<< Haggai: The Future Glory of the Church >>
9The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts. HAGGAI ii. 9.
Under the Jewish dispensation there were two temples, the first built by Solomon, and destroyed by the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezzar ; and the second erected by Zerubbabel, exended and beautified by Herod, which was visited by the incarnate God. Of this latter temple it is said by the prophet, who, after the return from captivity, was exciting the people to build it, that its glory should be greater than that of the destroyed temple. The second should be more glorious than the first.
All these things were typical. The temple spiritually is the church. ” Ye,” said Paul, ” are the temple of the living God.” —2 Cor. ii. 16. ” Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” — 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. There being two temples among the Jews, prefigured the fact that there would be two spiritual temples, two great churches among the Christians, the first and the second Christian church. The first was given to the apostles, but has degenerated into mystery and superstition; the second is the church meant by the New Jerusalem. The first would be destroyed by the spiritual Babylonians; or, those whose aim is to prostitute heavenly things to make themselves as gods upon earth, over the souls of men. The second would have greater glory than the former, but chiefly in this, that the Lord Himself would be more intimately present herein; there He would be Immanuel (God with us.) Our aim in this discourse is to endeavour to explain in what this greater glory consists. May the Lord, the source of all wisdom, illuminate and direct our minds in the inquiry, until His light shine within us in all its brightness, and His glory may be seen upon us.
The glory of a church is its wisdom ; this it receives from heaven to dispense to men. The glory of the New Church now forming by the Lord, under the name of the New Jerusalem, surpasses the glory of the former church, in the grand and beautiful character of its disclosures on all subjects, but chiefly on the following:—1. The Lord; 2. His Word; 3. The Life which leads to Heaven ; 4. Death; 5. The Life after death.
The chief glory, or the chief misfortune of man in the religion of thought, is his idea of God. If he has an erroneous view of the Divine Being, it meets him distressingly every where. It embitters his whole life. It poisons the very noblest springs of his being. What fearful perplexity has been occasioned by the Athanasian Creed, with its three divine persons all incomprehensible! Its declaration, that all who do not believe the Divine Trinity as it expounds it, shall, without doubt, perish everlastingly, has only added to the difficulty. The rationality of man has been smitten down in religion, by having an eternal Father, with a distinct Son, equally eternal, and another distinct person found of the Spirit of the other two, each God by Himself, and yet there not being three Gods. Many persons, having been induced to believe this, have resigned reason altogether as not having any province in religion, and have then been led to believe anything, however monstrous; — that a thin wafer of bread is turned by a priest into the God of the Universe; — that God is a partial Being, loving the few and rejecting the many, or any delusion, however terrible, if propounded in the name of God.
O how different is the view of our heavenly Father, as afforded in the New Church ! He is Infinite Love, and Infinite Wisdom, in a Divine Human Form. The whole Divine Trinity is in Him, as a human trinity is in a man. He is our Father, too, as manifested in the Lord Jesus Christ, that personification of mercy unchangeable, to man, however vicious ; He is not a vague, indefinite Being, whose shape has never been seen, whose voice has never been heard. Oh! the heart leaps for joy, when it believingly perceives that all power in heaven and on earth is in the hands of the Saviour. The Best of beings is the Ruler of all. And this takes in all that the Scriptures have declared. It is in harmony with every text. Not one, from Genesis to Revelation, has not its appointed truth to teach in this system. Those which speak sometimes of the imperfections of the Son, and sometimes of His glorious Majesty, sometimes of His praying to the Father, and, at other times, of all that the Father hath being His, are all explained by the changes the Humanity underwent during its glorification, as imaged in the changes the mind of man undergoes in its regeneration. And, lastly, when the states He went through temporarily for our redemption were over, we see the Lord as the First and the Last, the Being who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev. i. 8). It supplies us with an idea of our God inexpressibly tender, grand, and lovable. And this is what reason hails, when it hears it from revelation. There is in all the forms of nature such a resemblance to humanity; all things in the universe corresponding to man, from the sun, the symbol of Divine Love shining in the soul, to the soil which symbolizes the ground for receiving instruction, the seed of the Word of God : from the animals, which have all been made from the type of the human body, to the vegetables which repeat man’s circulating system. All nature is human, and must have come from a Divine Human Creator; a Divine Man ; in His Infinite Essence of Love, Wisdom, and Power, from eternity ; whom, therefore, it is not incredible to behold descending as a Divine Man in last principles, as the blessed Jesus. This idea is clear, it is full, it embraces all Scripture and all reason, it brings all hearts to the Saviour ; but to the Saviour not as separate from, or another from God, but as being God revealed, God over all, blessed for ever (Rom. ix. 5), as having in Him all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. ii. 11). Not as another from the Creator, but as being Himself the Creator (John i. 3, 10; Col. i. 16, 17 ; Isa. xliv. 24) : not as a Redeemer separate from Jehovah the Father; but as Jehovah become our Redeemer and Saviour (Isa. xliii. 11; xliv. 6 ; xlix. 26 ; lxiii. 16 : not as a Spirit separate from the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life ; but as Himself the Holy Spirit, whose influences of light, life, strength, and joy, regenerate the soul (John xiv. 17, 18; xx. 22; 2 Cor. iii. 17). Here all is grand, yet all is simple ; all is comprehensive, yet a child can embrace it. It makes all hearts move round the central sun of heaven, as the whole starry universe is said to move round a central sun in nature. And, when the soul has thus learned in love and faith to abide in the Saviour, it feels and knows that all is well. The Lord is the Shepherd to lead equally the lambs and the sheep of his flock to every needful blessing. If they are sick and weary in soul, He will remove their sorrows. If tossed on the sea of life’s troubles, and fearing they are likely to sink, they cry to Him for help; they hear His Divine voice saying to the stormy waves, ” Peace he still,” and all becomes calm. I from the perplexities of false teaching, the soul has become even spiritually dead, and wrapped in the grave-clothes of absurd doctrines, has resigned itself to apathy and despair. He can raise it from the dead. He is the Resurrection and the Life. Let any one pray earnestly to the Saviour, and trust in Him, and like those of old he will be made whole, of whatsoever disease he had.
Dr. Adam Clark mentions, that in a time of great doubt and darkness, he prayed direct to Jesus Christ, and his soul was filled with light and peace. Many others have recorded the same thing. Often and often have we seen, when the true character of the one Lord Jesus as having the whole Trinity in Him has unfolded itself to the soul, the clouds of doubt and gloom which had enveloped it had passed away, and the man has gone on his way rejoicing. “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches : but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord who exerciseth loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth : for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” — Jer. ix. 23, 24.
The glory, then, of the latter house is greater than that of the former, in its clear, comprehensive, and assuring doctrine of the God of all ages, “the King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
In the work of redemption it is especially said by the Lord, “I will not give my glory to another” (Isa. xlii. 8); and this doctrine often requires particular explanation. For many who have been led to admire and admit the views of the New Church in regard to the Person of the Lord, hesitate when without more divine persons than one ; they find they cannot preserve their former doctrine of the Atonement. They have been led to think of a God made angry by their sins, but pacified by their Saviour. They feel that they cannot go to heaven as they are ; but have been persuaded that they will be admitted for the sake of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus, which is reckoned to them when they believe. This doctrine is felt to be a comfort to those who feel the burden of their sins, and have no clear ideas of either God, themselves, or heaven. For if they had known that God Himself was unchangeably good, kind beyond a father’s kindness, tender beyond a mother’s love, they would have seen that He regards the sinner not from vengeance, but from pity and mercy. He cannot make the guilty happy while they remain guilty, but the penitent He receives with love, delivers from their spiritual enemies, pardons and regenerates. Thus He delivers them really from their sins, making them of a new heart and a right spirit. He removes from them evil tempers and passions, implants in them the love of virtue, of goodness, and of truth. He makes them heavenly, and thus fits them for heaven, this spiritual work of God in the soul is a greater glory than that of creation. Creation would have been a curse without redemption and salvation. Can we suppose that our heavenly father would do the first, the less work, and leave to some one else to do the second, and the greater ? Can we imagine that his greater work really consisted in turning Him from wrath to grace, — Him who is Love itself? Let us hear Him. ” I, even I, am He who blotteth out thy transgressions for MINE OWN sake,ind I will not remember thy sins.” — Isa. xliii. 25. ” I will ransom them from the power of the grave (hell) ; I will redeem them from death ; O death, I will be thy plagues ; grave (hell), I will be thy destruction.” — Hos. xiii. 14. For our heavenly Father Himself to redeem man first from the power of hell, and its infernal influences, by His work of redemption when He was n the world, and then by the power of His Holy Spirit to save His people from sin and regenerate them, this undoubtedly gives to the One All Good the entire glory which is His due. The glory of Creation is His. The glory of Redemption is His. The glory of Regeneration is His also. No glory of divine operations is given to another. We rejoice for all our mercies to be in the hands of Him who made, sustains, and rules the universe. Filled with holy faith and confidence, the New Church-man looks up to his gracious God and Saviour, and exclaims. ” Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits ; who forgiveth all thine iniquities ; who healeth all thy diseases ; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies.” — Ps. ciii. 1 — 4.
Is it not glorious to know that Jehovah Himself is our best, or infinite friend, and He came into the world for our redemption ? Our Maker was our Redeemer from the powers of darkness, and comes to each single soul that seeks Him to save it from the power of sin. He who believes this can, without misgiving, confide for complete triumph over sin. ” I give you power,” said the Incarnate God, ” to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” — Luke x. 19.
” God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.’ ‘ — 2 Cor. v. 19.
For this end the Lord came into the world, to overcome man’s spiritual enemies, and save the world. To make the world for ever united to Himself He glorified His human nature by sufferings and death, and ascended with it above the heavens, that from it, as a new and living way, He might for ever communicate to His creatures the gifts of His Holy Spirit.
Let any one who has been perplexed with the idea of three divine persons of different minds, and yet declared to be of the same mind, being engaged in redemption, of one being merciful, and dying to appease the wrath of another, who will not abate one jot of his demand for blood : of one professing to be rigidly just, and yet punishing the innocent for the guilty, and placing to the account of the guilty the merit of the divinely innocent. Let any one who has learned to dread God in terror at His awful vindictiveness in redemption, see that it was God Himself who from love descended to vanquish hell, and manifest in His life and in His death a love which would save to the uttermost, and he will rejoice to behold how much the glory of the latter house exceeds the glory of the former. It excels by as much as clearness exceeds contradiction, real justice exceeds injustice, and love exceeds wrath. ” Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath visited and redeemed His people.”
The Word of the Lord is equally glorious as seen in the light of the New Jerusalem. It is Divine Wisdom clothed in human language. It is from the Fountain of intelligence, but accommodated to the requirements of angels, in its spirit, as well as to those of men, in its letter. In all its sacred pages, whether they are history, prophecy, parable or vision, there is a spiritual sense. The outside of the Scriptures is their least valuable part, the lowest step of the heavenly ladder. The Lord, the church, the soul, are everywhere the subjects. The creations described, treat of the formation of new principles of holiness and virtue in the soul : the journeys are divinely arranged to represent the progress we make in the heavenly life : the battles are the types of the struggles of the soul with its vices in the hours of temptation : the victories and blessings obtained, describe our conquests over self, and the inward felicities which follow. The letter teaches the New churchman all that it teaches another, and more even ; for he is by the spirit able better to discriminate between what is really fact in the letter, and what is only so in appearance ; and then, beside the letter, he can study and delight in the streams of living water which exist beneath. He can indeed say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want He maketh mo to lie down in green pastures ; He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
By reason of the wonderful character of the Divine Word it constitutes the true daily bread of the Christian traveller. In every part of its hallowed pages there is an interior wisdom, which constitutes its spirit and life. What seemed before peculiar to the Jewish history he finds is no longer so, for ” he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” And all the details of the sacrifices, and the ceremonies of the Jewish law, are to him full of meaning: they unfold the particulars of a higher law, applicable to his soul, which is a living temple ; his worship, which is a daily sacrifice, burning on the living altar of his heart. The Word has thus a new and everlasting interest. Every particular becomes to him sacred and instructive. He sees now the correctness of the declaration, ” Thy words were found, and I did eat them ; and thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart : for I am called by thy name, Lord of hosts.”—Jer. xv. 16.
For want of a knowledge of the spiritual sense, a large portion of the Bible is, to very many of its readers, a dead record ; another large portion, quite unintelligible. But with the spiritual sense it becomes a crystal covering, through which the glory shines, like that sea of glass on which the angels stood who had the harps of God. By the science of correspondences, which is the vessel by means of which we are to draw from the wells of salvation, the Word, and the world too become sparkling with living light, the outbirths and the effigies of the bright world to which they lead us. In this respect the glory of the latter house is far, far beyond the glory of the former.
And, now, let us glance at the life which, according to religious teaching, leads to heaven. It is a sad reflection that in the doctrines of professors of religion generally, the conduct of men in life has a very minute place. So much has been made of creeds, and so little of life, that one is led to wonder what they can imagine, as the reason why this world, with all its variety of training, was made.
” Believe, and all your sin’s forgiven,
Only believe, and yours is heaven.”
Thus they say, and thus they act. Hence, with the exception of some pious observances connected with attendance upon religious meetings and religious worship, there is a very slight effort to induce Christians to govern themselves by its hallowed dictates. In fact, instead of religion being a sacred spirit, to which all the rest of the soul should conform, the insignificant ceremonies and superstitions which some call religion ; and the sudden spasmodic faith of others, which they call salvation, and which they are taught to say transforms them in a moment from being black as demons, to being white as angels ; these have shorn religion of its strength, and in this nineteenth century made the world as we find it, a motley mixture of noble and ignoble, true and false, selfish and disinterested ; but with the dark dashes fearfully extensive. The great redeeming powers of religion have been held off by the prevalence of the dogma, that good works do not contribute to salvation, but rather tend the other way.
Religion having been severed from the world, has made a sour, narrow religion, and a bad world. The spirit of love, and the spirit of truth, like two guardian angels, should preside over every act of life, and sanctify the whole. Justice, in its widest acceptation, and religion, are the same. ” He hath showed thee, man, what is good ; and what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” — Micah vi. 8, “There is glory, honour and peace, to every man that worketh good.” — Rom. ii. 10.
A pious, earnest, useful, just, and cheerful life in the vocation for which our talents of mind and body fit us ; this is the life that leads to heaven. Religion is not a round of service to be done on Sundays, but a spirit to pervade all days. Our joys are as religious as our prayers, if hallowed by a trustful confidence in the goodness of the Lord, and a desire to make all around us happy. ” I come not to take your joy away from you, but that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” — John xv. 11.
Those who disregard a life of actual usefulness as the embodiment of religious convictions, and of no account in reference to heaven, overlook the fact that the will of man flows into action ; his thoughts more especially flow into words. His acts, or works, therefore, more fully show the nature of his will, than do his words, or even thoughts. If, then, his works are selfish, his will is selfish, no matter what he may profess to believe ; and the will is the essential principle of man, which will eventually assimilate everything else to itself. By evils we see the tendency of the will, and can correct it by help from the Lord. Hence the importance of watching our works. Every selfish deed, every impure act, every rebellious operation tells us of the real character of our unregenerate nature unmistakably. Evil fruit comes from an evil tree. We come to the Lord in prayer and earnest supplication for a new nature, and He gives us goodness which renews the will; this becomes fixed and made our own by virtuous and loving actions. The evil nature had by daily actions grounded itself in us under the name of habits. On the contrary, the good and the true will also become grounded in us by heavenly habits. Hence the importance of the Divine words, “He who is faithful in that which is least, is faithful in that which is much; and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much.”
How strange is the persuasion that the Divine Being strictly watches an incorrect belief which often concerns no one but the individual who has it, and affects him very slightly ; but takes no notice of unjust work, in building a house, which may result in loss of life. Is the cloth-maker’s creed to be all important, which only induces him to number himself at a certain church or chapel ; and his unjust work in his business to be esteemed nothing, which may fail to protect the poor wearer from the inclemency of the weather, inducing disease, and premature death? Can any one rationally imagine that a mother’s acceptance of what she hears from the pulpit is everything, and ill-temper, neglect of duty and discomfort, which make a family miserable, are nothing ? All the world might be of the same creed, and the world might still be as far from happiness as at present ; but if all the world did their several works from just principles, all mankind would be happy. The world would be a resemblance of heaven. Justice is the essence of goodness ; and justice to God, which requires us to love Him with all our hearts ; and justice to our neighbour, which requires us to do him no harm, but all the good we can : these comprise the whole duty of man. ” Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them ; for this is the law and the prophets.”— Matt, vii. 12.
Never will the world’s work be rightly done until its labourers derive their motives from love to God, and love to man. The world’s wildernesses will bloom like Eden, and its deserts like the garden of God, when the principles which make Paradise prevail upon the earth ; when the employer of labour feels his capital, as a grand means, placed in his hands by Divine Goodness, of giving comfort and elevation to those whom he employs; and which he will use justly to make not only his work of the best kind, but his workmen intelligent and virtuous. Never will those hives of industry, our great mills, fulfil their destiny in the designs of Providence until the employers act upon the conviction that their business, bringing under their direction industrious thousands, is not only to make good cotton fabrics, but to give them the opportunity to do their part in promoting the improvement of the cotton-workers. Many have begun to act upon this: may it become universal! The religion of the workman too is to do justice to his employer, justice to his work: to give willingly, yea, rejoicingly his hands and his heart to labour, as a noble work bringing him into the likeness of God, who works for all. Then will the labourer, while he produces outside these beauteous works which bless the land, plough the sea, or adorn our homes and persons, be producing in himself a virtuous, just, and lovely character, which will go with him, abide with him when he has left this temporal scene, and enter with him the higher circles of being.
Political economy is good, but it has directed all its attention solely to the production of material wealth ; it requires supplementing with the science of human economy, which will direct attention to the elevation of man as the sublime end for which not only wealth, but the world itself is formed. ” All religion,” rightly says Swedenborg, “has relation to life, and the life of religion is to do good.”
Since religion has been diverted from life to creed, not only has the world’s work been conducted so as to show that the workers have been grievously influenced by greediness and fraud ; but the unspeakably important duties of home life have equally fallen a prey to falsehood and wrong. Many parents altogether forget that they are commissioned by the Lord to train their children to be wise and good, and thus to lead them to live for heaven. Feeble parents, by a thousand weaknesses, daily teach their children to be untrue and insincere. They will promise what they do not intend to perform ; threaten what never comes to pass ; make pretences for quietness’ sake of what is altogether untrue. They will beat tables and chairs when a child has accidentally hurt itself, and instead of teaching it to seek relief from patience, they give it solace from revenge. Harsh and violent parents give too often examples of passion and injustice : sowing a wind, which some day will return again as a whirlwind. O when will a genial but a just religion, a cheerful but a truthful piety, preside over the cradle and the fireside!
How easy would it be to train a loving and a virtuous society if only the Saviour’s command were justly and daily followed : ” Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not ; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Children have a spirit of justice implanted in them by the Lord ; let parents treat them justly, kindly, and firmly, and they will honour and respect them ; and thus the foundation will be laid for honour to Him, who is the Great Parent of all.
To make a just boy, precisely the same principles are needed as those which constitute a just man, and the ground is then pliant. The parents have been surrounded by every attraction which God could give them to facilitate their fulfilling of their sacred trust, essential alike to their children’s welfare, and their own peace. when will parents make it generally their aim to prepare at last to have the patriarch’s blessing : ” Here I am, and the children thou hast given me !” Of what value is it to sacrifice ourselves for the accumulations of means to make our children useless spendthrifts, a curse to themselves and a curse to their kind? The New Church, by directing a broad light over this portion of human life; by showing that youth rationally spent is the only way to secure a serene and noble manhood ; by teaching and training the human mind to live, rather than contenting herself with teaching men how to die, shows that ” the glory of this latter house is greater than that of the former.”
Marriage again has scarcely been recognized in the religion of the past, as practically religious at all. It is true that the act of marriage has been celebrated in churches ; but it has been regarded as a mere form, hurried over often as a thing unimportant except for its legal bearing. There has been no doctrine of marriage, no unfolding of its sublime and important uses, no perception of its being the earthly image of the union of the Lord and His Church. The absence of a rational and spiritual light in the Church, upon this great element of human life, has resulted in the great representative capitals of Europe swarming with open unchastity; while vast numbers of those who submitted to the religious ceremony, altogether fail to realize the refined and innumerable blessings of the marriage state. The New Dispensation enters largely into this sacred field. It shows that marriage is the storehouse of happiness, the nursery of heaven. The male and female sides of man have been created both in mind and body to be the natural helping sides to the formation of a fuller, noble character, than either could become alone. The man formed to receive intelligence and wisdom from the Lord, is only capable of the proper objects of marriage in proportion as he becomes intelligent and wise. The woman formed to receive goodness and grace from the Lord, only becomes truly a woman in proportion as she suffers herself to be moulded by the Divine Love, into the beautiful earthly manifestation of purity, kindness, sympathy, and gracefulness combined. She will yearn for the manly strength of a noble intellect. He will seek for the softening influence of graceful affection Both blended together will compose a truly God-made marriage; and what God hath joined together, will be no more twain.
“Age will not cool the sacred fire,
Nor will the flame with death expire ;
But brighter burn in heaven above,
A heaven of joy, because of love.”
A marriage not entered upon from these principles is the most fearful form of life-long wretchedness. Notwithstanding the ceremony, the two never become one. They become more sadly and widely two ; as life lingers with them in wearisome misery. But a marriage in true order, where the mind is the great object of regard, the body secondary, and the wealth the last, becomes a constantly increasing union — a dear centre of bliss, round which in ever-increasing abundance arise unnumbered benefits and blessings. O, the glory of this latter house is far greater than the glory of the former!
And now we come to death. What has the old dispensation to say about death ? It speaks hesitatingly about the soul, as to whether it is in any shape or not. What becomes of it after death it cannot tell. It sings mournfully, —
“And am I born to die.
To lay this body down.
And most my trembling spirit fly.
Into a world unknown?”
It has made so much of the body, that when it dies all real idea of the man is gone. It speaks sometimes of the good departed having gone to heaven, and the wicked having sunk to their sad lot ; but this is when it forgets itself. Immediately on recollecting, it exclaims, ” There is to be no judgment until the dead dust is called to life again,” and as millions have waited already for thousands of years without such resurrection and judgment, so all may have to wait for millions of years yet ; and in the meantime there is no information as to where they are, what they are, or what they are doing. What body is to rise? or, as the body is daily changing, whether the whole matter which ever formed part of the body is to rise ? are equally unsettled questions. The Lord’s coming, redemption, and victory over death, are said by the apostle to have taken away the fear of death, but in the mass of professing Christians, at present, there is at least as much fear of death as there was in the heathen world, and more than in many parts of the heathen world at the present day. This results from the prevalence of material ideas of man, and of an intense love of the world, combined with the Church having no definite teaching in relation to man or to death.
Compare this with the clear teaching of the New Church. The spirit is the man, in perfect human form. It formed the body to itself, and whatever life the body had, it had from the spirit. The spirit lived from God independent of the body, and has remained the same, only, if the man were virtuous it is increased in perfection, while it puts off daily, by perspiration and otherwise, portions of the body, until several entire bodies have been rejected ; and it will remain equally a perfect human being, after the last body is put off. Nay, the spirit will live more perfectly than before, because it will be no longer clogged by a body unequal to its wants. Its spiritual body, of which Paul speaks, will manifest its sentiments, and do its behests more perfectly than was done in the world, for it is also spirit and partakes of the living and plastic character of love and thought.
Having known, by the ample discoveries provided by the Lord, the nature, the principles, and the constitution of the soul during life ; we know, like the apostle, that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. v. 1 ). We know, that to imagine flesh and blood inheriting the kingdom of God is preposterous (1 Cor. xv. 50). We lose nothing by death, but rise to a higher life. For us to live is Christ, and to die is gain (PhiL i. 21). The husk of the man being stripped off, the kernel appears. ” There are bodies celestial, as well as bodies terrestrial.”—1 Cor. xv. 40. And every New Churchman who has lived worthy of his doctrines, looks not with regret or doubt to death, but with joyful anticipation. He throws off his old coat, before he retires to his dying rest, and is assured he will awake with the vigour, the power, and the beauty of an everlasting life. He bows his head at the threshold of the richer palace of his God, then rises within, to join the company of those who have been faithful unto death, and have got the crown of life. The angels welcome him into that world, as his friends welcomed him into this, and both by appointment of the Lord. In the definite knowledge of the soul, and in the exact knowledge of the particulars of death, ” the glory of this latter house is greater than that of the former, saith the Lord.”
It is even still more extensively so with the life after death. Who,in the old dispensation, knows anything of heaven, where it is? who is there ? or how it is ? There is absolutely no doctrine on the subject. What are its joys is equally unknown. The statements of the Sacred Scriptures are only doubtfully received, because of the utter ignorance of the soul’s nature. The disclosures of the seers are scarcely received, because there is no knowledge of spiritual things ; and what is read is resolved into vision, or dream, which is again considered as scarcely more than imagination. The grand scenes recorded by the prophets are not definitely accepted, because there is no knowledge of the nearness and reality of the spiritual world ; and because those who are inclined to think there is a peopled heaven, suppose that it is beyond the region of the stars ; though where that may be, it is difficult to conceive.
But, how definite is the teaching of the New Dispensation! The spiritual world is an inner sphere of being, filling the natural world as the soul fills the body ; visible to spiritual sight, and perceptible to all the spiritual senses, as the natural is to bodily senses. In that world, the angels and spirits with whom we are connected are now. And into the realities of that world we come, when we awake after death. It is fuller of scenery, and with a greater variety of objects than this world, as it if more perfect, and nearer the source of perfection. Those who have had heaven within them, and have formed their souls to delight in heavenly virtues, are joined together into societies of their like, for in our ” Father’s house there are many mansions.” — John xiv. 2. Into these, from the sun of heaven, the Lord flows with love, light, peace, and every blessing. Around them, He forms beautiful objects in inexhaustible variety, yet all corresponding to the excellencies and beauties of feeling and sentiment within them.
We are informed of their clothing, their habitations, their paradises, their scenery, their mode of life; and can perceive the heavenly law upon which it all depends. No statement of all those lucid revelations of the heavenly world is given, but it has a response in the inner laws of our being, and in our own experiences. It is as though the deep veil which divides the two worlds had been as much drawn as our states will now permit, to enable reason to discern the requirements of our future home, that we may undoubtingly prepare for it. And every preparation we make in accordance with these revelations, makes our hearts and homes, here, heavenly. Revelation, reason, and experience, thus conspire to show us that the things which are not seen, are more permanent than the things which are seen. And while we dwell upon the abundant information which has been given to us respecting the eternal world, our hearts glow within us, our hopes and aspirations are brightened, and our efforts strengthened, to make earth like heaven.
We speak not now of the horrors of evil consummated, which form the dark world, Suffice it to say they are the opposites of the glories of the blessed. The wicked sink into the vile and wretched results of their own sins. Heaven is from heavenly principles made perfect. Hell is from evil passions fully wrought out. The contemplation of the one fills us with rational delight, of the other with rational aversion. But from both we learn, that the glory of the latter house is greater than that of the former, and thus we are prepared for the last portion of our text, ” In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”
There has never been extensive peace in the former dispensation. Very many received truth, who did not enter into a spirit of love and charity, even in the early time. And, there is little peace, even with a right faith, as was that of the first Christians, unless the faith be filled with hallowed, humble affection. But when the faith became perverted, and men were taught to look to three Divine Persons instead of one, and imagine parts for these three separately to perform, thenceforward there was perpetual division, and no peace. Men, broken away from the God of love, supplied His place by hate, and wars, misnamed religious, and cruelties, announced that men were inflamed by the spirit of hell.
But now that the principles of the Golden Age have been restored, in this place the Lord will give peace. Trusting in, and loving the Prince of Peace, the God of Love and Mercy, the spirit breathes in the atmosphere of peace. The work of regeneration being shown to consist in overcoming selfishness, worldliness, injustice, and every passion opposed to the divine commandments, the sources of strife are dried up. ”In this place will I give peace.” A life according to the commandments, a spirit in which love reigns, these are the fountains of calmness and kindness. ”O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then would thy peace have been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.”
With Jesus Christ for God and King, with love as the great principle in religion, with the commandments as the laws of life, with happiness shown to consist in inward, not in outward riches, with a heaven of love as the kingdom ever before us, with the Word in its spirit and life as our daily heavenly food, in this dispensation there must be peace. ” In this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”
In this dispensation, no nation will seek an advantage at the expense of another, but desire constantly to help the other. All will know that selfishness, either in nations or in individuals, is the essence of misery and folly, and is sure to result in ruin. Every man will know that justice is the only law of happiness, and will be led to hunger and thirst after justice, to pray for it, to practice it. He will desire that his brother may see the truth which appears so valuable to him ; but if his brother cannot receive it, he will never attempt to force, for he will know that belief and will cannot be forced ; and in the wish to force his religion on his brother, he would lose it himself, for he only dwells in love, dwells in God.
In this place, then, the Lord will give peace. And, oh, what a host of blessings is comprised in that lovely word, Peace ! It sheds a holy calm over the soul, and hushes every emotion of heart into tranquility. Peace, diffusing its hallowed quiet over hill and dale, island and continent, of earth. Peace, fertilizing the fields, multiplying manufactures, extending inventions, opening wide halls of education and enlightenment. Peace, the angels singing it over a reconciled, progressive, and ever beautifying world, and pointing to the still higher peace of the world to come. O! may this latter house rapidly extend. Hasten on, glorious kingdom. Fulfill the behests of thy Lord, for He has said, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former, saith the Lord of hosts : and in this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY –From The Divine Word Opened (1887)