REV. JAMES FREDERICK BUSS
MINISTER OF THE NEW JERUSALEM CHURCH
CATHEDRAL STREET, GLASGOW
1 BLOOMSBURY STREET, LONDON
THE following chapters were originally written for, and published in, The New Church Magazine as a series of articles, during the year 1896, and would have been long since laid before the public in book form, but for my prolonged illness. And now that they are re-published, the same cause prevents me subjecting them to the revision of which I am only too well aware they stand in need, and even from reading the sheets for the press. This work has been performed for me by my very dear and esteemed friend, and brother Minister in the LORD'S New Church, the REV. WILLIAM ALFRED PRESLAND; whose kindness in this matter I desire to hereby gladly and gratefully acknowledge.
Should my health be restored, I hope to follow this little work up with further series, seeing forth others of the heavenly doctrines the New Church teaches.
JAMES FREDERICK BUSS.
R. M. S. GOTHIC,
Off the North-west Court of Africa, approaching Teneriffe, 3rd November, 1897.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. WHAT THE NEW CHURCH IS 1
II. THE LORD'S SECOND COMING 17
III. THE RELATION OF SWEDENBORG NEW CHURCH 32
IV. GOD AN INFINITE DIVINE MAN 45
V. GOD A DIVINE MAN CONSISTING OF TRINITY 57
VI. "THAT GOD ... IS THE LORD GOD SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST" 71
VII. THE NECESSITY FOR THE INCARNATION 89
VIII. A RATIONAL, DOCTRINE OF THE INCARNATION 104
IX. THE DIVINE HUMANITY 120
X. THE ATONEMENT: A CRITICISM 141
XI. THE REAL ATONEMENT 158
XII. THE LAW OF SALVATION 177
I.What the New Church is.
IT is of the first importance to a true understanding of this subject, that it should be known that the "New Church" is not in any sense a sect, or "denomination," of the recognized Christianity of the day. On the contrary, it stands to that Christianity, in all its "denominations," as a thing outside; its relation to it being precisely analogous to the relation in which the Christian Church, when originally instituted by the Lord and His Apostles, stood to the Jewish Church of the time of the First Coming of the Lord. In a word, just as the primitive Christian Church was the Church of the new dispensation of the religion and of the religious life of humanity then beginning, so "New Church" of today is the Church of a new in the religious dispensation, or age, now dawning in the world.
It is plain, therefore, that the real nature New Church cannot be fully grasped without some adequate understanding of what is meant by a religious "dispensation," or age.
No one acquainted with the Word of God can be unaware, that, even in its most uperficial sense, it affords indisputable proof of the existence, in the life of the human race of at least two successive, different and radically distinct dispensations" of religion--the Jewish and the Christian. Both of these were of Divine institution in the beginning. The first, however, that is, the Jewish, was characteristically a religion of rites and ceremonies, containing the mere "shadows," or types, of the "good things," or genuine spiritual truths and excellences, which were "to come," but which "came" only when the Christian
Dispensation was inaugurated by the Lord at His Coming--and not those "good
things" themselves (Heb. x. i). It is an equally certain teaching of the Divine
Word, that the Church of the Jewish Dispensation at length became utterly
corrupt, "transgressing the commandment of God" (Matt. xv. 3) and making
His Word "of none effect" (Mark vii. 13) by its "traditions," and "teaching for
doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark vii. 7). We know, too, that our
Lord Himself, in explaining His parable of "the wicked husbandmen," in which
even the Jews perceived that "He spake of them" (Matt. xxi. 45), told them
plainly that "the kingdom of God" should be taken away from them, and
"given to a nation bringing forth the fruits there of" (Matt. xxi. 43). It is matter of history that the "nation" to whom the "kingdom of God" was given when
taken away from the Jews, was the despised Gentile world, and that the transfer
of "the kingdom" to them constituted the inauguration of a new age, or
dispensation, of religion, which has been named the "Christian Era," and the Church of which is the historic Christian Church.
But even the Jewish, was not the first dispensation of revealed religion. The letter of the Divine Word does not, it is true, afford very much or very direct evidence, on its surface, of the existence of former dispensations. Still, there is evidence; and evidence, moreover, the purport of which, when once observed, is unmistakable. It is well known that, when Jehovah instituted the Jewish Dispensation of religion, He incorporated into it certain rituals which were already practiced among some of the nations of that day. Conspicuous among these stand forth worship by burnt-offerings and sacrifices upon altars, and circumcision. Now, it cannot be conceived, that, in a religion of Divine institution and prescription--as all who admit the testimony of the Scriptures are bound to acknowledge the Jewish to have been--anything would be introduced which did not, at least originally, possess a Divine sanction, even though it had suffered perversion in the hands of sinful men. It is clear, therefore, that there existed a religious dispensation prior to the Jewish Dispensation; some of the features of which--for instance, the system of worship by burnt offerings and sacrifices upon altars--were so emphatically stamped with the Divine approval, that they were, as it were, saved from the general wreck, and wrought into the fabric of the new dispensation, then being Divinely instituted.
Another point bearing very closely upon the present question, is the fact that the exterminating zeal of the Jews--which was permitted to them, evidently, as having vital consequences in relation to the new dispensation then being established among them--was always enjoined to be directed supremely against the idolatrous sacrifices, the gods and the high places, in a word, against the worship and religion of the nations they dispossessed. All centered on that; and, thus, everything points to the abolition of a dispensation of religion which once had Divine sanctions, but which had, in process of time--of course, through the corruptions introduced into it in successive generations by the wickedness of men--become "an abomination in the sight of the Lord," as the great object of the Divine concern in this period and these features of Israelitish history. From these considerations it is evident, firstly, that there was a dispensation of religion, having originally a Divine basis, prior to the Jewish; and, secondly, that this earlier dispensation shared with the Jewish, the characteristic feature of worshipping by means of burnt-offerings and sacrifices upon altars.
Now, it is a remarkable fact, that the first mention of burnt-offerings and altars in the Divine Word, occurs in the very first act of worship performed in that new era of human affairs, which commenced when the terrible spiritual catastrophe, signified by "the Flood," had done its work of sweeping away the corrupt dregs of a yet earlier dispensation:
Having come so far with us, no one will have any difficulty, or, we should suppose, any hesitation, in discerning and acknowledging in the Sacred Record of the state of things which preceded "the Flood," indications of a still earlier "dispensation" of religion, inaugurated in "Eden," and having as its central and typical character, "Adam;" from whom the dispensation itself may be called--as, indeed, it is called in the doctrines of the New Church--the "Adamic." The "Adamic" dispensation, however, is evidently placed before us in the pages of Divine Revelation as the first.
This review, then, places before us four distinct religious Ages, or Dispensations, as having succeeded one another in the course of the history of the human race.
1. The Most Ancient Dispensation, which may be fitly termed the "Adamic Age;"
2. A less Ancient Dispensation, better referred to as "The Ancient," which may be fitly termed the "Noatic Age;"
3. The "Jewish" Dispensation, or Age; and
4. The "Christian" Dispensation, or Age.
It is to be noted, also, that under each of the three first of these Dispensations religion became in process of time utterly perverted and corrupted, and that therefore the dispensation itself, in each case, was Divinely wound up, by some great Divine judgment. In each case, also, a new dispensation was immediately inaugurated in the place of the former one.
It has been commonly taken for granted that the fourth Dispensation, the Christian, inaugurated by the Lord and His Apostles, was to be a finality, and, so far from ever becoming corrupt and adulterated, so as to call forth Divine judgment upon it and be wound up in its turn, as its predecessors had been, was to advance to greater and greater perfection with the lapse of the ages. Yet, this opinion runs directly counter to the plain predictions of our Lord Himself! Did He not say: "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" (Luke xviii. 8), declaring, in that manner, that He should not? He declared again, "Because INIQUITY SHALL ABOUND the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. xxiv. 12); and again, "As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
But this "consummation" of the Christian "Age," or Dispensation, was no more to be the end of all things, than were the "consummations" of the former Dispensations. As in those cases, so in this last, the "consummation" was to be followed by a new start. So the analogy of Sacred History would lead us to conclude; and so an intelligent interpretation of the prophetic closing Book of the New Testament, shows.
In the twenty-first chapter of that Divine Book, we read of a certain "city" which John saw "coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. xxi. 2); and, later on in the same chapter, we have further information concerning this bride-city, and who her "Husband" was: "And there came unto me one of the seven angels, which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the Bride, the Lamb's Wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God" (verses 9-11).
It is universally recognized by students of the Divine Word, that the Church is the spiritual mother of the members of the Church, and God their Heavenly Father; and, in this is involved the further recognition--likewise conceded-that God is the Divine "Husband" of His Church, and the Church the spiritual "Wife" of God. These recognitions, also, are in strict agreement with, and have doubtless been derived from, the usage of the Holy Word. The prophetic fiftieth chapter of Isaiah commences: "Thus said the Lord: Where is the bill of YOUR MOTHER'S divorcement, WHOM I HAVE PUT AWAY? or, which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves; and for your transgressions is your mother put away" (verse i). It is abundantly clear, that the "mother" of the Jewish nation, in her separation from Jehovah on account of the "transgressions" of her backsliding children, is here presented to us as Jehovah's wife, for it is only a "husband" that could "put away" a wife; and Jehovah, consequently, as her "Husband." And every implication of the Divine address to the faithless Jews, points to the alienated Church among that people, as the thing signified by their "mother" and Jehovah's divorced "wife."
Between Isaiah and Revelation, however, there is significant difference. In the prophecy in Isaiah, the "Husband" is the, as yet; un-incarnated Jehovah; the "Wife" is the Jewish Church; and the children are the members of that Church, the Jewish people. In the prophecy in the Revelation, the "Husband" is "the Lamb," the incarnated Jehovah; the "Wife" is evidently a Christian Church; and the children that would certainly spring from the marriage are individual genuine Christians.
We conclude, therefore, from these considerations, as well as from several others of a similar tendency, that the "New Jerusalem" spoken of and described in detail, in the concluding chapters of the Book of the Revelation as a "city," but expressly revealed to be the "Wife" of "the Lamb," is, in reality, a Christian Church. However startling the conclusion, there seems to be no getting away from it, by anyone who candidly investigates, and endeavors to understand the Divine Word in its own light.
Another point of great moment is, that the Christian Church signified by the "New Jerusalem," cannot be the Christian Church founded by the personal labors of our Lord and His Apostles in supersession of the Jewish.
This may seem, at first hearing, a presumptuous and arrogant claim. In dealing with this objection, let us suggest, at the outset, that no claim can properly be called either presumptuous or arrogant, which is a just one. The question to be determined, therefore, is whether the claim is a just one. If it is, then it must be conceded; and arrogance and presumption are not in question. Let us, therefore, examine it.
We have taken the position that the New Church is the Church represented and signified by the "holy city, New Jerusalem." Can this be proved to be the case? We premise that it can; and, further, that there is no Church in existence, Christian or other, beside the New Church, which would even claim to be the "New Jerusalem," when it is seen what that implies.
The New Jerusalem is the Bride and Wife of the LAMB. This, as we have seen, is what proves it to be a Church, and, moreover, a Christian Church; for the "Lamb's" Wife is a Church that acknowledges the Lord Jesus Christ as her Divine Husband. But the Husband of a Church is her God. The "Lamb's Wife," therefore, must acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as her God. No Church that does not do this, can possibly be the Lamb's Wife. With this, no doubt, all will agree.
Now, let us proceed a step farther.
These characteristics must appeal, we think, to every unbiased and rational mind, as necessarily involved in the quality of a Church which is, in any real sense, the Lamb's Wife." That appellation must imply all that we have set down--and much more to the same purpose--or the words be mere words, carrying no burden of real significance.
In conclusion: in inaugurating a New Dispensation of Religion, the Lord never leaves the matter to the gropings of the human mind; in every such case, He sets things going Himself by sending the new "Age" a message from Him specially addressed to itself and adapted to its needs; and raising up, of course, a special messenger for the purpose. He inaugurated the Jewish Dispensation by the giving of the Divine Word of the Old Testament, which we possess, to the Jews, through Moses and the Prophets, and raising up a Church on that as a basis. He inaugurated the Christian Age by giving, first from His own Divine Human mouth, and afterwards through inspired penmen, our Word of the New Testament, and raising up a Church on that as its basis. In both these Revelations, however, God spoke to men in "parable" (see Psalm lxxviii. 2, etc.); thus in veiling an inwardly spiritual message in an outwardly natural form, which, while allowing a sufficiency of spiritual truth for the needs of those two "ages" to shine through "chinks," as it were, in its literal sense--indeed, as much as ever they were able to "bear" (see John xvi. 12)--still left many dark places unillumined and hard sayings unsolved, which are, it is well known, pressing heavily upon the minds of men at this day for solution and illumination.
II.--The Lord's Second Coming.
THE Coming of the Lord and the "Consummation of the Age" are mentioned in the Gospels in such close association as to appear, if not identically the same event, events, at the least, intimately related to one another. Thus, the Lord's extended prophecy respecting His future Coming, its antecedents and its consequences, which occupies the whole of the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, is given as His response to the demand of the disciples: "What shall be the sign of Thy coming AND of the consummation of the age?" (ver. 3). And in it, after describing at length the signs of the approach of the "Consummation of the Age" and the consummation itself, inverses 4 to 28, the Lord continues: "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (ver. 30).
In showing, in our former paper, that the New Church is the Church of the New, or Second Christian Dispensation, which has now commenced, we necessarily implied that the "consummation" of the First Christian Dispensation is an already accomplished fact.
Now, it is characteristic of the "ages," or dispensations of religion which have so far appeared, that they are uniformly inaugurated by a Coming of the Lord. That this was so in the case of the First Christian Dispensation is universally known to be the teaching of the New Testament Scriptures, and generally acknowledged to be the truth. That it was so, likewise, in the case of the Jewish Dispensation, is equally true and perfectly demonstrable from the Old Testament Scriptures; but as it is not, we think, generally known, for lack of being noticed, it will be necessary for us to show that this is so.
The first portion, in point of time, of the Old Testament or Jewish Scriptures, was the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, which was. spoken by God (Exod. xx. i) from the top of Mount Sinai. It would seem a fair inference, that, since God spoke these words from Sinai, He must have been on Sinai to do it; and, since Sinai is in this world, that He must have "come" into the world, on this occasion, for the purpose of giving this first Revelation of His Word. Nor is this an inference only. It is expressly so represented in the Holy Word itself. For, "Jehovah said unto Moses, Lo, I COME UNTO THEE in a thick cloud....
It is plain, therefore, that the two previous historic Dispensations of religion, the Jewish and the First Christian, have both been inaugurated by a "coming of the Lord "--one a personal coming, the other not; and each has been attended by a giving of the Word--in the one case, the Word of the Old Testament, in the other the Word of the New; on which special and distinctive Word," or Revelation, the Church of the New Dispensation, in each case, has been established.
These facts cannot be without their significance in connection with the New Christian Dispensation now taking the place of the "consummated" First Christian one. In turning our attention, therefore, to the coming" which the Lord foretold that He would make at the "consummation" of that "age" which He personally initiated when in the world, we note that the analogy of Scripture history peremptorily requires us to look for it in association with the beginning of a New Age;
The suggestion that any further Revelation of Divine Truth than we have in the Word of God we possess, is to be looked for, is not one, we are aware, that will find a general or ready acceptance. For the assumption reigns unquestioned in the minds of most people, that we have, in that, all that the Lord had to reveal to men. But to this assumption there are two very cogent objections. The first is, that the Jews reject the New Testament as the Word of God on precisely similar grounds; the validity of which, however, in that case, Christians, of course, decline to admit. Consistency plainly dictates, therefore, that an objection, the validity of which is repudiated when urged by the Jews against a revelation supplementary to theirs, cannot be valid, either, when urged by Christians against the possibility of there being given a Revelation supplementary to theirs! Every impartial and rational mind will admit this. The second objection, is, that the assumption in question runs directly counter to the express teaching of our Lord Himself. Towards the close of His life-work on earth, He said to His disciples: "I HAVE YET MANY THINGS TO SAY UNTO YOU, but ye cannot bear them now" (John xvi. 12).
Not only did our Lord thus plainly teach His disciples to expect such a future Revelation as the majority of Christians are agreed in rejecting, in advance, as impossible; but He also, in the same address, told them something as to the nature, or form, of that Revelation when it should come. His words are: "THESE THINGS have I spoken unto you IN PARABLES: the hour cometh when I shall NO MORE speak unto you in parables, but I shall show you PLAINLY of the Father" (John xvi. 25). In this respect, "these things" which the Lord had just previously spoken, were in the same category as all His other utterances, and thus with the whole of the New Testament: "Without a parable spake He not unto them" (Matt. xiii. 34);
It is a noteworthy fact in connection with the subject of the Coming of the Lord," that the nature of His First Coming was not at all understood until it actually came to pass, and was then understood only in the light of the Revelation given at that Coming. In other words, the Messianic advent of f wish expectation, was a totally different thing from the Messianic Coming of actual Divine fact; and only those ever arrived at a true understanding of its real nature, who accepted the Christian Revelation and learned the truth from that. Going upon analogy, which, in this case, is strong probability, we are, therefore, entitled to expect, firstly, that the nature of the Lord's Second Coming will prove to be different from the expectations respecting it, formed beforehand by Christians, and, secondly, that it will not be truly understood apart from the distinctive Revelation of Divine Truth, which, as we have seen, the Lord taught His disciples to expect to accompany it. For the true nature of the Lord's First Coming, men have had to go to the Christian Revelation, or New Testament, on which the Church of the Christian Dispensation was built up. For the true nature of the Lord's Second Coming, it is in the highest degree probable, to say the least, that men will have to go to the Revelation given by the Lord at that Coming, and on which the Church of the New Christian Dispensation is to be built up.
That Church is already in the world.
A word must be here said, however, respecting the further Revelation of Divine Truth, which we have already seen, the Lord promised His disciples that He would give, and on which the Church of the New Dispensation must be built up.
We will just remark, in passing, that, great though these claims undoubtedly are, the things asserted are exactly the credentials that we should, from the analogy of the case of the inspired penmen of the Holy Word, expect any man who was the instrument of a real Revelation of Divine truth from the Lord, to bring with him. So far from being an objection to his claim to be the instrument of such a Revelation, therefore, they ought to be regarded, rather, as, so far, an evidence in favor of it. A full consideration of these points, however, we must leave to a subsequent occasion. We are concerned to point out, here, one fact which is, so far as it goes, certainly corroborative of the claim that we have in these Writings that further and fuller Revelation which the Lord so clearly not merely foreshadowed but promised. It is, that these Writings are not in the form of "parable," as is the Divine Word of the Old and New Testaments, but in the ordinary language of every-day human life. They thus show men "plainly" of the Father, and of the Divine and spiritual things which are from Him. Their meaning lies on the surface; and we are not under the necessity of going beneath the surface, in search of a spiritual or inward meaning, for their true significance. The plain, simple, grammatical meaning of the words employed, furnishes the sense that is intended.
Applying the parabolic principle of interpretation to the Lord's prophecies respecting His Second Coming, the Writings of the New Church show that it is not a personal Coming, attended with signs and wonders in the sky of earth, but a "coming," like the one on Sinai in a Revelation and manifestation to men, of the Divine truth which has always been inwardly within His parabolic Revelation, in the literal sense of the Word. The Word itself teaches that the Lord is "the Truth" (John xiv. 6), and that He is "the Word" (John i. 1, 14). The "coming" of Divine Truth to men in a Divine Revelation, therefore, is a "Coming of the Lord"; a spiritual "coming," it is true, but not the less a real and true "coming" on that account. The Lord's former "comings" have consisted in a Revelation of Divine Truth, or "the Word," in its letter or literal sense, in which it is parabolic; and, by those "comings," that sense has been fully and completely given. This form of Divine Revelation is repeatedly spoken of in the parabolic language of the literal sense of the Word, as a "cloud"; for a "cloud" tempers, shrouds, and often even conceals the light which issues from the sun, just as the letter of the Divine Word tempers and often even completely hides, the clear brightness and radiant glory which every Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord, must needs be in its own nature.
In the Writings of the New Church the matter is put thus: "It is written in many places that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven,' as in Matt. xvii. 5; xxiv. 30; xxvi. 64: Mark xiv. 62; Luke ix. 34-5; xxi. 27; Rev. i. 7; xiv. 14; Dan. vii. 13; but no one has heretofore known what is meant by the clouds of heaven,' and hence mankind have believed that the Lord will appear in them in person. But it has remained undisclosed to this day, that, by the clouds of heaven' is meant the Word in its literal sense; and that by the power and glory' in which also the Lord is to come (Matt xxiv. 30), is meant the Word in its spiritual sense; for no one, to this day, has had the least idea of there being in the Word any spiritual sense such as it is in reality and truth. Now, since the spiritual sense of the Word has been opened to one by the Lord, ... it has been revealed to me that the clouds of heaven' signify the Word in its natural sense, and glory' the Word in its spiritual sense, and power' the effectual operation of the Lord through the Word.
The Second Coming of the Lord, therefore, may now be seen to be the Revelation of the Spiritual Sense which has always been in the Holy Word, and the consequent manifestation of the Lord even in the letter of the Word to the rational sight of men; whereby the Lord's operation upon man for his salvation, is made the more effectual and powerful. This Spiritual Sense of the Word with the Doctrines pertaining to it, is what is given to men in the "Writings of the New Church."
In our next paper, we propose to consider in some detail The Relation of Swedenborg to the New Church.
III.--The Relation of Swedenborg to the New Church.
THE necessity of a discussion of this subject in the present series of papers arises from the existence of the widespread but erroneous, though not unnatural supposition, that Swedenborg's relation to the New Church is the same as that of, say, Wesley to the Wesleyan churches. This is not merely a mistaken notion, but a mistaken notion of a very fundamental character, involving an altogether misleading idea of what the New Church is, and what it stands for.
It is evident that some account of the man himself is necessary to the proper understanding of his relation with the Church of the New Age. We commence, therefore, with a summary of his life and work.
Emanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on the 29th of January, 1688. He was the third child and second son of Dr. Jesper Swedberg, Lutheran Bishop of Skara, in West Gothland, a province of Sweden. His birth-name, therefore, was Swedberg. It was changed to Swedenborg (correctly pronounced Swed-en-berg) when he was ennobled by Queen Ulrica Eleanora, in the year 1719; this change of name being equivalent to the conferring of a title.
His childhood need not detain us. He was carefully and well educated, however, and, at a suitable age, went to the University at Upsala to complete his education. His studies there were pursued with such success that he took his degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the age of twenty-one. He then, as was customary for sons of wealthy and noble families, devoted some years-in his case, nearly five-to traveling in the countries of Western Europe. It is interesting to us, as Englishmen, to find that the first country he visited on leaving his native shores was our own. He landed in London in the year 1710. His stay in England extended over about two years, during which time he met many of the most learned men of the day, conspicuous amongst whom were Edmund Halley and John Flamsteed, both of them eminent astronomers.
From England he went to Holland, and thence, in turn, to Brussels, Leyden, Paris, Hamburg, Pomerania, and Greifswalde; returning to Sweden in 1715, after an absence of between four and five years.
It must not be imagined that these years were devoted to amusement. Of that we find no sign. They were years of arduous study and labor, of the most varied character. Astronomy and chemistry were studied with especial assiduity. He lodged with several different artisans, from all of whom he made it his business to gain some practical acquaintance with their arts. Amongst the trades of which he thus acquired a practical knowledge, were, the making of mathematical instruments, cabinet malting, engraving, glass-grinding for lenses, and watch making. Bookbinding he had learned before starting on his travels, and, about the same time, had attained to such proficiency in his musical studies as to occasionally play the organ and conduct the musical portion of services in his father's church. Mathematics and mechanics were favorite studies; and by way of "recreation," as he explains, he devoted his attention, for a time, to the study of poetry and the cultivation of poetical composition. Some of his poems are still extant, and are said by authorities to possess a fairly high degree of merit.
His knowledge of languages was very extensive. He wrote nearly all his numerous scientific and philosophical works in Latin; and, although his theological works are characterized by none of the graces of style, his secular works afford abundant evidence of ability to use the language, not only with ease and clearness, but also with elegance.
His proficiency in all departments of natural learning, gave him a European fame, and a foremost place among the savants of his generation. He was a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences in his own country, and corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg. But the vastness of his knowledge, and the scope and stature of his mental powers, can probably be more thoroughly realized from a mere list of the works he published in the twenty-eight years between 1717 and 1744. We give them, for the most, in chronological order.
1717 (PUBLISHED IN SWEDISH.)
1. Information concerning Tin-ware of Stjernsund, its Use and the Method of Tinning.
2. The Importance of instituting an Astronomical Observatory in Sweden.
3. On the Mode of assisting Commerce and Manufactures.
4. Memorial on the Establishment of Salt-works in Sweden.
5. Theory concerning the End of the Earth.
6. The Nature of Fire and Colors.
7. On the Causes of Things.
1718 (PUBLISHED IN SWEDISH).
8. On the Motion and Station of the Earth and Planets.
9. Attempt to find the Longitude by Means of the Moon.
10. Algebra, edited in Three Books. (This was the first treatise on Algebra ever published in Swedish.)
1719 (PUBLISHED IN SWEDISH).
11. About Docks, Sluices, and Salt-works.
12. Proposal for Regulating our Coinage and Measures, by which Computation is facilitated and Fractions are abolished.
13. Respecting the Depth of Water and the Strong Tides in the Primeval Word: Proofs from Sweden.
1721 (PUBLISHED IN LATIN AT AMSTERDAM.)
14. A new Mechanical Plan of constructing Docks or Dykes; and a Mode of discovering the Powers of Vessels by the Application of Mechanical Principles.
15. A new Method of finding the Longitude of Places, by Land and Sea, by Lunar Observations.
16. New Observations and Discoveries respecting Iron and Fire: together with a new Construction of Stoves.
17. A Fore-runner of the First Principles of Natural Things, or, New Attempts to Explain Chemistry and Experimental Physics Geometrically.
18. Miscellaneous Observations on the Things of Nature, and especially on Minerals, Fire, and the Strata of Mountains. (Published in Leipsic.)
19. Fable of the Love and Metamorphasis of the Muse Urania into a Man and Servant of Apollo. (Published at Schiffbeck, near Hamburg.)
20. Frank Views on the Fall and Rise in the Value of Swedish Money. (Stockholm.)
From 1722 to 1733 the duties of his profession and the amassing of materials for, and the preparation for publication of, future works, occupied the whole of his time; but in 1734 he resumed publication.
1734 to 1738.
21. Philosophical and Metallurgical Works. This work was in three volumes, as follows:
Vol. I. The First Principles of Natural Things, being new Attempts towards a Philosophical Explanation of the Elemental World.
Vol. II. The Subterranean or Mineral Kingdom as regards Iron and the Methods of Smelting is which are in use in the various parts of Europe.
Vol. III. The Subterranean or Mineral Kingdom as regards Copper and the Methods, &c.
22. Outlines of a Philosophical Argument on the Infinite and Final Cause of Creation, and on the Mechanism of the Operation of Soul and Body.
1738. to 1741.
23. The Economy of the Animal Kingdom, divided into Transactions. (This is a large work, not on Natural History, as might be inferred from the terms of the title, but on Physiology and Psychology).
24. A Hieroglyphic Key of Natural and Spiritual Mysteries by way of Representations and Correspondences.
25. The Animal Kingdom considered Anatomically, Physically and Philosophically. (This work, like the Economy of the Animal Kingdom, deals with Physiology, and occupies two large volumes.)
In addition to these twenty-six works, Swedenborg contributed many learned dissertations to various learned societies, which were published in the "Transactions" of those bodies, and also left a large number of works of a similar character, the manuscripts of which are preserved in the Library of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
A word must now be said about his profession. He was appointed to the post of "Assessor Extraordinary of the Royal College of Mines" of Sweden, in the year 17 16. This "College of Mines" was a government department, having under its charge the whole of the mining industry of Sweden-the staple industry of the country; thus answering, in some respects and to a certain extent, to our Board of Trade and Board of Agriculture. It differed from these departments of the English Civil Service, however, in exercising judicial as well as administrative functions, in respect to all matters connected with the great mining industry of the country. As Assessor of Mines, Swedenborg was both an administrator and a judge. He continued to fill this post, and to discharge its important duties, until the year 1747, when he retired from it, refusing proffered promotion, which would have been accompanied by elevation to a higher degree of nobility. His reason for refusing these dignities was, he informed his friend, the Rev. Thomas Hartley, a Church of England clergyman, "lest his heart should be inspired with pride." He gave as his reason for retiring from his official post, "that he might have more leisure to devote himself to the new office to which the Lord had called him."
Swedenborg never married. Not from disinclination; for he was engaged, as a young man, to a daughter of the great engineer and mathematician, Christopher Polhem--"the Swedish Archimedes," as he was called. Learning, however, that the lady's affections were engaged elsewhere, Swedenborg magnanimously released her from the engagement, although her father, knowing that the king, Charles XII., favored the match, was willing to insist upon its being carried out. After this experience, Swedenborg seems to have given up all idea of marriage, though he always took great pleasure in the society and conversation of good and intelligent women.
A few years before his retirement from the College of Mines, there occurred what Swedenborg considered the most important circumstance of his life, of which he speaks in a letter to the English clergyman referred to above, in terms which we now proceed to adduce. After giving some personal particulars for which his correspondent had asked, he proceeds:
All that I have thus far related, I consider of comparatively little importance; for it is far exceeded by the circumstance that I have been called to a holy office by the Lord Himself, who most mercifully appeared before me, His servant, in the year 1743, when He opened my sight into the spiritual world, and enabled me to converse with spirits and angels, in which state I have continued up to the present day.*
*This was written in 1769. Swedenborg continued in the state described to the last day of his life, which was the 29th of March, 1772.
A list of the works which Swedenborg published in this stage of his life, namely, between 1747 and 1771, a period of twenty-five years, are the following: The Heavenly Arcana; Heaven and Hell; The Last Judgment; The White Horse; The Earths in our Solar System; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine; Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord, the Sacred Scripture, Life and Faith; Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom; Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Providence; The Apocalypse Revealed; The Delights of Wisdom relating to Conjugial Love; Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church; The Intercourse of the Soul and the Body; and The True Christian Religion. Certain other works of the same character left by Swedenborg in manuscript have been published since his death, and translated into English. All these works have been translated into English, French, and German, and some into Welsh, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Russian, Polish, Italian, Icelandic, Magyar, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, and Hindi.
The appearance of the Lord to Swedenborg, and the opening of his spiritual senses to the phenomena of the spiritual world, thus stand at the very beginning of the theological period of his life; and these events differentiate him from every other theological teacher of modern days. The ordinary man, we are aware, recoils from all such supernatural claims, and is apt, on encountering them, to at once write down the claimant a visionary, an enthusiast, an impostor, or a victim of mental derangement; and this without any examination of the evidence offered in support of the claim. Much may be said in defense of this attitude as a general rule; but we would urge our readers to pause before committing themselves to it in the present case, until they have taken into consideration certain important circumstances.
Firstly, a careful examination of the books in which Swedenborg printed and published the things seen by him in the spiritual world and revealed to him, as he affirms, by the Lord, will fail to bring to light any signs, in the character of the writing, of either the visionary or the enthusiast, much less of an unsound mind. Their composition is almost severely matter of fact; calm, plain, straightforward, logical in form and in substance; perfectly coherent and perfectly self-consistent from beginning to end. "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen." We were ourselves once in the position of those we now address, and scouted the claims of the extraordinary man of whom we speak, without examination. But, in the Divine Providence, we were, later, led to examine; and this examination, and a careful yet candid weighing of the vast body of evidence that is easily accessible to all who desire it, satisfied us, firstly, that the claim to spiritual intercourse is a claim supported by a surprisingly large amount of contemporary evidence; secondly, that it is impossible for a rational man who knows the facts to imagine for a moment that Swedenborg was either an impostor, or a visionary, or an enthusiast, or insane, as some have given out;
It is a noteworthy feature of these Writings that,--while there is never any hesitation in their assertion of the spiritual experiences to which reference has been made, and there is frequent and most solemn insistence upon their truth and reality--they are never once appealed to as having the slightest bearing upon the truth of the doctrines the works are designed to teach.
The relation of Swedenborg to the New Church begins, now, we trust, to become apparent. He is simply the human instrument, or channel, through whom the Lord revealed the spiritual and Divine truths which the doctrines of the New Church are, for the establishment of a New Church in the world and the salvation and regeneration of mankind thereby. Because this work was intended for an age which needs that even spiritual truth should be presented to it in rational light, Swedenborg was led, of the Divine Providence, through a complete training in the whole round of natural sciences, was afterwards Divinely taught genuine spiritual truths of the highest order, and finally guided and led by the Lord to present the two, spiritual truth and natural truth, revelation and science, in wedded oneness to men.
Swedenborg was no "reformer"; be was not the founder of the New Church; he was not even the discoverer of the doctrines he "printed and published": he was simply the devout and humble "servant of the Lord," whom that same Lord chose, that he might receive into his own mind, and afterwards proclaim to his fellow-men, from the Lord who gave it, that further and fuller revelation of Himself, which at the time of His First Coming He was obliged still to hold in reserve, as shown in our second paper in this series.
The remaining papers of this series will be devoted to the exposition of some of the particular doctrines which the Lord has thus revealed and the New Church teaches in His name.
IV.--God an Infinite Divine Man.
Knowledge concerning the Lord is far more excellent than all other knowledges of which either the Church or even heaven itself is in possession (SWEDENBORG, True Christian Religion, 81).
Human reason ... is able to perceive that God is and that He is One (ibid. 12).
To whom will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these (Isaiah xl. 25, 26).
THE first of the doctrines of the New Church we propose to set before the reader is that respecting God. We begin with this, because the doctrine of God is the supreme and central doctrine of all religion, and pre-eminently of all theology. All other doctrines are, in fact, derived from this one, and receive their quality from this. If this root-doctrine be erroneous, the error will be transmitted to all the others, and they will be vitiated from their source. Hence the supreme importance of the doctrine respecting God, and the necessity of giving it the foremost place in any presentation of religious doctrine.
The teaching of the New Church on this subject may be, in part, gathered from the following highly concentrated summaries: "God is one both in Essence and Person" (A.E. 1106);
These are canons of the New Church concerning God; and we place them thus conspicuously in the very front of our presentation of this subject, that they may be known to be essential parts of the Divine Revelation of which the New Church is the custodian and the dispenser to the New Age. As, however, it is characteristic of this New Age that it needs, not only that the truth should be proclaimed to it, but that the truth should be exhibited as rationally and demonstrably true, we propose, in the present and following paper, to endeavor to confirm the positions thus preliminarily laid clown, by rational argument,
on the lines indicated in the quotation from the Word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, which we have set at the head hereof.
The first link in the argument is, of course, that there must be a First Cause. This position is arrived at from the uniformity of the experience that all existences and occurrences within the range of human knowledge are effects, or, what is the same thing, that they grow out of something else which has existed, or happened, before they themselves became. That precedent circumstance, or fact, we call the "cause." So uniform, indeed, is this experience, that on encountering anything new we at once raise the question, What is the cause? never doubting for a moment that there is a cause. We know of absolutely nothing which does not prove, on investigation, to have resulted from some cause; and we have thence come to regard the belief in cause as a necessary quality of a sound mind. All men agree that grave doubts, at least, must be entertained of the sanity of a person who really believes that anything within the realm of human experience could possibly occur, or exist, without any cause.
It is quite true that, strictly speaking, "cause is too large a term for what is meant; which is, simply, in the majority of cases, a necessarily antecedent condition. We are very fond of describing inconsequent reasoners as drawing their conclusions on the principle of post hoc ergo propter hoc, without reflecting that that is really the usual mode of even scientific inference. What we usually call the "cause" is really the antecedent, and stands on the same plane, and is of the same category, exactly, as its effect. True "cause," however, is more than this; it is a producer; and, to be a producer, it must, plainly, belong to a different category, and be on a higher plane than the "effect" it produces. The nature of true "cause" is best seen in the relation between mind and body. Not to multiply instances, let us take the bodily effect called a "scowl."
It is perfectly plain, in the next place, that this demand for the "cause" can go on, and in fact must go on, indefinitely, as long as ever the thought is engaged in the contemplation of the universe of created things. Created things are caused things: things that do not bring themselves into existence, but were brought into existence by some cause outside of, and prior to, themselves. As long, then, as we are dealing with the created universe, this question, What is the cause? imperatively must be asked, if we are to understand the thing on which our thought is engaged.
Another necessity of rational thought, however, is that this inquiry must STOP somewhere!
Now clearly the First Cause must be itself uncaused. Were it not, it must have had a cause, and could not itself be the First Cause. But it is the real First Cause that we are dealing with now. The First Cause is necessarily uncaused, or what is the same thing, untreated. It is, that is to say, self-existent, or it does not derive its existence from anything other than itself or even from itself; for in that case it would have caused itself, and caused itself, moreover, before it had existence--which is, of course, absurd. All that can be said of the First Cause, under this head, is that it exists in and of Itself. God, therefore, because He is the First Cause, is SELF-EXISTENT.
God, as First Cause, must, further, have always existed, or be Eternal. Were this not the case, then He must have come into existence, or have been caused. But as God is the First Cause, that is, obviously, entirely out of the question.
He must also be Infinite, that is, absolutely All-embracing. For He is the First Cause of all things in their succession and order; and every effect necessarily owes all it has, and all it is, to its CAUSE. There is absolutely no other source whence its qualities can be derived, and they must all be derived from some cause, or else we have a case of an uncaused thing, which, outside the First Cause, is impossible. Every effect derives all its qualities from its cause; that cause derived all its qualities from its cause; that one from its cause, and so on, right back to the First, which, of necessity, therefore, embraces in itself all things which are in the subsequent causes and effects, in every chain. And that which embraces everything in its own bosom is Infinite. Infinite, in fact, paeans that which embraces all that is, so that, beyond it, there is nothing. God, therefore, being the First Cause of all things, is necessarily INFINITE as well as ETERNAL and SELF-EXISTENT.
God is also adequate as regards ability or power. He must contain within Himself the power to produce all the things which have been produced; He must be adequate, in respect of power, to the production and sustentation of all things in the universe. He is, therefore, all-powerful, another word for which is Almighty, or Omnipotent. God, inasmuch as He is the First Cause of all things, is, therefore, necessarily OMNIPOTENT, as well as INFINITE, ETERNAL, and SELF-EXISTENT.
Equally certain is it that He is all-penetrating or omnipresent. He must be everywhere, and, moreover, everywhere at the same time. For we must always remember the He is the First Cause. And, in the first place, a cause cannot possibly, it is manifest, produce anything where itself is not; and, secondly, if the true cause be removed, the effect will fall to pieces and cease to be. One of the necessary conditions, or causes, of burning, is the presence of oxygen. Without its presence to begin with, there can be no flame if, at any moment, you remove the oxygen, the flame will instantly go out. And so in the case of all true cause--and pre-eminently of the First Cause, which is a true one beyond all others: unless the cause be continually present in the effect, the effect must cease to be. The continuance of the effects necessitates the continued presence of the cause; the simultaneous continuance, or preservation, of all effects taken together, necessitates the simultaneous presence of the First Cause, or God, wherever there are effects--which is throughout the created universe; and this simultaneous presence of God throughout the universe, is exactly what is meant by His omnipresence. God then, as the great, First Cause, is necessarily OMNIPRESENT, as well as OMNIPOTENT, INFINITE, ETERNAL, and SELF-EXISTENT.
It is a necessary property of the First Cause, also, that it should be alive, or living.
It is worthy of note, too, that the same argument which establishes the omnipresence of God, demonstrates His perpetual activity as the First Cause. If the Cause cease to act, the effect passes away; but the totality of effects which the created universe is does not pass away: it persists: and, in that- persistence, we have the demonstration of the perpetual Activity of God as Creator, or First Cause. God, therefore, is LIFE Itself, and ACTIVITY in Itself, as well as OMNIPRESENT, OMNIPOTENT, INFINITE, ETERNAL, and SELF-EXISTENT.
What, next, is LIFE? In the highest form in which we know it as an experienced thing-the form of human life--it is love. There can be no conscious action without love as its cause. Unless we desire, wish, or love, in respect to anything, there cannot be the slightest inducement to act.
Not Love alone, however. Love alone can achieve nothing. It is absolutely helpless and powerless. Without an adequate knowledge of how the desired thing can be wrought, love can never realize itself. But God is All-powerful. His love, therefore, is not Love alone. It is wedded to a co-equal--that is, an Infinite--Wisdom, through which it can sustain and does sustain a co-equal--that is, an Infinite--Activity, or Usefulness.
The realization, then, that God is the First Cause of all things that are, and the working out of this supreme necessity of rational thought to its logical issues in the few directions in which space permits of our doing so, has led us to the perception that because God is the First Cause, and the All in all things, He must necessarily be Self-Existent, Eternal, Infinite, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Life Itself, and finally Infinite Love, Infinite Wisdom, and Infinite Activity.
V.God a Divine Man consisting of a Trinity.
THE conception of God as a Divine Man is so fundamental to a true idea of the Trinity, that it will be wise to re-affirm that conception, and even further exhibit its inevitableness, before proceeding to the direct discussion of the important subject of the Trinity in God, which it is the object of this paper to present. Not very many years ago, the great apostle of religion-tinctured modern "culture "--Matthew Arnold--made the whole "cultured" side of the religious world happy by giving it the phrase, "The Power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness," as a definition of God. For, to culture, "anthropomorphism" is particularly obnoxious. From that day to this, a number, and perhaps an increasing number, of otherwise intelligent people, have thought, and still think, that they have, in the definition in question, an idea of God that is really rational. To such a conception of God, the idea of a Trinity has, obviously, no relation whatever. If God is merely a "Power," of whatsoever quality, or tendency, a Trinity is a thing--if thing, indeed, it be, not a mere word--with which we have no concern.
It has to be carefully noted, in the first place, that the idea of "The Power" with which we have to do is a non-personal one; for it is of the essence of Matthew Arnold's definition that God is not a Person; and it was to get rid of the personal conception that the dynamic conception--or rather phrase--was invented. Our question, then, comes to this, Is God a mere Power, as distinguished from an All-powerful Personal Being? If He is, then He is on the same level, as to nature, with Gravitation or Electricity; which all will recognize as examples of powers, or forces, in the non-personal sense.
The question must be decided on the basis of God's necessary attributes, as disclosed by Revelation and corroborated by Reason. Conspicuous among these attributes, as we saw in our last paper, are Love and Wisdom. The question is, Can Love and Wisdom be predicated of a Power which is not at the same time
a Person? Is there such a thing--to come to particulars--as Love in the abstract, or, what is the same, as Love apart from a Person who Loves? Is there such a thing as Wisdom in the abstract, that is, Wisdom apart from a Person, or Being, who is Wise? Everyone who reflects knows that there is not; and that, although we think and speak of qualities by themselves, as though they had a separate existence of their own, we know, all the time, that, as a matter of hard fact, they never actually exist except as the properties, qualities, or attributes, of this, that, or the other subject in which they inhere.
And how plainly and unequivocally the Manhood of the Creator stands forth in the pages of the Word! There is absolutely no other conception of Him known to the Scriptures than the Personal, Human One. In the very first chapter of the very first Book of the Holy Word, where man first appears on the inspired page, he is introduced to the reader as being constituted in the image and likeness of GOD: "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him" (Gen. i. 27).
It, of course, follows from the absolutely and truly causal relation in which God stands to the universe, that everything whatsoever is the "image" of something an God; for from His Infinity all things originally came forth and perpetually subsist; and in His Infinity they are all eternally embraced. This, however, does not make these things to be images of God, but only "images" of this or that single affection of the Divine Love or perception of the Divine Wisdom. With man the case is widely, different. The poet has truly sung
Man is, in little, all the sphere;
and because he is this, and thus, "in little," sums up in himself the total of the created things in which God has, by Divine causative processes, imaged forth His separate Divine affections and perceptions, therefore, in man, His crowning work, God has produced a finite image of His own total Being; and in doing so, has given the final demonstration of His own Manhood.
From this it follows, of inevitable consequence, that the Trinity in God must be imaged in man, and that, moreover, as is the Trinity in God, such will be the imaged trinity in man. Were it otherwise, man would be found belying his creation, or, more correctly, our reading, either of man or of God, would be at open war with the truth of creation.
No Christian man, woman, or child, needs to be told that the elements of the Divine Trinity are named, in the New Testament, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We say "elements" rather than "persons" of the Divine Trinity, because the latter expression takes the nature of the elements for granted in advance, and, moreover, in doing so, assumes for the elements a nature which cannot possibly be their true one. The impossibility of the Trinity in God being one of which the elements are Persons, is demonstrated by the fact that man is created in the image of God. It follows from this, that, whatever the nature of the Trinity in God, there must be a trinity of similar nature--allowing for the difference between the Infinite and the finite--and subject to similar conditions, in His "image." If, therefore, the Divine Trinity is a Trinity of Persons, there must not only be in man a human trinity, but that human trinity must be a trinity of persons, subject to similar conditions--to those which obtain in the Divine Trinity. Now, no one has ever yet had the hardihood to openly impugn the Oneness of God, or to assert anything which, in its terms, contradicts the fundamental truth that God is One and there is only One God. Very well. If it were granted that the Divine Trinity is a Trinity of Persons, or that the admitted three elements of the Divine Trinity, named, respectively, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are three Persons, it must, at the same time, be conceded, nay, it must be insistedunder pain of denying the Christian Faith as well as outraging the common sense of mankind--that the three Divine "Persons" make One God.
It is to be admitted that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of the New Testament Scripture, are frequently referred to in terms which seem necessarily to imply the separate personality of each, and personal relations between, at any rate, the first two. On the other hand, it is also found that both the Father and the Holy Spirit are identified with Him to whom the term "Son" is distinctively applied--the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ-in a manner which is altogether incompatible with such personal separateness as does seem to be sometimes, and even frequently, indicated. For instance, "Lest men should believe that the Father and He are two, the Lord says, the FATHER and I are one; and lest they should believe that they are one only by love, He adds, that ye may know and believe that I am IN the Father and the Father IN Me (Apocalypse Explained, 852). The familiar Old Testament prophecy, again, has it "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given and ... His NAME shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the EVERLASTING FATHER" (Isa. ix. 6). And the Lord's own expostulation, addressed to Philip, ought to carry conviction to every mind: "He that hath seen ME hath seen the Father. How SAYEST THOU, then, SHEW US the Father?" (John xiv. 9). Personal identity is the clear implication of these and many more of our Lord's own utterances; and with them the idea of distinctness of personality is quite incompatible.
We shall, evidently, be materially assisted towards an understanding of the nature of these three elements of the Divine Trinity, and thus of the real character of that Trinity itself, if we can learn something definite respecting the relation in which they stand to each other. Such definite information is to hand. Immediately after His expostulation with Philip for asking to be shewn the Father, when he had seen Him, in the Person of the Lord, for a long time pastHave I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known ME, Philip? He that hath seen ME hath seen the Father--immediately after this, and in immediate connection with this, the Lord added: "Believest thou not that I am IN the Father, and the Father IN Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself; the Father THAT DWELLETH IN ME, He doeth the works" (John xiv. 10). The Lord was speaking in the character of the "Son." In that character He declared two things respecting the "Father's" relation to Him: (1) the Father "dwelt in" the Son; and (2) the Father, evidently by virtue of that indwelling, "did the works" and spoke the words, which, in their outward manifestation, issued from the Son.
Do we find, then, in the one personality of a single man, anything which, "dwelling in" it, is the real "doer" of the works and the real "speaker" of the words, which pass from the single man to those around? Is there, permanently dwelling within the individual man, any element" to which the accomplished acts and spoken words of the visible man--the second "element" of the man's "duality"--can be correctly ascribed, as their real doer and speaker? Just noting, in passing, that the "visible man" is the outward bodily man--the man's body, as we say--we discern that the second element of man's "duality" is his BODY. But the body does not do the works, or speak the words, or think the thoughts, or cherish the affections, which are done, and spoken, and thought, and cherished, in the body and through it. Otherwise, a corpse, which is "body" alone, could do all these things. The body is a mere instrument, or organ; indispensable, it is true, to the doing of all the things enumerated, but not the real, only the apparent doer, of them.
In this relation of soul and body in one man, it is perfectly easy to see the "image" of Father and Son in the One Personality in which alone. "God" has been "brought forth to view" (John i. 18). Just as the soul is the "invisible man," so is "the Father" the "invisible God"; just as the body is the "visible man," so "the Son" is the "visible, God"; just as the soul, or "invisible man," is made. visible, "brought forth to view," or manifested, in the body and thus alone, so is the Father, or the invisible God, made visible, "brought forth to view," or manifested, in the Son, and in Him alone. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which, is in the bosom of the Father, He hath brought Him forth to view" (John i. 18).
This argument might be carried much farther into detail, with the result of furnishing additional confirmation of the truth of the conclusion arrived at; but enough has been said, we feel sure, to carry the conviction to any intelligent, open mind, that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself exhibits the relation existing between the Father and the Son, as the "pattern" of the relation existing between the soul and the body in man; or, to put it slightly otherwise, that the Lord represents "the Father" as God's Soul, and "the Son" as God's Body. And these two--Father and Son--are the first two "elements" of the Divine Trinity.
But the third--the "Holy Spirit?" It may, at first, seem to some, that any third element is excluded by the very completeness and conclusiveness of this conception of the doctrine of the Father and the Son. Soul and body, it may be thought, are all that go to make a man; and where those two are, there, without any third "element," you have a complete man. Really, this is not so. With soul and body alone, you have, it may be granted, an organically, or structurally complete and perfect man, to which, mechanically or structurally regarded, nothing more is requisite for its completeness, or, indeed, can be added. Quite so; but is "mechanism," however complete, even the "mechanism" of soul and body, all that is required to constitute a man? Suppose you have the soul and the body both present, but no life, lived by, them--no activity produced, no, works done, no words, spoken, no use performed; would this soul-and-body compound be a man? Certainly not: the most it would be, is a soul-body lay figure.
This point is slightly complicated by the fact that the "Holy Spirit proper did not exist until after God had put on a natural body, and thereby for a time dwelt in the natural world, and in that body had "glorified" His human nature, called Jesus: "The Holy Spirit WAS NOT YET,* because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John vii. 39). There did exist, however, an equivalent for the post-incarnation "Holy Spirit," in the "Spirit of God," the "Spirit of Jehovah," the "Spirit of Holiness," of which mention is so frequently made in the Old Testament Scriptures, which stood in a like relation to the "Father" and "Son" "from eternity," to that in which the "Holy Spirit "proper stands to the "Father," and the "Son" glorified in time.
* This is the true reading; see the original Greek.
In one of the few post-resurrection appearances of our Lord to His "orphaned" disciples, a notable incident occurred, which is as instructive and conclusive respecting the relation of the "Holy Spirit" and the Son, as is what we have just been digesting respecting the relation between the "Father" and the Son. When the Lord had spoken to the disciples, we read that "He breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John xx. 22). It seems scarcely necessary to point out, that that which the disciples were thus enjoined to "receive," under the name of the "Holy Spirit," was that which the Lord "breathed on them," in other words, the breath which proceeded from His Divine Body, or "the Son"; "dwelling in" which body, was the Divine Soul, or "the Father." Here, then, is the relation of the three elements of the Divine Trinity, as exhibited to us by the Lord Himself. The centre of this Trinity is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, "in whom dwelleth ALL THE FULNESS of the Godhead BODILY" (Col. ii. 9)--CONSEQUENTLY, the Divine Trinity. "Dwelling in" Him, as the soul in a man's body, is "the Father"; and proceeding from HIM, as the breath does from a man's body when it is united with the soul in the act of living, is the "Holy Spirit."
The issue of the present paper, it will be noticed, is, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the One Divine Person in whom the whole Godhead is centered, and thus that HE is God alone. This is the doctrine of the New Church which we propose to consider in our next chapter.
VI.That God ... is the Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ (True Christian Religion, n. 3).
AS the issue of our last paper, we found ourselves logically committed to the position that "the Lord Jesus Christ is the One Divine Person in whom the whole Godhead is centered, and thus that HE is God alone." By this is, of course, meant that the One Only God of heaven and earth, consisting of the Divine Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is most instructive and significant to observe the complete identity of this conclusion with the Lord's own claims, subsequently to His resurrection. According to Matthew's Gospel, His last injunction to His disciples, at the time when He was about to cease to "dwell" outwardly with them (John xiv. 17) in the world, was: "ALL POWER is given unto Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. xxviii. 18).
It is readily, and we believe generally discerned, that "all power" is simply another expression for almightiness, or omnipotence. It is indisputable; in any case, that the meaning of the word omnipotence, or almightiness, is "all-power," and nothing else.
Nor is this a claim standing by itself. Even if it were, its unequivocal transparency of significance would be amply sufficient to establish the Sole and Absolute Deity of the Savior; but it is not. We find that this same Jesus, when about to communicate His own wonderful and special Revelation--"the Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Rev. i. 1)--to "the beloved disciple," and appearing to him with that object, in His glorious Divine--Human form, subsequently described in such graphic detail (vers. 12-16), announced Himself to him in these terms: "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, SAITH THE LORD, who is, and who was, and who is to come, THE ALMIGHTY" (v. 8).
It is not, however, to the Divine prerogative of Omnipotence, only, that the Lord lays claim, or that claim is laid on His behalf, in the New Testament Scriptures, but to numerous other exclusively Divine prerogatives also.
No one who reflects upon these powers and characteristics, ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament, can have the smallest doubt that they are characteristics and powers, which cannot, in their very nature, belong to, or be possessed by, any but God. Every one of them is a manifest, a necessary, and an inalienable attribute of Deity. No being destitute of these attributes could be God. Any Being possessed of them must needs be God, and cannot be anything less. To ascribe them to any being not God, were blasphemy. To deny the Godhead of any being possessed of them, would be both insane and wicked. They are all of them ascribed, in the New Testament, to the Lord Jesus Christ. He, therefore, is, according to the teaching of the Sacred Volume, "the true God and Eternal Life" (1 John v. 20).
Most of these Divine prerogatives, however, are ascribed, it is well known, in the Word of the Old Testament, to Jehovah, who is called "the Father" in the New Testament; and some of them are represented, even in the New Testament, as being given to "the Son" by the Father. What are we to understand by this? Since they are possessed by "the Father," "the Father" is, certainly, the true God. Every obligation of reason binds us to this conclusion. Since they are possessed by "the Son," or the Lord Jesus Christ, He is certainly God. Are there, then, two Gods? Impossible. Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is ONE Lord" (Mark xii. 29; Deut. vi. 4), is the language as much of the New Testament as of the Old. Has "the Father," in conferring these Divine Prerogatives upon "the Son," then stripped Himself of them, and thus Himself ceased to be God, that is, ceased to be altogether?--for, for one who is God to cease to be God, is inevitably to cease to be. Or, has He, on the other hand, simply shared them with "the Son," and thus divided the Godhead with Him?
The former of these alternatives must, of course, be summarily rejected, as alike repugnant to reason, and at variance with the continued representation of "The Father" as God, up to the very end of the New Testament. The latter, then, is the only one that can be for a moment entertained; and there are probably many who would say that even this cannot be entertained--no, not for one moment.
We just remind ourselves, in passing, that at least one of these attributes--namely, Omnipotence--cannot, as we have seen, possibly be shared: to divide it is to abolish it: to partition all-power between two can only result in each possessing part--power, however vast that may be, and neither--and, in this case, no one-possessing all-power, or Omnipotence. But we are not left to this mere conclusion of reason, irresistible though it is. All will recognize that these Divine attributes and prerogatives constitute the distinctive "glory" of God. And respecting His "glory," Jehovah, or "the Father," has declared: "I am Jehovah; that is My name; and My glory will I NOT give TO ANOTHER" (Isa. xlii. 8).
Now, "the Father" did "give" a number of those Divine attributes which constitute His "glory" to the Lord Jesus Christ. What is the inference? If the testimony of the Divine Word on the matter is accepted--and the New Church, at all events, accepts it implicitly, and takes its stand upon it--only one inference is possible; and that is, be the appearance what it may, and be the difficulties what they may, that the Lord Jesus Christ is not "another" than the Father, that is, is no other than the Father Himself. In other words, we are compelled to take our Lord's own assurance, "I and My Father are ONE" (John x. 30), as expressing the absolute, literal truth on the subject, and as meaning that He is not, in any sense, "another" than the Father, but the same, and, consequently, the Father Himself, even though in another form or manifestation, namely, "in the flesh."
It may be urged that this view has its difficulties. In reply, we would venture to submit that this is not a "view": it is the crowning truth of the Word of God on this highest and profoundest of all subjects. It is the teaching and the plain import of numerous Scriptures; and, if this import be not allowed, the various Scriptures concerned must be either altogether denied and rejected, or else shorn of all significance whatsoever.
But that there are many allusions, representations, and appearances in the Divine Word, which it is difficult to reconcile with this truth, we readily admit. The following are some of these difficulties. To begin with, there is the fact that the New Testament habitually refers to our Lord as "the Son," and to God as His "Father." The question almost inevitably arises in the mind when this fact is remembered, and when it is remembered also that He declares that-"He and the Father are ONE. Is it possible for a father and a son to be one and the same? Can anyone be his own son? and, still more perplexing, can he be-and this at the same time-his own Father? Other difficulties arising out of the great truth that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, and the Only God, are the following Was God" born" nineteen hundred years ago?--for Jesus was (see Luke ii. 1-7). Had God a mother for Jesus had (John ii. 1, and numerous other places). Did God "grow in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man"?--for Jesus did this (Luke ii: 52). Is God ever "hungry"?--for Jesus "hungered" (Matt. xxi. 18). Does God sleep?--Jesus slept (Matt. viii. 24). Does God suffer "agony"?--Jesus did (Luke xxii. 44). Was God "scourged"? Was God "crucified"?--Jesus endured both these things. Did God DIE eighteen hundred and sixty-nine years ago?--Jesus did. Does God need to "pray"?--Jesus prayed (Luke xxii. 41). Can God be "tempted"?--the Apostle declares that "God cannot be tempted with evil" (James i. 13). Yet Jesus was tempted (Matt. iv. 1-11).
It may be admitted, that, at first sight, throe difficulties look somewhat formidable. Our readers will probably be astonished, however, to find how trifling they become, and how easily they are resolved, when viewed from the standpoint of the true doctrine of the Trinity and the Godhead, unfolded in our last paper, and in this.
The first thing to be borne in mind in considering them is, that according to the Divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ is "the Mighty God, the Father of Eternity" (Isa. ix. 6), Omnipotent "in heaven and on earth" (Matt. xxviii. 18), "the Almighty" (Rev. i. 8), and that, although there is a distinction between "the Son "and "the Father," it is not a distinction of Person--for it is precisely as to Person that "He and the Father are ONE"--but solely a distinction answering to that between the "soul" and the "body" in man. The Trinity of the Scriptures, be it once more insisted, is not a Trinity of three Persons, but a Trinity of Soul, Body, and forth-flowing Activity in One Person. In contemplating this subject, therefore; in the consideration of the difficulties attending its full comprehension, we must keep this truth--the rational and Scriptural certainty of which is, surely, beyond question with those who have followed us thus far!--clearly and immovably before our eyes.
In approaching the difficulty which we place at the head of the list--How could the same Lord Jesus Christ be both "Father" and "Son"?--we remember, then, that "the Father" was the Soul of the Lord Jesus Christ, and "the Son" His Body.
Keeping this in mind, we can easily see that the personal pronouns would be used by the Lord, and of Him, sometimes from the standpoint of His Divinity, and sometimes from the standpoint of His Humanity. Just so do we speak of ourselves. I should say, "I have cut myself"; and I should mean, and every one would understand me to mean, that I have cut my body: it would never be imagined that I had cut my soul. Again, when I say, "I am very sorry for you," I mean that my soul experiences the affection of sorrow: no one would dream of understanding me to mean that my body experienced "sorrow." "I am hungry," similarly means that my body hungers, or requires material food, not that my soul is in need of such food. "I ache all over," again, means that my body aches. "The man died," means that the body of the man in question ceased to live--not that his soul ceased to live. The proposition, "I am mortal; for I am a man," is true or false, according as the "I" stands for the body or the soul. If it stands for the body, it is true; for that is mortal, and it is characteristic of man that his body is mortal. If the "I" stands for the soul, the proposition is false; for it is characteristic of man that his soul is immortal. And, similarly, the proposition, "I am immortal; for I am a man," is either true or false according as the "I" stands for the soul or the body.
It is manifest, therefore, that, owing to our composite structure of "soul" and "body," we may speak from the standpoint of either our soul or our body under precisely the same form of expression; and interpretation is necessary in order to know which of those standpoints is intended by the speaker.
But, while the personal pronouns used of the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and also the name "Jesus" and the title "Lord," may stand for either His Divine Soul separately, His human nature separately, or His composite Divine-human Personality, this is, never the case with the terms "Father" and Son. Each of these terms is invariably used in its distinctive sense; and, in that sense, "the Father" is the Divine element, or the Soul, and "the Son" the human element, or Body, of the composite Divine-Human Person whose name is the Lord Jesus Christ.
This firmly grasped, the imagined "difficulty"--How can the Lord be both Father and Son?--is seen to be no difficulty at all.
"For of the soul the body form doth take;
For soul is form, and doth the body make."
And the intuition is confirmed, beyond a doubt, by the single consideration, that acts, which belong to the "body," are invariably, and of necessity, the offspring of intentions and thoughts, which belong to the "soul." The things of the body being the offspring of things of the soul, and the things of the soul the parents of the things of the body, is an indication of the truth, that, in the process of birth, the soul is first created, and afterwards, and by means of the soul, the body. In this point of view, therefore, the soul is seen to be "the father" of the body, and the body to be "the son" of the soul. And when we bear in mind the further fact that the Lord's human nature, born in time, had, according to the gospel narratives (Matt i. 18-25; Luke i. 34-5), no other "father" than the Infinite and Eternal Deity Itself, which became its "soul," the appropriateness of signifying that Divine Soul by "the Father," and the humanity which was actually born of it by "the Son," is at once manifest.
The supposed corollary of this difficulty--Can anyone be his own son? or his own father?simply vanishes, in the light of this point of view, into thin air, of its own accord.
And every one of the remaining difficulties yields, with at least equal ease, tot eh same point of view. Thus: GOD was not born. GOD did not grow. GOD had not a mother. GOD is never hungry. GOD does not sleep. GOD cannot suffer agony. GOD was not scourged, nor crucified, nor pierced with nails or spear. GOD did not die. GOD does not need to pray; nor did He ever do so. And, finally, GOD was not tempted. Nor does the fact that these things all happened to Jesus, in the smallest degree imply that they happened to God. They all happened to Him as to His Body, or the human element of His Soul, or its Divine element. It was His Soul, or the Divine element that was God: His body, or the human element, was man, and, as man, liable to, and capable of, every one of the purely human experiences which it underwent, and its undergoing of which furnishes the occasion of the difficulties we are now considering, ormay we not say?which have now been, at any rate, in general, disposed of.
It should be remembered that even the human nature, when glorified, became Divine, or the manhood God, and that it is so now.
The subject cannot, however, be seen in the limpid clearness which is desirable, and which the doctrines of the New Church make possible, without a knowledge and understanding of the doctrine of the wonderful miracle of the Incarnation of God in Christ, which will be the subject of our next chapter. That will clear up every shadow of difficulty in connection with this great subject.
VII.The Necessity for the Incarnation.
AS it is impossible to "know" that supreme mystery of the Kingdom of God" (Matt. xiii. ii), the Incarnation of the Eternal God in human flesh in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, without some preliminary comprehension of why so transcendent a miracle should have been wrought at all, we place at the threshold of the present inquiry. "The faith of the New Heaven and the New Church in its universal form" (True Christian Religion, n. 2) in reference to this subject. It is as follows--"It is a universal of faith that no flesh could have been saved unless the Lord had come into the world. It is a universal of faith that He came into the world to remove hell from man, which He effected by combats against it, and victories over it, whereby He subjugated it, and reduced it to order, and under obedience to Himself. It is a universal of faith that He came into the world to glorify His Humanity which He put on in the world; that is, to unite it to the Divine from which it came forth: thus He keeps hell in order, and under obedience to eternity.
We would draw attention, at the outset, to the unmistakableness of the truth, that, "unless the Lord had come into the world no flesh could have been saved." It is a well-known teaching of the Word of God, that the Humanity which God took upon Him by the Incarnation was the means of bringing salvation to men. That Humanity it is that is called the Son; and concerning it, it is written: "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him MIGHT BE SAVED" (John iii. 17).
The next thing required is, to know what that condition was which could be remedied only by God Himself coming into the world as a man. The New Church teaches, as quoted above, that it was a "preponderance of the power of hell over the power of heaven, and on earth the power of evil over the power of good; in consequence of which a total damnation impended and threatened every creature." Such a statement may at first awaken incredulity, on the ground that it is commonly thought impossible that hell can have greater power than heaven. Still, there is the fact that our Lord Himself affirmed, in a statement hitherto involved in mystery, the existence of just such a condition of things, when He was in the world: "From the days of John the Baptist until now," He declared, "the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence; and the violent take it by force," (Matt. xi. 12; and, in so saying, He clearly represents heaven as being in a state of siege from a hostile power, and in at least imminent danger of falling a prey to the enemy. Now, it is certain that there is only one "power" that can be defined as hostile in relation to heaven, and that power is its opposite and antagonist, hell," most significantly designated by the Lord, in this place, "the violent." It is, therefore, a teaching of the Lord, as well as of the Doctrines of the New Church--a teaching, moreover, preserved to man for ever in the Divine Word-that, at the time of the Incarnation, hell was preponderating over heaven, and endangering it continuance.
There is, besides, a very striking corroboration of this as the true force of the statement in question, in another hitherto uncomprehended utterance which fell from our Lord's lips on a subsequent occasion. When the seventy disciples whom He had sent "two and two before His face into every city and place whither He Himself would come" (Luke x. 1), returned from their mission, and reported to Him, "with joy," "Lord, even THE DEVILS ARE SUBJECT unto us, through Thy Name" (ver. 17), He made the apparently inconsequent and even irrelevant reply, "I beheld Satan as lightning FALL, FROM HEAVEN" (ver. 18). "Satan" is a name--as "the Devil" is a title--under which, in the Divine Word, the whole of the infernal powers, or "hell," are personified, and by which those powers are signified; and here is the Lord declaring to His disciples the repulse of those powers, or "Satan," from Heaven. Clearly, such repulse could never have occurred unless the infernal powers had been there--the very" violent one," at whose hands He had previously declared, the kingdom of heaven was in those days "suffering violence."
So much, then, for specific Scriptures indicating the existence of a condition of things in which the hells were in assault, and to some extent successful assaultthe violent TAKE IT by forceagainst the heavens, to repulse and finally put down which, was one of the things which the Lord came on earth to effect. Most manifest is it, that the existence of such a state of things imperatively demanded putting down; for, when hell had, at that day, acquired such a degree of power against heaven as to evidently imperil its integrity and security, with what prospects of success could mortal man, in this lower sphere, hope to struggle against it?
We see, moreover, in one of the most striking features of the Gospel histories, the frightful extent of the power which hell exerted over men in the world--we refer to the phenomenon of "demoniacal possession." Unless the Gospels are mere "cunningly-devised fables," and are not "words of truth and soberness," possession by devils, or "unclean spirits," of the very bodies of men, so that the control of men's limbs, organs, muscles, speech, and actions was usurped by spirits of hell, was a FACT, and even a common fact, in the days of the Lord's presence in this world as a man. Accepting the plain and persistent testimony of the Word of the New Testament, we find that the power of infernal spirits, which, collectively, are "hell," over men--at all times great as regards their souls,--had, at that crisis in human history, extended itself, in numerous instances, even to their bodies and limbs. And when numbers of men are the helpless slaves of hell, not only as to their souls, but also as to their bodies, it is perfectly evident that the only issue, unless the dread ascendancy, is peremptorily overthrown, must be the eventual temporal and eternal destruction of the race. For it is to be well observed, that the bodily possession, dreadful and appalling though it is even in itself, was but the token and the evidence of, because the sequel to, a spiritual possession incalculably more awful, and so common as to be general.
"This impending damnation Jehovah God averted by His Humanity" (True Christian Religion, n. 3); "which He effected by combats against hell and victories over it; whereby He subjugated it, and reduced it to order and under obedience to Himself.... As this could not be accomplished except by paeans of the temptations wherewith He suffered Himself to be assailed, even to the last and most extreme of all, which was His passion on the Cross, therefore He endured that suffering" (ibid., n. 2).
We may, with earnest thought, perceive the truth of every one of these positions by a series of considerations, which shall start with the question: How had hell acquired this power over men which nothing but the Incarnation of Jehovah God was adequate to overthrow?
From the time when the human race first fell from their pristine state of spiritual integrity and purity, signified by "the Garden of Eden," by yielding to the temptation to eat of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," and, in so doing, gave origin to evil and thus also to hell, right on to the time of the Lord's coming into the world, the career of the human race had been one almost uninterrupted declension.
Our next enquiry must be, In what way could this ruinous ascendancy of hell be remedied?
It is commonly believed that God could quite easily have effected the necessary change, had He so chosen, by bringing His Omnipotence to bear--thus immediately reducing hell to impotence, and restoring man to spiritual capacity and strength. Even apart from the circumstance that the fact that He did not do this, is to some extent, an evidence that the thing could not be accomplished in this way, there is the most weighty consideration, that, if the evil could have been remedied by this means, it could, by the same means, have been prevented from ever coming into existence. And, to believe that God allowed evil when he could have prevented it by so simple a means, and that, having avoidably--that is, willfully--allowed it to come into too existence, He should then set to work to remove it by the very means which He might have used to so much better advantage in preventing it from ever coming to pass at all, is so grave a reflection upon the Goodness as well as the Wisdom of God, that it must be repugnant to every reverent mind.
The real solution of the question before us, may be found by a recollection of the way in which the evil was brought about. That was, as we have seen, by men in general yielding to the temptations which it is the constant occupation and delight of evil spirits to infuse into them, until, in the course of ages, they had made themselves the helpless slaves of hell.
Let us now ask ourselves the question, How might the terrible evil we are considering have been put an end to?
Supposing men had retained the inclination and ability to resist temptation, and triumph over it, and had consistently used their power for a succession of generations, it is evident that the result would have been the gradual overthrow of the ascendancy of hell, and the gradual restoration of mankind to spiritual power.
Supposing, again, that a single individual had been able to do this, and had done it, it is equally evident that the power of hell over mankind in general would have received a check, however small that check might be.
But supposing, further, that this individual had been able to sustain temptation, offer resistance, and achieve victory, in respect to all the evils into which mankind had ever fallen, it is clear that he would have become for himself the conqueror and master of hell, and be able, as long as he had the inclination, to keep hell in subjection to himself.
And supposing, finally, such an individual to be able to place his power over hell at the disposal of other men, what would have been the result of that? Plainly, the solution of the problem; the abolition of man's helplessness as an irremediable state, and the overthrow of the usurped supremacy of the powers of darkness over the human race. The accomplishment of such a thing as this would unquestionably have been the effective Redemption of men from the bondage of infernal spirits, and the establishment of a new order of things spiritual, under which, if he would only use his powers and avail himself of his opportunities, every man might be saved.
By such means, then, Redemption could have been accomplished, if only the means could be furnished.
The crucial point, however, is, that it is only in temptation combats that this possible mode of Redemption--the only mode, moreover, which we can see to be possible-could be provided. And "God" cannot be tempted with evil" (Jas. i. 13). Unless, therefore, God could by some means render Himself accessible to temptations--which He is not, and cannot be, in His Infinite and Eternal Deity-Redemption could not by this means be accomplished. On the other hand, if God could in any way bring Himself within reach of temptation--the field in which the hells wielded their destructive supremacy--Redemption would be an accomplished fact, and men could be saved.
In this chapter we have endeavored to show what the spiritual conditions were that made Redemption necessary, and how those conditions came into existence; that they could not be remedied by the direct exercise of the Divine Omnipotence alone; that, nevertheless, Omnipotence was necessary to the accomplishment of the gigantic task; and that, if only means could be provided by which God could be brought face to face with hell in a temptation--warfare, the work of Redemption, gigantic though it is, could--and would--be accomplished. It will be the object of our next chapter to show that that means could be furnished by the Incarnation of God in a real human nature, and by that means alone; and that, and how, it actually was so provided.
VIII.--A Rational Doctrine of the Incarnation.
WE endeavored, in our last chapter, to establish the position that, in the terrible state of helpless enslavement to hell into which mankind had at length come, as the result of numberless generations of ready compliance with the suggestions and temptations of "the Devil," nothing but Omnipotence was equal to the task of Redemption, and, at the same time, that Omnipotence could not operate directly to terminate the usurped supremacy of hell over man.
The certainty of the latter of these points, we rested chiefly upon the consideration that God did not resort to this means to accomplish the end; and we confirmed it by the further consideration, that, if God could have remedied the evil in this way, He could equally have prevented it in the same way. The fact, however, stares us in the face, that He did not resort to the direct and arbitrary application of His Omnipotence, either to prevent the evil from arising, or to remedy it when it had arisen: a fact which is, surely, strong a priori proof that this mode of dealing with the disorder was not possible, and, therefore, cannot be entertained by the reverent rational mind as tenable hypothesis.
But a glimpse of the reason why, will serve to strengthen us in this irresistible negative conclusion, and give us that something positive to go upon, which the rational mind so dearly and legitimately loves. This reason why, is revealed in the following teaching of the New Church
The reason why it was necessary for God to become incarnate, that is, to be made man in order to effect Redemption, is, because Jehovah God, such as He is in His Infinite essence, cannot approach unto hell, much less enter it, inasmuch as He is, in that essence, in purest and first principles; therefore, since Jehovah in Himself is such, if He had only breathed upon the inhabitants of hell, it would have deprived them instantly of life; for He said to Moses, who was desirous of seeing Him "Thou canst not see My face; for there shall no man see Me and live" (Exod. xxxiii. 20); and, if Moses could not see Him, much less could the infernal spirits, who, being in the lowest degree natural, are in last and grossest states, and thus in such as are most remote from God (True Christian Religion, n. 124).
The inevitable consequence of the immediate operation of the Divine Omnipotence upon the hells, in order to deprive them of their ascendancy over men--which would have been the immediate presence of God Himself, in His Infinite essence, face to face with hell--would thus have been the utter annihilation of those there; and, inasmuch as hell is made up of "all those who, from the creation of the world, have alienated themselves from God by evils of life and falsities of faith" (T. C. R., n. 123), and thus, of the misguided men and women from the natural world, who, in spite of all Divine efforts to the contrary, have perversely made their final bed in hell, it cannot possibly be consistent with God's loving purposes, which, like "His tender mercies, are over all His works," to thus blast into mere nothingness even the hells.
It is obvious, and it was the effort of our last chapter to show, that the mode must have been one that was adapted to the nature of the situation to be grappled with, the salient feature of which was that the sphere of hell's ascendancy was that of temptation. It was in the field of temptation that hell had gained its supremacy, and that mankind had lost its power and validity: it was in the field of temptation, therefore, under the normal conditions of temptation-combat, that hell needed to be met, fought, defeated, and utterly and finally subjugated, if man's Redemption was to be wrought. And the opposing power had to be Divine; and, consequently, the opposing Being had to be God, "the Almighty," Himself.
The first requisite, therefore, was that God should render Himself accessible to temptation; because, in His intrinsic nature, or in His Infinite essence, "God cannot be tempted with evil; ... but every man is tempted, when he is carried away of his own lust and enticed" (Jas. i. 13-14).
Now, where are such "lusts" to be found? Where, alone, in the whole universe, do the conditions exist in which spiritual temptation to evil is a possibility? There is only one possible answer: in human nature. We reach the conclusion, then, that the only way in which God could bring Himself within reach of temptation, and at the same time make His Omnipotence available in temptation--experiences, was by somehow bringing together, in one individuality, His eternal Divine Nature and a real temptable human nature--the human nature to supply the temptable elements and conditions, in the form of innate lusts, or actual tendencies, to evil and falsehood, and the Divine Nature to supply the Divine Omnipotence, the exercise of which the nature and magnitude of the work to be done imperatively demanded. God needed, then, to "put on" a bona-fide individual human nature, containing those tendencies and prepossessions to specific evils--and to all possible specific evils which actually constitute the temptableness of human nature.
The association, however, of the Divine and human elements, in such a Divine-human personality, must not be an open one, manifestly extant to both the elements of such personality. This is because one of the things that places God above and beyond all possibility of being tempted, is the fact that He is God, and, therefore, consciously Omnipotent; for no being so situated could be really tempted of any evil. In presence of the consciousness of Omnipotence on the part of the "tempted" being, temptation would obviously be a mere breath--a name--affording no parallel whatever to man's temptation, and, moreover, no possibility of the abolition of that helplessness in the face of temptation, which was the real evil to be grappled with, and which man's constant fall under real temptation had brought about.
The ordinary human nature, born of a human father and human mother, under the ordinary conditions of human birth, would, plainly, not meet the necessities of this case. It must be a human nature, and yet a human nature entirely out of the common run; radically distinguished from every other human nature in the world's history. The ordinary human nature is human through and through, within and without; the human nature demanded by the conditions of the problem of Redemption, was one within which the Divine Nature should be really, though not manifestly, present. In fact, just such a nature was required as the Lord Jesus Christ plainly teaches us that He possessed: "The Father," He declared," that DWELLETH IN ME, He doeth the works" (John xiv. 10).
Let us look at this aspect of the matter a little more closely. Every mere man has two parents, a father and a mother. He also has, as constituting his individuality, two parts, an inner part, or "soul," and an outer part, which includes the "body," and of which the body is the typical and characteristic feature. It is certain that each parent contributes his and her own share, to the formation of their joint offspring; and rational thought at once perceives that that share, in each case, is specific and unvarying. What if the two specific elements, respectively, of the human personality, above pointed out--the soul and the body--be the specific and unvarying contribution of the two parents, respectively? Certain it is, and perfectly well known, that the body of every child is formed within the body of the mother; and, consequently, that the mother contributes the "body."
. . . of the Soul the Body Form doth take;
For Soul is Form, and doth the Body make,
it should seem that the father's contribution to the new individual must be the "soul." Such, in any case, is the express, authoritative teaching of the New Church. We read:
The soul, which is from the father, is the very man, and the body, which is from the mother, is not, in itself, man, but only by derivation from the soul, and is merely the clothing of the real man, composed of such materials as belong to the natural world; whereas the soul is composed of such substances as belong to the spiritual world.... There is in the seed of which everyone is conceived, a graft, or offset, of the father's soul in its fullness, enveloped in a kind of covering taken from natural elements, by which, in the womb of the mother, his body is formed; and this [that is, the body] may be after either the father or the mother's likeness--the true image of the father all the while remaining within, and constantly striving to unfold itself, which, if it cannot do in one generation, it effects in another (T. C. R. 103).
And application is made of this law, to the Incarnation, in the following terms:
With respect to the Lord, what was Divine appertaining to Him was from Jehovah, the Father, and what was human from the mother; and these two united are the Son of God (ibid. 92);
It is instructive to observe how entirely and exactly this doctrine, with all its consequences, fits in with, and illuminates, what we are taught in the Gospels about the birth of that "holy thing" which was called the "Son of God." The Divine Word of the New Testament teaches, in the clearest possible language, and with the utmost circumstantiality and precision of statement--so that there is absolutely no choice but either to accept it as the simple truth, or to reject it as falsehood--that Jesus, (1) had a human mother but no human father--and that (2) instead of a human father--and consequently contributing that element of His personality, which, in other cases, is contributed by the human father, namely, the soul--there was, with Him, the "Holy Spirit" and the Power of the Highest--Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing that I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the Power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; THEREFORE, also, that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of GOD" (Luke i. 35, 36).
It is important to notice, not only that the "soul" of the Divine-human personality, thus born into the world, was its "Divine element," as we have designated it, and thus that it was "Divine" in its quality and nature, but that it was the One Deity Himself.
It is supposable that a difficulty may be experienced, by some, in conceiving how such a thing as a child being born of a human mother, and yet having no human father, could possibly take place. The rational mind is not satisfied--though it may be silenced: but that is no advantage-with the announcement that of course it was a miracle, and that the mode of its happening-if, indeed, "mode" is not altogether incompatible with the idea of miracle--does not in the least affect its possibility. For, somehow, the very groundwork of all rational thought is, that things neither do themselves, nor are done by the creative Power of God just anyhow, but that all things, miracle or not, are the work of a Rational God operating in a rational manner, and thus in a manner capable of being comprehended by the rational mind of man. Thanks to the doctrines of the New Church, revealed by God out of heaven in these latter days, the manner of the great miracle of the Incarnation may be thus rationally comprehended.
To understand the manner of the miraculous, or extraordinary birth, it is necessary that we understand, and have clearly before our minds, the manner of an ordinary birth. What is the manner, or the law, of ordinary human birth, or propagation? Is it a male and female coming into a certain mutual relation on the physical plane--and nothing more? Surely, that is not the whole account of the matter! For, the issue of the relation is a living human being constituted of a soul and body, each comprising in itself innumerable and most marvelous organs, faculties, and powers. What gave that new soul and body, with their no less than miraculous capacities, being? Who made it? The man? The woman? Both the man and the woman together? None of these is a possible answer, for the rational mind, to the question, How came that new soul--and--body entity into being? Who made it? The only answer is, that it is the work of the One Creator, who is as indispensably concerned in the creation of new beings, through parents, by the mode of propagation, when the race had been started, as He was in the creation of the first of human beings at the beginning of the race. The operation of the Divine Creator is as indispensable now as it was then--the only difference is, that now it operates through the instrumentality of existing individuals of the race, and then it operated without that instrumentality.
The contrast, then, between the birth of Jesus and that of an ordinary human being is, that whereas, in the latter, God creates the new living creature through the instrumentality of two existing human beings--a man and a woman--in the case of the Incarnation, God created the Divine-human personality, afterwards named Jesus, through the instrumentality of only one existing human being--a woman, a virgin. It is most instructive to note, also, that the contrast between the birth of Jesus and the birth of a mere man is not so great as that between an ordinary being and the creation of the first human beings--which was, of course, of the necessity of the case, effected without any human instrumentality whatever. We may say, therefore, that, in a certain sense, the Incarnation was not so great a miracle as the creation of the first human beings--if the greatness of a miracle is to be estimated by the extent to which it dispenses with the usual means in the attainment of its end. In an ordinary birth, the ever-active Creator (1) gives to "a graft, or offset, from the soul" of a living man, a separate life, and thus forms the new individual soul; He then (2), through that soul, forms a suitable and accordant body within the body of the mother; and (3) as it were welds the two, by orderly processes, into a new creature. It is to be noted that God communicates life to the "soul-graft," by Himself flowing inmostly into it, on a new and independent basis, and dwelling there; for He, alone, is Life. In the extraordinary birth of Jesus Christ, God Himself, the Life, (1) constituted Himself the "soul;" and, then, by means of the operation of His Spiritthe Holy Spirit shall come upon thee
Let us now, in conclusion, glance at one of the results of this mode--the only possible mode--by which God provided Himself with a human nature, in which to come into the world, and be "tempted in all points like as we are," for our Redemption from the preponderating power of hell.
Inmostly, within every man there must be God Himself as his ultimate life; for God, who alone is "Life in Himself," is, necessarily, the ultimate life of ALL that is; and unless He, with His Divine life, flowed into man, every moment, man would simply perish for lack of the supply of the uncreatable Life. In fact, when man does perish, or die, so far as his life in this world is concerned, it is simply because he has ceased to receive God's Life in his body.
The "soul" which a man receives from his father is not "life," but is the very first and innermost receptacle in his constitution, in which the Life which is constantly flowing forth from God is received; and the soul hands on, as it were, the life from God, which it thus receives, to the lower planes of the nature, in succession, even at length to the body itself.
Now, with Jesus, there was nothing from a human source higher than the body, and the bodily plane of the spirit with its affections and thoughts. All above that, was, in Him, the Divine, or God, or "the Father;" so that, in Him, the Divine Life permanently dwelt an entire plane lower down than it does with any mere man, and was, consequently, together with its Omnipotence, Omniscience, and every other Divine Attribute, so much nearer to hand, so to speak, and so much more readily available, in the person of Jesus, than in any merely human being it ever has been or ever can be. Be it well observed, once more, that this distinction was the direct and inevitable consequence of the peculiarity of His conception and birth, as taking place without a human father.
This is exactly what we have previously seen the conditions of the problem of Redemption demanded. God made Himself accessible to temptation at the hands of the hells, by taking upon Himself a real human nature, containing all possible temptable elements;
In this way, then, was the Incarnation effected, and by this means did our Heavenly "Father" furnish Himself with an "arm" whereby He could "redeem His people from the hand of all, that hated them," and bring Salvation within their reach. And all that we read in the Gospels about the birth, growth, sufferings, temptations, praying, and the gradual perfecting and eventual glorification of the humanity of Jesus, were, simply, the "Father of Eternity" "doing," in the humanity He had fashioned for Himself that He might do them, those "works" which were necessary for the Redemption of man. By this means, and to that end, was He "tempted in all points like as we are," in that human nature; by this means, and to that end, did He teach His human nature "obedience"; by this means, and to that end, was that human nature "perfected through its sufferings";
IX.The Divine Humanity.
AFTER showing, in our paper on the Sole Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ, the co-existence in Him of two natures, one Divine, the other human, we pointed out that "the human nature even, when glorified, became Divine, or the manhood God, and that it is so now." We also postulated that this has been the case "only subsequently to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, when Jesus entered into His glory (Luke xxiv. 26). Until then, it was both human, imperfect, and infirm; and it was in this [earlier] state and capacity that it learned obedience [Heb. v. 8], and was MADE PERFECT through sufferings, and could and did suffer, and do the many things" predicated of it (pp. 86, 7, 8). We intimated, at the same time, that this higher aspect of the subject could not be usefully dealt with, because not adequately grasped, until the true doctrine of the Incarnation had been set forth. But, as this doctrine was the theme of our last paper, the time has now come to revert to, and finish the consideration of, the subject of the absolute and exclusive Godhead of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The great aim of all our previous efforts in relation to the Divine-human personality of Jesus has been to present the utter distinctness which obtained between its Divine and human elements, during the Lord's life in the world. Apart from the clear discernment of this distinctness, many of the references and allusions contained in the Gospels, most of them coming from our Lord's own lips, cannot possibly be understood. This we illustrated at length in the paper referred to; and we showed, at the same time, how replete with meaning, and even how simple, such allusions become, when looked at from the point of view of the distinction which existed between the Divine and human elements of the personality of Jesus.
But it so happens that most of those allusions necessarily carry with them the implication of the non-Divinity of the human nature, and thus apparently involve the refutation of the idea that that human nature was God. And yet it was manifestly to His Human nature that our Lord referred when He announced, immediately prior to His Ascension, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. xxviii. 18), and thus claimed Omnipotence in all worlds, and, of inevitable consequence, not only true and Absolute, but Sole Divinity, for it. In fact, it is His Human nature that is meant when Godhead is claimed for the Lord Jesus Christ by the New Church. Herein, in fact, lies the great difference between the New Church and those sections of the Old that affirm the Deity of the Lord.
What is the solution? Curiously enough, the clue is found in immediate connection, in the Writings of the New Church, with their affirmation, cited above, of the Godhead of the Manhood in the Lord. Their fuller statement is
With respect to the Lord, He, during His abode in the world, by acts of Redemption, put off the whole humanity which He had from His mother, and put on a Humanity from the Father, which is the Divine Humanity; so that, in Him, Man is God, and God is Man (T. C.R. 103).
This summary, it will be observed, intimates the existence not only of the distinction between the Divine and the human natures, in the Lord, which we have previously dwelt upon, but of two distinct human natures: one from the mother with which he was born, and which, in fact, he "put on" by being born; and the other from the Father who "dwelt in" Him, which he did not have when born, and thus did not "put on" by birth, but which he acquired, or "put on," subsequently, and by some other process. There are here implied, we are desirous of pointing out, six distinct positions:
(1) That the Lord, while in the world, had two "humanities."
(2) That one of these "humanities" was derived from His human mother, the other from His Divine "Father."
(3) That the Lord came into the possession of, or "put on," the former of these "humanities" at birth, and by birth; but of the latter not "at birth," but subsequently, and not "by birth," but by some other means.
(4) That the Lord "put off," or discarded, the former of these "humanities," while He was in the world, and that, consequently, He does not now possess it.
(5) That the only "humanity" the Lord now possesses is the second of the two here mentioned--the one from "the Father."
(6) That this latter "humanity"--the one which was not from the human "mother," but from the Divine "Father," not "put on" at and by birth into the world, but at some later period, Grid in another way--is the one that is called the "Divine Humanity," the only one that now exists, and the only one of which GODHEAD is affirmed.
We venture to announce here that these positions, duly and understandingly entered into, will be found to resolve all the difficulties connected with the true and exclusive Deity of Jesus, which the New Church teaches, and which is the very essence and the whole tenor of the teaching of the Divine Word: "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. xix. 10).
As far as the humanity which the Lord received at and by His birth from His mother, which we shall hereafter call the "infirm humanity," is concerned, all that has been said will receive assent, except that the Lord put this off, or discarded it, while He was in the world, and does not now, therefore, possess it. This is all, connected with the infirm humanity, that will occasion doubt or difficulty; and respecting this we will, for the present, content ourselves with citing the following important deliverance of the New Church Writings themselves on the point. They say--
It is believed, at this day, that the Lord, as to His humanity, not only was but also is the Son of Mary; but, in this, the Christian world is under a great mistake. That He was the Son of Mary is trace; but that He is so still is NOT TRUE; for, by acts of Redemption, He put off the humanity which He derived from His mother, and put on a humanity from His Father; in consequence of which, the Lord's humanity is Divine, and, in Him, God is man, and man God. That He put off the humanity from the mother, and put on a Humanity from the Father, which is the Divine Humanity, may appear evident from this circum. stance, that He never called Mary His mother; as may be seen in the following passages: "The mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come" (John ii. 3, 4); and in another place, "When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother!" (John xix. 26, 27); and, at one time, we find that He did not acknowledge her to be His mother "It was told Him by some who said, Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to see Thee. And He saith unto them, My mother and My brethren are these who hear the Word of God, and do it" (Luke viii. 20, 21).
All that requires to be noted here is, that it is not to be imagined that the Lord, in setting aside, or, at the least, in persistently refraining from acknowledging the motherhood of Mary, was doing so in reference to the humanity which he had, according to the Gospels, derived from her, and of which she was the mother. This is not supposable. The only conclusion is, that, besides the humanity which was from Mary, and of which she was the mother, there was in Him, at the time, another Humanity which was not from her, and of which she was not the mother; and that it was from this second humanity that the Lord was then speaking, and that He was very expressly teaching its nonhuman derivation, and hence quality. That this was really the case, and how it came to be so, will, we hope, become apparent as we proceed.
But there remain the difficulties connected with the second or Divine humanity which is postulated, which are (1) the question of its very existence; (2) the mode of its assumption, or "putting on," by Jesus; and (3) the question of its being Divine, not merely in the sense of belonging to, or being the property of, God, but in respect to its own intrinsic quality, essence, and origin.
In turning more directly to them, it is necessary that we remind ourselves of what we have already learned respecting the constitution of the personality of Jesus.
Like an ordinary man's, it was two-fold, consisting of (a) the soul and (b) the body, and that plane of the spirit, with its affections and thoughts, that is in immediate contact with the body. Like an ordinary man's, too, the body and bodily plane of the spirit, at birth, was from the mother; but the soul in Him, unlike man's, was not from His Father, it was His Father, that is, God: "THE FATHER that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." Deity Itself, having with it all its Divine qualities, properties, and attributes--Omnipotence among the rest-was the soul of Jesus, which was allied with a humanly descended body and bodily plane of spirit, or humanity, in order that, in Him, Divine Omnipotence and temptable human infirmity might be together, to the end that the hells, by assailing the humanity, might bring themselves into conflict with and within reach of the very Divine Omnipotence, and thus be reduced to subjection by the only power in the universe capable of their subjugation, without, in the act, hurling them into annihilation. This, then, was how the altogether unique personality of Jesus was constituted and circumstanced.
It comes out most clearly, in the whole of the New Testament, that the hells, or the combined hordes of infernal spirits who constitute them, did come into conflict with the Lord, in the humanity He had taken in order that they should do so; and this, both in the way of temptation, and in the bodies of men whom they "possessed" who came in contact with Him in His humanity, and were exorcised by Him. The Lord was thus carrying on what we may call both a spiritual and a natural, or bodily, exorcism. He exorcised men's bodies of the devils who possessed them, and He exorcised His own "infirm" humanity of the devils who besieged and infested it at every possible point, and with all the power at their, command; and, by this latter exorcism, He drove the hells from the closeness and intimacy of association with the spirits of men generally--a very nestling and dwelling in them--which constituted the spiritual obsession under which the entire race groaned.
And it would seem that the devils knew whom they were assailing: "We know Thee who Thou art: the Holy One of God" (Mark i. 24; see, also, Matt. viii. 29). But they could no more help assailing Him than a moth can help rushing into the flame--though, probably, for different reasons. The very fact that He was God, and their knowing it, while it indeed inspired them with fear and terror, drove them to a frenzy of hatred.
Defeated time after time, they returned again and again to the attack, always in full strength; the whole infernal host combined in a cruel and determined league against the Captain of men's salvation, with such absolute unity of purpose and of action, that, in those Divine records which refer in their letter directly to the Lord's temptations, the assailants are not mentioned as "devils," or "spirits," or evil spirits," in the plural number, but as "the Devil" and "Satan"--as though the myriads of the infernals had constituted themselves, for the terrific occasion, ONE SINGLE diabolical person, who, by virtue of the strength which comes from unity, should prove, if possible, invincible to their hated Foe. We extract the following, for the purpose of showing the light in which the Writings of the New Church exhibit the Lord's temptations
That the Lord's life from His earliest childhood even to the last hour of His life in the world was a continual combat and a continual victory, is evident from several passages in the Word of the Old Testament.
In the Word of the life of the Lord, written by the Evangelists, no mention is made of any temptation except the last and that which He sustained in the wilderness.... The temptation which is related in Matt, iv.1-11, Mark i, 12, 13, Luke iv. 1-13, contains a summary description of the Lords temptations in general; showing, that, out of love towards the whole race of mankind, He fought against the loves of self and of the world with which the hells were replete.
In all temptation assault is made upon the love in which the man is, and the degree of temptation is according to the degree of the love. If no assault is made upon a love, there is no temptation. To destroy anyone's love is to destroy his very life, for the love is the life. The LORD'S life was love towards the whole human race, which was so great, and of such a kind, that it was nothing but PURE LOVE. Against this, His life, continual temptations were admitted, as already stated, from His earliest childhood to His last hour in the world. The love which was the Lord's veriest life, is signified, when it is said that "He hungered" [Matt. iv. 23.... His continual victory is signified by its being said, after the temptation, that "angels came and ministered unto Him" (Matt. iv. 1, 13). In short, from His earliest childhood even to the last hour of His life in the world, the Lord was assaulted by ALL THE HELLS, which were continually overcome, subdued and conquered by Him; which things He endured and accomplished solely from love towards the whole human race. Now, since this love is not human, but Divine, and all temptation is severe in proportion to the greatness of the love which is assaulted, it may be seen how grievous were His combats, and how great the ferocity with which the hells assailed Him. That these things were so. I know of a certainty (Arcana Coelestia, 1690).
And the immediate effect of these continual temptations and continual victories, sustained and achieved right on to the "It is finished" of Calvary, was, as previously intimated, that the hells in the spiritual world were driven away from "the kingdom of heaven," against which they were directing their "violence," and dislodged from the spirits and, in many cases, the very bodies of men, of which they had obtained a "possession" which left man their helpless tool. And, inasmuch as the Lord our Savior was thus "tempted IN ALL POINTS like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. iv. 15), or, what is the same thing, inasmuch as His "continual temptations and continual victories" covered every possible spiritual evil that human flesh is heir to or can be assailed by, the dislodgment and repulse of the hells was complete, the absoluteness of their despotism was broken in every single direction, or, what is the same thing, the work of Redemption, which God had made Himself man in order to perform, was fully and perfectly accomplished. These temptation-conflicts were thus "acts of Redemption."
These "acts of Redemption," however, had another side, and another effect. Temptation, both with man and with the Lord, has two factors; there must be instigation from a source outside the personality of the tempted person, and there must be inclination within it. "A man is tempted," to appeal once more to the Apostolic doctrine, "when he is led away of his own lust and enticed" (Jas. i. 14); and it is precisely this law, we remember, which made it necessary for God, in order to render Himself temptable by hell, to clothe His Godhead with a human nature full of the hereditary evils of all past generations of mankind, by being born into this world as a man, the offspring of a woman.
This is what happened to the instigators of the Lord's temptation, the outside forces which put in motion the inhering lusts of the human nature, the activity of which is temptation.
What happened to, or became of, the second factor in the temptations--the inhering lusts, or inherited evils and falsities themselves, of the infirm humanity? Did they remain in it? Could they? What was the power that repulsed the tempting hells?
We learned in our last chapter, that, had the Divine Omnipotence been brought to bear immediately upon, and the Infinite Divine Essence, consequently, brought into immediate contact with, the powers of darkness, the result would have been the instant, complete, and absolute annihilation of the evil spirits; and that this was why redemption could not be effected by such "immediate" application of the Infinite power of God.
It is evident, therefore, to intelligent reflection upon the conditions which actually existed, that what we have here indicated was what took place, of necessity, in the Lord's temptations, and in every one of them, as they successively arose; until, at length, by the last temptation, on the Cross, this had happened in respect to every evil and false tendency and disposition which the Lord had inherited from His mother, and which constituted His infirm humanity. It is manifest, therefore, beyond doubt, that the Lord, by means of temptations He admitted into Himself, necessarily did "put off" every evil and falsity which He had originally "put on" by His birth from a human mother.
With respect to the Lord, He, during His abode in this world, by acts of Redemption, put off the whole humanity which He had from His mother, and put on a Humanity from the Father, which is the Divine Humanity (True Christian Religion, 103).
What is meant by the Lord effecting the "putting off," in question, "by acts of Redemption," will, we think, be readily perceived from what has been already set forth in this paper; the point to be now settled is about the Lord "putting off" not only the evil and falsity which were in the infirm humanity, but that humanity itself, in its whole extent, and as to every detail. It will be evident, at a glance, that, unless this is what did occur, the Lord's humanity certainly could not be truly and absolutely Divine, but only nominally and approximately so; and, consequently, not OMNIPOTENT "in heaven and on earth" (Matt. xxviii. 18), not "the Almighty" (Rev. i. 8), not the TRUE GOD and eternal life" (I John v. 20).
The truth is, that the evil and falsity of the infirm humanity constituted, or was, that humanity itself. By this is meant that there was nothing in it, regarded as to its spiritual constituents, but what was evil and false; and this because there is nothing in any human nature whatsoever, of any other quality, when comparison is made with the absolutely Good and True, that is, with the Divine.
It is plain, however, that this "putting off" of the infirm humanity was not the only thing that was taking place. The "putting off" of this humanity was the consequence of the indwelling Divinity, or "the Father," coming forth from its concealment within, into the arena of the temptation warfare without, which was the human nature. In doing this, the forthcoming Divinity instantaneously adapted, or accommodated itself, to the conditions into which it was coming; which, inasmuch as those conditions were humanfor the coming forth was into the plane of the outward, infirm, human naturewas a process of humanization.
And this "Divine Humanity" is so perfectly conjoined with the Essential Divinity, which is called "the Father," as to make an absolute Unit with it; so that "all that the Father hath is Its, and all that It has is the Father's," in very, unmodified, literal truth. In brief, this "Divine Humanity" is "the Father" clothed in a human nature taken up and "glorified" in the world, and dwelling, now and henceforth, not only "far above all heavens," and thus "in light inaccessible," beyond the immediate reach of poor frail man in the world, but in this "Divine Humanity" of His, immediately within the sphere of man's own human nature, and within reach of his very hand, if he will only stretch it forth.
The Incarnation, thus, not only redeemed man, but also, through the Lord's "glorification" of His humanity, then effected, established new and closer relations between God and man
Before His Coming into the world, the Lord was indeed present with the members of the Church, but His presence was then mediate through angels who represented Him; whereas, since His Coming, He is present with the members of the Church immediately; for during His abode in the world, He put on the Divine-Natural, in which He is now present with mankind (T.C.R. 109).
The momentous consequences to man resulting from this greater accessibility with which the Lord thus clothed Himself by the glorification of His humanity assumed in the world, will appear in our next chapters, in which we propose to set forth the teaching of the New Church respecting the "Atonement."
X.--The Atonement: A Criticism.
IN the previous chapters of this series, we have almost entirely refrained from destructive criticism of other doctrines than those of the New Church on the subjects dealt with; not so much of set purpose as because there seemed no urgent necessity to discuss the subjects taken up in this manner. The subject of the Atonement is quite differently circumstanced. The teaching which has, for several centuries, been given to Christian men and women, and accepted by them, as the truth of God on this subject, is of such a nature, and in such incredible antagonism to every form of truth, human or Divine, that it seems impossible to proceed at all, without some preliminary labor of the iconoclastic sort. Indeed, it is not too much to say, as the Writings of the New Church do say, that the ordinary doctrine of the Atonement
is a fundamental error of the Church; and that that error, together with the error of three Divine Persons from eternity, has perverted the entire Church, so that there is not anything spiritual left remaining in it (True Christian Religion, 132).
We admit that this is a grave indictment, but that it is a true one we are profoundly convinced, and expect in the present chapter to show.
We would remark, at the outset, that, at any rate, in the common acceptation, the two terms, Redemption and Atonement, indicate not two things, but one; and the one thing thus indicated is the Lord's death on the Cross. And the Passion of the Cross is called the "Atonement" in respect to its supposed effect of appeasing the wrath of God the Father against men on account of their sins, in that, by dying on the Cross, "God the Son" endured punishment which those sins merited. Now,
What doctrine more abounds in the books of the orthodox at this day, or what is more zealously taught, or insisted on, in the schools of Divinity, or more constantly preached and cried up in the pulpit, than this: that God the Father, being full of wrath against mankind, not only separated them from Himself, but also sentenced them to eternal damnation, and thus excommunicated them from His favor: but, because He was gracious, that He persuaded, or stirred up, His Son to descend and take upon Himself the appointed curse, and so to expiate the wrath of His Father; and that thus, and no otherwise, could the Father be prevailed upon to look again with an eye of mercy on mankind? Likewise, that this was effected by the Son, who, in taking upon Himself the curse pronounced against men, suffered Himself to be scourged by the Jews, to be spit upon, and lastly to be crucified as the accursed of God (Deut. xxi. 23), and that, by this means, the Father was appeased, and, out of love towards His Son, cancelled the sentence of damnation--yet only in favor of those for whom the Son should intercede, who was thus to be a perpetual Mediator in the presence of the rather (T. C. R. 132).
This statement was written one hundred and twenty years ago; but, as to its substance, it is just as true at this day as it was then. In proof of this, we refer the reader to the well-known work sent forth, in the present decade, by a group of Oxford scholars under the title Lux Mundi. In this modern utterance on subjects of Christian doctrine, the subject of the Atonement is, of course, included;
The law of righteousness, the justice of God, demands not only obedience in the present, but vengeance for the past.... In the death of Christ a manifestation was made of the righteousness of God, of His wrath, the absolute hostility of His nature to sin.... This manifestation of the righteousness of God might have been made by mere punishment; it became a PROPITIATION in that He, the self-chosen victim, by His acceptance of it, recognized the righteousness of the law which was vindicated on the Cross.... Nothing but the willing acceptance of suffering, as the due portion of the human nature in which the sin was wrought, could have so declared the justice of God's law as to be a propitiation of Divine wrath (p. 290).
A true ethical insight shows us that this affection of anger, of hatred [on the part of God], is, in reality, the expression of justice, and derives from the law of righteousness..., [God] cannot put away His wrath UNTIL the demands of the law have been satisfied, until the sacrifice has been offered, to expiate, to cover, to atone for the sins of the world. The reconciliation is NOT merely the reconciliation of man to God by the change wrought in man's rebellious nature, but it is also the propitiation, of God Himself, whose wrath unappeased, and whose justice unsatisfied, ARE THE BARRIERS thrown across the sinner's path to restoration (p. 288).
Although we may still recognize that it was the spirit of obedience and voluntary submission which gave atoning value to the death of Christ, we cannot ignore the necessity of death as the appointed form which the obedience took. Had He not obeyed, He would not have atoned; but had he not died, the obedience would have lacked just that element which made it an atonement for sin.... There is nothing well-pleasing in death alone, it is true; but there is ... something well-pleasing to His righteousness, something propitiatory, in death, IF, as a further condition, the perfect obedience of the victim is thereby displayed (pp. 291, 2).
We have adduced these statements for the purpose of showing that the doctrine of the Atonement, as known to and taught by present-day Christianity, so-called, is not essentially different from that depicted in the extract from The True Christian Religion which we gave at the beginning of this paper. We have, here, the same old falsity, that God was full of wrath against mankind; that that wrath had to be appeased; and that it was the impossibility of its being appeased by any other means, that made it necessary for the Lord to come into the world, and there suffer and die. We find, moreover, a strenuous resistance to, and repudiation of, the belief that God did not need to be reconciled, but only man. We have the same old falsity that "God could not put away His wrath until the demands of the law had been satisfied;" the same old falsity that "the law of righteousness, the justice of God, demands not only obedience in the present, but vengeance for the past"; the same old falsity that the Lord bore this "vengeance for the past," or punishment of sin, in His own person; the same old falsity that, if the Lord had not died, everything He did in the way of real righteousness during His whole life in the world would have availed nothing, in that it "would have lacked just that element which made it" efficacious as "atonement for sin";
Let us take them in their order. To begin with, there is not a statement or a sign in the Divine Word, from beginning to end, that God was ever full of wrath against mankind, or anything like such a statement.
One falsity generates another. We are therefore told, by way of reply to this demand, "God cannot put away His wrath until the demands of the law have been satisfied" (p. 288)--a statement which, if true, would reflect the utmost contempt on the Being of whom it is made--and that the "demands" of "the law of righteousness, the justice of God," are "not only obedience in the present, but vengeance for the past" (p. 290). This falsehood is really two-fold: the first is, that "justice" demands "punishment," or "vengeance for the past;" and the second is, that God has no option but to exact the punishment when it has been incurred. To begin with, we traverse the position that justice, be it God's or man's, demands punishment. The function of justice in reference to punishment, is to see that the right person--namely, the real criminal--is punished, and no one else; that the punishment, both as to nature and degree, is truly proportioned to the offence; and that extenuating circumstances in particular cases be given their due weight. With respect to this last point, it may suffice to say, that any allotment of punishment, apart from a due regard to all the circumstances, may be "law," but it is certainly not "justice;" for "justice" evidently requires that the degree of culpability, as well as the fact of commission of the mechanical act, should enter into the determination of the nature and degree of the punishment that ought to be inflicted.
It must never be forgotten that it is not "justice" that enacts punishments; it is the necessity of protecting the community against evil-doers. Justice, no doubt, in civilized and well-governed states, has a voice determining what punishments shall be enacted in all particular cases; but the fact of punishment being enacted at all, is simply the imperative necessity there is of protecting the community against evildoers, under pain of the dissolution of human society.
It follows from this that the aim of punishment, and thus of justice in its administration, is never "vengeance for the past"; it is prevention for the future. In other words, civil punishment is not vindictive in its purpose, but deterrent. Hence punishment, which strict "justice" to the offender alone, in his purely personal and private relations, would be satisfied to forego, is sometimes inflicted on account of the encouragement to similar offences which others would derive from the non-punishment of the offender in this case.
These things, however, are truisms. It ought not to be necessary to even bring them forward. But the monstrous position, invented in defense of this doctrine of Atonement that we are considering, that "justice demands ... vengeance for the past," has made it necessary to state them, and perhaps with some emphasis. We venture to say, now, that everyone knows that the functions here ascribed to "justice" are its functions, and that it has no functions incompatible with these.
The first function of "justice" is to see that the right person, and not the wrong, is the one that is punished. It is of the essence of this scheme of atonement that the "punishment" does not fall upon the right persons, but upon the wrong one; not upon the guilty, but upon the innocent. In this point, therefore, "justice" is not "vindicated"; it is trampled under foot.
It is a function of "justice" to see that there is due qualitative relation and quantitative proportion between the punishment and the offence, so that the punishment may not become contemptible, and thus non-deterrent, from being too light, nor yet barbarous and revolting from being too severe. In the case of the "orthodox" atonement, the offence was spiritual sin: the punishment was bodily suffering and death. At one time, the advocates of substitutionary atonement went so far as to say that physical death was the punishment of sin; but various necessities have constrained many of them to abandon the position: it cuts too many ways at once! Physical death is not the punishment of sin; nor the consequence of sin, except in a few isolated cases; and, even in those, natural causes intervene. The law of God is: "The soul that sinneth IT shall die" (Ezek. xviii. 20); and the death of the soul is a spiritual death, for the soul is a spiritual thing: not mechanical extinction, but deadness, and eternal unresponsiveness, to everything good, true, heavenly, and Divine.
It is important that this figment about the "justice of God," and His asserted inability to forgive man's sins without exacting "vengeance for the past," should be thoroughly exploded on rational, as well as other grounds, in order that it may be plainly seen that this fictitious scheme of atonement really is, as we stated at the outset, at utter variance with rational truth. But it is not less important that its utter unscripturalness should be exposed. We next propose to briefly, yet conclusively, do this.
It is affirmed that "the law of righteousness, the justice of God, demands not only obedience in the present, but vengeance for the past" (p. 290). The Apostle John speaks quite differently. He says: "If we confess our sins [which may be taken to signify "obedience in the present,"] He "--that is, Godis faithful and JUST TO FORGIVE us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John i. 9). According to this teaching, therefore, not merely is it perfectly consistent with the "justice" of God, to be satisfied with "obedience in the present," and, that being conceded, to forego all "vengeance for the past," which "forgiveness" assuredly covers; it is of the essence and nature of God's "justice" to act exactly in this way!
As to the statement: "The reconciliation [that is, the atonement] is not merely the reconciliation of man to God by the change wrought in man's rebellious nature; but it is also the propitiation [that is, the appeasing] of God Himself" (Lux Mundi, p. 288); little more need be said than that this is merely the unsupported and untenable assertion of the apologist. No evidence is offered for it; and the testimony of the Divine Word and the Letters of the Apostles is directly against it. These sources know nothing whatever about God having been appeased, or having received any reconciliation, atonement, or propitiation. All they ever say about the matter, is, that man was reconciled and "received the atonement," and that God effected it! "If, when we were enemies, WE WERE RECONCILED to God through the death of His Son, much more, etc." (Rom. v. 10). And--"We joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom WE HAVE NOW RECEIVED the atonement"* (Rom. v. 11).
* It may be mentioned that the Greek word here translated "atonement" is the same that is elsewhere translated "reconciliation": there is no difference.
Finally, what may be called the very core of the doctrine of atonement we are passing in review, is that the Lord endured the "punishment" of our sins. We have already shown that the Lord, in undergoing suffering and death, did not undergo the punishment of sin, for the simple reason that such suffering and death as He endured are not the punishment of sin. We wish to add to this, here, by stating in the strongest possible terms, that the Lord Jesus Christ never suffered any "punishment" at all on any account. We repeat it--the Lord Jesus Christ never suffered any "punishment" at all on any account; and we would invite all who care to know the truth, to search the Word of God and the Apostolic writings, through, for any evidence whatsoever that He did.
It may be urged, however, that Christ was our sacrifice; and that it inevitably results from this fact, that He was suffering the punishment of our sins for us. How else, it may be urged, could He be "sacrificed" for us, seeing that the animal slain in sacrifice was put to death for the sins of the offerer, who had representatively transferred his sins to the animal, for that very purpose, by laying his hands upon its head, and confessing his sins over it?
1. There is no word in the Sacrificial law intimating that the animal was sacrificed instead of the offerer.
2. There is no word in that law that the "killing" was a "punishment."
3. There is no word in that law hinting at any transfer of sins to any animal that was sacrificed.
4. The laying on of hands, which did signalize the presentation of an animal for sacrifice, was never accompanied by any confession of sins over such animal.
5. In the only instance in which the laying on of hands was accompanied by a confession, and in which sins were representatively transferred to an animal, the animal was rendered thereby so "unclean" that it was unfit for sacrifice, and was, therefore, sent into the wilderness; and the man who took it was, by doing so, rendered "unclean" also. This, of course, was the case of the Scapegoat (see Lev. xvi.).
Any one may verify these positions, by reading the Levitical law of sacrifice for himself; and, when he has done so, he will perceive on what a basis of misrepresentation and invention, so far as this point is concerned, the superstructure of the modern doctrine of the atonement has been erected and now rests; while the whole--though very incomplete--examination to which we have subjected it in the earlier part of this chapter, must surely satisfy the candid and intelligent mind, that, in saying that the modern doctrine of atonement is opposed to every form of truth, human and Divine, we were simply speaking "words of truth and soberness." The truth of the following summing up must also be, now at least, evident:
From this idea of Redemption and the idea of God [as divided into a Trinity of persons] the whole system of theology has lost its spirituality, and become in the lowest degree natural. This was the necessary consequence of ascribing to God merely natural properties and attributes; and, yet, on the idea entertained of God and of redemption, which makes one with salvation, everything that has relation to the Church depends. For that idea is like the head from which all the parts of the body are derived; when, therefore, that idea is spiritual, everything of the Church becomes spiritual also; but, when that idea is natural, everything of the Church becomes merely natural. Consequently, as the idea of God and of redemption has become merely natural, that is, sensual and corporeal, of consequence, all those things are merely natural which the heads of the Church have maintained, and do maintain, in their dogmatic teachings (T. C. R. 133).
We propose to deal with this same subject, constructively, in our next chapter.
XI.-The Real Atonement.
... For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth (John xvii. 19).
NOT the least of the many reprehensible features of the received doctrine of the Atonement is, that it necessitates and presupposes a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead, and is thus opposed, in the whole warp and woof of its fabric, to the fundamental truth of the true Christian religion, that God is One in Essence and in Person, and that this One God is the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in His Divine Humanity. This fact can scarcely need substantiating; indeed, it would probably be admitted, and even insisted upon, by the advocates of the doctrine immediately in question. We need not, therefore, demonstrate the point.
It will suffice to mention that the smallest amount of reflection is enough to make it plain to anyone that the ordinary doctrine of the Atonement cannot be maintained, when it is acknowledged that the Father and the Son are not two "Persons" at all, but the Essential Divine Nature and the Divine Humanity of the One God, our Lord Jesus Christ, related in Him as are the soul and the body in man, His "image."
We trust, therefore, that it is now plain that the generally accepted doctrine of the Atonement--which, be it mentioned, is the only doctrine on the subject, of which, at this day, anything is known outside the New Church!--is, on every ground, inconsistent as much with the teachings of the Word of God as with the intuitions of sound reason. For, it stands convicted to sum up the matter--of being subversive of the Oneness of God, dishonoring to His character, contrary (as shown in our last chapter) to express teachings, as well as to the whole tenor, of His Word; and at open war alike with the most elementary and with the most advanced perceptions of reason.
The true doctrine of the Atonement, on the contrary, will be found to be both Scriptural and rational, and consequently in perfect harmony with all other truths of reason and Revelation. What, then, is this true doctrine of the Atonement?
We noted, incidentally, in our last paper, that in the Epistles-the only part of what is called the New Testament where the term occurs at all--it is the same Greek word: which is translated, once, "atonement" (Rom. v. 11), and twice, "reconciliation"; and where the related verb is employed, that is represented, in every case, by the English verb "to reconcile" (Rom. v. 10, xi. 15; 1 Cor. vii. 11; 2 Cor. v. 18, 19, 20). The reason of this is that the Saxon word, "atone," means to "reconcile," and "atonement," reconciliation; neither more nor less. The etymological dictionaries give both the derivation and meaning of the word in harmony with this statement: "Atone ... [from at one, that is, to be, or cause to be, at one] ... v. t., to reconcile." At the time, moreover, that the Authorized Version of our Bible was produced, the words "atonement" and "reconciliation" were commonly used interchangeably. We accordingly find the following in Shakespeare:
He seeks to make atonement
Between the Duke of Gloster and your brothers;
a form of speech, needless to say, which we should never at this day employ in the meaning in which the word "atonement" is there used.
Reconciliation, as between persons, is the bringing into relations of friendliness, individuals between whom there has been enmity or division. Now, the parties to the "reconciliation" here in question, were, as is well known, God on the one side, and humanity or the human race on the other; "God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD unto HIMSELF" (2 Cor. v. 19). It was between God and mankind, therefore, that the enmity existed in respect of which God in Christ effected "reconciliation."
The question that next arises, is, What was the ground of the enmity,
division, alienation, or estrangement that existed between God and man?
* Though the Greek verb, in this case, is not the this case, is not the sane is that translated "reconcile," etc., in the places enumerated earlier in this article, it is closely akin to it, and the meaning is, without doubt, essentially the same.
This conclusion, however, carries us yet farther. In order to put Himself in a position to redeem man from the power of hell, God, we remember, clothed Himself by birth from a human mother, through the operation of the laws of hereditary transmission, with a temptable human nature. We remember, also, that it was a necessary condition of the work to be accomplished, that this superinduced human nature should be temptable not merely in a general way, and in some respects, but in all possible respects.
This is a terrible thing to contemplate; and we naturally shrink, at first, from the suggestion that it can possibly be true of Him who was "without sin." But it will be found, upon reflection, that, IF, though "without sin," He really was "TEMPTED IN ALL POINTS like as we are" (Heb. iv. 15), it cannot be other than true. And how immeasurably the recognition that it is true, exalts our conception of the purity and the boundlessness of the Love, which, in bowing its heavens and coming down to earth, so stooped and humbled itself for our sakes, as to dwell in such a nature, since nothing less could avail for man's salvation; and of the Perfect Holiness, which notwithstanding such a heredity, remained absolutely "without sin" through thirty years of unremitting temptations, the most severe, the most cruel, and the most profound that have ever been experienced!
It is a noteworthy circumstance that the word "atonement," the doctrine bearing which name occupies so large a place in the system of doctrine called Christian, never once occurs in the Gospels, and that the idea universally associated with that word as a doctrinal term is entirely absent from them.
The familiarity to the Gospel records of the idea which the New Church attaches to the word "atonement," in reference to our Lord's redemptive work, is then indisputable. In the New Church Writings, however, the word "atonement" is but rarely employed. They employ terms taken from our Lord's own way of speaking on the subject. They speak of the process by which the Lord successively brought His humanity into complete ONENESS with His Divinity, as the "glorification" of that humanity; or again, in view of the fact that He "glorified" it with "the Father's Own Self," or with the very essential DIVINE NATURE--as "making it Divine"; and of the humanity itself when fully "glorified," or made Divine, as "the Divine Humanity."
The meaning of the following statement of the Writings of the New Church on this subject, and also the relation of the Death on the Cross to what is properly meant by the "Atonement," will now be readily perceived:
The Passion of the Cross was not Redemption, but the last temptation which the Lord endured as the Grand Prophet; and it was the means of the glorification of His Humanity, that is, of the union with the Divinity of the Father.
The two purposes for which the Lord came into the world, and by which He saved men and angels, are these: Redemption and the Glorification of His humanity. These two are distinct from each other; but, still, with respect to Salvation, they make one. It has been shown in the foregoing articles, that REDEMPTION was a combat with and subjugation of the hells, and afterwards the arrangement of the heavens in order. But GLORIFICATION was the uniting of the Lord's humanity with His Father's Divinity, which was effected by successive steps, and fully completed by the Passion of the Cross. The reason why the union was fully effected by the Passion of the Cross is, because this was the last temptation which the Lord underwent during His abode in the world; for conjunction [with God] is effected by temptations, for in them man is, to all appearance, left to himself alone; yet it is only in appearance, for God is then most present with him in the inmosts of his mind, and sustains him.
When therefore a person conquers in temptation, he is then most intimately conjoined with God: and this was the case with the Lord in the union with His Father. That the Lord, during His sufferings on the Cross, was left to Himself is evident from His exclamation at that time: "My God, My God, why hast THOU FORSAKEN ME?" and also from His words, "No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself: I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This command have I received of My Father" (John xii. 18). It is evident from this that the Lord suffered not as to His Divinity but as to His humanity; and that, at the time of the suffering, the most intimate, and thereby the most complete union [with the Father] was effected.... But, although REDEMPTION and the PASSION OF THE CROSS are two distinct things, yet they are united, and make one in the matter of SALVATION; inasmuch as the Lord, by the union with His Father, which was completed by the Passion of the Cross, became the Redeemer to all eternity (True Christian Religion, 126, 127).
Three things, in particular, we learn from this teaching: first, that the Passion of the Cross was in reality a temptation; secondly, that it was the last of a long series of temptations, which extended throughout the course of the Lord's life in the world; and, thirdly, that all these temptations, from the first to the last, were the means, and the earlier ones as much so as the last, by which the Lord put away all the antagonism against Divine Goodness and Truth, that was in His humanity by birth, and thus united, or "at-oned," that humanity with the Divinity of His Father which was within.
The first of these positions is contrary to received opinion in two respects: first, in not allowing that the Suffering of the Cross was the Atonement, but, instead, one of many means thereto; and, second, in regarding that Suffering as a temptation. Let us, therefore, briefly consider these points, and the second of them, as being the essential one, in the first place.
The question is, Is there good ground for believing that the Lord's suffering of the Cross was essentially a temptation? It should be noted at the outset that the single fact that the Lord truly "bore our sins" in His humanity, by taking them upon Himself in and with it through His birth from a human mother, indisputably certifies us that the infirmities and sins thus actually "borne" included the infirmity of a craven shrinking from pain and fear of death, and the evil of a desire of revenge upon persecutors, torturers and betrayers, and bitterness against fair-weather friends.
That the Lord shrank from this death, is certain from His prayer in reference to it: "Father, IF IT BE POSSIBLE, let this cup pass from Me" (Matt. xxvi. 39); that He struggled and fought against this shrinking, is proved by the next words of His prayer at the time: "Nevertheless, NOT AS I WILL, but as Thou wilt" (ibid.); while that the struggle was an inexpressibly hard one, is manifest from the fact that He had to repeat the prayer three times (ibid. vv. 42, 44), and that, even after "there appeared an angel from heaven strengthening Him" (Luke xxii. 43), He, "BEING IN AN AGONY, prayed MORE EARNESTLY: and His sweat was as it were GREAT DROPS OF BLOOD falling down upon the ground" (ibid. v. 44). But that, nevertheless, He completely and absolutely triumphed over the temptation, so that not a vestige of the shrinking remained; that it had given place to a calm, serene preparedness to endure all things, is evinced by His rebuke to Peter when he resisted with the sword his Master's arrest: "Put up thy sword into the sheath the cup that My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John xviii. 11).
The endurance of a temptation to hate His persecutors, betrayer, torturers, faithless disciples, and hooting mob, is not so clearly intimated, truly; but it is surely proved by the prayer our Lord put forth, when His transfixion to the Cross had been accomplished: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke xxiii. 48); in which He prayed for and even excused His enemies, and thus demonstrated how fully He had trampled under foot the temptation which must--since He had our nature!--have so powerfully and repeatedly assailed Him in those hours, to hate them and curse them even with His dying breath. In this temptation His hardest word was that addressed to the traitor, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" (Luke xxiii. 48), and His last, the prayer of complete forgiveness and generous excuse: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
These temptations, no doubt, involved other and more interior experiences which it would be beyond the power of the finite mind to comprehend if revealed; but that there must have been at least these, cannot, we think, be doubted by anyone; meditating upon the circumstances of the last twenty-four hours of our Lord's earthly life, who believes that He truly took our nature upon Him, and was, consequently, "tempted in ALL points like as we are." It becomes certain, too, that the Suffering of the Cross, involving, as it did, temptations such as these, which were utterly vanquished, was a means whereby the Lord put off the remaining infirmities and evils of His human nature, and substituted for them the contrary Divine perfections.
Everyone may see that in this doctrine of the Atonement we are dealing with realities. Unless the whole of the Gospel of the Coming of the One Eternal God into the world as a man for the Redemption of the human race is a cunningly devised fable, it is indubitable that the Atonement we have been contemplating was a work that, from the conditions present, had to be done; that it could be effected only by temptations to evils and victories over them; that it was accomplished, and in that way; and thus that the At-one-ment of the Lord's humanity with His Divinity was and is a blessed and solid reality.
The answer shall be brief: let us trust it will be clear. The "sanctification" of His Own humanity was effected by the Lord bringing down, through His obedience to Divine Truth--"it is written"--in temptations, that Divine Goodness Itself which antagonized the evil to which He had been tempted, from the Divinity within Him, and the planting of that Divine Goodness in the Human Nature for ever. The Divine Goodness of the Lord's Divine Humanity, therefore, is a goodness which was attained and placed there in actual temptation struggles against actual human evils--yours, and mine, and every other man's and woman's in all the world: it is, thus, while thoroughly Divine, at the same time thoroughly human.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and FIND GRACE TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED (Heb. iv. 15, 16).
In that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able also to succor them that are tempted (ibid. ii. 18).
He is able, also, to SAVE THEM TO THE UTTERMOST THAT COME UNTO GOD BY HIM (ibid. vii. 25).
The truth stands forth, then, that "reception of the atonement" is the salvation of the individual soul. The means, conditions, or laws of Salvation, therefore, come naturally under consideration next; and with this subject, therefore, we propose to deal in our chapter following.
XII.The Law of Salvation.
IN considering the subject of Salvation, it is of importance to be clear, at the start, in regard to what the Salvation with which we are concerned is from. On this point, an entirely false opinion has not only got abroad, but has obtained general acceptance. This opinion is that Salvation is from hell. We have not scrupled to call it a false opinion, because it is at complete variance with the teaching of the Divine Word. Of Salvation from hell, per se, the Word of God has absolutely nothing to say. The Salvation of which it speaks is a salvation from sin. This is the Salvation which God came into the world as Man in order to place within human reach. We know this to be so, from the fact that His manhood was called "JESUS," which means Savior, because, in and by it, He was to "save His people FROM THEIR SINS" (Matt. i. 21).
It is admitted, of course, that hell is described in the Sacred Scriptures as the punishment or ultimate consequence of sin, and that, in the sense that where there is no sin there will assuredly be no punishment for sin, "salvation from sin" implies and involves immunity from its punishment or consequences, and thus from hell.
We have learned in former chapters, that by the work of Redemption, God abolished the irresistibleness of the power which hell and evil exerted over mankind at the time immediately antecedent to His Coming into the world, and at the same time man's helplessness in the presence of sin and hell. He became the Conqueror and Master of hell in His Divine Humanity--which He "sanctified" in order that all who become His disciples "might be sanctified through the truth" (John xvii. 19)--and placed Himself, in and by virtue of that Divine Humanity, in the power of saving "His people from their sins." "Though He [the human nature born of Mary] were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and, BEING MADE PERFECT, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that OBEY HIM" (Heb. v. 9).
We learn, incidentally, from pursuing this line of thought, that Redemption is the Conquest of sin which God effected, and the power over hell that God acquired to Himself in His Own Humanity; and that Salvation, on the other hand, is the deliverance "from their sins," which He is, through that Redemption, able to confer upon such sinners as comply with the conditions according to which Salvation may be realized.
What are these conditions? In other words, "What must we do to be saved?" Or, yet, again, "What must we do to inherit eternal life" (see Matt. xix. 16; Mark x. 17; Luke x. 25)?
This seems clear, indisputable, and unexceptionable. But the significance of "keeping the commandments" needs to be well discerned.
It should be obvious, almost at a glance, that mere coincidence, or agreement, between a given person's conduct and the prescriptions of the ten Commandments, does not necessarily prove that he "keeps the Commandments." He may do so; and on the contrary he may not? Does this seem a paradox? Let us, then, briefly illustrate the point.
This, without doubt, was the respect in which the well-conducted young man who asked our Lord the question, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" was "lacking." To do the things prescribed in the Commandments, as a matter of respectability, and out of deference to public opinion, or regard for our own personal or selfish advantage, is not "keeping the Commandments"; nothing is that but doing them as a matter of religion and out of regard to God.
It is a truly astonishing, as well as a grievous, thing, to note that there is not one Church with any title to call itself Christian--leaving the New Church out of consideration--that, in its doctrinal standards, gives to those who ask it, "What must I do to be saved?" the answer of the Lord Himself to the question" Keep the Commandments." You will even find them saying that it is impossible to do what He set forth as the way of eternal life, and going so far as to bring against this most explicit prescription of His, His own Words, "Without Me ye can do nothing" (John xv. 5). Of this position, only three things need be said. The first is, that it is the Lord God the Savior Himself who declares, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments," and that He, the Savior, must needs know the way of Salvation better, and be better worthy of belief, than any man or any Church whatsoever. The second is, that He does not mock us by imposing upon us impossible conditions, nor testifying a falsehood respecting the conditions by which we may "inherit eternal life." And the third is, that, although it is most true that "WITHOUT Him we can do nothing," it is equally true that "WE CAN DO ALL THINGS through Christ which strengtheneth us" (Phil. iv. 13).
Some, however, and many of them faithful, earnest Christians, who strive with all their might, though in their Lord's strength, to "keep the Commandments," think they find in a certain utterance of the Apostle Paul a distinct and emphatic repudiation of "keeping the Commandments" as the way of Salvation. The utterance is: "A man is justified by faith WITHOUT the deeds of the law" (Rom. iii. 28); or, as it is expressed in another Epistle: "A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ" (Gal. ii. 16); and it is erroneously taken for granted that, in each case, the expression, "the law," means the law of the Ten Commandments, and thus the very law which the Lord said those must keep who desire "eternal life."
Anyone might naturally have supposed that the first thought which would arise in the mind of a Christian on coming across so apparently glaring a contradiction to the unmistakable declaration of the Master, in the writing, of the "disciple," would be, "Paul could not have meant by the law the same thing that the Lord meant by the Commandments--that is to say, the Ten Commandments which were given by God from Sinai. I must examine the Apostle's language, and the circumstances in which it was written, more closely, and see whether he does not mean some other law. This, however, Christians generally do not seem to have thought of doing. If they had, they would have found the case exactly as has been suggested, and thus that by "the law," in these places, Paul meant the Mosaic, or ceremonial law, and not the law of the Decalogue. It is absolutely impossible for anyone possessed of the least degree of critical acumen, or even of plain common sense, to read the Apostle's own account, in his letter to the Galatian Christians, of the circumstances in which he delivered himself of the memorable dictum of which we here speak, and to have any doubt left in his mind on the point. The circumstances were, that Peter, at one time, when laboring among the Gentiles, ate with them after their manner, and disregarded the Jewish ceremonial law in regard to foods; but, when certain messengers--Jewish Christians--came from James, who was at Jerusalem, to Antioch, where Peter then was, Peter, to gratify the visitors, not only himself observed the ceremonials which he had been neglecting, but insisted that the Gentile converts should do the same.
Not only, however, have you, in such case, the Apostle contradicting his Master; you have him contradicting himself. In his letter to the Romans, the very letter that contains the utterance we are here specially concerned with, in the form in which it is most generally quoted "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (iii. 28)--he has the following noteworthy utterance, "NOT the HEARERS of the law are just before God, but the DOERS OF THE LAW SHALL BE JUSTIFIED" (ii. 13); which may be classed as Paul's matter-of-fact version of the Lord's parable of "the wise and foolish builders": "Everyone that HEARETH these sayings of Mine, and DOETH them NOT, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; AND IT FELL; and great was the fall of it" (Matt. vii. 26, 27).
Well do the Writings of the New Church declare that the whole superstructure of Protestant Christianity is erected upon a single passage of Paul falsely understood" (True Christian Religion, 389)! How truly, also, in the following passage, do they describe the state of those who are in this "faith alone":
Those who are in faith separated from charity, and have confirmed themselves therein from the saying of Paul to the Romans, that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. iii. 28), adore this saying as those who adore the sun, and become like those who, fixing their eyes steadily upon the sun, whereby the sight becomes dimmed, do not see anything in the midst of the light; for they do not understand what is there meant by the works of the law, viz., that they are the rituals which were written down by Moses in his books, which are everywhere called "the law," and not the commandments of the Decalogue; wherefore, lest the commandments of the Decalogue should be understood, he explains by saying; "Do we then abrogate the, law through faith? God forbid. Yea, we establish the law" (verse 31 of the same chapter). Those who, from the above saying, have confirmed themselves in faith separate from charity by looking at that passage as at the sun, do not see where [Paul] enumerates the laws of faith, that they are the very works of charity: what, then, is faith without its laws? Neither do they see where he enumerates evil works, saying that they who do them cannot enter into heaven. From which is manifest what blindness has been induced by this single passage wrongly understood (Divine Providence, n. 115).
There is, therefore, the most perfect consistency between Paul and his Divine Master, as respects the law of Salvation; and that law is:
If thou wilt enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS (Matt. xix. 17).
It is imperative, however, to bear in mind the force and significance of "keeping the Commandments," as pointed out in the former part of, this chapter; and, also, to heed well the following warnings which the Lord has now addressed to men in the Writings of the New Church:
If anyone flees evils for any other reason than because they are sins, he does not flee them, but only causes them not to appear before the world (Doctrine of Life, 108).
A wicked man is able to flee evils as hurtful; but no one except a Christian is able to flee evils as sins (Ibid., III).
And here we reach "the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Eccles. xii. 13).
"Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (xxii. 14).
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