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

Category — History of 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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Understanding of the genuine natural sense of the Word

The idea that the teachings of the Latin Word concerning government did not apply to the natural government of the Church and State was first propounded by the Rev. Т.Е. Harris [editor of HL], along with the proposition that what is said of marriage does not apply to the marriage of man and woman. An idea which we all opposed and which Loyal [Loyal D. Odhner, editor of HL] characterised as spiritual sodomy.

When we separated from the General Church the teaching of the Word was emphasized that “In the New Church there will not be an external separated from its internal.” Anything in the natural life of the Church which is separated from its internal and therefore not genuine is merely adjoined to the Church and is not conjoined, and does not pertain to the Lord’s New Church.

In our talks with the leaders of the General church it was pointed out that our concept of the Church organization was totally different from theirs; that they believed in an internal Church, the New Jerusalem, which is the Bride of the Lamb and an external Church which is a human institution; while we believed that the organization of the Church is truly organic and related to the internal of the Church as body and soul, and that otherwise the Lord would not be the God of Heaven and earth, and His Kingdom would not be over both.

You indicated you believe there are sincere men in the priesthood who perform a use. But their uses according to your position would be a separated external even more so than in the idea of the General Church, in which they admit the priesthood is representative, at least in a Jewish sense, for they do not admit of the necessity of the oneness of the external and the internal which characterizes the genuine New Church.

 A complaint is made that the Church has followed the practices of the Catholic and Protestant Church, practices which go back to the primitive Christian Church, in having an ordained and set-apart priesthood. Instead you propose that we follow the practices of certain heretical sects, notably the Quakers, to the teaching of which the Word evidently refers in the statement: There were some who have rejected the priestly office saying that the priesthood is universal, thus with all. Some of these have read the Word quite diligently, but as they have lived evilly, they have seized upon abominable dogmas thence. Of these there are many. These have been cast out of heaven, but at the back because they have preached clandestinely. SE 4904

Doctrine is to be drawn from the Word and confirmed by it. Doctrine not drawn from the Word can still be confirmed by it. Wherefore the Word is called the book of heresies.

The question is, has the idea that there is not to be an instituted priesthood been drawn from the Word or is it merely confirmed by certain passages in a disorderly way.

It can be seen that one who wishes to deny the application of the teaching concerning marriage to the marriage of husband and wife and confine it to the marriage of good and truth does so, not from the Word, but from an aversion to marriage relation of husband and wife; having come to such an idea, he can then confirm it by certain passages in the Word, and also by much apparent experience as for example: that there are few if any in the Church who are in conjugial love such as it is described in the Word. If the teaching concerning marriage is confined to its spiritual sense and denied in application to the relation of husband and wife, the relation of husband and wife becomes merely a concubinage, and the same applies to the priesthood which then becomes a vile institution such as you describe it.

Both you and Dr. Hotson maintain that representatives were abolished with the Coming of the Lord, and you quote a passage which speaks of the Jewish representatives being abolished and that in their place the Holy Supper and Baptism was instituted. It is obvious that what was abolished was merely representative worship and not representatives which are also correspon­dences. It is stated in the Latin Word that nations at this day are equally representative as were those spoken of in the Old Testament. To wish to do away with representatives which are genuine correspondences is to be in a similar state to those in faith alone who would do away with the Ten Commandments on the grounds that the Lord said: For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:17.

That the priesthood is a genuine correspondence and not a mere representative such as animal sacrifice, is evident from the fact that it speaks of priests in Heaven, and indeed of a high priest of a Society, indicating degrees of the priesthood. CL 266

It is clear from your letter and from the paper of Dr. Hotson, that the origin of your position in regard to the priesthood in the New Church did not have its origin in the Word but had its origin in the thinking from person, that is the persons who have been ministers in the New Church and the so-called New Church, and that, having come to a conclusion, there is made an attempt to confirm it by the Word.

Read the full letter of T. Pitcairn on the subject of the genuine natural sense of the letter



History and Origin of the Lord’s New Church. A lecture by Theodore Pitcairn. March 18 and 25, 1971

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.

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