Category — Audio history
This is a [transcript of the] recording of a General Doctrinal Class given by the Rev. Theodore Pitcairn at the Hall of The Lord’s New Church, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, on March 18, 1971.
The Lord open our eyes to see Thy Divine Providence in the history of the Church.
This evening I am going to speak of the history of The Lord’s New Church, its origin, and something about the history that led up to it. There are three kinds of history: there is the history that you find in the Word and the Three Testaments…the history of the Jews; the history of the Lord’s life on earth; and, in the Third Testament, the history of the Christian Church in particular is much treated of. We are told that history, when is seen apart from its internals—the history that is given in the Word—does not differ from the other history of that period, you see the internal in it. The history, [that is] historical things, do not enter into Heaven, but they are representative of the things of Heaven. [In the Word] it speaks sometimes of the internal historical sense that is the internal of the Churches…which is said to be in the spiritual-natural sense, the sense that is in the natural Heaven. Rather it speaks of the internal of the Churches, names of people, not in that sense but names of persons who do not give anything to the filling of the Heavens.
We are told that history is a useful subject and as an ultimate of this world has its importance, therefore it seems right that we should have some idea of the history of the Church. To appreciate a country without knowing its history is difficult. A history should give a real idea of a country, and a history of the Church should give an important natural basis in thinking about the Church. Now, if we just remain in the historical, our historical becomes the essential, [and] then it is misleading. The historical is often not of importance by itself, except as a representative. We are told that nations and their wars in the Old Testament represent things, but also that wars at this day are representative, , and certainly warfare in the New Church is a very significant thing. As you [may] know, in coming into its existence his Church a very violent warfare.
Now, one of the uses of history, the history of a country for instance, is to come to a better understanding, and therefore a love, of that country. We know that the love of one’s country is a highest form of love, an external love of the neighbor. There is love of the individual, love of society, and love of the neighbor, with love of country being a higher love and a higher charity. Above that is the love of the Church, love of the Lord’s Kingdom and of the Lord Himself. In history as taught in the world—and maybe at the present time many historians are not doing that duty—part of the [reason for teaching] is to form a love of country.
Now the teaching of history can be done in the right spirit or in the wrong. History should lead to a greater love of country, but if it is not taught in the right way, it can lead to what is called chauvinism, that is, where a person [is led to] vanity and pride in relation to the power of their country. Any genuine teaching of history should lead to humility before those genuine things which the Lord has given to a country.
[It is the same] with a history of a church—genuine historical facts ought to give a natural basis for the love of the church. A history of a church can be taught in such a way as to increase our vanity, or it can be taught so to result in a love of the church, with a humility, which ought to be our objective in teaching history.
In this talk I will describe the good things of the history of our Church. A history of the world often has to do largely with warfare. The church is called a “church militant,” and very much of the important history is also of spiritual warfare. in that warfare which gave birth to this Church I was compared to one of its generals. ,hen generals describe their wars, they are apt to do it from their personal point of view, and it is not always considered reliable history. I hope that I may be free of that danger, and I will try to do as best I can.
Those of you who have read [the booklet] The Beginning and Development of the Doctrine have some idea of the early history of the New Church, of how the idea that the doctrine is the Writings of the Word was first received by some of the early people in Sweden and England in the New Church, how it developed, and how the majority came to oppose that doctrine—that it did not come into an organized form until the forming of the Academy.
Now the early Academy went through warfare too, in relation to the rest of the Church. It was also very violent. Many cruel things were done, and it was a very trying time. Those of you who remember the Second World War clearly—I don’t suppose there are many here who remember the First World War so clearly, maybe one or two—you know how in warfare emotions are very much worked up. It is very different from times of peace. When you have a country that enters into a major war, and you have a major victory, and all the trials you go through in warfare, or when you’re in danger of losing a war, what a tremendous effect it has on everyone in the country. In spiritual warfare, spiritual-natural warfare, internal warfare, it is always man against his proprium. But in warfare in the external church it is just as violent on its own plane as warfare of a country in military combat.
Now in the early Academy the emphasis was on the Lord speaking to the Church in the Third Testament. There was a feeling that the Lord was present in the Second Coming in the Third Testament, [that] He was speaking to the Church. Therefore the Writings had Divine authority, and the Church to submit itself to the presence of the Lord in the Third Testament. That was a wonderful state, [that] early state, where they were all very deeply moved by that, and they had violent opposition to it [also]. But at that time there was little thought given to how the Writings were the Word.
Now, in general, the argument was that if the Writings were the internal sense of the Word—this was the prevalent idea, that the Writings were the internal sense of the Word—therefore the Writings were the Word. But as to the idea that the Writings were the Word in first and last, that was…I don’t know whether anyone saw that clearly in the early days. That only came with the writings of Hyatt, an Englishman who came to America and who was for a good many years the pastor in the New Church in Toronto, Canada. He came to the idea that [what is said in] The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture applied to the Writings, as they were then called. He published a magazine called The New Church Tidings in Toronto, which was a little mimeographed magazine that may have been printed, but in any case, it was a small publication. It had various articles, mostly by Mr. Hyatt, and it had sermons by Mr. Hyatt. There were fifteen sermons in which he showed the application of The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture to the Writings, as they were then called. He sometimes called them the “New Evangel.” I think that in one place in the Third Testament they are referred to… as a “new evangel.” That was the term Mr. Hyatt used.
[When writing] these first fifteen sermons, Mr. Hyatt didn’t see that the Third Testament was The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture applied entirely fully to the Writings. He gave indications of certain reservations as to the application of The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture to the Writings. His little publication had influence on the Church. There were some that came strongly under the impression of Mr. Hyatt’s sermons, and there was some opposition, but it did not become a controversial matter to any extent in the Church.
The one who may have been most strongly influenced by his sermons Rev. Carl Theophilus Odhner, the father of Rev. Philip N. Odhner (later Bishop Odhner). Dr. Alfred Acton (later Bishop Acton) and Dr. Iungerich, and others, especially Mr. Cranch (Dr. Cranch)my father [John Pitcairn], were influenced by these things. It became common to refer to “the Writings as the Word” as being a distinctive doctrine of the General Church.
Mr. Hyatt died when he was relatively middle-aged, and while there are some articles by Carl Theophilus Odhner in The New Church Life which somewhat carried on his ideas, there were also certain articles [that appeared] around 1904…Mr. Hyatt’s publication [appeared] around 1901 or 1902 [and continued] to around 1906 or 1908, I’ve forgotten exactly. Dr. Cranch in 1904 wrote an article in New Church Life in which he spoke of the Writings as the Word and having a letter, and the Letter of the Writings was the Word in its holiness. So there was holiness and power: the doctrine must be drawn from them.
Mr. Hyatt wrote thirty-two sermons in his first series on the Word, and later on, two or three years afterward, he started another series on on the application of The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture to the Writings, which was another series of thirty-two sermons. These sermons were not well known in the Church. They were not published, and no-one in general in the Church, outside of Toronto, knew anything about them. T The sixteenth sermon, the first one that was not published, was on John the Baptist. In this sermon, the central point is that the literal sense of the Writings [is represented by] John the Baptist, and that when one first approaches, one is in the literal sense, the state of John the Baptist, calling to repentance and preparing the way for coming to their internals, and that the internal was the presence of the Lord. The expression he often used was that when you’re in the spirit state you see them in natural light or the light of the world. Later on you have to come to see them in their own light. Of course “their own light” means the same as the light of Heaven from the Lord. Now if that sermon had been published, it probably would have caused a big controversy to arise in the Church. But it was never known, so didn’t. It might have [caused] a similar violent reaction to what [occurred] forty years later if that sermon had been published, but it was not known, except to the people in Toronto.