Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33)

Category — Analysis of opinions about the Lord’s New Church



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.

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Erroneous opinions about the Lord’s New Church P.Odhner

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.

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