ROBERT JAMES TILSON
(Bishop in the General Church of the New Jerusalem)
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
ROBERT JAMES TILSON
Pastor of Michael Church, 1892-1938
Bishop in the General Church of the New Jerusalem, 1928-1942
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 0
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ACADEMY 1
THE PRIESTHOOD 2
THE NEW JERUSALEM AND THE OLD 3
THE THREE WORDS 4
THE HUMAN BODY AND ITS CORRESPONDENCE
WITH HEAVEN AND THE SPIRITUAL WORLD 5
MAN'S TWO MEMORIES 6
THE LOVE OF COUNTRY, AND THE DUTIES
OF CITIZENSHIP 8
THE POST-RESURRECTION APPEARANCES OF
THE LORD 9
THE ORIGIN OF LOVE TRULY CONJUGIAL 10
SPEECH WITH SPIRITS 11
THE Members of Michael Church publish this volume of selected Addresses and Sermons by Bishop Robert James Tilson as a Memorial of their affectionate esteem, and as an appreciation of his forty-six-years Pastorate. It is hoped it may be of benefit to the whole Church to present in accessible and permanent form some of the doctrinal and expository studies of one who laboured so zealously and ably for the establishment of the New Church.
From the hundreds of manuscripts left by the Bishop an effort has been made to select those subjects which he especially emphasized as necessary for the distinctive development of the Church. The result will give some small indication of his particular contribution towards that end.
The encouragement and donations for this publication which have been received from the friends of Bishop Tilson in various parts of the world are gratefully acknowledged. A. W. A.
ROBERT JAMES TILSON was born at Tydd Gte, Lincolnshire, April 3rd, 1857. As a youth he worked in the drapery and general shop of his father--a man who delighted in reading the Bible, and who gladly received the Doctrines of the New Church when he heard of them through MR. RICHARD GUNTON.
In the year 1876 ROBERT TILSON left home for London, where he became an assistant in a drapery shop in the East End. The following year he moved to Brixton and was employed by MR. ISAAC GUNTON, a member of the Camberwell Society of the New Church. In MR. GUNTON'S home he met his future partner, MISS EDITH GUNTON, to whom he was married in 1881. In 1941 BISHOP AND MRS. TILSON had the unusual pleasure and rare distinction of celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.
The young man's real love was in working for the Church, and when opportunity offered he left the business world and entered the New Church College to study for the Ministry. One of the professors, DR. RUDOLPH L. TAFEL, who was in close touch with the newly formed Academy, made a deep impression upon his mind. On the completion of his course at the College in 1879, he was sent to the Liverpool Society. A noteworthy feature of his work there was the great interest he aroused in the study of the Doctrines, especially among the young people. In 1885 he was called to the Camberwell Society, where he was Pastor for six years.
At the meeting of the General Conference in August, 1890, he was severely attacked on account of his connection with the Academy, and because he was agent for New Church Life. Shortly afterwards he disassociated himself from the Conference, resigning his pastorate in the Camberwell Society on March 16, 1891. Fifty-nine members of the congregation left with him to form a "Particular Church of the Academy of the New Church." When the present Church building in Burton Road, Brixton, was opened on September 4, 1892, he and the REV. E. C. BOSTOCK jointly conducted the service, which was attended by a congregation of 154 persons.
Earlier in the year 1892 BISHOP TILSON had visited America, and on June 19, at Philadelphia, he was ordained into the Second Degree of the Priesthood at an Academy Service conducted by BISHOP BENADE. In 1897 he joined the newly formed General Church of the New Jerusalem, but only for a short time. In September, 1898, the Society at Burton Road was organized as an independent Society of the New Church, and some of the original members left to form a Society of the General Church.
For over twenty years the Burton Road Society, which adopted the name of MICHAEL CHURCH, flourished as an independent Church under its Pastor, who was also Headmaster of its Academy School. In 1919, following a meeting with BISHOP N. D. PENDLETON in London, he came to the conclusion that this isolated position was no longer desirable, and together with his colleague, the REV. G. C. OTTLEY, he joined the General Church, and was received as a member of the clergy in that body. The following year the two Priests visited the General Church Societies in the United States and Canada, and attended the meetings of the Council of the Clergy in Bryn Athyn, U.S.A.
In 1928, at the General Assembly held in London, BISHOP TILSON was ordained into the Third Degree of the Priesthood, BISHOP N. D. PENDLETON officiating.
Ten years later he came to the conclusion that it would be for the good of the Society to give up his active leadership, because of his advancing age, and on June 17, 1938, at a Special Service, he inducted his Assistant, the REV. A. WYNNE ACTON, to succeed him as Pastor. This concluded a single pastorate of forty-six years, and active work in the Priesthood for fifty-nine years. When he resigned there were a few members of the Society, to whom he had been Pastor continuously for fifty-nine years. In the course of his career he baptized over 480 adults and children.
BISHOP AND MRS. TILSON continued to reside near the Church, and regularly to attend and support all its activities. He occasionally preached, and took part in special celebrations. His last official act, on March 1, 1942, was the Ordination of the REV. MARTIN PRYKE into the Second Degree of the Priesthood. This was the fourth Ordination at which he had officiated.
Following a sudden attack of pneumonia on May 11th, 1942, he passed into the spiritual world on May 14th. At the Memorial Service which was held at Michael Church on Sunday, May 24th, the Pastor paid the following tribute to his work:
"To him was given more than the usual amount of external gifts, but he was a faithful servant in that he turned them all to the better performance of his use--to the furtherance of the Lord's work in building the Church. He showed his true humility by constantly seeking to know from the Lord in His Word how he was to accomplish his chosen work. As we look back upon that work, his outstanding contribution to the Church seems to have been to establish the Doctrine of the Divine Authority of the Writings--that the Heavenly Doctrine is the very Word of the Lord to His New Church. Together with this, he constantly worked for the establishment of a true order in the Church, beginning with the Priesthood. He had no use for those who did not seek and develop the new Doctrines of the Church, which to him were so many jewels in the King's Crown, and he strongly opposed any attempt to modify these truths or to commingle them with man-made accommodations. He ever insisted on looking to the pure truth as the Lord had revealed it to His Church, and he worked for the establishment of the Church upon that teaching as the only sure foundation." A. W. ACTON.