<< DISCOURSE XII: The New Church >>
THE NEW CHURCH, A NEW DISPENSATION, NOT A NEW SECT.
Thus saith the Lord, I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts: the holy mountain. —Zech. viii. 3.
THE world is on the move, is the confession of all thoughtful and observant men. The old state of society is broken down in ten thousand directions, and rapidly disappearing, while now elements are visibly presenting themselves, elements of health and strength, of hope and progress. This every one admits, in science and social changes. But it is equally obvious in social arrangements, in morals, in benevolence, and in religion.
What greater sign of progress can be afforded, than the contrast of Professor Jowett’s description of Christian feeling now and the state of things even two hundred years ago, when every announcement of an opinion by either council or ecclesiastic was accompanied by anathema against all who were of a different view. The Professor writes: No intelligent man seriously inclines to believe that salvation is to be found only in his own denomination. Examples of this sturdy orthodoxy in our own generation rather provoke a smile than arouse serious disapproval. Essays and Reviews, pp. 424.
Selfishness in the form of intolerance, and darkness, under the name of mystery, are both rapidly losing hold of mens minds, and giving way to the two grand substitutes announced in our test: a city of TRUTH, and a mountain of HOLINESS.
A state of society in which TRUTH shall be the element in which we breathe and by which we speak, TRUTH the law which we obey, and the light which we follow; TRUTH our walls of defense, and the only path to every virtue; TRUTH, the rock on which we build, and the only means by which we communicate with all the nations of mankind, A CITY OF TRUTH. In this announcement by the other words, a state of things in which love to the Lord, and charity to our neighbor shall raise man up to all that is elevated in purity, love, and goodness; a mountain of holiness, lifted up above all that is mean, depraved, and common place; a mountain of holiness, raising up the soul to divine things, and on whose glorious breast the sunlight of heaven should shine for over. Such a city, a city of God, formed of the good and the true, who in every nation love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ, is the crowning issue of all prophetic revealings.
To the believer in the New Testament, nothing can be more definitely plain than that its spiritual dispensation was altogether to supersede the Jewish. The Christian Church was the Jerusalem that was to be. Our Lord’s conversation with the woman of Samaria, altogether sounded the death knell of that localized form of religion that fixed it to certain places and forms. The woman exactly described the Jewish feeling. Ye say that at Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Christianity, there are still great numbers of those who call themselves Christians, not Jews, who are dreaming the same thing, and subscribing large sums to realize their dreams. Ye say that at Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Mistaken dreamers, look inward for peace–not outward. Did not the redeeming Teacher say, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship, the Father?
Did the place benefit the Jews when they were there? Were they restrained from idolatry, and from every kind of sensual madness? Oh, when will men accept the great principle opened by the Divine Savior, when He said: The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him; God is a spirit, and they that worship Him MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth. The Jews themselves are awakening from their delusion, and large numbers are urging upon their brethren that the time has come to rise from the letter of their religion to its spirit, from a small gathering of tribes to universal brotherhood, from outward laws, respecting meats and drinks, to inward laws respecting the influences we receive on the soul; from being a small clannish section of mankind, to becoming a recognized and spiritually-minded portion of the great family of man, all contributing to the universal good, each with its variety of mind and work, but all animated by charity, ruled by justice, and taught by celestial wisdom.
Jerusalem, which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all. (Gal. iv. 26.)
Henceforward, according to the apostle, He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. Ye are come, He said, to all true followers of the Lord Jesus, unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.
This, then, is the Jerusalem of our text, a city of the living God, a city of truth, in which the souls of men can live, and joyously act out their purified delights, in blessed works of good. This is the mountain of holiness, around whose sacred heights the truly sincere, who overcome their evils by strength from the Redeemer who is seen at ii summit, have their spiritual abodes. This is the Jerusalem to which men are invited, now, the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, surely coming down from God out of heaven. There is not ONE WORD, we venture to say, in the New Testament, respecting the return of the Jews to their former land, not one word.
And in the Old Testament the prophecies which speak of their restoration were uttered before the return of the captivity from Babylon, and were fulfilled in their letter by that event, which was the return to their own country of the Jews a second time. Jehovah said, He would set His hand a second time to recover the remnant of His people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Patros, and from Cush, and from Elam (Persia), and from Shinar (Babylon), and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea, (Isa xi. 11.), and HE DID. There is no promise to bring them back a THIRD time.
What remains now is that they with us, and all mankind shall rise from ancient errors, and modern iniquities, and enter into those states of thorough and loving obedience to the divine commandments, into that abhorrence of all selfishness and wrong, that admiration for the good, the true, and the beautiful, in all things, which constitute a living disciple of the great Savior Jesus Christ. In Him, there is neither Jew, nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. iii. 28.)
Jerusalem was constituted according to the Old Testament under David and Solomon, a true type of a Church. The name signifies a sight of peace. Its temple, its sacrifices, its ordinances, its laws were the symbols of those great principles and doctrines which do five man a sight of peace, and bring him to that Divine Savior who is the Prince of Peace. In Him alone there is peace. (John xvi. 33.)
The spiritual meaning of the prophecies respecting Zion and Jerusalem is all that concerns us now.
The Church, then, is the spiritual Jerusalem, of which the literal Jerusalem was a type. The first literal Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon, but afterwards a second Jerusalem was built, and the glory of the second temple was to be greater than the glory of the first. (Haggai ii. 9.) This was literally fulfilled. And the second temple and the restored city were standing when the canon of the prophetical books was closed.
According to the New Testament, the Christian Church would be a spiritual Jerusalem, it would also be destroyed by its Babylon, a spiritual Babylon, the embodied lust of spiritual dominion (Rev. xvii. 18.); and this latter Babylon would at length he destroyed, and a new Jerusalem, a new Church, descend from heaven. Has not all this taken place?
Can any one doubt that in the career of the Christian Church a Babylonish spirit became engendered, and grew until it transformed the religion of the adorable Jesus, the very home of humility, self-denial, rectitude, and wisdom, into a tyranny the most hateful, a corruption the most impure, and into a dark ignorance as childish as that of Paganism itself? Shall not the Divine Deliverer again say, Behold I make all things new? Has He not done so? Look around, life is renewing itself, and freedom unfolding itself on every side. The old world, with its selfishness, mystery, and crudeness is disappearing, a new world of knowledge, light, and love is opening into view.
Here, too, one cannot but be astonished at the continued literal interpretation of the language of the Scriptures, in which the end of one dispensation, and the beginning of another, is represented by the ending, or passing away, of one heaven and earth, and the commencement of another, while the use of such language is so evidently that of figure, and the Scriptures so unceasinsly teach that the Lord’s kingdom on earth is to endure for ever.
No person can read the Scriptures with moderate care, but Ire will see that the end of a Church, or dispensation of things, is there spoken of as the end or dissolution of the earth, or of the universe; the outward is the image of the inward change.
When the Jewish Church was a moral wreck, from the iniquity which Saul, in his decline. headed, rather than checked, we find it written by David, The earth and all the inhabitants thereof is dissolved, I bear up the pillars of it. (Ps. lxxv. 3.) What earth was then dissolved but the spiritual earth? the Church, as to its outward life and institutions. Again, They know not, neither will they understand, they walk on in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are out of course. (Ps. lxxxii. 5.) Surely such passages speak for themselves. Not the foundations of the natural earth, but the spiritual foundations; the great principles of religion are out of course, when men will walk on in darkness, and will not understand the things that belong to their peace.
In the prophecy of Isaiah we have many striking instances of a similar style of speaking. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof, because they have everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. (Isa. xxiv. 6-8.) Again, in the same chapter; The earth IS utterly broken down, the earth IS CLEAN DISSOLVED, the earth is moved exceedingly. (19.) Here, not only are we informed that the earth was mourning, and languishing, and at length clean dissolved; but FIRE is described as one of the agents employed; the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. Yet it is perfectly clear that no material catastrophes happened at that time of which these could be considered a literal description. Wickedness burned like a fire, so the same prophet says. (Ch. ix. 18.) Violence, transgression, covenant-breaking, ordinance-changing, burning hatreds, contempt for God and goodness, these prevailed everywhere, and the Church from her own corruptness, was utterly powerless–clean dissolved. In the writings of every prophet we might select similar illustrations. Jeremiah says, My people is foolish, they have not known me, they are sottish children, and they have none understanding, they are wise to do evil; but to do good they have no knowledge. And having thus described their spiritual and moral condition, he proceeds–I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. (Ch. iv. 22, 23.) Who can imagine that this is language to be understood otherwise than in that spiritual manner, in which all things of the outward creation are regarded as the symbols of mans inner life.
The Prophet Joel has a prophecy that has quite as much the air of announcing the end of the material universe as any literalist could desire. And I will show wonders in the heavens and the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come, and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered. (Ch. iii. 30, 31.) Yet this passage is quoted by Peter, on the day of Pentecost, and declared to be fulfilled in what then took place. The Jewish Church was ended, all its bright lights were gone, the Christian Church had begun. Hear the Apostle.
In reply to the mockers, who had stigmatized as the aberrations of drunkenness, the strange proceedings of which they were witnesses. Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said mite them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken unto my words: for these are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in THE LAST DAYS saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants, and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the, earth beneath, blood and FIRE, and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before that great and notable clay come. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts ii. 16-21.) Let anyone examine the prophecy and the fulfillment, and he must come to the conclusion that such language has no bearing whatever upon the great bodies of the physical universe upheld by the laws of unerring wisdom which are based on Infinite Love, but that they are figures descriptive of the wreck. of all that is good and true, love, faith, knowledge, when a Church is in ruins, and the tender mercy of the Lord, which provides for a New Church, at such a time, amongst those who call upon His adorable name.
That the end of the world, is the end of a dispensation, or the end of the Church, according to the use of the term in the New Testament, is so manifest, that no one who gives a careful examination to the subject can fail, we conceive, to admit it.
The word [scanner unable to insert word] rendered world, means, as the ordinary dictionaries say, an age, a period, a generation the world, in the sense of society. The plural is rendered ages in the English version in Eph. ii. 7, That in the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of His grace.
The end of the world, therefore, means the end of the age. It was the end of the Jewish world, or dispensation, when our Lord came, and, therefore, the apostle says, Now, once, in the end of the world, hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. (Heb. ix. 26.) And, in another place, Now, all these things are written for our examples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world ARE come. (1 Cor. x. 11.) It is evident that the apostles thus designated the time, nearly two thousand years ago, the end of the world; but of what world? The Jewish world. The new heaven, and the new earth, are the beginning of the Christian world. For the same reason, me find them so often calling the close of the Jewish period the last days, not, certainly, the last days of the material world, for this still wont on, though the inhabitants upon its goodly surface have been changing, time after time, from one dispensation, or world, to another. Jacob, in his prophecy at the close of his life, said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what will befall you in the last days. The latest thing mentioned in the prophecy is the coming of the Lord. (Gen. xlix. 1.) Peter, in his Pentecostal sermons, called those days, the last days. Paul, in the beginning of the epistle to the Hebrews says, God, who at sundry times, and in divers places, spoke in times pest unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days, spoken unto us by His Son. (Heb. i. 1, 2.) The apostle John said, little children, it is the last time–we know that it is the last time. (1 John n. 18.)
But, again, we ask, the last time of what? We know that the natural universe has continued with ifs wonted regularity, now nearly two thousand years since those words were spoken. Is it not, therefore, evident that these forms of speech were used, not of natures world, but of that world, the Jewish church and society, which had become thoroughly corrupt, and was about to be swept away.
Over this, the highest authority said on the cross, IT IS FINISHED.
If we have rightly interpreted the meaning of the terms, then, there will be no difficulty when similar terms are used in the New Testament, and concerning the Christian church. When we are told again by the apostle John, That he saw once more, a new heaven and a new earth, and that the former heaven and the former earth were passed away, (Rev. xxi. 1) we are again assured that a change would become necessary. The Christian church would become corrupt in principle and in practice. That dispensation also would be removed, and new principles and anew society would be formed, and these should last for ever.
This interpretation, which commends itself to the student of the Divine Word, from a perusal of that Word itself, is of the highest consequence, to save the authority of the Scriptures from being discredited by the extravagancies of fanaticism. Often, indeed, has the cry been uttered by Scriptural calculators and literal interpreters, that the time was close at hand, in which the universe was to be burnt up. The time has come and gone, and the interpreters have sunk into oblivion. In days gone by, the poor simple people were teased and frightened for a time, but the Scriptures were little known; the false prophets not the blame, and the Scriptures were unscathed. But, in these days, the condemners of the declaration, The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life, (Cor. Iii. 6) so mix up their fanatical fancies with the Scriptures, that when these writers of the prophecies are found entirely to have been wrong, the Scriptures themselves are, by the blind followers of these blind, in thousands of instances, made to bear the blame.
It was said in the American papers, in 1843, that two hundred thousand Millerites in the United States had declared that if the world did not come to an end in that year, or the early part of the following one, they would burn their Bibles. What has become of them, or of Father Miller, as he was called, we know not; but it is lamentable to think of multitudes, who have first been alarmed almost to frenzy by such delusive dreams, founded upon conceits which are cherished in defiance of the Divine declaration of the Savior, The kingdom of God COMETH NOT WITH OUTWARD OBSERVATION, neither shall men say, lo, here, or lo, there, for the kingdom of God is within you.
These men are continually saying, lo, here, and lo there. The very essence of all their interpretations is, The kingdom of God will come with outward observation. They and the Savior are in entire opposition.
The chief source of their strangely-fallacious spiritual arithmetic are the days mentioned in the Book of Daniel, understood naturally, and interpreted by reckoning, a day for it year, a rule arrived at by a strange misapplication of the command for Israel to wander in the wilderness a year for each day, the spies had misused, in obtaining their miserable reports. And, of the intimation to the prophet, that he should lie on his side a day for each year, in being a sign to Judah and Israel; therefore, say these interpreters in prophecy, a totally different subject, each day is to be reckoned for a year. Nothing can be more unfounded. The two things are entirely different. To fix a day for a year, or it year for a day, as a sign, or as a punishment, is obviously one thing; to reckon a year for a day in the computation of prophecy is another, and a very different thing. When a prophecy is given which is intended, from the nature of the case, to be fulfilled literally, because, falling within the literal dispensation of the Jews, we do not find the time mentioned by this rule of a day for a year; but when it meant years, it says years. When Hezekiah’s life was to be lengthened fifteen years, it was said so by the prophet Isaiah; when Israel was to be in captivity is Babylon seventy years, the prophet said years, not days. Indeed, the whole ground upon which the literal interpreters of prophecy blow their bubbles, is of the flimsiest possible character. And, when our Lord said, Of that day and hour, knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father, thoughtful persons minds would have concluded that it could not then all be got at to a year, by adding and subtracting the days in Daniel.
Our Lord, on another occasion, gave a similar warning, when the disciples asked anxiously after the times and seasons, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put into His own power. (Acts i. 7.)
Discontented man, untrusting, and full of fear is ever prying and anxious to know times and seasons. Only, as he becomes loving and trustful, is be content, with blessing the wise and tender Providence which hides from him the future.
There have not been wanting fanatical minds during the whole course of the Christian centuries to raise the cry, the end of the world will shortly be here. The continual failure of their predictions has, no doubt, put out one will-o-the-wisp after another, but fresh fanatics have arisen in due time to affright the timid once more, and gain notoriety for a time, to be as usual, at length extinguished. They spring like mushrooms in the night, and are nearly as short-lived as they.
Let us notice a few of the most prominent periods when the world has been affrighted for a time, and then has laughed at the prophets of alarm people and prophets alike looking outside of themselves instead of within themselves, for those changes which alone can bless either themselves or the world. Make you a new heart, and a right spirit, or ye cannot he happy either in this world or another. Love the Lord Jesus Christ, have faith in Him, and obey his commandments; this is the way to have the Lord come to you, abide in you, and bless you. Let this simple plan he adopted by all the world, and all the world will arise from its sorrows, and rejoice in its Savior.
External minds, however, turn away from this, and tacitly laying the blame of the worlds wretchedness upon the Lord, say, Oh, that the Lord would come upon the clouds, make himself visible to all the world, then all mankind would be converted, the Jews restored, the reign of sin ended, and all the world made right. Until this great spectacle is afforded, they imagine the world must go on as it does. This world, they conceive, must be unquiet, selfish, and iniquitous as it is; sin cannot be conquered, the reign of love and truth cannot be begun. There is infidelity at the bottom of this, but many know it not. the Savior is always near. Change of heart is alone necessary, and then, this beautiful world would become a blessed threshold of the better home, where we shall dwell for ever.
Without regeneration, no outward scenes, comings, or changes could do anything but dazzle and die away. We must be born again.
The year one thousand, the Cummings of that time had long determined would be the year of the worlds destruction. The people really believed them, and an immense amount of property was made over by the owners to the Church, especially to the monasteries, to cause the donors to stand well at the expected great judgment, on account of their generosity to the Church. A vast number of deeds of church lands about that period are said to commence with the words, In the approaching end of the world. The alarm spread was so great, that enormous tracts of land were left idle, and a famine of a most serious character was the result.
Michelet, in his History of France, says: It was the universal belief of the middle age that the thousandth year from the nativity would be the end of the world. …. This fearful hope of the arrival of the judgment day grew with the calamities that ushered in the year one thousand, or that followed hard upon. It seemed so if the order of the seasons had been inverted, and the elements had been subjected to new laws. A dreadful pestilence made Aquitaine a desert. The flesh of those who were seized by it was as if struck by fire, for it fell rotting from their bones. The high roads to the places of pilgrimage were thronged with these wretched beings. They besieged the churches, particularly that of St. Martins at Limoges, and crowded its portals to suffocation, undeterred by the stench around it. Most of the bishops of the south repaired thither, bringing with them the relies of their respective churches. The crowd increased and so did the pestilence, and the sufferers breathed their last on the relies of the saints. In this general despair, few enjoyed any peace, save under the shadow of the church. Men crowded to lay on the altar gifts of lands, of houses, and of serfs, all of which acts have the imprint of the one universal belief. The end of the world draws nigh, so they ran, Each day brings fresh destruction, therefore, I, count, or baron, give to such and such a church for the benefit of my soul, &c., &c. (Book IV.)*
Those who have been in the habit of thinking very highly of the wisdom and happiness of our ancestors in Church and State, would do well to ponder the condition of the Old World about the end of the tenth century, as given in Michelet, from Rad. Gluber. (Book IV. ch. 4.) In the course of seventy-three years there were no fewer than forty-eight famines and epidemic disorders. In the year 987, a great famine, and epidemic disease; in 989, a great famine; between 990 and 994, a famine and the burning sickness; between 1003 and 1008, a famine and great mortality; 1010-1014, famine, burning sickness, and great mortality; 1027-1029, famine, so that men eat each other; 1031-1033, a cruel famine; 1035, famine and pestilence; 1045-46, famine both in France and Germany; 1053-58, famine, and great mortality for five years; 1059, seven years famine, and corresponding mortality.
There was a sect arose among the Lutherans, who proclaimed a sort of fanatical system, strikingly similar to Mormonism, of whom DAubigne gives the following account in his History of the Reformation. When a great religious fermentation takes place in the Church some impure elements always mingle with the manifestation of the truth. One or more false reforms proceeding from man rise from the surface, and serve as a testimony or countersign to true reform. Thus, in the days of Christ, several false Messiahs attested that the true Messiah had appeared. The reformation of the sixteenth century could not be accomplished without exhibiting a similar phenomenon. The place where it appeared was the little town of Zwickau.
There were some men who excited by the great events which agitated Christendom, aspired to direct revelations from the Deity, instead of simply seeking sanctification of heart, and who pretended they had a call to complete the Reformation which had been feebly sketched by Luther. What use is there, said they, in attaching oneself so strictly to the Bible? The Bible, always the Bible! Can the Bible speak to us. ….
A simple weaver, named Nicholas Storck, announced that the angel Gabriel had appeared to him during the night, and after having communicated to him things him, Thou which he could not yet reveal, had said to shalt sit upon my throne.*
These fanatics have always a grand part for themselves to play. True religion humbles and makes its disciples self-forgetful. Fanaticism inflames and inflates self-hood, and fills its possessor with great ideas of his own importance.
An old student of Wittemberg, named mark Stubner, joined Storck, and forthwith abandoned his studies, having, as he said, received the gift of interpreting the Holy Scriptures immediately from God.
Mark Thomas, also a weaver, added to their number, and a new adept, Thomas Munzer, a man of fanatical spirit, gave a regular organization tot his new sect, Storck, wishing to follow the example of Christ, chose among his adherents twelve apostles and seventy-two disciples.
Shortly after, the new prophets, pretending to walk in the footsteps of those of ancient times, delivered their message. Woe, woe, said they. A church, governed by men so corrupt as the bishops, cannot be the Church of Christ. The wicked rulers of Christendom will, ere long, be overthrown. In FIVE, SIX OR SEVEN YEARS, universal desolation will burst forth. The Turk will seize upon Germany; all the priests, even those who are married, will be put to death. No wicked man, no sinner will be left alive; and, set up his kingdom in it; STORCK will be put in possession of SUPREME AUTHORITY, and will commit the government of the nation to saints. Henceforth, there will be only one faith and one baptism. The day of the Lord is at hand, and we are touching ON THE END OF THE WORLD. D’Aubignes History of the Reformation. (Chap. vii.)*
In reading this description, one might almost imagine oneself presiding at the early efforts of Mormonism. The end of this outburst of fanaticism was the utmost profligacy and a bloody war, quenched only in the destruction, at last, of Munzer and his associates.
Bengel, a famous mystical writer, calculated that the millennium would begin in 1836, and last two thousand years.
In 1844, Mrs. Child, in her beautiful letters from New York, writes that, Oct. 21.
Many of the Millerites believed that last week was appointed for the burning of the world; not, positively for the last time this season, however, for a majority suppose it will occur tomorrow. Their system of theological navigation is supplied with elaborately prepared charts from which they learn that the lord will certainly leave the Mercy Seat on the 13th of this present October, and appear visibly in the clouds of heaven on the 22nd. Alas! for every one of us, sinners and saints, if our Father should leave the Mercy Seat, even for so brief an interval!
About the same time, Prince and his associates were preaching a similar delusion in Bristol and its neighborhood, which has since eventuated in the follies and blasphemies of the Agapemone. They proclaimed, however, that the Almighty had left the Throne of Mercy, and was on his way to the earth, which he would reach in about three years.
It was stated some time ago, in the papers, that Mr. Miller had given it as his opinion, that if the prophecy was not fulfilled, as expected, last spring, it would occur soon after the autumnal equinox. Meanwhile, even the memory of this excitement seemed to have passed away from the ever busy crowd. But with the autumnal equinox, it returned with new fervor. Mrs. Higgins, a young woman from Boston, I believe, is here preaching with that enthusiasm and earnestness of conviction, which always imparts a degree of eloquence. She and her zealous coadjutors are creating a prodigious ferment, and making many proselytes; all of whom are welcomed to their ranks, as brands plucked from immediate burning.
A man, who has tended an apple-stall near the park, went to hear her, and straightway gave away all his fruit and cakes, to the great delight of the children, who became warmly interested to have this faith spread through all the cake-shops and apple-stalls. A vendor of stoves, near by, has shut up his shop, with the announcement that no more stoves will be needed on this earth. A shoemaker in Division-street, began to give away all his stock; but his son came in during the process, and caused him to be sent to an insane asylum, till the excitement of his mind abated. A shop in the Bowery mounted a placard, on which was inscribed, in large letters, MUSLIN FOR ASCENSION ROBES! I know now whether this was done for waggery, or from that spirit of trade, which is ever willing to turn a penny on war, pestilence, or conflagration.
Thousands of minds are in a state of intense alarm, but I have heard of very few instances of stolen money being restored, or falsehoods acknowledged, as a preparation for the dreaded event.
One man, of whom I bought some calico, took two cents a yard less than he asked. When I thanked him, he said, I suppose you are surprised that I should diminish the price, after you have bought the article; but the fact is, I have been hearing Mr. Miller, and I thought he proved his doctrine clear enough to satisfy anybody. If we are all to come to an end so soon, it is best to be pretty moderate and fair in our dealings. But we cannot come to an and, said I. Oh, I meant the world, and our bodies, he replied. And if they come to an end in 98 instead of 44, is it not still best to be moderate and fair in our dealings? said I. He admitted the premises; but as one admits an abstraction
A prophet, who appeared in London, many years ago, and predicted the destruction of the world, from Scripture authority, produced a much more decided effect in driving people into good works. Under his preaching, very large sums of money were restored, and seventy thousand persons were married, who had formed illicit connexions.
What matters it to me whether the world is destroyed in 1844, or in 18,044? For me it must soon cease to exist, even if nature pursues its usual course. And what will it concern my spirit, in the realms beyond, whether this ball of earth and stones still continues its circling march through space, or falls into the bosom of the sun? Let spirit change forms as it will, I know that nothing is really lost. The human soul contains within itself the universe. If the stars are blotted out, and the heavens rolled up as a scroll, they are not lost. They have merely dropped the vesture that we saw them by. Life never dies: matter dies off it, and it lives elsewhere.
Dr. Woolf, of Bochara fame, and a most active missionary for the conversion of the Jews, was another very diligent calculator of the prophecies, which he imagined taught the end of the world, and strenuously insisted that the true period was 1848. He alludes to this in his autobiography, when relating his interview with the Havelock family in India in 1849. Some one asked him how he came to make so serious a mistake, when he said, With a frankness highly creditable, although we cannot say much for its elegance, Because, I was a great ass.
Professor Jowett observes, It is an instructive fact, that Joseph Mede, the greatest authority on this subject, twice fixed the end of the world in the last century, and once during his lifetime. (Essays, &c., p. 341.)
Dr. Adam Clark mentions in his Commentary, That Lord Napier, the discoverer of Algebra, had made out that the end of the world would take place in 1810. And in the Commentary of the New Testament, published under the direction of Mr. Wesley, the period was fixed at 1830.
Dr. Cumming has been at great labor to fix the period of material destruction to the date of 1867, but seems already to be somewhat trimming his sails, and preparing to escape from the results of exploded delusions as completely, though without the blunt sincerity of Dr Woolf.
We might have added very considerably to this list, but it is surely long enough. Can any one fail to see in it a melancholy illustration of the Scriptural declaration, The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. Sure! if religion had not been altogether of Divine origin, and constantly the object of Providential care, its alliance to such, and so many miserable failures, must have subjected it to universal rejection.
All these bubbles arise from the unwillingness of the natural man to submit to the pure Divine commandments of the Divine Savior, which give happiness now, and would transform the earth now into a likeness of heaven. He virtually throws the blame of his unrighteousness on the Lord. He is bad, he thinks, because the Lord is so far off, or does not make demonstration enough in the air. The kingdom of heaven must come with outward show, according to him. Sin is in the body, and so long as he is in the body, he must sin. Sin is in the earth, and so the earth must be burnt up, or there will be nothing right. Poor self-deluding man, when will he leave these accusations of his Maker to their own worthlessness, and seek first, the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness, confiding in the promise of his Savior, that all other things will be added unto him. God’s world is all right. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handy work! God’s world is full of beauty and of excellence.
We are only beginning to understand its wondrous worth and capabilities, and use it as me ought. With man regenerated, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with his God, what would stand in the way of human happiness? Oh, no; the world is a good, glorious, and beautiful world. Let him who thinks it otherwise, cleave in heart and life to his Savior, and he will find the apostles language true. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new. (8 Cor. v. 18.)
It is mans wicked world, the world that hates the Savior and His kingdom, that needs to come to an end. The old Christian world, which grew out of the corruption of the Christianity of the Lord Jesus; the old world of selfish denomination and mystery, instead of love and truth, the old jarring world of strife and war, of denunciation and persecution, instead of obedience, virtue, and charity. The old world, the heaven and earth, which arose from truth perverted to serve selfish ends, from institutions full of injustice and misery, has ceased from being a heaven and earth recognized by the Lord, and a new heaven and earth. in which will dwell righteousness, have begun.
The world has had a long and dreary winter. The dark ages through long centuries, have been ages of misrule and misery, of ignorance and slavery; the night has been long, but the dawn is appearing. Long have the hearts crushed down by oppression, cried out, Lord, how long? Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of night? The answer now is, the morning cometh. Now is the evening, at which there is light. (Zech. xiv. 7.)
The dispensation foretold by so many prophecies, is now breaking forth front heaven into the world. The Lord has breathed over the earth, hardened with the mists and fogs of mental winter, and lo new forms of life are bursting on every side. The spiritual fig tree is putting forth her buds, so we may all know the summer is nigh. (Mark xiii. 28.)
The Church that is to be, is described in prophecy as having these four distinguishing features.
- It should be the Church of Jehovah in His Divine Humanity.
- The Church of genuine love to our neighbor.
- The Church of knowledge, light, and truth for the sake of practice.
- The Church of justice and peace.
There is a very full description of the Church of the last days in Isaiah ii. 1-5, and it is corroborated in so many other declarations, that it is truly surprising to find that such a body of divine testimony has been overlooked, and people have been led to suppose the material universe would be destroyed, while all these prophecies are confessedly unfulfilled. No one pretends that they ever have been fulfilled, and if the earth mere to be now destroyed of course, they never would be.
I. And it shall come to pass in the last days, says the prophet, the mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.
The House of Jehovah, is the Divine Humanity of Jehovah, the glorified body of the Lord Jesus. He spake of the temple of His body. (John n. 21.) The mountain of this house, is that celestial love of the Lord Jesus, which, when He is supremely regarded, rises above all other affections of the heart, and sanctifies and blesses them all. Jehovah in His humanity; God in Christ; Jesus the first and the last, would be center and head, the one God over all, in this dispensation of the last days.
In Isaiah xi. 10, it is written, In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and His rest shall be glorious. Jesus is the root and the offspring of David, the bright and the morning star. (Rev. xxii. l6.) To Him must the Gentiles seek, and His rest is indeed glorious. In Him, God manifest, the knowledge of the Lord is possible, to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. In Jesus we know God. We know how loving He is; how tender He is; how condescending and compassionate He is; how pure He is; how wise He is; how righteous, true, and how unchanging He is; yet how considerate and full of loving-kindness. In Him, mankind can adopt the language of the prophet, And it shall be said in that day, Lo this is our God, we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is the Lord (Jehovah), we have waited for Him, me will be glad and rejoice in His salvation. (Isa. xxv. 9.)
In Daniel it, is written, when the Church is described as completing its declension and restoration; One like unto the Son of Man was brought to the Ancient of days,–a description of the exaltation of the Lord’s humanity in the minds of men until it was adored as One with the Father–and then there was given Him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (vii. 14.) In the Revelations, at the description of the last days, it is said The seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
The kingdoms of this world, are not to be abolished, but transformed, to become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and HE, not they, but He, one Divine person, shall reign for ever and ever.
The new Jerusalem, the symbol of the new Church, was to be the bride, the Lambs wife. (Rev. xxi. 9.) All these prophetic announcements show that the first and chief mark of the last, and crown of all dispensations of the adorable Father of the Human race to man, would be that in it He would indeed show His creatures, according to His promise, plainly of the Father. He would be fully revealed in the All-sacred Humanity, which to see and truly know, and honor is to see, and know, and honor the Father. (John xiv. 9; xii. 45; v.23.)
Some find great difficulty in thinking of God as a Divine Man. Cut this arises from their thinking of man from space and shape, instead of from essence of principle. It is not the human form that makes humanity, but humanity that makes the human form. How different in the grandeur of goodness, sentiment, and power are often human beings who are very little different in size. Take a coarse and untutored Indian, in whom the animal nature predominates, and you will see this expressed in head, face, and whole constitution.
Let him become receptive of the sacred principles of true religion, of intelligence, and virtue, and you will see the animal tone gradually retiring, and the features gradually becoming humanized, until, as interior perfection increases, you have a beautiful man. Love and Wisdom, when they become thus embodied in human beings, form spiritual and celestial men–images of the Divine. He in whom these Divine principles infinitely embodied themselves is an infinite Divine Man, Jehovah, the Incarnate God, in whom Divinity is Human, and Humanity is Divine. Oh, let our hearts look to Him and adore Him. Let Him be the object of our prayers and worship, for in Him is all power in heaven and on earth. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. (Phil. ii. 10.) Let us follow Him, study Him, and obey Him, and we shall own that His pure yoke is easy, and His burden light. Then will the Church of the last days share the first grand distinguishing feature. The mountain of the Lord’s house will be established on the top of the mountains, and above all the hills, and all nations shall now unto it.
2ndly. Mutual love is the next prophetic mark of the New Dispensation.
This is expressed by the hills, or second class of heights in the symbolical language of the prophets. Mountains indicate the highest class of affections in the regenerate soul, those Of love to the Lord; hills the next in order, those of love to the neighbor. The one class, when real and true, generates the other. He who truly loves God, loves his brother also. (1 John iv. 21). We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. (1 John iii. 14). If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John iv. 12). He that loveth his brother, abideth in the light. (1 John ii. 10).
How little of true charity has there been in the Church of the past. What schisms, what separations, what heart-burnings, what wars, what slaughters, what wholesale desolations have there been, even under the name of religion, and on the pretense of serving the cause. But in the dispensation that is opening upon us, charity will have her place as chief of heavenly graces. The greatest of these is charity. The hills will be there as well as the mountains.
The hills will flow with the milk of tender simple truth (Joel iii. 18), and the mountains as well will drop down the new wine of cheering, inspiring wisdom. Genuine love to God will be displayed in genuine love to man. If my brother thinks differently from me, I shall not on that account scowl upon him, shun him, and do him harm. I shall respect him, strive to see and give heed to the reasons that induce him to think as he does, and take the course he does, and in all cases to servo him, when consistent with the public good. If the in error? I must keep open the avenues by which he can be better informed. I must associate with him, and let him see my truth in action. Is he right, and am I in error? I must associate with him that I may understand his truth. A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples. (John xiii. 34, 35). The New Jerusalem was to be a golden city as well as a clear one, clear as crystal. (Rev. xxi. 18): Love, the golden principle, permeates it in every direction. All its principles are love wrought out. Love upwards to the Lord supremely, love around to our fellow-creatures, and love onwards to all the blessed arrangements of heaven. The hills in this church will melt (Amos); that is, there will be a tender love to all mankind, as descended from the same Heavenly Father, and heirs to the same glory.
3rdly. The new dispensation will be one of knowledge, light, and truth. In it the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. It will not be said in this Church, that the Lord cannot be known, but, on the contrary, to know Him is life eternal. Our text says Jerusalem shall be a city of truth. The New Jerusalem should he clear as crystal. Not misty, dark, and mysterious, but clear as crystal. In the passage of the Prophet Isaiah, to which we have previously referred, this is expressed by the words: He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. ii. 3.) And, again, O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord. (v. 5). Of the New Jerusalem, it is written: The nations of them that are saved, shall walk in the light of it, (the city). (Rev. xxi. 24).
To unfold the spiritual sense of the word of God so that its difficulties may become clear, and its diviner wisdom manifest. To walk in the light, to live according to the truth. To seek truth, that we may practice it. This is the order of true life; the order of true manhood. To spread knowledge, then, to induce men to think, to reason, to judge and decide intelligently and righteously, this will be a grand distinctive feature of the new dispensation, and will go on diffusing the hallowed splendors of divine intelligence, until of every home all over the world, it may be said, as it was of ancient Israel, light was in all their dwellings. Light, more light, said the dying German philosopher. Here is light from heaven, says the New Dispensation, walk then in it. Light is now given to illuminate mans walk in time, to explain his nature to himself; light to illuminate death; light over the spiritual its well as over the natural world light over heaven and hell. Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord hath arise upon thee. (Isa. lx. 1).
And, lastly, the New Dispensation would he one of justice and peace.
Hitherto, selfishness has been too much the role with both individuals and nations, hence incessant strife, cruel wars, never true and real peace. Cut of the last dispensation it is written: He, the Lord, shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isa. ii. 4.)
In a religion, having as the supreme object of its faith and adoration, the God of love, the blessed Savior, and its rule of life His divine commandments, as indispensable laws, this reign of justice and peace is possible. It is well-known that not the slightest approach to this blessed abolition of war, the old Christian world has ever realized. And, while God Himself was regarded as harsh, strict, severe, and terribly exacting, it may not be difficult to give the reason; but, from grander principles, results more in accordance with Christian love, will doubtless be unfolded. Let justice he regarded and believed in as the supreme and indispensable law. Let the work of regeneration, of actual regeneration, be insisted on everywhere.
Let heaven here be preached as the preliminary to heaven hereafter. Let the opened Word in its Spirit; and Life he brought incessantly to bear upon the evils of men and nations. Let the cry of Christianity, not be Believe, believe, believe, and you will be saved, but Live, live, live, justly, humbly, lovingly, and the golden age will return again, and men will LEARN WAR NO MORE. The hope of all ages, the song of poets, the vision of prophets, the end of civilization, cultivation, and religion, universal peace will come as the issue of this grand Church now beginning when the tabernacle of God shall be with men, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death (to be carnally minded is death), neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed away. And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.
We have now endeavored to describe the nature of the New Dispensation, and it will be seen to be no narrow sectarian denomination, but universal principles me have in view. New principles, which build up heaven in the human soul, and which will form society into harmony with themselves, thus making a new heaven and a new earth. We rejoice to observe these principles making their way, not only in the formation of a definite body of men, who designate themselves the New Church, or New Jerusalem Church, but also in the more enlightened and liberal doctrines, and loving activities which are leavening all churches.
A hundred years ago, religion seemed almost entirely dead, but now the signs of resurrection multiply around us. Compare the Church of England of today, though loaded with the grave clothes of old times, earnest, thoughtful, active as she appears in a large number of her ministers and laity, liberalizing her institutions, chafing against the old forms, and old creeds, as she appears from time to time now, in her meetings for reforms, and in her noblest productions, compare her, we say, with the half sensual, half formal, miserable mass, which bore that name a century since; and we have a spectacle most delightful to contemplate.
The icy incrustations of ages are moving, the refreshing spring of a new era is making its warm breath felt, and its brilliant light be seen. It is so in all churches, and out of all churches. There is movement, life, everywhere. An increasing number, a minority perhaps, yet, but a large minority, are as earnest to inculcate love to God and man, and the absolute necessity of good works in mans salvation, as if the article which declares man to be saved by faith alone, did not form one of the thirty-nine. Vast numbers, both of clergy and laity, join with Professor Jowett, when he observes, It may be said that the Spirit of Christ forbids us to determine beyond what is written; and the decision of the Council of Nice, has been described by an eminent English prelate as the greatest misfortune that ever befell the Christian world; and the Rev’d. H. B. Wilson, who pleads for the omission of that one unhappy creed, the Athanasian. (Pp. 420, 150.)
We have noticed in these discourses how many points of general principle there are in which the essayists unmistakably approach those grand views which we have seen to constitute the Scriptural meaning of the New Dispensation. They plead that God is love:–l. That the Trinity is consistent with One Divine Person, the Savior. 2. That justification by faith only, was never the doctrine of the Church before the Reformation. 3. That the Resurrection of man takes place at death in a spiritual body. 4. That Salvation is deliverance from evil through the Spirit of the Savior. 5. That the miracles of our Lord had a spiritual meaning. 6. That the rituals and articles of the Church should be altered so as to include all who unite in these great principles, and to reject mysterious and persecuting statements. Their sentiments are more or less endorsed by an immense number both of clergy and laity.
These seek for change in these matters, and in others, in which the advance of science has exploded untenable opinions as the resurrection of the material body, the acceptance as literal of the early chapters of Genesis, not in the spirit of unbelief, but in the spirit of faith, a holy faith, that truth may ever be safely followed, for it leads to goodness and to God.
We will add one more extract, to show the harmony of the Essays and Reviews with the leading principle of this Discourse. There may be a long future during which the present course of the world shall last, instead of its drawing near the close of its existence as represented in Millenarian and Rabbinical fables, and with so many more souls, according to some interpretations of the Gospel of Salvation, lost to Satan in every age and in every nation, than have been won to Christ, that the victory would evidently be on the side of the Fiend. We may yet be only at the commencement of the career of the Great Spiritual Conqueror, even in this world. Nor have we any right to say that the effects of what He does upon earth shall not extend, and propagate themselves in worlds to come. (p. 158.)
The one great desideratum of the Church of England has long been, a hearty acknowledgment in her colleges, halls, and pulpits, of a spiritual sense in the word of God, as constituting its true divine character, and inherent in its nature as a Revelation from God, who is a Spirit. The want of this is the one weak element in the Essays and Reviews. You feel no absolute recognition of a thorough Divine Revelation in any strict and proper sense. The writers of the Essays, however, only share, in this respect, the general condition of the Church. But, happily, now there are decided marks of change, not only by individual writers, but from one of the leading preachers in Christ Church Cathedral, at Oxford, do we hear now such teaching as the following.
This manifesto is the cloud about the size of a mans hand, which indicates the coming glorious showers, in truth, great showers of blessings.
Ought Scripture to be interpreted like any other book, or not? That is the real question! Has Scripture only one meaning, or more? That is the point in dispute! Above all, What is the true principle of Scripture interpretation? That is the only thing we have to discover!
The lecturer in treating of these questions, repeatedly and emphatically denies that Scripture ought to be interpreted like any other book, or that it has only one meaning; and he observes (p. 168):–
If GOD made this world the particular kind of world which He is found to have made it, in order that it might in due time preach to mankind about Himself, and about His providence :if He contrived beforehand the germination of seeds, the growth of plants, the analogies of animal life, all, evidently, in order that they might furnish illustrations of His teaching; and that so, great Natures self might prove one vast Parable in His Hands; why may not the same God, by His Eternal Spirit, have so overruled the utterance of the human agents whom He employed to write the Bible, that their historical narratives, however, little their authors meant or suspected it, should embody the outline of things heavenly; and, while they convey a true picture of actual events, should also, after a most mysterious fashion, yield, in the hands of His own informing Spirit, celestial Doctrine also?
Accordingly, the lecturer observes (p. 174):–
Our purpose has only been to vindicate the profundity, or rather the fullness* of Holy Writ; and to show that under the obvious and literal meaning of the Word, there lies concealed a more recondite and a profounder sense: call that sense mystical, or spiritual, or Christian, or what you will. Unerringly to elicit that hidden sense is the sublime privilege of inspired writers; and they do it by allusion, by quotation, by the importation of a short phrase, by the adoption of a single word,–to an extent; which no one would suspect who had not carefully studied the subject. Adoro Scripture plentiudinem.TERTULLIAN ado. Ilermog. (C. xxii.)
The lecturer afterwards states how that method of theirs is to be applied by ourselves. He then speaks (in p. 167) of the veil upon the face of Moses, signifying mystically the nations inability to look steadfastly to the end of the dispensation, and to recognize in the Scriptures the Messiah. And he adds:–
Now, I gather from all this, and many a hint of the like kind, that the whole of Scripture is of the same marvelous texture, the Old Testament and the New, alike,–whether we have eyes to see it or not.
Again (p. 185):–
Under the evident, palpable signification of the words, there lies, concealed something grander, and deeper, and broader; high as Heaven,–deep as Hell.
Again, and lastly (p. 181):–
Those who are for eluding the secondary intention of Prophecy, the obviously mystical teaching of Types, the allegorical character of many a sacred narrative,–are no less dangerous enemies of God’s Word than those who frame unworthy theories, in order to dwarf Inspiration to the standard of their own conceptions of its nature and office. I say it is only another way of denying the Inspiration of the Scripture, to deny what is sometimes called its mystical, sometimes its typical, sometimes its allegorical sense. Rev’d. Mr. Burgon, Inspiration and Interpretation: Seven Sermons preached before the University of Oxford.
Regard the spread of education by the efforts of the clergy, both in Day schools, Sunday schools, young mens Christian institutions, and other means of progress; consider the opening of the universities to persons of all creeds, and of no creed, and observe the tone of liberal, generous, charitable feeling which is daily more and more visible among the clergy, as well as the laity; and, though it must be confessed that much, very much remains to be done, that the Spirit of the Lord Jesus shall be seen to be triumphant over sect and party in the Church of England, yet wonders have been wrought, and transition to a condition of enlightened charity and spiritual faith, will make her a home for numbers who were once repelled by formality, mystery, and intolerance.
But the advance of light, liberty; and love is by no means confined to the Church of England. Other bodies of professing Christians have long been gradually softening their religious differences, and cultivating those sentiments of faith, love, and virtue, in which they can agree. They have been looking more for life, and less for dogma. The views of the ministers have been enlarging themselves, and the narrow Calvinistic spirit has been long decaying, and dying out. Goodness of life, reality in religion, the great value of a living personal faith, the small value of mere doctrinal denominationalism, the progress of education amongst the people, and learning amongst the ministers, the multiplication of colleges, and of benevolent efforts to banish ignorance, repress crime, promote philanthropy, order, piety, and virtue, all impel the observant mind to say, What hath God wrought?
The Baptists and Congregationalists are preaching, in very numerous instances, a religion of love and light, of spiritual-mindedness and genuine obedience, immensely beyond that of Owen and Gill, of Toplady, and Hill, whose flinty gospel was the monopoly of God’s love to a handful of mankind, and whose hard faith kept the gates of their narrow heaven fiercely bolted, not only against Jews, Mahometans, and all who never knew the gospel, but also against little children.
On the subject of the Resurrection, the idea of the earthly body being wanted again, is so generally discarded, and the resurrection of the man in a spiritual body immediately after death substituted in its place, that Mr. Spurgeon, in one of his Discourses lately published, states that he thinks not more than one Christian out of fifty, now believes in the resurrection of the outward body. Not long ago, being in company with a Unitarian minister, he remarked, that he knew fifty ministers of that persuasion, but he only knew one who believed that the body would rise again. That idea, which a due consideration will discover to have rested only on a misconception of a few passages, intended to be spiritually understood, but taken literally, will be the first of the old series of doctrinal errors which will be universally discarded. The more the dust is laid aside, the more the man will be appreciated.
The Unitarians, to whom we have just referred, have certainly received the elevating, quickening impulse of the New Age. Compare their views and yearnings now, with the materialism of Priestley, and others of his time. The spiritual eloquence of the two Channings, of Martinean, and others, with their general appreciation by the people, abundantly prove that the Spirit of the Lord has breathed upon the dry bones. They are instinct with life looking to the sun of righteousness, and hailing the glory of His new morning.
The Roman Catholic religion, despite its dogma of unchangeableness, has changed. There are a few dark corners where narrow, persecuting minds scream forth their anathemas still, but with the masses of the people bigotry has entirely broken down.
The liberal-minded, Christian will find is any Roman Catholic country in Europe, with a few exceptions, perhaps, in Spain, that liberal and kindly sentiments prevail on every side. Where bigoted Protestant meets bigoted Catholic, in Ireland, or in England, one hears noise and animosity; but it is no longer the feeling of the masses, its the spleen of the bitter, who would be much better employed in proving they had any religion, by a loving spirit, and a just life, than in reviling the ideas of their neighbors.
In France, religion is free, with very slight exceptions; and every day these are disappearing; in Austria now this is equally the case, and, at last, Italy also has achieved her liberty. Let her nobly form a national Church, and allow the Pope, if he will, to become one of its bishops, or leave, as it may please him, and the world will have seen the last of what was once a superstitious power, permitted to hold dark barbarism in awe, then the dread center of every despotism, now an old trunk, whose root is gone, and whose bare and withered branches mar the living beauty of the earth. This sight the world will see, and the sooner it comes, the better for the Pope, and the better for mankind. The infallibility of principles of truth are now seen by the enlightened and sincere, and the mock infallibility of a blundering old man, out of harmony with an age of light, liberty, and love.
Can there be a greater proof of the immense change in the spirit of the time than is afforded in the remarkable fact that Garibaldi could speak at Naples, and lose not one atom of his influence for speaking, these remarkable words:
But before fighting against this enemy outside, you have internal enemies to beat down, and I will tell you that the chief of these is the Pope. If I have acquired any merit with you, I have acquired that of telling you the truth frankly and without a veil. In using this privilege, I tell you that your chief enemy is the Pope.
I am a Christian, as you are; yes, I am of that religion which has broken the bonds of slavery and has proclaimed the freedom of men. The Pope, who oppresses his subjects, and is an enemy of Italian independence, is no Christian; he denies the very essence of Christianity–he is the Antichrist.
This truth you must spread among all those who are near to you; for it is only when all Italians shall he thoroughly convinced of this truth that Italy will be free and united. Garibaldi’s speech at Naples on laying down the Dictatorship.
The humanizing influences of light and love, because they ore from the Lord, are universal, and are affecting all mankind. There are evidences of change amongst the Mahommedans, most cheering to observe. All men of every religion are now equal before the law under the scepter of the Sultan. Hatred of others, because of their religion, is now rapidly disappearing from the dominions of the Crescent, and when the Turks are brought into contact with the Christianity of the Lord Jesus, instead of the Christianity of the Greeks, they will probably learn to revere and love the religion which, when deformed by superstition and hate, they had known only to oppose and to despise.
Among the millions of China, too, there is no longer uninquiring apathy. For many years all has been changing there. A form of Christianity, mixed, perhaps, with much that is spurious, but including the New Testament and a recognition of the Savior, is evidently commanding the attention and acceptance of large portions of that empire; dividing power with the imperial government, destroying idolatry, and preparing the way of the Lord. Earths darkest corners are receiving some rays of light, and motion and change are opening the avenues of knowledge, that knowledge which leads to wisdom, to virtue, and to peace.
Even infidelity is not the blasphemous defiance to all things holy of former days. The Secularists of the present time are a great improvement; upon the old disciples of the coarse blasphemies of fifty years ago They are men of doubt, men who seek to make society elevated and happy without religion; many of them honestly revolted by absurdities styled religious truth, and hypocrisies covered by the profession of sacred things; but when these have blown their bubbles with sincere vigor for a time, and discovered in the realities of life how vain and hollow are all attempts to be happy in God’s world without God, when they see divine truths in their proper harmony, weight, and beauty, and men whose lives illustrate their power and worth, numbers will follow where a few even now are won to take their stand to say, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you. (Zech. viii. 23.)
Nor must we close our view of this portion of our subject without noticing that besides the great changes in sentiment that are notoriously perceptible in every department of the Church and of the world, there is, in analogy with the Divine dealings in all former time, a definite new organization formed, taking the name which Divine Revelation offers, the New Jerusalem Church, and having either societies or individual adherents in Great Britain and America chiefly, but also in France, Germany, Spain, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, in Asia and Africa. The principles of this Church are precisely those which prophecy has indicated as those of the coming age, as will appear from the following digest of them lately published:
THE PRINCIPLES OF THE NEW CHURCH.
1.–Love to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the one God of heaven and earth, in whom is the Divine Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. ii. 9.)
2.–Faith in the Lord Jesus as the only Savior from sin, and the true object of prayer.
I am the Door, by me, if any man shall enter in, he shall be saved. (John x. 9.)
3 – Obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ in diligently keeping his commandments, by strength from him, obtained by frequent prayer.
If ye love me keep my commandments. (John xiv. 16.)
4.A profound belief in the inspiration and divine authority of the Scriptures, as the foundation, in their literal sense, of all doctrine, in their spiritual sense, the fountain of wisdom to angels and men.
My words, they are spirit and they are life. (John vi. 13.)
5 – Resurrection immediately after death, when man will go to heaven and live in an angelic body, if by regeneration he has become angel-like; and if by a life of wickedness, he has made himself a fiend, he goes to his like in hell.
He is not God of the dead, but of the living. All live to him. Luke xxii. 38.)
6 – That the Lord is now raising mankind of all classes and nations to higher states of knowledge, wisdom, virtue and happiness, and calls upon each man to help on this gracious cause, by advancing education, by doing his duty from love to God and man, especially in the station or employment in which Divine Providence has placed him, and cultivating good will to all.
Behold I make all things new. (Rev. xix. 6.)
7..–That all good men, of every name and denomination, are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only God of all, by whatever name he is known, and His Spirit is the Holy Spirit. (John x. 16.)
They have ministers, public worship, and active institutions, with probably as many adherents as the first Christian Church had at an equal period of its progress.
We are apt to magnify the numbers of the Church in the early centuries, but accurate observation amply justifies the remark of Guizot. The Church had long been under the emperors, obscure, feeble, a mere child, so to speak.* Their churches were small and few, the people obscure, glad to meet in secret and on sufferance. Guizot says again; To judge merely from the great part they play, and, permit me the expression, from the noise which they make in the fifth century, one is disposed to imagine the priests a very numerous body. Such was not at all the case, we have positive indications, historical proofs, which show the contrary. In the commencement of the fifth century, for instance, we meet with a question as to the number of the priests at Rome; and we find it mentioned as an illustration of the peculiar wealth and importance of that city, that she possessed eighty churches and seventy-seven priests. This is a state of progress which may be fairly said to be more than equaled by the actual condition of the organized New Church in the last fifty years. Her literature, her liturgies, her prayers, her institutions, her schools, her action upon society around her, all portend an increasing and important future. But, some say, why have separate congregations at all? Since the Church and society are altering, why not continue in your previous religious associations, and so leaven the whole mass?
To this the reply must be, let each mans conscience guide him, as to what it is his duty to do. While the New Churchman grants that spiritual life and salvation are attainable by the Word and prayer to the Lord in connection with all the various denominations of the Old Dispensation, and therefore looks with genuine respect upon the sincere of every name, he may certainly fairly claim conscientious freedom to worship the Lord in prayers, and hymns, free from ancient errors, dishonoring to the Majesty and Goodness of the Savior, whom alone he adores, and to hear the Word opened in accordance with its genuine truth, and its Divine and Spiritual beauty. He is not sectarian because he hopes he forms part of a section of a Church of Universal Love and Truth.
History of Civilization. Lecture 3. Civilization in France. p. 323.
Let each section of the Church do its part, to purify itself, and to perform its Masters will, respected by all others. There would then be no sectarianism, though many sections. All ought to be brethren, who love the Lord Jesus, and are men alive to all Christian virtues. The, human body has innumerable parts, indefinitely varied, but all in harmony. Sectarianism does not consist in either an individual, or a society, working and worshiping according to the views of love and truth, sincerely deemed right by themselves, when this is accompanied by a respect for all others, and a disposition to agree with others, and unite, as far as possible, with them. Where there are many things in common, and few of difference, charity will lend to union and peace. Where love unites, small differences will disappear, or constitute: harmony by variety. But a sectarian spirit strives about trifles, dwells upon disagreements, overlooks excellences in others, and magnifies defects. The sectarian spirit, in the apostles, James and John, saw one casting out devils in the name of Jesus, and found him, because he did not follow them. But the Divine Savior said, Forbid him not; He that is not against us, is on our side.
Sectarianism is the selfishness of sect. Like Procrustes, it would measure all by its own bed, stretch or break them in the vain attempt to torture them to its own size. Sectarianism divides where there is no principle at stake.
It disintegrates and disperses until every member of a community, like a particle of sand, has no coherency with others and yields none. Charity is the uniting principle. True Christian love combines into one, like heat which blends the parts, that remained separate, when cold. The man of true charity seeks not to be alone, but to be united to others, that he may do them good, and to this end he seeks peace and pursues it. His motto is that of the apostle, By this we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. Some men are illiberal from an exaggerated regard for liberality. We have heard of one who declared that he was such a liberal in religion that he would not go into an orthodox place of worship on any account. Sectarianism sometimes takes the form of an excessive concern for unsectarianism. Out of a dread of being sectarian, a man will sometimes unite with nothing and nobody, and persist in that smallest of all sects, the sect of only one member, himself. Cromwell said of Colonel John Lilbourne, that he was so essentially antagonistic and disputations that he believed, if he were the only man left, John would divide against Lilbourne and Lilbourne against John. There was not long ago a sect at Chatham which had dwindled down to two persons, who were said to meet, nevertheless, every Sunday, and anathematize all the rest of mankind. A person may be most uncharitable under the name of charity, and most sectarian under the name of unsectarianism.
The New Dispensation, however, is altogether unsectarian. Like the proclamation of the angelic host at the first advent of the God of Love, its tones are to all, Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men. It is a dispensation of love, of wisdom, of light for all, and light over both worlds. It rejoices at the progress of true philosophy, true literature, true science, true education for all, true benevolence for all, true freedom for all, true dignity for labor and commerce, true piety springing from love, faith, and obedience, and directed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
This Dispensation smiles at every sign of progress which indicates the increasing influence of the spirit of love and wisdom from the Lord. The early flowers of the new year of the redeemed are seen, and gladden the hearts of the loving and the good.
The ice and snow of a long winter are rapidly giving way before the genial beams of the sun of righteousness. The day is dawning, the shadows of night are passing away; and the good time coming, which seers have prophesied, and poets have sung, even now throws before it those gleams of glory, which assure us That the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion (a state of supreme and holy love), with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Author: Jonathan Bayley—Twelve Discourses (1862)