partakers of the sins, and of incurring the plagues of a fallen church. And this is the more inexcusable when opportunities are at hand of worshipping in harmony with the principles we possess. This inconsistency is justly condemned in things moral and civil, and we are quite certain it is even more to be condemned in things spiritual, upon which so much, as to our final states, must depend. Those who have received the doctines of the New Church with sincerity, and with any rational conviction, and still practise this inconsistency, for the sake of earthly considerations, must expect to consociate themselves interiorly with a class of spirits in opposition to their states, from whom, however, they must be separated before they can come to their proper home in the habitations and mansions of heaven. If this interior separation is not effected in this life, it can be effected in the other only by severe vastations, for there is nothing that consociates men so interiorly and so closely together as acts of worship, especially where sincerity prevails ; and if there is no sincerity, but merely selfish and earthly considerations, the worship itself is but a mere mockery and profanity, and has no more spiritual efficacy in it than a "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."

In favour of non-separation, Swedenborg, it is alleged by our correspondent, " punctually attended the worship of the Lutheran Church, more intolerant than the Church of England.” Swedenborg, it is true, was a man of deep piety; and, no doubt, up to the period of his spiritual illumination, was a strict observer of the duties of public worship, and, in his writings, a strenuous advocate of those sacred duties. But we learn from the “Documents concerning his Life and Character,” &c., that, in his latter years, he rarely attended the Lutheran Church. Passing much of his time in England, where he was many years superintending his “ Arcana Cælestia,” and other works, through the press, he rarely, it is said, * went to the Swedish Church; but, when there, the spirits who attended him contradicted what was heard, as being contrary to the truth, so that he could have no peace until he had quitted the place.t

* See the “Documents concerning the Life and Character of E. Swedenborg," by the Rev. J. H. Smithson. New edition.

+ See Ferelius, the Swedish clergyman's letter, inserted in this periodical for 1842, p. 476, where it is said :—“Although Swedenborg went sometimes to the Swedish Church, and afterwards dined with me, or with some other Swede, he And we have no doubt that every sincere worshipper, who has some knowledge of New Church doctrine, feels, under similar circumstances (without being in open communication with spirits), a similar state of uneasiness in his mind, which deprives him of all the rich blessings of a holy worship, and this, especially, when he hears in the sermon, as is frequently the case, the most loathsome and repulsive falsities.

In confirmation of what we have here stated, we will adduce the following declaration from Swedenborg's " Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church :"-" The faith of the New Church cannot by any means be together with the faith of the former Church, and that, in case they be together, such a collision and conflict will ensue as to destroy everything relating to the Church in man.” (n. 102.) We have not space to adduce what is said in the following number, in confirmation and illustration of this declaration, but we earnestly recommend it to the perusal of our correspondent.

As to what is said respecting debts contracted in building places of worship, our correspondent should remember that many of the churches and chapels built in the Church of England, and among the Nonconformists, are liable to a similar occurrence. It is, therefore, not peculiar to places of worship in the New Church, most of which, we believe, are exempt from debt. Nor ought any complaint on this ground to be alleged, when the debt is justly and honourably contracted, and its conditions faithfully observed.

EDITOR.

Poetry.

THE MESSAGE.

I cried aloud-" There is no God for me!”
Dark doubts and dull despair had poisoned life,
And all within was anarchy and gloom,-
Ill-omened forms of night held council there,
And shrieked in clanging discord. Shadows grim,
Offspring of night, eclipsed the mid-day sun,
And bound the spirit's eyes with blackest bands
Of falsehood, woven in the lowest hells !
Vain every effort ! Vain alike all prayer !
Heaven saw fit to leave me to myself,
And thus I stood alone in my despair !
But oft, at times, was heard a stilī small voice-

“ Obedience." Yet unwilling, unconvinced, told us he had no peace in the church, on account of spirits, who contradicted what the preacher said, especially when he spoke of three Persons in the Godhead, which amounted, in reality, to three Gods."

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