Category — Comparative theology
FIRST SERIES. Nr. 14.
September 13th 1891. Reference: H.D. 260.
“John (the Baptist) represented the Word, and by his food, as also by his clothing . . . the Word in the external sense was represented“, A.C. 7643.
Therefore the Word when only seen in the external sense is not the Light which enlightens every man coming into the world. Not the external sense, but “the internal sense is the very Doctrine of the Church”, H.D. 260. “It is to be known that the true doctrine of the Church is what is here called the internal sense, for in that sense are truths such as the angels in heaven have. Among the priests and among the men of the Church there are those who teach and learn truths from the literal sense of the Word and there are those who teach and learn from Doctrine from the Word which is called the doctrine of the faith of the Church. The latter differ exceedingly from the former in perception, but they cannot be distinguished by the vulgar, because the latter and the former speak almost similarly from the Word. But those who teach and learn the literal sense of the Word alone without the regulating doctrine of the Church, do not grasp any but those things which are of the natural or external man; but they who teach and learn from the true doctrine from the Word also understand those things which are of the spiritual or internal man. The reason is because the Word in the external or literal sense is natural; but in the internal sense it is spiritual“, A.C. 9025. Hence that sense is not the light, but testifies concerning the light.
Of what quality John the Baptist taught is signified by that ‘the lesser in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he’ “, A.C. 9372. Therefore “when he spake concerning the Lord Himself, Who was the Divine Truth Itself or the Word, he said that he himself was not anything, since the shade is separated when the Light Itself appears”, A.C. 9372. Hence we are taught that “In the internal sense is the soul and life of the Word, which does not appear unless the sense of the letter as it were vanishes away“, A.C. 1405. For “The things which the sense of the letter are for the most part worldly, corporeal, and earthly, which can never make the Word of the Lord”, A.C. 1540.
Such is the character of that sense of the Word which John the Baptist represents, and it is really that sense which he said was not the Light. Still John the Baptist, or rather, that which he represented, is necessary to testify concerning the Light. Which necessity is thus expressed in the Writings: “Still the sense of the letter represents truths and presents the appearances of truth in which man can be while he is not in the light of truth”, A.C. 1984.
Such is the case when the Word is first presented to us. Such is the use which the literal forms of each Divine Revelation perform with regard to those truths which we do not as yet know, of which there are always an infinity. At first we only see John the Baptist, not the true Light, not the Lord Himself. Thus it is with regard to the Revelation in which the Lord has effected His New Advent. At first in the literal forms thereof we only see a man speaking about the Lord. While we are in this state we do not see the Light of the Lord‘s New Advent, but at most only testimony concerning that Light. We come into the Light Itself only when we see that the Lord Himself in The Divine Human is there present with us. In the text — ” ‘Light’ signifies Divine Truth; wherefore the Lord is there called `the Light which enlightens every man’ ; and `to testify concerning the Light’ signifies acknowledgement of His Divine Human, from which Divine Truth proceeds”, A.E. 27.
Mere testification concerning the Light cannot establish the New Church. If the New Church is to be really formed with us, it must be from the Light Itself, proceeding from the Lord’s Divine Human. We must see that that Human is presented to us in the Evangel of the Lord‘s New Advent if we would really dwell in the Light thereof. Without, there can only be the merely external appearance of a Church, because “the internal of the Word is also the internal of the Church, as also the internal of Worship“, H.D. 260.
“For he who averts himself from the internal of the Word, he also averts himself from the internal of the Church, and also from the internal of worship; since the internal of the Church, and the internal of worship are from the internal of the Word“, A.C. 10460.
“For the Word teaches of what quality the man of the Church must be, or of what quality the Church with man must be, and also of what quality worship with man must be. For the goods and truths of love and faith are what make the internal Church, and also internal worship; those the Word teaches, and those are the internals of the Word“, A.C. 10460. Those make the very teaching of the Church, and they are the particulars which belong to the laws of love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor, without which, indeed, those laws can only lie understood in a merely natural manner.
The Light of the Word as distinguished from the external sense thereof is also called the glory with which it was prophesied that the Lord would come in His New Advent — That prophesy has now been fulfilled — that glory has been revealed in the Writings. The New Church is to live in that Light and not in the clouds of the Old and New Testament — the clouds in which He made His First Advent and which relatively only testified concerning the Light which was about to come in the consummation of the age. The Light Itself is now presented to us which is the glory of the Lord‘s New Advent. But though, for the New Church the former clouds no longer obscure, yet neither has the Lord come now without clouds, although relatively so. In His New Advent, effected in the Writings, He has manifested Himself in rational statements, literally presented, that is, presented in written form — hence we call them the Writings.
These literal, written, and printed, forms, so far cloud over the spiritual sense which they convey, that that sense is not really revealed therein to any but those who are enlightened by the Lord and thus enabled to receive them rationally, so as to be able to see the glory therein, the Lord Himself in His Divine Human with the Light proceeding therefrom. This is by no means nakedly apparent to everyone who glances at the literal forms of the Writings, nor yet to anyone who studies them merely in the light of self-intelligence; but only appears to those who study them in their own light, really desiring to be taught things which are above and contrary to anything self-intelligence could devise. Only when we come thus to see that the Lord‘s Divine Human is there presented to us, and rejoice in the Light which can proceed from nowhere but His Divine Human, only then can we begin to realize that John the Baptist, that is the external form of the Word which he represents, is not the Light, but only testifies concerning the Light. No Divine Revelation can do more than testify concerning the Light until we see the Lord Himself in such Revelation — then only do we begin to come into the Light Itself.
The things which are in the literal sense are compared in the Writings to the little bits of colored glass which are placed without any order in an optical cylinder, such as we call a kaleidoscope, but which when viewed through the cylinder represent a beautiful form. So is it with the letter of the Word, especially with the Prophetical Word of the Old Testament, when viewed by the light of the spiritual sense. Another illustration is given from the spiritual world:
“There are spirits who are willing to hear nothing concerning the interiors of the Word, yea however much they can understand still they are unwilling. These are especially they who have placed merit in works, and who therefore have done goods from the love of self and of the world, or for the sake of dignity or opulence to be acquired to themselves, and fame thence, thus not for the sake of the Lord’s Kingdom. Such in the other life will more than others to enter into heaven, but they remain outside, for they are unwilling to be imbued with knowledges of truth and thus to be affected with good, by interpreting the sense of the Word from the letter according to their own phantasies, and by producing whatever by assent favors their cupidities. Such were represented by a little old woman of unsightly face, but still pallidly snowy, in which were inordinate (features) by which she was deformed. But in truth, they who admit and love the interiors of the Word were represented by a girl in her first virgin age or in the flower of youth, becomingly clothed, with wreaths and heavenly ornaments“, A.C. 1774.
Such is the difference between those who cling to the external of the Word which is not the light; and those who love to come to the Light Itself which is revealed in the internal sense of the Word.
“The Word in the whole complex is an image of heaven, because the Word is the Divine Truth, and Divine Truth makes heaven; and because heaven refers to one man, the Word is in that respect like the image of a, man”, H.D. 260. In that image and by it “is represented Heaven in its complex, not of such quality as it is, but of such quality as the Lord wills that it may be, namely that it may be the likeness of Himself”, A.C. 1871.
The quality which the Lord wills that heaven may he is that of His Divine Human. It is therefore in respect to that that the Word in its whole complex is like the image of a man.
“The Word of the lord when it is read by a man who loves the Word and lives in charity, even by a man who from a simple heart believes what is written, and neither has formed principles against the truth of faith which is in the internal sense, it is presented by the Lord before the angels, in such beauty, and in such pleasantness, also with representatives, and this with inexpressible variety according to every state of those in whom they then are, that the single things are perceived as it were to have life, which is the life which is in the Word, and from which the Word is born when it is let down from heaven. On account of this cause the Word of the Lord is such that although it appears rude in the letter, still within it conceals spiritual and celestial things, which appear before good spirits andangels when it is read by man”, A.C. 1767.
“Within in the single things of the Word is the spiritual sense, which treats concerning the Lord’s kingdom, and within in that sense is the Divine, for the Word in its inmost sense treats concerning the Lord alone. Hence is the sanctity and life of the Word, and from no other source“, A.C. 8943.
From this passage we can see, not only that there is an inmost sense within the spiritual, here called the Divine, but sometimes called the celestial sense, but that both those senses are given in the Writings, and that not only where they specifically give the celestial, spiritual, and natural senses of the Decalogue, but everywhere they can be understood either in application to the Lord’s Kingdom, or in application to the Lord Himself in the glorification of His Human. The one is the spiritual, the other the celestial sense. Thus the celestial sense is not only everywhere within the spiritual sense as given in the Writings, but it is opened there to all who come into any rational understanding of them. Thus is the Light Itself opened to the New Church.
The Word of the Lord is like a Divine Man, the literal sense is as it were its body, but the internal sense is as it were its soul; hence it is evident that the literal sense lives by the internal sense. It appears as if the literal sense vanishes away or dies”, A.C. 8943 As we have already seen it always must so appear as the spiritual sense is really received, “but it is the contrary, it does not vanish away, still less does it die, but by the internal sense it lives”, A.C. 8943. “The spiritual sense lives in the literal sense as the spirit of man in his body, also the spiritual sense similarly survives when the literal sense passes away, hence the spiritual sense can be called the soul of the Word”, A.C. 4857.
We are taught “that the Word is pure in the internal sense and that it does not so appear in the sense of the letter”, H.D. 260. That it often appears impure in the sense of the letter of the Old Testament is evident from many places which may be recalled. That such teaching also has application to the literal forms of the Writings may also be evident from the way that the Second part of CONJUGIAL LOVE appears to those who have not rationally grasped the spiritual sense which underlies the laws there given. That the Light Itself comes from what is pure there, thus from the internal sense, must he evident, and even those things in the Word which appear impure to those who view them only in the light of the world, are yet holy from the internal things which they involve, and from the Divine Light which is seen by those who are made spiritually rational thereby to shine through. Hence the life, the holiness, and the Light of the Word are from its internal sense, for the sake of which we must be willingto continually recede from the external senseand thus to pass from John the Baptist to the Lord Himself. It is only in this way that we can approach nearer to the Lord and thus to the Light Itself. It is sufficient if, before we recede from John, we accept his testimony concerning the Light and obey his call to repentance. We must ever remember the declaration concerning him, which is concerning the external of the Word which he represented, that he was not the Light, but that he might testify concerning the Light. Each Divine Revelation appears at first only to testify concerning the Light, but if we approach the internal we will learn that every Divine Revelation is a manifestation of the Light Itself, thus of the Lord Himself. Therefore it was that John was enabled to prophesy “He must increase but I decrease”, John III, 30.
A COMPARISON OF DR. ALFRED ACTON’S DOCTRINAL STUDY THE CROWN OF REVELATIONS, THE REV. E. S. HYATT’S SERMONS ON THE WORD, AND DE HEMELSCHE LEER
by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn
These who love the spiritual birth which took place in the Church with what is known as the Academy movement, will rejoice at the appearance of the small work of Dr. Acton The Crown of Revelations.
The ACADEMY and the GENERAL CHURCH are founded upon the belief that the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are the Word of the Lord. Due to attempts to answer De HEMELSCHE LEER, there appeared to be a danger that the realization that the Writings are the Word in its fulness, holiness, and power, might be weakened in the Church, with the result that a decline would commence in the Church. Not only will Dr. Acton’s study confirm the faith which the ACADEMY and the GENERAL CHURCH have had, but it will assist many, we trust, to come to a fuller realization of the fulness, the holiness, and the power of the “Evangel of the Second Coming”, wherefore we rejoice, in spite of the fact that we regret that Dr. Acton has not entered more profoundly into these things which have been brought forth by Mr. Hyatt and by DE HEMELSCHE LEER concerning the Doctrine of the Church, from the Word.
Dr. Acton commences his study as follows: “Some day, I suppose, there will be written for the New Church a history of Doctrine. Many such histories have been written for the first Christian Church, but naturally they deal with the interpretation of the New Testament, and of the Old Testament in the light of the New; that is to say, with doctrines drawn from these Testaments; such doctrines, for instance, as the Trinity, the Atonement, Faith and Charity, Baptism and the Holy Supper, etc. The genuine doctrine of the Old and New Testaments with respect to these subjects has been set forth so clearly and unmistakably that there is no dispute concerning them among any who accept these Writings as a Divine Revelation. New Churchmen of every school of thought are wholly at one in seeing that there is one God only; that there are lot three Divine Persons but that the Trinity is, in the Lord Jesus Christ; that faith does not save without, charity; that all men are predestined to heaven, etc. etc.”
It is these very subjects which Dr. Acton says, “have been set forth so clearly and unmistakably that there is no dispute” that will be the center round which the most grievous temptations of the New Church will take place. While it is true there can be no dispute as to these truths and their opposite falsities in relation to the relatively external form that they took in the first Christian Church, as to their living application to the New Church and to every man who is truly of the New Church, they must become the center around which ever more interior and grievous temptations take place, as they come to be seen abstractly from the literal sense of the Latin Word which treats of them historically in relation to the first Christian Church. All spiritual truth with man is the result of conquering in spiritual temptation. If a man has been brought up with a love for the first Christian Church, on commencing to read the Writings of Swedеnborg, and perceiving that they are true, he is brought into a state of disturbance and temptation, and the greater has been his love for the old Church the more grievous the temptation, and the more living the truths of the New Church are apt to become in him, if he overcomes in the temptation. What a contrast is his state to one who has been brought up in the New Church, particularly if brought up in a New Church community. To such a one the falsities of the old Church are remote, scarcely touching his life, while he acquires the generals of New Church Doctrine without any effort of his own, still less with struggling and temptation. To such a one it is easier to accept than not to accept these things with which he is surrounded; and they are of such a nature that he readily fills them with the things of his proprium; for before regeneration he is in evil and falsity no matter what truths he may know. What is more delightful to the natural man than to believe that he belongs to a chosen people, what more flattering to the conceit of his own intelligence than to believe that he has a mind which, unlike other people’s, is formed by a rational Revelation. It delights a man in such a state to read in the Word about the falsities of the dead church, which he is not in; not realizing that in so far as he is not regenerating there is not a single falsity of the old church that does not take possession of him, in a more subtle, deadly, and hidden form. If a man will but acknowledge this truth, and in the light of it search for the evils and falsities in himself, in the light of the Word, he will find himself in the densest cloud, for while he can readily see how the Latin Word manifests the falsities of the old church, and may even see how it manifests the falsities that have taken possession of CONFERENCE and CONVENTION, he cannot see how he himself divides the Trinity into three persons, denies the Divine Human of the Lord, believes in the vicarious atonement, and in faith alone, and has no cognition of Baptism and the Holy Supper, etc. If a man will but acknowledge that these are the essential things of the New Church for the sake of his spiritual life, he must come to realize his utter ignorance of all living spiritual truth. And in reading the Latin Word, find himself in such a dark and impenetrable cloud that he despairs of ever finding his way; and he will be kept in this state of despair until he can acknowledge from the heart that, of himself, he can understand not a single spiritual truth, but all is of the mercy of the Lord, and when he makes this acknowledgment fully and from the heart, then, for the first time is it possible for the Lord to appear to him in the glory of the cloud with power and great glory. “These are said to see the back parts of Jehovah and not the faces, who believe and adore the Word, but only its external which is the sense of the letter, and do not penetrate more interiorly, as do these who have been enlightened, and who make for themselves Doctrine out of the Word, by which they may see its genuine sense, thus its interior sense”, A.C 10584. Good and truth can only have an abode in the mind in so far as evils and falsities have been removed. Interior evils are conjoined with interior falsities, wherefore if a man does not make for himself Doctrine from the Latin Word he can not see either interior evils or falsities in himself, and therefore remains in them.
Read the full work “A COMPARISON OF DR. ALFRED ACTON’S DOCTRINAL STUDY THE CROWN OF REVELATIONS, THE REV. E. S. HYATT’S SERMONS ON THE WORD, AND DE HEMELSCHE LEER” by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn
(not edited PDF format)
Read the full work “A COMPARISON OF DR. ALFRED ACTON’S DOCTRINAL STUDY THE CROWN OF REVELATIONS, THE REV. E. S. HYATT’S SERMONS ON THE WORD, AND DE HEMELSCHE LEER” by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn
Doctrinal Views of the Various Bodies of the New Church Concerning the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
In this article we present the teachings of the different bodies of the New Church concerning the Writings of Swedenborg. In general, there are three distinct doctrinal views in the New Church about those Writings. One is taught by the General Conference and the General Convention. These are two distinct organizations in the New Church, but the distinction is not a doctrinal one, but historical and geographical. The second view is that taught by the General Church of the New Jerusalem. And the third view is that taught by The Lord’s New Church which is Nova Hierosolyma.
In setting forth the teachings of the other bodies of the New Church we recognize that there is a variation of opinion in each of them about the nature of the Writings of Swedenborg, but the general position attributed to each of them does in fact represent their beliefs as set forth in their creeds, books, and periodicals. This contrast of the doctrines of the various bodies is not made with any desire to belittle or misrepresent the beliefs of others, and we welcome any correction that others may have to offer.
The doctrinal view of each body of the New Church about the nature of the Writings of Swedenborg qualifies everything of its faith and life.It determines the interior direction of the Church. It determines the end to which the Church looks, for the attainment of which the Church must strive. It forms the idea of that to which the Lord looks in the New Church and of what He requires of the Church in love and faith. The idea of what the Writings of Swedenborg are in themselves concerns the inmost things of the Church. The question of the nature of those Writings is not to be approached lightly, but in the spirit of the love of the truth for the sake of the truth, for the sake of the good of life and the truth which is therefrom. You can see that this is so from the fact that all who believe in these Writings acknowledge that, in them, the Lord has made His Second Coming, or at least that they are about the Lord in His Second Coming. The idea of what these Writings are in themselves is one with the idea of the Lord in His Second Coming, to Whom the Church is to look and with Whom it is to be conjoined.
The Distinction between the Sense of the Letter of the Word And the Doctrine of the Church.
In order that the different views held in the New Church about the Writings of Swedenborg may be more fully understood, it is necessary to preface the treatment of those views with the distinction made in those Writings between the sense of the letter of the Word and the doctrine of the Church.
The Word of the Lord is the Divine Truth itself accommodated to angels and to men. The sense of the letter of the Word is the Word accommodated to men in the world. This contains within it the Spiritual and Celestial senses of the Word, and within these, the degrees of the Divine Truth which are above the Heavens. In this way, the sense of the letter of the Word contains all the Divine Truth. (See Arcana Coelestia 1870, 4642; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 252-255; Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture 1.)
The Doctrine of the Church, on the other hand, is that Truth which the Church has received out of the Word tinder illustration from the Lord. It is that Divine Truth which those who are enlightened by the Lord receive in the understanding through the sense of the letter of the Word. More particularly, the genuine Doctrine of the Church is the truth of the internal sense of the Word which is drawn out of the sense of the letter of the Word by those who are in illustration from the Lord. The Doctrine of the Church is not all the Divine Truth that is in. the Word. It is that of the Divine Truth which the Church has received out of the Word.
That such is the Doctrine of the Church may be seen from the following teachings:
“That the Doctrine of the Church must be drawn out of the sense of the letter of the Word, and must be confirmed by it.” (Doctrine concerning the Sacred Scripture 50-56.)
“That the genuine truth which must be of Doctrine does not appear in the sense of the letter of the Word to others than to those who are in illustration from the Lord. Illustration is from the Lord alone and is with those who love truths because they are truths, and who make them uses of life.” (Doctrine concerning the Sacred Scripture 57)
“The Doctrine of faith is the same as the understanding of the Word as to interior things, or the internal sense.” (Arcana Coelestia 2762.)
“He who does not know the arcana of Heaven cannot but believe otherwise than that the Word is sustained without Doctrine therefrom; for he thinks that the Word in the letter or the letter sense of the Word is doctrine itself; but it must be known that all doctrine of the Church must be out of the Word, and that doctrine from any other source than out of the Word is not doctrine in which there is anything of the Church, still less of Heaven; but the Doctrine must be collected out of the Word, and when it is being collected man must be in illustration from the Lord, and he is in illustration when in the love of truth for the sake of truth, and not for the sake of self and the world. These are they who are in illustration in the Word when they read it, and they see the truth, and make Doctrine for themselves thence. The cause that this is so is because such communicate with Heaven, thus with the Lord, and thus illustrated by the Lord, they are led to see the truths of the Word such as they are in Heaven, for the Lord inflows through Heaven into their understanding.” (Arcana Coelestia 9424).
“Truth Divine is the Word, and the Doctrine of the Church is truth thence… Truth Divine is the Word, and it is Doctrine out of the Word.” (Arcana Coelestia 9222.)
The opinions about this Church which are discussed in these notes have for many years been widely circulated and received in other bodies of the New Church. They have created a silent background of prejudice in which everything coming forth from the Church is rejected before it is even considered. Most of them have not been publicly stated and have come to our notice only indirectly. The members of the Church should know what they are and be prepared to answer them, if necessity should arise.
1. “They think they are regenerated”
The first thing with any member of this Church is to be in the order in which he can be regenerated by the Lord. In no other way can a man be brought to receive the Lord’s Love and Wisdom and genuinely serve Kim and the neighbor. For anyone to hold that we think we have already attained that for which we are striving is absurd.
The most important thing in life is man’s cooperation with the Lord in His work of regeneration. For this reason the Church has sought and continues to seek the trues of the order of regeneration contained in the Third Testament. It seeks to see more and more clearly the steps of that order so that all may understand them and see and shun the evils which attack man in each of them.
The effect of this study and work is not to make a man suppose that he has been regenerated. It is just the opposite. It relieves man from many fallacies as to the state of his spirit. One example of this is that it shows man that he is not in the internal sense of the Word just through reading and believing in the literal sense of the Third Testament, and that there is an extensive order of regeneration through which he must be led before he can be given the perception of the internal trues that are in it. Another example is that such a fallacy as supposing that the rational represented by Ishmael is the wild-ass rational of youth is quickly put aside. The effect of this study is to open the eyes to the immensity and eternity of that Divine operation of the Lord which is called regeneration, and this seeing is accompanied with the acknowledgment that what has been so far seen is only a drop in the ocean compared to that which can and must be 3een in the future development of the Church.
This Church has brought forward from the Third Testament the teaching that the internal sense of the Word can be seen only by those who are regenerated. (Arcana Coelestia 6222:3; 8106, and other numbers.) This applies to all three testaments of the Word. This is no reason for supposing that we think we are regenerated. Would it not rather follow that they who suppose that they are in the internal sense of the Old and New Testaments through the reading and believing of the literal sense of the Third Testament must presume that they are regenerated?
This Church holds that certain essential doctrinal trues which have been seen and brought forward in the New Church are of the internal sense of the Third Testament. They have been seen in that Testament out of perception granted by the Lord, and this perception has been given through the opening of the mind to Heaven. One such truth is that the Writings are the Word. This is seen out of a perception of the Divine in those Writings. That truth was seen in the beginning of that movement from which sprang the General Church.
To say that this truth was seen through the regeneration of those in the Church does not mean that those who were in the Church before that truth was seen and expressed were not being regenerated, nor does it mean that all who accept that truth now are regenerated. Such a truth can be recognized as being in agreement with the Word by those who are not at all in the enlighten¬ment in which were those who first saw it. They receive it externally, but it is of the greatest aid in protecting them from many fallacies and in giving direction to their own understanding of the Word. If this were not the case, the wisdom of those who are wiser in the Church would never be of any use to those who are not so wise. I do not believe that anyone in the General Church would deny the benefits which arose from the seeing and expressing of that truth.
From its first beginning a decline in the organised New Church set in, a decline into externallism and ignorance. Finally this decline led to what is known as the New England Celestial hereay.
The doctrine so called was in general that a minister preached truth from his own personal goodness. Along with this went a denial of the Divine authority of tha Writings of Swedenborg, and particularly that they are the sole source of truth in the Church.
As will be shown later truth from good is the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Thus the New England position set up the Holy Spirit as a thing in the Church separated from the especial Word of the New Church, and the perceptlon of the ministers was in fact placed above the Word and perception was arrogated by the priesthood as their right. In a word the state was identical with that of the Roman Catholic Church which sat up an ecclesiastical authority and claimed to themselves the Holy Spirit as something separated from the Word, and in practice, as above the Word.
The Roman Catholics made works saving, but they were external and meritorious works separated from all the genuine internal of the Word. The Convention in like manner said that charity and works were the primary things of the Church, and brought forth passages from the Writings to confirm this idea. But their idea of charity was an external goodness separated from the internal truth of the Word, and was therefore no more saving than the Catholic idea of works.
While outside of New England, lay rule prevailed in the Church, there was an agreement with New England in an internal denial of the authority of the Writings, a making of human intelligence a judge as to the validity of the things contained in the Writings, and the making of merely external charity and love, which was meritorious, the essential of the Chursh.
This was the prevailing atate of the Church when the Academy took its rise, and the Academy arose as a protest against this state of the Church
Check up also the paper Real Issue.
The real issue between the General Church of the New Jerusalem and the Lord’s New Church Which is Nova Hierosolyma, is frequently misconceived. It is believed by some in the General Church that the issue is as to whether the Writings are the Divine Doctrine and as such the only Divine authority in the Church, or whether, the true authority lies in a Divine Doctrine drawn forth by the regenerating man of the Church.
We hold that this is not the real issue.
We believe equally with the General Church, that the Writings are the Word of God and as such the only authority, and that they are the Divine Doctrine Itself. Nor have we ever said that the Divine Doctrine to be derived from the Latin Word by the regenerating man of the Church is the true authority. The real issue is therefore entirely different.
The real issue is: Is it the Word understood or the Word not understood which has actual authority in the church? It is obvious that if the Church were in total darkness, the Word could not have any actual authority in the Church. When this question was brought up in the ministers of 1933 it was said, “We take the understanding of the Writings for granted.” The real issue is therefore whether the understanding of the Writings can be taken for granted or not.
Every one who has not destroyed the functioning of the rational faculty, with which he is potentially born, can see truth in natural rational light, thus those in the Church can see the truths of the Word and of the Church in which they have been instructed from childhood, and this without any entering into spiritual lights or what is the same without any out pouring of the Holy Spirit. But no development or interior understanding can develop and grow in the Church without an enlightenment, that is without entering into the light of heaven which is above the natural rational light to which a man is born.
The discrete degrees of light are described as follows: “Rational truths are signified by leaves. But according to the species of the trees. The leaves of the olive and vine signify rational truths from celestial and spiritual light; those of the fig, rational truths from natural light; and those of the fir, poplar and pine, rational truths from sensual light.” (A.R. 936.e)
To take the understanding of the Writings for granted is to ignore or deny the degrees of light, thus all that is taught concerning enlightenment and concerning the operation of the Holy Spirit; thus to avoid all the essential struggle by which the Church advances interiorly.
In the early days of the Academy this distinction was commonly made, for we frequently find in the writings of those days a speaking of the seeing the Writings in their own light, which they believed was the characteristic of the Academy and the seeing of the Writings in the light of the world, of which they charged the Convention.
Now whether we say that the Writings must be seen in their own light or in the light of heaven it is the same thing. But to see in the light of heaven always implies a new seeing of truth from the Lord in His Word. When the Church does not see the truths in the Word continuously new, it falls into natural rational light, and no longer sees the interiors of the Word.
Our position expressed in the plain and simple teaching given is: “Those are said to see the back parts of Jehovah and not His faces who believe and adore the Word; but only its external which is the sense of the letter, and do not penetrate more interiorly, as do those who have been enlightened, and who make for themselves doctrine from the Word, by which they see its genuine sense, thus its internal sense…. But those who do not believe in the Word, do not even see the back parts of Jehovah.” (A.C. 10584)
The real issue is therefore whether the understanding of the Writings may be taken for granted, or whether we acknowledge that by regeneration and the struggles of regeneration we are to advance from reading the Word according to discrete degrees of light: – from the rational truths of the Writings seen in sensual light, to rational truths seen in natural light, and thence to the rational truths seen in spiritual and celestial light, and that it is only the Writings seen in spiritual and celestial light that is properly the internal sense of the Word, and that the Writings so seen is the only genuine authority actually in the Church. If a man takes the truths seen in the first light he is given, for granted as being the internal truth itself, he can make no further advance. To this our position the objection is raised that there are passages in the fascicles of De Hemelsche Leer, such as the following, which make the doctrine drawn from the Writings the authority…
See also an earlier paper: Aspects of the Internal History of the New Church