Karl R. Alden
Table of Contents
1 WHAT IS THE NEW JERUSALEM CHURCH? 1
2 THE NEW CHURCH IDEA OF THE TRINITY 13
3 REMOVING THE PERPLEXITIES CONCERING THE TRINITY 25
4 THE VIRGIN BIRTH 37
5 THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD 47
6 HISTORY OF THE BIBLE 61
7 THE INTERNAL SENSE OF THE WORD 71
8 THE LAW OF CORRESPONDENCS I 83
9 THE LAW OF CORRESPONDENCES II 95
10 MARRIAGE IN HEAVEN 107
11 THE IMMORTALITY OF HUMAN SOULS 119
12 OUR LIFE IN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD 129
13 NEW CHURCH BAPTISM 141
14 THE NINETEENTH OF JUNE 153
15 THE CHRISTMAS STORY 165
DOCTRINAL PAPERS BY THE REVEREND KARL R. ALDEN
From September 1950 until June 1951 the Reverend Karl R. Alden held at his house every two weeks classes for all who wished to hear explanations of some of the principal general doctrines of the New Church. His lectures were completely extemporaneous, given without notes, though well prepared by much study and thought, and by thirty years of experience as a Pastor and twenty-six years as Principle of the Boys High School of the Academy of the New Church.
Those lectures were tape-recorded and transferred by shorthand to paper, and after some revision, documenting, and editing by the undersigned, were mimeographed and used as lessons for the oldest group of isolated receivers of the General Church Religion Lessons. They were not, however, revised by Mr. Alden.
Now these papers, in an accopress binder, are offered for sale. The price is $2.75 a book of 176 pages.
[signed Frederick E. Gyllenhaal]
Published by GENERAL CHURCH RELIGION LESSONS
WHAT IS THE NEW JERUSALEM CHURCH?
BY THE REVEREND KARL R. ALDEN
Now the question is: What is the Church of the New Jerusalem and why is it called the Church of the New Jerusalem? My remarks this evening will be general in character and will endeavor to answer those two questionswhat the Church of the New Jerusalem is and why it is called the Church of the New Jerusalem.
The name stems directly from the chapter of Revelation, which I have just read to you. John, in the year 95 A. D., was on the Isle of Patmos which his a tiny island on the Aegean Sea, and he had been exiled there as a Christian under the Emperor Domitians persecution of the Christians; and those people who were of the lower class were sent to the island of Patmos to work in the copper mines as slaves, and among these slaves was John, the beloved disciple of our Lord, and he was a very old man at this time. Now, on the Lords Day which was Sundaynot the Jewish Sabbath. Remember the Jewish Sabbath gave place to our Sunday because the Lord rose on the first day of the week or Sunday. At first the Jews, when the Lord had risen, celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday and they kept that holy, and then they met together on Sunday, or the first day of the week, and they rejoiced together on Sunday, or the first day of the week, and they rejoiced because on the first day of the week the Lord had conquered death and had risen and had appeared to all of His disciples, and had led them forth and given them a new vision of Christianity. And so they began calling the first day of the week the Lords Day, and John tells us that it was on the Isle of Patmos on the Lords Day that he received the vision of the New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Now, what did John really see on the Isle of Patmos? He says he saw a city and then when he comes to describe the effect that the city had on him, he said that this city was prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. That is a most remarkable thingthat he should liken a city to the most ecstatic moment in the life of a woman, the moment when, of all times surely, she looks most radiantly beautiful. And yet, that is exactly the language of Revelation, the exact words which must be used to describe this city. New Jerusalem, which was coming down from God out of heaven; because what John really saw was the harmony of truth. What he really saw was the doctrines of the New Church, the Church of the New Jerusalem, as it were in a condensed form so that they gave a definite picture to his mindthe picture of a new holy city, a picture of a city that was so beautiful that the only language that could describe it was that it was like a bride adorned for her husband.
Now what is the significance of its being called the New Jerusalem?
Now Jerusalem had stood for a great and marvelous thing in the history of the world under the Divine Providence. The old Jerusalem had stood for the worship of one only God. Of all the cities in the world, the Lord said He had chosen Jerusalem to put His name in, and Jerusalem was a city that was set on a hill which could not be hid, and Up to Jerusalem thither the tribes go up, the prophet said, because four times a year all Israel was commanded to journey to Jerusalem and renew their vows of monotheism or the worship of one only God. It was because Jerusalem stood for the worship of one God in one Person that Daniel, in far-off Babylon, a captive to the Babylonians, opened his window toward Jerusalem; and, in spite of the command of Darius that no one should worship any God but Darius himself for thirty days, nevertheless Danielbefore his open windowsent forth his prayers toward Jerusalem, believing that there the one only God resided and that there his prayers would be heard.
It was because of this very important thing, of maintaining the worship of one God on this earth that the Ark of the Covenant, (the vision of which had been seen by Moses on the mountain) had been carried about, 1500 years before the Lord came into this world. The Ark had been builded according to the vision that Moses had seen on the mountain, and in it were placed the Ten Commandments, the law and the testimony; and this law and testimony had been taken about with the Israelites through the wilderness until at last the Ark came to rest in Solomons Temple on the heights of Jerusalem.
And all this was because Jerusalem stood for the worship of One Godthe old Jerusalem, but now the old Jerusalem had perished. And in prophetic vision it was seen that the new Christianity which had come to replace the old Judaismin providence it was foreseen that this new Christianity would likewise lose the idea of one God in one Personthat the time would come in 325 when the fathers of the church would sit down and would write a creed which read The Father is God, The Son is God, The Holy Spirit is God, and yet There be not three Gods but One God. And whereas by Christian verity, that is, sticking to the truth (as they thought) we are compelled to acknowledge each one separately as God and Lord, we are forbidden by the Holy Catholic Church which was the only Church at that time to say three Gods and three Lords but must say One God. And so, by 325 years after the lord had lived in this world, the glorious vision of monotheism which Jerusalem had stood for had again been lost in obscurity and John, on the Isle of Patmos, foresaw prophetically that the time would come when a new vision of monotheism of God in One Person would be given to the world.
Now it is a truth that whenever, after studying and after seeking for the truth, we find the truth. Swedenborg says, Follow the light and ye shall come into the truth. It is a fact that when we search with all our heart and soul for the solution to a problem,--when the vision of that solution is finally given to usthe truth appears to us with great beauty, for truth appears before the mind as something which is fascinating and very beautiful.
I well remember an old man up in the Canadian Northwest who has passed on into the spiritual world now, but he was raised a Mennonite. He was raised on the doctrine of God in three persons, blessed Trinity, and he was terribly puzzled how there could be unity in the universe with three separate persons acting as the God at the center of this universe. And, while he was in this perplexity and center of this universe. And, while he was in this perplexity and while he was searching for the truth, there fell into his hands by one of these interesting providential accidents we call them, a copy of Swedenborgs True Christian Religion. Those of you who have read this work know what I mean when I say that, if you read his chapter on the Trinity, and understand it, you can never again think of God as being three divine persons.
There is a young man whom I know who has not yet joined the Church. He told me last Summer that his talk with me on the Trinity and his reading of the True Christian Religion on the Trinity had so changed his mind,--(he had been a Pentecostal which is a Trinitarian Church believing in three Divine persons)that never again could he conceive of God as being three Divine and separate persons which in some mysterious way make one God. Now, when he saw that, he saw it with great beauty just as the old man I told you about described it. The beauty of the idea that God is just OneOne Person! And that beauty was represented by Johns wordsPrepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And indeed that is the very truth, because when we see a truth like that we become the bride, we become part of the Church, part of the bride which is in very truth married to the Lord in that spiritual union to which all natural conjugial love corresponds.
But this city, New Jerusalem, John saw with great walls around it. Now the walls that protect the city are representative of the doctrines that protect a Church. As soon as I use the word doctrine, perhaps I enter a field of technical theological language which is not too well understood. Let me see if I can make that word quite clear. In the first place, a doctrine is something that you learn. It comes from a Latin word meaning, The things that we have learned, but it has come to mean a much more specific thing than thatmuch more particular. Every man has a doctrine whether he liked it or not. Every man has a doctrine and the doctrine is what he believed in regard to any particular subject.
Now what of the doctrine of the New Jerusalem, the doctrine protected by these great and high walls? Sometimes people say that the doctrine of trying actually to make a society where the principles of the Church of the New Jerusalem are practiced, that this makes a snobbish sort of a community which uses its walls to keep people out instead of using its walls to protect itself. This is not a true statement of the caseI mean the walls of the New Jerusalem are never used for snobbish purposes. Perhaps there may be weak individuals who hide behind all sorts of glorious causes in order to justify their own selfishness, but the walls that surround the New Jerusalem are not walls to produce snobbishness but they are walls created great and high to protect the things that we hold most sacred and most deeply cherished. We call these walls Distinctiveness.
We have come to believe that we have a bounden duty to give our children a distinctive New Church education. We want our children to view geography from the standpoint of the God who created geography. We want our children to study their history with a belief that there is a thread behind history of the Divine Providence which overrules the acts of man for the benefit of the Grand Man of heaven. We want our children to see in mathematics the order and the law and the firmness of truth that emanates from God. And so, in order to give our children these things that we think are so vastly important, we have distinctive New Church education and to preserve it, nothing more, we require baptism and we have New Church teachers. We will never get away from having New Church teachers, but perhaps some day we will grow strong enough to be able to take all who apply. At the present time, however, we are too weak. It is an acknowledgment of humility that we should be swamped, if we should open our doors without baptism; so, our wallsgreat and highare protective walls to protect our distinctiveness. And so also we try to maintain distinctive New Church social lifethe ideals that we cherishthat these ideals may be fostered as much a we can and be brought into states of unselfishness. We have much regenerating to do, but that is our ideal.
Now, to show you that no element of snobbishness is involved in these wallsnone whatsoeverremember that it was John who saw these walls and it was the angel who measured them. But it was also John who said that in each wallon the Eat, and on the North and on the South and on the Westin each wall there were three gates, and it is said that these gates were open all day and there is no night there.
Now, if four of us were to go up to the Cathedral, perhaps, and one would stand in the East and look at it and another in the North and another in the South and another in the West and each were to describe what he saw, our descriptions would have certain points that would agree and at other points we would see the Cathedral very differently. If four men like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John viewed the Lords life, they would find some things on which they viewed it exactly alike. And so, when we study the feeding of the five thousand, we find Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all telling the same storyalmost identical; but, when we want to find out about the Lords Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, then John has many particulars which his love enables him to perceive that wasnt perceived by Matthew, Mark or Luke. And so it is with all of us in this roomwe all view life from a different standpoint, and if we could all stand outside the New Jerusalem and see it descending from God out of heaven, we would all see different entrances, and we would all see different openings through which we would want to enter into the Holy City. But one thing is very clear and that the Lord made evident when He told the parable of the Good Shepherd. He said that the good shepherd entereth in by the door into the sheepfold but the thief and the robber he climbeth up some other way. And so, no matter by what angle we view the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, we may be sure that there is some gate prepared by the Lord which will just fit our states, a gate through which we may enter into the Holy City, if that is our desire.
Now I am going to take up in subsequent classes in detail the meaning of these different gates but tonight I shall just tell you about these gates and about people who have entered in by certain particular gates into the City. Of course, the most central and the most important gate of all is that entrance into the Church by means of thought about God. Many people have entered into the New Church by the gate which has made as clear as crystal to their mind the idea of one God in one Person. There are many things in the letter of the Word which when not analyzed make one think that perhaps there might be three Divine persons.. For, surely it speaks of the Father and certainly of the Son and of course He speaks of sending out the Holy Spirit and doesnt that mean that there are Father and Son and Holy Spirit in some mysterious way wrapped up in the unity of God? Well, the old church has puzzled that until it has drawn out the creed which I have quoted to you and in all the orthodox churches, by which I mean the Catholic, the Presbyterian, the Methodist, the Episcopal, the Baptist and generally the Evangelical churches(not such churches as Christian Science which deny us the Divinity of Christ entirely, or the Unitarian which also denies that Christ had any essential Divinity in Him, and many other sects)the great sects of Christianity believe in the Tri-Personal idea of God.
Now, when a person becomes disturbed on the question of tri-personalwhen it no longer seems logical to them, to their mind, to think of God in three persons,--then it is they begin the search which in the end will lead them through the gate into the city New Jerusalem; for, from the doctrines of the New Church, as they study them, it will become more and more clear that the soul of each one of us exists before the mother gives it a body and just as in a very real sense we can say that we have our soul, as it were, the father of our body, so with the Lord. That Divine life from the Father which created life within the womb of Marythat Divine life of the Father was indeed the Father to the son who was born on earth. But just as our soul is never drawn forth and taken away from our bodyit is always within our body, it is always shaping the destiny of our body, maintaining its health, maintaining the faculty of all our sensesso the Father was never withdrawn from the Lord and was always there as His soul. And our spirit, our influence among peoplethat is just exactly what the Holy Spirit is. The Lord breathed on His disciples His breath and said Receive ye the Holy Spirit,His breath! Why should anyone think that that should be a third person because He calls it the Holy Spirit? It must be a Holy Spirit. And so the New Church man sees that God is just One and that the manifestation in body is the Lord Jesus Christ and the Infinite Soul of that Body is the Father and the influence of that Divine Life lived on earth throughout all the agesthe influence,--that is the Holy Spirit working among men in their hearts and in their life. And so many persons have had that riddle solved by the doctrine of the New Church and have entered in through that gate into the city.
Another one of these gates is very close to me at the moment because only a week ago I was called upon to perform a funeral where a boy, at the age of twelve, died very suddenly of polioonly sick a week. The immeasurable comfort that the doctrines of the New Church gave to these people in their stricken and sad condition was a beautiful thing to me because our doctrines teach us that the Heavenly Father marks even the fall of a sparrow and the Lord says the very hairs of your head are all numbered, and to a God who knows the very number of all our hairs and who marks the fall of a sparrow, it is quite impossible to believe that His Providence is accidental in the way people depart from this world. And when we come to study the Writings we find that very definite reasons are given why people die when they die,--why some people live to be old people and enter the spiritual world full of the impressions of this world, because they are to perform to eternity uses which in the Grand Man must be fixed and firm and staunch.
The Grand Man is not composed wholly of rigidity and things that are fixed, but it also has all the organs and viscera of our body and there are all the delicate membranes and the fluid which produce the sight of the eye and all those delicate tissues of the brain cells.
But to mention one or two other gates, that are very important. The time was when the Bible was revered and honored by everyone, but that time has past. It is long past your day. Many of you have been born since the time of its venerationits universal veneration,--and many of you have met from early youth people who have derided the Bible. I remember reading of one man, who later became American Ambassador to France, who was brought up at his mothers knee with a tremendous love for the Bible. Then he went off to Harvard for his university training and it was just at the time when higher criticism in learning was to the fore and they pointed out that the world could not have been created in six daysmore likely six hundred million yearsand that the Bible had many contradictions in it. For instance, after the Lord created Adam and Eve and they ate of the tree of life and of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and after Cain slew Abel, why it said that the Lord had repented Himit repented the Lord that He had made man and then He was going to destroy all men; but He found one man, Noah and his wives and sons and their wives in whom He could still trust. And so we can go through and find in many places where it said it repented the Lord that He had done this, that, or the other thing.
For example, when the Children of Israel made the golden calf, it is said it repented the Lord that He had made them and He was going to destroy people. Then you read a little farther in the Bible and you come to the beautiful Psalm and it says, God is not a man that he should repent. I am the Lord, I change not.
Then he went on to some of the so-called contradictionsfor instance that God is angry with Israel. You can find many, many passages that say that God is angry, and we also find passages in the Bible that say that God is love, and God so lived the world that He gave His only begotten Son. He went on to passages like that and he found out that if you view Gods action toward man from mans standpoint, there are times that it does appear that God is angry. Just as a child that I spank. I dont have to any more, but some time ago I used to and that child, I am sure, thought I was angry (and I may have been). Anyhow, viewed from his standpoint my actions did not seem at all like they should have been, but if those actions were given as they should have been without anger, then sometimes a spanking in the dearest mark of love, because the parent who does not correct his child really does not love the child but loves his own ease and his own inability to cope with the will power of the child. And so those passages begin to unravel. When you begin to view them from the standpoint of the man looking at Godbut whenever God is looking down at man, the Bible is perfectly constant, that He is a God of Love, that He is never angry, and that anger can never possibly be predicated of Him. Then there are other things: For instance, the lies that Jacob toldthe way he put hair on his hands and came in and told blind Isaac, his father, Yes indeed I am Esau,I am Esau, he said, and Isaac said, Its the voice of Jacob but its the arms of Esau, so Isaac blessed him.
Now, in the New Church, that is all unfolded in the Arcana Coelestia and Esau represented Good. He represents the end for which we strive and Jacob, the second born who displaced his brother temporarily, represents the Truth. Now it always seems that a lieit always seems as though it is not the right thing, but in actual time Truth must come first. We have got to teach the child what is right and what is wrong before he can obey what is right and what is wrong, but the end in viewthe thing that you are really trying to get at is not merely to teach him the truth but to have him live a good life. In the end, Esau becomes triumphant. Jacob comes back from Padan Aram where he has married his wife, where his family has been born. He comes back and gives a huge offering to his brother, Esau, and he bows down himself before Esau so the truth in the end is really subservient to good. And so it went on, and that particular person began to see through one of the other gates into the New Jerusalemthe gate of the Bible which was lost and is found. And he discovered through the principles of correspondence laid down in the Writings that the Bible does not have to be discarded by any of the arguments of the higher critics. When the doctrines of correspondence are applies to it, it yields a rich spiritual harvest.
There are many other doctrines that I could mention. I think I shall just mention two more gates to the New Jerusalem that seem very important to me. One is the scheme of salvation and this is one reason why the New Church grows slowly. The New Church has no easy way of saving peopleno easy way at all. I am reminded of some lumberjacks to whom I talked last summer, and I started in with these words. I said, I havent the slightest hope of converting any of you men but I just want to tell you why our New Church ministers come out all the way from Philadelphia to administer the Holy Supper to one of his members who is also a member of this camp. Well, the next day the boss of the camp told me, Those were fortunate words you started with. We have lots of ministers that come in here that like to preach to us and they put their arm around my neck and they say, Dear friend, have you been saved? If he says he hasnt they then tell him that all he has to do is to believe in the blood of Christ and he will be saved.
Now that would be a very easy method of salvation, if it were true. If all we had to do was to believe that the pain the Lord suffered on the cross, the agony, made atonement for all the sins that were ever created before or after that even in His life, salvation would be easy. In the New Church we teach quite a different doctrine and there is no easy way out and that is why it does not have any popular appeal through great emotional sermons. Nobody is ever brought into the New Church by a New Church ministers saying that a person can be saved in any short period of time, because he cannot say so with any sincerity.
Now that freedom is manifested in a thousand different ways. It is manifested in the fact that all revelation is outside of man. There revelation is on the bookcase, but it can stay thereI may never go near it. I can pass it by every dayI dont have to go thereI dont have to go, and nothing makes me go there. It is only if I want to go there. That is where revelation is put by the Lord, outside of us so that we can go to it and get it and read it, if we want to, but we can pass it by, if we want to. It is like this, a sculptorwhen he has a mess of clay and leaves it on his easel and goes to bedknows that it will be just exactly the shapeless mass that he when he wakes up in the morning. He does not expect to have a statute carved unless he takes the pains and the energy and the time stroke by stroke to fashion that clay, here a little, there a little, line upon line, and precept upon precept. Now the Writings tell us that that is how mans character is formedjust a little bit at a time and the fundamental principle in forming it is to pick out some one evil, and we have to shun that from fear we will get caught, but because it is wrong, because god says it is wrong. That shapes our character. That builds heavenly character. Now that it is a logical thing. We can all see that is sensible. If we just build our character, then our character is going to be the way we have fashioned it, when we go over to the spiritual world. That is our scheme of salvation and there is no easy way out. Once a person sees it, why then he can really enter through another gate in the New Jerusalem.
And the final gate about which I will speak. I remember a man in the very first society that I had when I was a young minister. This man was not baptized into the New Church and sometimes he liked the Church and sometimes he told me he just couldnt swallow it. We had many long talks together, but he would always end up by saying: Whatever else I see that I cant believe in the New Church, that book, Conjugial Love, thats a heavenly bookthat is a Divine Revelation. He was very happily married and the pages of Conjugial Love just shone before his mind. They indeed were like the bride adorned for her husband and gave him great light and he never could get away from the fact that Conjugial Love was Divine Revelation.
Now the Writings tell us regarding conjugial love that it is scarcely known that it exists in the world and not at all what it is, and yet to the new Church a whole book has been written about it. A book that describes every particular and gives us all sorts of principles upon which we can base our married life and out of which we can draw success; principles which enrich the marriage covenant, the principles which make of it what the Lord tells us that its a thing that has its originnot here on earththe origin is not in the love of sexthat is not where conjugial love comes fromthe love of the sex is like a matrix which holds the diamond. But the diamond is the marriage of Good and Truth in heaven. Just as you cannot think and do a single ting without having the desires to do it, which is good, and the knowledge of how to do it, which is truth. The slightest thing you do has marriage in it. Pick up a glass of water. If want to take a drink. That is the will. The ability to reach over and know howthat is the truth, and when I take a drink, the two are absolutely united. They make a perfect one.
Well, husband wife can be just as inseparably united as that because the origin of conjugial love is that marriage of Good and Truth which descends from the Lord out of heaven, and the purity of conjugial love is because it corresponds to the marriage of the Lord and the Church and what can be more holy and exalted than that? And yet the status of this conjugial love corresponds with that wonderful marriage of the Lord and the Church. We know the origin of conjugial love and we know its correspondence, and therefore we have al the means at our disposal to enter into the particulars of it and to have it grow among us.
Well, the doctrine of conjugial love has been one of these gates in the high wall. So you see, although the New Jerusalem has high walls of doctrine about it to protect it, it has gates that are never shut and gates that apply to men and women of all different kinds of dispositions, and tastes, and likes and dislikesfour sides and three gates on every side. But if we should just into the New Jerusalem through one of these gates, we would see that river clear as crystal,--truth, truth that we understand, a river clear as crystal,--and wed see that the streets are paved with gold, and gold represents love; and the streets lead from house to house in heaven as they do in this world, and love is what takes a neighbor to his neighbors house in heaven even as it may in this world. We also may have our streets paved with gold. And there he saw likewise the tree of life bearing twelve manner of fruit, and it says that the leaves of it were for the healing of the nation.
That is the New Jerusalem. That is whence our Church derives its name.
* * * *
The above paper and those that will follow it were taken from the tape-recording of Mr. Aldens class. It was spoken extemporaneously without any notes and has not been edited by Mr. Alden. Very little editing of the paper has been done, so as not to interfere with the evident spontaneous conversational tone of it, and this little has been done by the undersigned. This will be true of all the papers to follow.
Fred E. Gyllenhaal
General Church Religion Lessons
THE NEW CHURCH IDEA OF THE TRINITY
BY THE REVEREND KARL R. ALDEN
One of the gates to the New Jerusalem was the belief in one God in one person who is the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, when we say that we believe in one God, we separate ourselves from all atheists who believe in no God, who deny the existence of God; and when we say we believe in one God, we separate ourselves from those heathen nations that have a plurality of gods, that worship many, as did the ancient Romans and the ancient Greeks. So, when we say we worship one God, we separate ourselves from both atheists and all those who are polytheists and who worship more than one God.
But that isnt enough because the Jews worship pone God, in Jehovah, the Mohammedans worship one God, in Allah. So in order to make our declaration of faith perfectly clear and separate from all other faiths, so that it can indeed be the faith of the New Jerusalem, we must say that that faith in one God is a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
But that isnt sufficient eitherwe must add one other word because the whole of Christian Churchthe whole orthodox Christian Churchsays that they believe in one God, and that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, so we must say that we believe in one God, in one Person who is the Lord Jesus Christ. The orthodox Christian church believes in one God who is in three Divine Persons and that is very ably expressed in the concluding words of the hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy, where we read Blessed Trinity. God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.
So this gate of entrance into the New Jerusalem which concerns God is to have a vision of Godof one God in one Personwho is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now my endeavor this evening, as best I may, will be to explain this doctrineto try to show how this doctrine agrees with what the Scripture teaches, and that it agrees with common sense, and that it has a philosophy behind it which is completely rational. Let us first of all picture ourselves.
Suppose we were among the Lords first disciples at His first advent and that we were in that large upper room in Jerusalem where He celebrated the last Passover with His disciples, and we were in that room with Him and could sense somewhat of the stirring realities that were present in that room. On the morrow (that Passover was celebrated Thursday night), Friday, the Lord was to be crucified. But Thursday night the disciples didnt know that, yet the disciples felt a vague unrestthey felt a disquietude of their souls.
Now undoubtedly at this momentous Paschal Supper these prophecies of the Lordthese utterances of the future and what the future held in store for Himlay disquietly upon the mind of each of the disciples. We know that this must have been the case because after He had fed them with the Paschal Supper, and after He had washed their feet and once more put on His robes and had reclined about the table with them (in those days couches were provided so that they lay upon the couches next to the table with their feet outside), the Lord talked to them in that glorious 14th chapter of John, and we know the disciples felt that disquietude that was coming upon them, the presage of terrible events, in the near future, because of the Lords opening words. Looking about on His twelve disciples, reading trouble in every line of their facestrouble and apprehensionHe said quietly, Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.
Now in those opening words which were given to pacify and calm and sooth the spirits of these worried disciples, the Lord hared back to the central doctrine of the Jewish Church. In Providence, the Jewish Church had been raised up and kept alive and made a chosen people that they might hold high aloft the banner of monotheism, that is, the worship of one God. The Lord knew that He could appeal to His disciples and say without the least shadow or fear of doubt, Ye believe in God. Every Jew who was religious believed in God, and he believed in one God as it had been taught him in the 6th chapter of Deuteronomy, 4th verse, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord. And I do not suppose that in the mind of a single one of these disciples sitting around the table there was any other idea but the idea of one God, so He said, let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.
Now He knew that He was that one God and His problem was to teach the disciples that He was that one God to fill the inexpressible gulf between infinity and humanity, to arouse in them thoughts which should bridge the gap between the infinite and the finite. They had thought of Him as a finite man, the Son of Mary, their Master, their Leader, who, perhaps, was going to lead them into a kingdom in this world; but not even John in the depths of his consciousness had perceived that the Lord was the infinite, that He was the Divine itself, and so the Lord opens the chapter quieting their spirits, Let not your heart be troubled. Ye (already) believe in God, believe also in Me.
Then He goes on to tell them that in His Fathers house are many mansions, and that the whole purpose of His ministry would be foolish, If it were not so, I would have told you. If there werent heavenly mansions, if this life were all, there would be no need of prophet or seer or religious leader. It is because there are mansions in the Fathers kingdom that the Messiahship becomes pregnant with meaning, and so He tells them of the heavenly mansions and He urges them to come into those mansions and says, The way ye know.
When the Lord said, the way to heaven ye know, Thomas said, We dont know the way. The Lord said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. He had opened with the appeal to their belief in God and now He said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one can progress to a knowledge of God who is the Father unless they come through Him. And He goes on to say not only I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, but If ye had known Me, He says, Ye should have known My Father also; and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him. He tells His disciples that if they had known Him, the great gap between infinity and finition, between God and man, would be bridged and they would have know a Divine Human Man.
But that was beyond their comprehension and Philip now comes to the fore. Philip was the fifth disciple to be called after Peter and Andrew, James and John, the two sets of brothers. Next Philip was called and Philips name means love of horses, and his spiritual signification is interesting because a horse corresponds to the understanding of the word. For this reason, the horse was the chief means of getting from place to place and spiritually to get from place to place is to understand the Word. If you understand the Word, you progress from spiritual state to spiritual state. And Philip, whose name meant the love of horses, meant the love of progressing spiritually. This is now the eve of the Lords departure out of this world. He has been with Philip approximately three and a half years, so Philip finally screwed up the courage to ask the Master. He said, Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us. Let us have the Father beside You, let us see You and the Father at the same time, and then we will be satisfiedat last we will be satisfied,--if we can see You and the Father together.
The Lords answer to Philip is quite unexpected and very remarkable and contains within it much food for thought. He turned to Philip and He said, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, show us the Father? Probably no one thought that he knew the Lord better than Philip did. Philip knew exactly what He looked like, what clothes He wore, where He went, what His habits were, and the sound of His voice, and yet the Lord said to him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.
The Writings tell us that sight from the understanding opens the eyes and that understanding from the eyessight from the eyes alonecloses the understanding. By this the Writings mean that our natural eyesight,--our eyes,--are just a camera. This dog sees the same thing that I see in this room, but he doesnt see the same thing at all. We can put the Word in front of a dog and his mechanical eyes see exactly the same thing that our eyes see, but he brings no understanding to it.
Now, sight from the understanding, the Writings say, opens the eye. Let me illustrate it by something that happened in my life and which I can never forget. It was in the days when Professor Fred Finkeldey was alive. He was an ardent biologist and liked to work in his laboratory. Many times he would make microscope slides of singular beauty and that were exceptionally good; and I can remember him coming up to my office and saying, Come down, Mr. Alden, and see this wonderful slide. I would go down to his laboratory and I would look through the microscope, and I would see something that looked like a splash of colored Jell-O on the kitchen table, which would mean nothing to me because there was no understanding in my eyes, and then he would say enthusiastically, Dont you see the amebas? No, I would say, I dont see the amebas, whats an amebas? Well, he would say, an ameba is an unbounded piece of naked protoplasm which takes on various shapes as it surrounds its food. Now that was some help. I then looked into the microscope to see a naked bit of protoplasm perhaps feeling that I might be slightly shocked but I wasnt, and after he informed my mind what I should see, at last I was able to see the ameba, because sight from the understanding leads to wisdom.
It is the same in every profession. You know it, so I only need to mention it to you. The doctor sees a hundred things in the patient that the layman doesnt see. The astronomer goes out and looks up into the heavens and because he has understanding in his mind, his eye actually sees differently from those without that understanding. The artist looks out into nature and because he has a trained eye and an informed understanding he sees all sorts of harmonies and colors that escape the untrained eye.
Well, it was similar with Philip. Philip thought he had seen the Lord for three and one-half years. He has thought that he had seen Him perfectly, and yet the Lord dumbfounds him the night before the crucifixion by looking at Philip and saying, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. Evidently Philip had never seen Him, because on this Thursday night he was asking to be shown the Father.
At the risk, perhaps, of understanding things and not understanding this profound subject too well, I am going to try to show you what Philip should have seen in the Lords life which would have made him see the Father.
A little while later as they walked through the streets a leper came and knelt before the Lord and the Lord asked him what he wanted, and the leper said, Lord, if thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. The leper said that, and the leper knew that no human being could make him clean because there was no known cure for leprosy. The physicians were powerless to help lepers, and he had come to the Lord, because he sensed about Him something Divine and He said, Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And the Lord said, I will; be thou clean. Now I venture to say that if Philip had seen what really transpired there, he would have seen the power of the Father, he would have seen Divine power surging forth and passing from the Lord to the leper and cleansing that leper.
Again, Philip was in a ship on the sea of Galilee when a great storm arose and threatened to engulf the disciples. The Lord was sleeping in the back of the ship and they awakened Him, and they said, Master, are you not concerned that we perish? And the Lord stood up in the ship and He rebuked the wind and waves and immediately they stopped. We all know that, if there is anything human beings cant do anything about, its the weather; and yet the Lord standing in the ship, rebuked the wind and the waves and they obeyed Him. So, undoubtedly, Philip should have seen in that miracle the power, not of the Son of Mary, but the power of the Father.
Those miracles increased. All four gospels tell us of the feeding of the five thousand, that stupendous miracle. And then, just about four weeks before His crucifixion and resurrection, the Lord visited Mary and Martha and found their brother Lazarus already dead and laid in the grave four days, and Philip must have seen the Lord command that the stone be rolled away from the sepulcher, and he must have heard the Lord say to Lazarus, whose body already stank because it had been in the grave four days,--he must have heard the Lord say in a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. If he had thought, if he had realized, he could not have thought that it was the Son of Mary who commanded the dead to come forth out of the grave, and the dead obeyed Him. So, sharing the Lords life as Philip must have shared it, seeing a dozen or more other miracles that we havent touched upon, not to mention the gracious words that he heard when the Lord speakthe whole Sermon on the Mount and may other times when the Lord spoke words of wisdom to His disciples and to the multitude;--if Philip had seen Him, had seen beyond the physical appearance, he would have seen right into His very soul and would have seen the Father. And so the Lord says, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip?
But so much for the New Testament angel. Let me approach this now from another angle. It seems perfectly clear that the Lord meant to convey to Philip the absolute impression that besides Him there was no Father. He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. Or as He put it in John 10:30, I and My Father are One, or to the Jews who were about to stone Him, Before Abraham was I am. That burden of the New Testament seems clear.
But let us now look at it from the standpoint of the Old Testament,--from the idea that the Messiah, God Himself, was to come into the world. I once had a theological argument with an Episcopalian minister in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was very interesting. It was when the Reverend Theodore Pitcairn and I were doing street speaking and we saw a sermon advertised by the Reverend Dr. Grafe on the text, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou, Show us the Father? when we saw that text advertised, we immediately went to Mr. Grafes church, but we were disappointed in the sermon. The sermon never mentioned the idea that Philip had seen the Father, and had seen the Lord, but the whole discourse was spent in showing that the Lord had been two thousand years with the Christian Church, and we didnt know Him yet. Of course, we agreed with that. But that night, after we put our automobile into the garage, we passed by the Reverend Grafes church, and there was Mr. Grafe outside the very door smoking a cigar. We immediately engaged him in conversation on the trinity and asked him why he did not mention the other part of his text, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. We argued until midnight on the street, then he invited us up into his study and we continued until two in the morning; but the important part is this, when we got up into his study, he handed me a great ponderous book on the Trinity and I will never forget the first sentence. The first sentence read, There is very little evidence in the Old Testament for a Trinity of Persons.
That the theologian was correct for there is very little evidence in the Old Testament of a Trinity of persons, and search it as you will, the only evidence you will find is in the plural of majesty where God says, Let us create man in our image. Then the singular is used, Into the image of God created He him, not wecreated He him, showing that only the plural of majesty was first used. And the only other place this man could cite in the Old Testament for a trinity of persons was where it says that three angels appeared to Abraham and prophesized the birth of Isaac. Well the Writings explain that very simply.
Aside from those two passages, that ponderous book on the trinity could find nothing in the Old Testament to indicate a Trinity of persons, and the reason for that was that there is nothing in the Old Testament to indicate a trinity of persons. Yet the Old Testament is full of such statements as, Hear, O Israel, the Old our God is One Lordso defining, so positive, so clear. Or take the passage in Isaiah where Jehovah says, I looked and behold there was no Savior. Now imagine if there was a trinity of persons from eternitythe Father looking and failing to see the Son born from eternity. According to the Athanasian Creed it says, I looked and there was no Savior, therefore Mine own right hand wrought salvation form Me. Let us turn to that passage from Isaiah that I read, the sixth verse of the ninth chapter. It says, For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. Now there has been no doubt in the Christian mind that that child that Isaiah was talking about was the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly Handel in his beautiful oratorio, Messiah, uses that passage to great advantage and leaves no shadow of doubt but that the Son who was to be born into the world was Marys Son, the babe born in Bethlehem on the first Christmas night.
Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. The government shall be upon His shoulder. What government? The government of the universe, all government, the laws and order of all creation. The government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called. Whose name? The Lord Jesus Christs name. He was called actually Jesus, but the prophet said in addition, His Name shall be called Wonderful. He was the Wonder Child, the child born without human fatherthe mystery of those ages. His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor. But then we come to the most astounding thing that He was to be called, The Mighty God. This child, who was the Lord Jesus Christ, was to be called in time The Mighty God. Not one of three mighty Gods but He was to be called the (the definite articlesnot shadow of a doubt)The Mighty God. And furthermore He was to be called The everlasting Father. I dont know whether you ever thought about it before, or noticed it, that here, in the Old Testament, when the Lord is being prophesized before He came on earth, this conflict, if we want so to think of it, between Son and Fatherall this difficulty of reconciling Son and Father was implied by Isaiah himself, for he said: The Lord Jesus Christ, this Son who is to be born, shall be called The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. So in the Old Testament we have the Lord called a Son and a Father, and in the New Testament we have Him called a Son and a Father.
Now there Is not the slightest shadow of a doubt but that there is a trinity in God. That is not the point. Certainly there is a trinity in God.
Now I think that it is impossible to maintain the trinity of persons from Scripture. In the first place it is never mentioned. The Father is mentioned to be sure, and the Son is mentioned, and the Holy Spirit is mentioned. They are never called persons, never called individuals separate from each other, whereas the person who believes that God is a trinity of personshow will he possibly explain the Lords Words, I and My Father are One, or He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father? A true philosophy will be able to explain and understand all of the passages in the Word and that philosophy and that religion, we believe, is gathered up and put forth in the belief in One God in One Person who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am trying to show first of all that if Philip had seen the Lord he would have seen the Father in the Divine and mighty acts that the Lord did while on earth and I am trying to show that in the Old Testament there is a solidarity of oneness in the teaching about God and that when we get to specific passages in the Word, such as in Isaiah 9:6, the idea given is that this Son was the Mighty God, was the everlasting Father, was the bridge between infinity and the finite, between the human and the Divinewas the real revealing of God before the eyes of mankind.
Now there is still another approach to the understanding of the trinity. God created man in His own image. In the image of God operated He him, so that if there is a trinity in God, and if we are the image of God, there must be a similar trinity in each one of us and that is indeed the fact. What is ithave you ever meditated on thisscience does not know, but the Writings reveal,--what is it that forms and shapes the babe in the womb of the mother? What is it that is the architect? We know that when two cells are fertilized that they start dividing, and from one they become two, they become four, they become eight, they become sixteen, thirty-two, sixty-four. But what makes them form a neural canal, and what makes them gather together and form a primitive heart and then a brain structure? What is the architect that is directing these cells to go to the places they go until a complete and beautiful human form is builded?
The Writings say the architect is mans soul, and that mans soul is within his body; and mans soul is on the spiritual plane and is always invisible to the natural eye. So, dissect the body as cleverly as we may, weigh a body the moment before death and the moment after death, and we cannot with our sensual feelings feel or see or touch the soul of man, yet the soul of man is there and is manifest through the work which it does, and so the soul in each one of us, invisible though it may be, governs all of our organs, all of those things that go on unconsciouslythe beating of our heart, the breathing of our lungs (except when we especially think about our breathing), the digestion of our food, the circulation of our blood in the arteries, the thousands of muscles that contrast to make one movementall of that is ruled by the soul, the invisible soul that is within man.
Now the invisible soul within man, the Writings tell us, is correspondent with the Father who is invisible in His universethe infinite, Divine Father who is invisible, and surely our soul is father to our body. The soul is that which directs and causes the body to be builded; but when the body is born, when the body is built, we see the body and the body reveals the soul within it. So Mary, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and said, Blessed art thou among women, blessed is the fruit of thy wombMary was the first person to doubt the virgin birth and she said, How shall this thing be, seeing I know not a man? the angel answered, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. The Divine flowed into Mary without any finite, limiting, separating vessel so that the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ which caused the growth of His body, just as our soul has caused the growth of our body,--that soul of His was Father to the body in that relationship, just as truly as our soul has been father to our body; but our soul has been cut off from the human father from whom we sprung whereas the Divine is continuous; and the Lords soul flowed in and was never cut off so that the Divine life always was present as the soul of the Lord Jesus Christ, so the Father always dwelt in Him, and the Son always more and more manifested the Father.
The Lord said, No man hath seen God at any time. The Father, the infinite Divine within all nature, is above mans comprehension. No man has seen God at any time, and the God that Abraham spoke with was an angel filled with the Lords Sprit. The God that Gideon saw, and the God who called and spoke with Moses, was an angel filled with the Lords presence. No man, the Lord said, has seen God at any time,the only begotten Son,--called only begotten because, when the Lord came down into the world through the instrumentality of the virgin Mary, that was the only vessel which had been prepared to receive the Divine and to manifest the Divine on earththe only begotten Son hath declared Him. That is the Babe, the Lord Jesus Christ, born at Bethlehem on Christmas.
When we first meet somebody and see only his body, we see little of the real person; but as we get to know him and live with him and see how he acts under sorrow and in the presence of joy, how he meets adversity, and how the various vicissitudes of life affect him, more and more we forget the body and more and more we see the soul through the body so that we can say to our friends, and quite truly, You have never seen my soul but all of my soul you will ever see is through the actions of my body, how I act among men, what I do, what I say, how I behavethus you will see my soul, but that is the only way. We will never see the soul apart from that, and we can see a great statesman, like Abraham Lincoln, only in this way. Probably, if someone who had never been taught the glory of his soul and character, were to look at one of his pictures he would say, What an ugly old man! But if you and I look at a picture of Lincoln, we dont see the body and morewe see in that body the man who emancipated the slaves, and the man who held the United States together, and he who has seen thatsees the real Lincoln.
And so the Lord said to Philip, Have I been so long time with you and yet hast thou not known Me? He that hath seen Me (really seen Me) hath seen the Father.
And then there is the Holy Spirit which has also been made into a separate person. It is a little more difficult to understand how that could be made into a separate person because after the Lord rose fro the dead and when He had His disciples before Him, it is said that He breathed on them. Risen from the tomb in His glorified humanity. He breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit, His Sprit, His breathHis Divine majestic magnetism which has swept down through the ages and has made men change their lives because of His teachingsHe breathed on them and then He said, all power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth.
Now what about man? What is there of a man that corresponds to the Holy Spirit? Why, it is what we do, it is the use we perform it is all our effect on other men, the spirit that goes forth from usour spirits. We live in very small environments and our spirits as Dickens said, do not walk too far abroad. You can see it with great men like Napoleon whose spirit inspired a whole nation. I remember when Napoleon had been exiled to the island of Elba for 100 days. He conspired to come back to France and landed in Southern France with a handful of men about him and Louis the Eighteenth sent an army to capture him, and when this army got in front of Napoleon he stepped out in front of his few ragged soldiers and said, Capture me or fall in behind me, and they fell in behind him, and he had an army. That happened four different times. Now from this man, Napoleon, there emanated a spirit and that spirit had so great a magnetism that his nephew, Louis Napoleon, although quite a worthless character, was able to capitalize on his uncles reputation and actually become an emperor himself. Now we all have what we do in this world, and that is the third thing of the trinity in us.
We can see it even in simpler things than that, because the Lord is the Creatoreverything is created in His imagenot only man but everything. There is nothing that exists that does not have an invisible soul. For example, this water glass has an invisible soul. There was a time when nobody thought of a water glassprobably drank out of the palm of his hand,--but somebody, one time or another, got an idea of a water glass. Now, as long as he kept that idea in his mind, nobody could see it, nobody could look at it. Nobody can look into our minds and see an idea, yet ideas are the most real of things They are the things that change the world from age to age, but no one sees an idea until it has been given a body. Then the inventor takes material, and he clothes that idea, and he presents a tumbler, and I say, Oh, now I see what you are talking about. I know what your idea is now. But the idea is still the soul of that glass, and then, of course, there is the usethe use that it performs, a very noble usethat represents the Holy Spirit. In anything, the trinity is as simple as thatthe soul is the invisible idea that produces the material for the body out of which it is built and that which corresponds to the Holy Spirit is the use that it performs for man. So when we study the trinity from this angle, and from the angle of the Scripturesthe angle of prophecy and the angle of mans being created in His image,--we see that the Lord bridged the gap between the infinite and the finite by breathing His spirit into Mary, and that through the virgin birth, a unique personage was born on this earthOne with a Divine Soul and a purely human body. Through His life in this world, that human body from Mary was completely put off and in its place was put on the human into whose image man was created in the beginning, or the Divine Human, so that now we can see the Lord, we can know the Lord, and yet the Lord has been completely glorified. He came to the disciples through closed doors, He ascended into heaven, He vanished from their slight, but the sight of Him does not vanish from our eyes because He has revealed Himself.
REMOVING THE PERPLEXITIES CONCERING THE TRINITY
BY THE REVEREND KARL R. ALDEN
Read the following passages, the understanding of which will be the main subject of this paper. These quotations apparently teach that there is more than one person in the trinity.
And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of god descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:16, 17)
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani? That is to say, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? (Matthew 27:46)
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto Him, Thou bearest record of Thyself; They record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Thou I bear record of Myself, My record is true; for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me bearth witness of Me. Then said they unto Him, Where is Thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me, nor My Father: if ye had known Me, ye should have know My Father also. (John 8:12-19)
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine tone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seas: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beat was like a flying eagle.
In our last paper we endeavored to show that there is one God in one person who is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the testimony of the Old Testament, the testimony of the New Testament and the evidence of reason all go together to establish this fact of the oneness of God and the fact that that one God was the Lord Jesus Christ. We saw in the Old Testament that the universal teaching is the oneness of God: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and such statements as I looked, and behold there was no Savior, therefore Mine own arm wrought salvation for Me, and especially Isaiahs prophecy that unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of peace. These passages give evidence in the Old Testament that when Jehovah came into the world, He would be called a Son and a Child, because He would be born of the virgin Mary; but nevertheless, as He grew up and as He put off the body assumed from the virgin Mary, that gradually He would be called not only Wonderful and Counselor but also The Might God, and at last The Everlasting Father. This shows that even in the Old Testament the testimony is that the Son and the Father are one and the same; and that we call Him the Father, if we think of source in connection with the manifestation in this world; but we call Him the Son of God if we think of that which is born of Mary by means of a Divine conception.
Then coming down into the New Testament we quoted many passages and dwelt on them at some length, showing that the preponderance of evidence is that the Lord and the Father are one. Such unmistakable passages are John 10;30 where the Lord says, I and My Father are one, and the well-known passage where Philip at last grew courageous and asked the Lord to show him the Father. The Lord asked Philip if he had been with Him all these yearssuch a long time; and hadnt he known Him? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father. So I made the statement that it is possible from the viewpoint of one God in one person who is the Lord Jesus Christ to explain all the appearances of three.
There is no question at all about the language. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are names or terms used continuously throughout the Gospels.
In addition to discussing this matter from the standpoint of the Old and New Testaments, last time we discussed it also from two other viewpoints. One viewpoint was of man who is created in Gods image; therefore, if there is a trinity about God, there is also a trinity about man. We pointed out that this, indeed, is a fact: that the father of the child is the architect who causes the cells to divide and form a pattern in the growth of the embryo; that this father is the soul of man, and the body which man receives from his mother, and in which he is born into this world, and which is the vessel of his living in this world, and which at death is put off. This body represents the Son who is taken on from the virgin aviary and who manifested the Divine Father or the Divine Spirit within Him, even as our body manifests our soul or our spirit. And what we do in this world, our operation among men, our spirit, influence, use, whatsoever we do, corresponds in exact measure to the Holy Spirit which is the Lords Spirit. He breathed on His disciples and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit, and He said, All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth. That was after the resurrection. His Spirit is His works among men--His Divine influence, the Divine Providence, the unceasing care of God for His children. All of this is the Holy Spirit emanating, not as a third person but as the Spirit, from the one only sod who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, we saw that the Creator must always stamp His impression upon the work which He creates, and so in a Beethoven Symphony we find the personality of Beethoven written into it. In a Rembrandt picture, we find the skill and the distinct qualities of that artist depicted; in a Ford motor car we find the image and the personality of the inventor of that car. With everything there is a trinity, and this trinity reflects the maker; and, therefore, with the Lord, since He is the Creator of all things, He has left this trinity indelibly imprinted on everything which we have in the universe. We may take the simplest thing and we find that there is the idea which precedes, which is the soul of it and which exists wholly on the plane of the mind.
It is possible to interpret the difficult passages in the Word from the standpoint of one God. This is the task which I have set myself to do in this paper.
First, let's take the passage about the Lord being baptized in Jordan, where it says, Coming up out of the water the Lord saw heaven open and the Spirit of God like a dove descending upon Him, and a voice from heaven saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:13-17) This is often given as evidence that the dove was the Holy Spirit, the voice from heaven was the Father, and the Lord coming up out of Jordan was the Son, and, therefore, a very distinct and complete idea of the tri-personal God, three Divine persons, is indelibly given.
Let us see if that is indeed the fact. I will first of all point out to you that only one person, only one person is mentioned, and that is the Lord coming up out of the Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the Jordan the Lord saw the heavens open." What descended? "The spirit of God like a dove descending upon Him and a voice from heaven." In the literal sense we can get a trinity of a son, a dove, and a voice; but we cannot get a trinity of a Son, and a Holy Spirit, and a God, the Father, speaking out of heaven and saying that He was pleased with His Son.
Now, if it had been the intention of the Gospel to teach us that there are three Divine persons in the Godhead, it would have been very easy, to have been written that, as He came up out of the water, the person of the Holy Spirit was seen descending upon Him and that God the Father spoke from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; but the facts of the case are that only one person was seen and that was the Son; beside Him there was a dove seen and a voice was heard out of heaven saying, "This is My beloved son." In order to understand this, we must have some comprehension of what was taking place with the Lord and the manner of His incarnation, that is, His coming down to dwell among men in the flesh, and how that incarnation led to His glorification.
At birth, the Lord had only two things.
The human race was created into the image of God, and man is human because God is human; and 'God was Divinely Human before any man was created. What the Lord did in the -process of His glorification was gradually, little by little, to put off the human which He had taken purely from His mother Nary and to put on the Divine Human which He had with the Father. This was the Divine Human quality into whose image man was created.
Let me illustrate this with sight. For example, when the Lord was born in Bethlehem, that Babe could see only as far as its eyes could see--the little cameras which we call eyes. He could see only as far as natural light came to them through waves and enabled them to have images of this world. That was sight after the order of Mary, His human mother. But as the Lord was glorified, His sight became no longer limited to the eyes which he derived from His mother Mary. For example, once He sat at one end of a table and Simon the Pharisee at the other end. A woman came in, washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with the hairs of her head, and anointed them with precious ointment. The Lord's sight was not only of Simons body but He saw into Simon's heart, and He saw exactly what Simon was thinking at the other end of the table, and on a different plane than the natural eyes have the ability to see. Thus we see that His natural sight was becoming glorified. He was putting off the human from Mary and putting on the Divine Human from the Father.
This subject is indeed deep, but it is one that can be comprehended rationally, if we concentrate. Let me illustrate. Suppose a linen handkerchief is the natural body which the Lord took on from the virgin Mary. If we pull out one thread of linen and then weave in a thread of gold along the warp, and do that over and over again, removing one thread of linen at a time and filling in with a thread of gold; then turn the handkerchief the other way and do the same with the woof, in the end we will have a handkerchief that will be the same size and the same shape, but it will be all transformed into gold, without the size and shape perishing. The point is this: The Lord came into the world primarily to give us an image of a God that we can know and love and worship and see;
At the time of His baptism, which was the beginning of His public ministry, He had need of evidence for His own consciousness that He Himself might realize that He was the Messiah. The voice which came from heaven and said, "Thou art My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,"--that was a perception of His as to His calling. It was not the voice of a second person sounding from heaven. Where would heaven be? We know that heaven is not up in the clouds, but heaven is the perception of good ends, the perception of the real end of life. That constitutes heaven, and a voice from heaven is like a voice from our ideals. And this voice from heaven was like a voice calling to the Lord at the beginning of His ministry and saying that He was His Son, that is, that He was the incarnation of the Divine.
Now as to the dove. The dove is a symbol. Surely we don't think that the Holy Spirit is a dove! I doubt if anyone would think that that the Holy Spirit was any more than represented by a dove. So, if we study a dove all the way from the time when Noah was making sure that the land was once more fit for habitation, when the dove came not back again to him, we learn that the dove is a bird which is peculiar for its monogamic mating instincts and has become a symbol of conjugial love; and in the deeper sense, the dove is a symbol of that marriage of good and truth which is the very fruit of regeneration; when man tries the things that he knows and turns these knowledges that he has into the deeds of life, then these two things are married, and the end product is a state of regeneration. Now the dove which descended upon the Lord represented the communication between the Divine soul within and the body which was being glorified without--the communication which, as He progressed toward complete glorification should end in a complete oneness; for after the resurrection that Easter morning, we no longer find any mention of the Father and the Son but it is always the UNITY of God.
Let us take another one of these difficult passages. I might just leave the one thought, before turning from the baptism scene, that even dwelling on the letter only one person is mentioned, for a dove can hardly be thought to be another person, and certainly not a voice. In that connection, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Revelation the same type of symbolism is used. John said that in his vision he saw the Lord sitting on the throne. Before Him he saw seven golden candlesticks. Those seven golden candlesticks were said to be the spirit, the spirit of the churches, Holy Spirit. If we are inclined to take things literally, we cannot be satisfied with having one spirit, but now we have seven Holy Spirits. The Holy Spirit is represented in the fourth chapter not by one spirit, but by seven spirits. If we go on to the fifth chapter, again we have God upon the throne, and we have the Lamb mentioned; and the Lamb very obviously refers to the Lord's life in this world. In order scrupulously to avoid any appearance of two persons, the symbolism, the innocence of the lamb--the symbolism of the lamb--is used so that there can be no shadow of a doubt that there is only one person, the person sitting on the throne. And the chapter says that this Lamb which was before the throne, and which represents the Lord's dwelling in this world,--this Lamb had seven eyes, and the seven eyes again were the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, that went out through the Church. Are there seven Holy Spirits? Is the Lord a lamb? Of course the Lord isn't a lamb, but the lamb represents the innocence of the Lord, the innocence by means of which He takes away the sins of the world, that is, by bringing people into a state of innocence similar to the innocence which He Himself had while in the process of glorification.
The most difficult passage of which I know is that one which tells of the Lord preaching. "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto Him, Thou bearest record of Thyself; Thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Ye. Then said they unto Him, there is Thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither known Me, nor My Father: if ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also."
It has been felt, and it has been argued that because the Mosaic law said that no man could be put to death, if he were accused of murder, by only one witness, but only if he were accused by two or more witnesses;
Now what does it reduce itself to? Suppose you apply the Mosaic law literally to the passage with the idea that the Lard was using this means to prove to the Jews that Tie and the Father were two persons, and consequently being two persons they could bear witness and the witness would be true. How would you interpret that? Well wouldn't you have to interpret it in one of two ways--the testimony of two men is true--I am one. Nor, then the Lord must either say, "I am one man," or "I am one God." Either the Lord and the Father are two men, two finite men, that bear witness, or they are two Gods that bear witness; because otherwise, if you went to press the literal interpretation of it, you, don't have the liter!--.1 two men in the mouth of which you must establish your witness. "I am one man and My Father is another man," or "I am one God and My father is another God, "both of whom bear witness to this fact." But both of those ideas are repugnant to our thought. We cannot possibly think that the Lord was a man and the Father was a man and that they were two men and, therefore, that this was established. Nor can we think that He meant to convey the idea that there were two Gods.
The Lord was doing quite the reverse. The Jews believed that the Lord was quite a different person than God. They did not believe that they were one person. Jesus did not have to convince them that He and the Father were two different people. What He had to convince them of was that the Father was in Him and He was in the Father, and so He goes on to say, "Ye neither know Me, nor Day Father." And they said "Show us the Father," "Where is the Father?" And the Lord goes on to say "If ye had known Me, ye should have known M Father also." Isn't that an exact parallel, when you come to think of it, of the words of Philip, only Philip was well disposed? Here the Jews were trying to corner Him, and to prove that He was not the light of He was trying to prove, that He was the light of the world, and the Jews were trying to prove that He was not the light of the world, that He had no right to say He was the light of the world, and no right to claim any Messiahship; so that, when they said, "Where is Thy Father?" --it was asked from malice and skepticism.
To the New Church it is revealed that the whole of the Word is written for man's spiritual journey or his journey toward heaven, and it is not written for the purpose of teaching scientific facts or merely for man's life in this world, but it is written to teach him about the spiritual world. So let's see what it yields if we take up Deuteronomy, the 17th chapter, where it says that from the witness of two men a person shall be put to death. It does not take very much imagination to understand that as soon as you interpret Deuteronomy in a broader way than merely the Mosaic law, which we do not keep any more, - we keen the Ten Commandments, but there are hundreds of laws - Jewish laws (circumcision for example) which the Lord abolished when He came on earth. We don't keep the letter of the Jewish law any more, but all of these Jewish laws which are in the Bible are part of the Word of God and have a spiritual interpretation. What is meant by the fact that a man is not condemned from the mouth of one witness, but only from the mouths of two witnesses? This is very interesting and very important. We cannot conceive, in the life after death, that when a man is judged either to heaven or to hell the Lord calls witnesses in the form of angels or spirits or people who have known that person, and if two or lore are found that agree together, he is condemned. Rather the Lord judges man from his book of life--the book of life that is written on man's internal memory. That book of life is composed of the deeds of his will, which is one witness, and of the things inscribed upon his understanding, which is the other witness; and the two witnesses which go with men into the spiritual world are the deeds of his will and the thoughts of his understanding.
The teaching here involved in the spiritual sense is that no man is condemned to hell either from the will alone or from the understanding alone. A man may be brought up through no fault of his own in many fallacies, even in falsities, for which he is not responsible. His understanding may need much instruction after he gets to the spiritual world, but if he lives according to the conscience which he has, he will be taught in the spiritual world, and his understanding will be re-formed and brought into marriage with his really good will, so that the witness of a man's understanding alone without the will would never condemn him to hell. Similarly we ore taught that all children, all babes, infants, who die go to heaven, yet we know that no one has a regenerate will until that has been slowly and gradually formed to shun evils as sins against God, so that no one is sent to hell because of their will unless they purposely, intelligently, knowingly, conjoin their understanding to that will. Only thus, only when the two witnesses confirm each other, when the will and the understanding; are married in the evil deed, purposely, then the two witnesses condemn a man; but unless those two witnesses agree, a man is not condemned.
In the spiritual sense the same thing is meant where we read the beautiful words, Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." In the spiritual sense that means where man has truths and goods in his, mind, their union, their marriage, makes possible the Lord's presence with a man. Where two or three are gathered together in My name." And so it says that in the mouth of two witnesses, that is, where the will and understanding are conjoined, the deed is accomplished.
Now the Lord says He is one witness and the Father is the other witness, and we know that is just exactly the parallel that there is. The Father is Divine love or the will and the Son who manifested Him in this world is the Divine wisdom which gives form and makes the Divine love seeable. It is the same thing that is meant when it is said, "In the beginning was the Word," which is Divine truth "and the Word was with God," and "The Word was God" and so when the Lord said that He was the light of the world and He said that He was not alone but was one that bore witness and the Father bore witness of Him, the spiritual meaning is that the Divine wisdom of which He was the personification and the Divine love dwelling within Him both bore witness and testimony to the fact that He was the light of the world. If the Jews had really known Him, they would have known the Father also; just as if Philip had really seen the Lord, he too would have seen the Father, because the Father through His very majesty, in all of the deeds that the Lord did--the feeding of the five thousand, and giving sight to the blind, and so forth--all of that was through the power from the Divine which was within Him. So if we see this passage rightly, it not only does :not stand for two persons, but it shows us the unity of the Divine soul with the Son who was born and who was ever progressing toward complete union with the Divine soul.
I want to take up just one more difficult passage. On the cross the Lord asked, Eli, Eli, lame sabachthani? or My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Some have supposed because He cried out to God, that this is evidence of God being somewhere else, and of God being a different person from the Lord Jesus Christ who was on the cross. But isn't it strange that, if there were a trinity of persons when He cried out on the cross, that He said, "My God, My God?" Why didn't He say, "My Father, My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
All orthodox Christians believe that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. So when He cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Ye? whether we accept the orthodox Christian idea of Christ that God and man were one in Christ, or the New Church idea that the Father was in Him as a soul, God was in Christ under either conception, because under both He was Divine.
Each one of us has his ideals, and we all know that from time to time we fall short of our ideals, and sometimes we do things that are contrary to our ideals, and looking back and reflecting on them, we wonder why we ever were abandoned by our ideals--how our ideals ever forsook us and we did the things that were contrary to our ideals. And David in the Psalms voices the same sentiment when he says, "Why art thou cast down, O, My soul?" and "Why art thou disquieted within Ye?" He wasn't talking to somebody else--he was talking to his better self, to his higher nature, to the things that he really believed and strove for, and these things seemed to have been cast down, and so he cries out, "Why art thou cast down?"
And so with the Lord on the cross. This was the last and final temptation by which He completely glorified the body which was taken from Mary and it was as it were the last cry of despair of that body from Mary that it was abandoned by the Divine because it seemed separated from it. But it was not a prayer to a third person to intercede, or a chiding that a third person had abandoned Him. And so with all of the places where the Father is mentioned, if we once gain the concept that there is always the Divine working in and through the human, these passages yield more and more light, the more deeply we are able to study them.
I have tried in some way to point out to you how the voice and the dove and the Son at the baptism can be regarded as parts of the process of the Lord's glorification, as entering into His .public ministry; and how the two witnesses, when rightly understood, represent the witness of the soul within or the Divine good as manifested in the Divine truth which was the Lord as He revealed Himself in this world; and that on the cross, when He cried out, He didn't cry out to the Father but He cried out to that Divine which was in Him and which was nearly completely glorified in this, His supreme temptation. The Lord cried out because the appearance to the human was that He had been forsaken, and this of necessity in order that the temptation might be completed.
THE VIRGIN BIRTH
BY THE REVEREND KARL R. ALDEN
The only evidence that we have of the Virgin Birth is contained in the two Gospel stories of Luke and Matthew. In those Gospels we read as follows:
"And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David. And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing 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. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age:, and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." (Luke 1:26-38)
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit, And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name, Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called His name JESUS." (Matthew 1:18-25)
Mary, at the time this happened, was espoused to Joseph. The old Jewish custom of espousal was very close to what we call engagement. Naturally, when Joseph found that Mary was expecting a baby, he was minded to put her away, but he said that he didn't want to make a public example of her. And the point that I make in reading the Matthew story which gives Joseph's point of view is that Joseph was completely satisfied by the evidence which the angel gave to him.
After all, the most important thing to us is the birth of the Lord into our own hearts. The historical birth of the Lord in Bethlehem some nineteen hundred and fifty years ago is interesting as history and absolutely essential to the salvation of the world, but it is His entrance into our own lives that is significant to us. How the Lord is born into the heart of each one of us is tremendously vital, for we are taught that the history of the individual repeats the history of the world, and as the Lord was born in time into the world, so also, at some time or other, He is born into our hearts.
The manner of that birth into our own hearts is the thing that is tremendously important in studying the virgin birth of the Lord and it has a peculiar signification to those who believe in the doctrines of the New Church, for the doctrines of the New Church hold that the Writings of Swedenborg from which we get all of our truths are in no way, shape, or form the product of the human mind of Swedenborg. They are not the result of his long and brilliant career as scientist, engineer, philosopher or anatomist. They are not the combination of great human skill and penetrating perception. We look at the Writings as a God-given revelation, the Third Revelation which completes the trine of the Old Testament written in Hebrew, the New Testament written in Greek, and the Writings of Swedenborg written in Latin.
It is quite significant that although Swedenborg was a Swede and wrote Swedish fluently, everyone of the works of the Writings was written in Latin, a language which had been dead more than twelve hundred years at the time that Swedenborg used it. Now there is a very clear reason why Divine revelation is written in a dead language. A dead language des onto change, but all living, spoken languages change from day to day and from year to year. For example just look at the psalm: The Lord prevented me in the night watches. Well, unless we look up the meaning of the word prevented, we might think that he meant that the Lord held him back during the night,--the Lord prevented me in the night watches; but if we go back to the original Hebrew and see the word that was translated by the King James translators as prevented, we will learn that the word means went before me as a shepherd goes before his sheep. In the three hundred odd years that have passed since the time the King James version was written, the word prevented has absolutely changed its meaning so that its present meaning contradicts its original meaning. For prevented comes from pre venio, two Latin words which mean to go before as a shepherd goes before his sheep, but because those who went before slowed up and got in the way of those coming behind, the word changed its meaning to prevent and keep you from getting somewhere, which is exactly opposite to the original meaning.
I merely use this word as an illustration. English is changing all the time because it is being continually spoken and each generation is giving it a living meaning of its own which former generations did not have. But dead languages, for instance the Hebrew of the Old Testament, are the same way today as they were when the Lord was on earth. The Greek of the New Testament has not changed, nor has the Latin of the Writings.
And isn't it singular that over the cross, when the Lord was crucified on that Good Friday so many years ago, an inscription that He was "the King of the Jews" should have been written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin? To us this is a confirmation that the Word of God to man is contained in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New Testament, and the Latin of the Writings.
I bring this out because, if you see what I am driving at, we believe that the Writings do not have a human father. The brain of Swedenborg is not the human father of the Writings, any more than Joseph was the human father of our Lord; but the Writings were conceived within the mind of Swedenborg, conceived by Divine inspiration and brought forth through the mind of Swedenborg, through the pen of Swedenborg, through Swedenborg's ability to pay for having them published; even as the mother Mary furnished her body, her life--everything she had--to the bringing forth of the Lord as a Babe in Bethlehem on the first Christmas. So the Writings arc a new Revelation, and, therefore, a second coming of the Lord.
So we can see, if the Lord is to be born into our hearts as a conviction in a living God, He cannot be born of a human father. We cannot have a religion that is founded on something human. There must be the incarnation, there must be the virgin birth. We must receive Divine truths as coming from God and not as coming from man.
There is a very curious thing in the story of the Lord's life. The word "Mary" means "bitter." It is the same Hebrew word as is sometimes translated "Miriam." The root meaning is bitterness, and you may think it slightly strange that the Lord should be born into the world of a woman whose name means "bitterness, and yet when we consider how He is born into our own lives, we see that He is never born without a struggle. He is never born without giving up other things, He is never born without a conviction perhaps that certain things that we once held no longer can satisfy our growing understanding, and it is always with bitterness that we give up things that we have once held, and accept new truths.
And then there is another Mary, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and her name also means bitterness and she had quite an interesting function too in the Lord's life.
There was still another Mary in the Lord's life--Mary Magdalene, and Mary Magdalene was that woman who, when the Lord sat in the house of Simon the Pharisee, came in and washed His feet with her tears and anointed them with a costly ointment, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. She was a sinner and it is said that out of her the Lord had cast seven devils, and that He forgave her because she loved much. She represents that third thing in religion. It is not enough to believe that the Word that we base our life on is Divine, which is the Son of Mary. It is not enough to read the Word, but we must act upon the Word and allow the Word to help us to shun our evils as sins against God. That is Mary Magdalene. That, too, is a bitter task, and yet what a glorious reward is given; for, on Easter morning, of all the human beings to whom the Lord might have appeared first, He chose Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils, to be the first to see Him in His risen and glorified Humanity.
And so that completes the story that religion must have a Divine origin. If we expect it to lead us to a Divine goal, and if we expect to have it a factor in our lives, we must take the time to fill our minds with it; but most of all, if we expect to change the character of our lives from selfishness into generosity, from personal interest into the interest in others, we must see that it operates in our lives causing us to shun evils as sins against God.
The Writings say that all angels regard the happiness of others ahead of their own happiness. It is hard for us to believe, but Swedenborg says it is easy to believe when you watch a mother sacrifice food for her child, or sometimes a husband lay down his life for his wife or a wife for her husband. We see those deeds in this world from time to time, but we are taught respecting the regenerate state which is characteristic of heaven that there the angels really regard the happiness of. others before their own happiness, and this springs from shunning evils as sins against God. That is the Mary Magdalene in us.
With this preface of the spiritual signification of the virgin birth, let me take up the actual virgin birth of our Lord from two standpoints and see if we can come to understand it. Of course, in our day and age--the day of biology and science--much of the world scoffs at the idea that the whole New Church rises or falls with the belief in the virgin birth.
Now I have quoted the two simple accounts upon which the validity of the virgin birth exists. The arguments against the virgin birth are simply that it never happened before or since. All of those arguments we grant. We also grant that there is no illustration in nature of parthenogenesis which means virgin birth--the scientific term for virgin birth. There is no illustration of parthenogenesis in the kingdoms of nature. It is true that the green plant life will reproduce for three generations, but it is simply a carry-over of the male element in the female for three generations. It is not a genuine virgin birth or parthenogenesis. There is no illustration in nature of this, and no illustration among human beings, so it is a unique thing and men find it difficult to believe things that occur only once.
Remember the men who wrote the gospels. It has been argued by some that Hindu traditions had their weight and influence with Matthew and Luke, or that perhaps the birth of some of the gods of the Greeks had their influence on Mark and Luke, and in order to enhance the standing of the Lord and make Him a more important character they invented the story of the virgin birth.
Let us look at that argument. Those men were simple men, not highly educated, especially Matthew who had been a politician. When the Lord found him he was a collector of taxes, sitting at the receipt of custom. He was probably a very ordinary sort of person, as far as his external life went, and certainly not highly educated, and it would stretch one's imagination a great deal to believe that he had any contact with the literature of India. And he had no particular purpose for inventing the story of a virgin birth because he had been with the Lord, he hand seen all of these miracles that the Lord did. He had heard the Lord's words, he had felt the Divine fire of love when the Lord took him right from his collecting of money. The Lord said, "Follow Me," and Matthew dropped everything instantly. He felt that attraction, that love, that marvelous compelling force to follow the Lord. He was a simple person, and it takes quite a complex mind to build up the idea that by claiming that the Lord had no human earthly father people would be in awe of the Lord. Quite the reverse--probably Matthew know as well as you and I know that to claim that the Lord had no earthly father would be to raise a host of questions and start a thousand doubts circulating in men's minds. There would be nothing to gain by it.
But notice the simple way that the virgin birth is told. Here was Joseph and he was about to marry Mary, and then he thought Mary had been unfaithful to him. Being a just man he was going to put her away privately so that it would not create a scandal, and then the angel of the Lord appeared to him and completely satisfied him.
And now let us look at Mary,--the standpoint of the virgin birth from Mary herself. The first person to doubt the virgin birth was Mary herself--the very first person. Mary was out probably getting water or something. That is tradition at any rate--it has no truth in it at all, but anyhow Mary was alone somewhere and the angel Gabriel appeared to her. We are taught in the Writings that the angel Gabriel was a whole society of angels, and Gabriel was what Swedenborg calls the subject spirit. That is not a hard thing to understand. We have ambassadors to France--they are subject spirits for the whole United States. We have ambassadors to the Court of St. James in England--they represent the whole United States. And so this angel Gabriel was a subject spirit and represented those in heaven who looked forward eagerly to the fulfillment of the prophecies that the Lord would come into the world - the prophecies which said that "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given,"--whole societies of angels who acted through Gabriel and Gabriel was sent to announce to Mary that she was to be the blessed woman. "Blessed art thou among women," said the angel to Mary, and "Blessed is the fruit of thy womb." And Mary said, "Why?" To this the angel replied, "Because thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call. His name JESUS," which means "Savior" - the Greek form of the Hebrew word "Joshua."
It was then that Mary doubted the virgin birth. She said, "How shall this thing be, seeing I know not a man?" And the angel gave her the answer. The angel said, 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." And then Mary accepted it. She no longer questioned the virgin birth but said those beautiful words, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." Utter humility. She made herself completely receptive to the idea that indeed the Lord could bow the heavens and come down. You remember in the Old Testament it said that the Lord would bow the heavens and come down.
And now let me see, if we cannot see very, very clearly, how this is possible. It is certainly clear, if you believe the Writings of Swedenborg.
As you the Writings teach us that men and women are not equal in the sense that they are the same. We cannot compare men and women and say that man is superior to woman or that woman is superior to man. We can contrast them and say that together men and woman make one, so much so that a conjugial pair in the celestial heaven, when viewed from afar, appears as one person because each can perform uses which the other cannot possibly perform. They are made complementary to each other and they are so made that when joined together God can give the greatest of all gifts to mankind--He can give new life, He can send new life into the world. But man is not so conceited as to think the gift of life is his, that he creates life, because when he has tried to create life in the laboratory, he has not yet succeeded in giving life or producing the simplest kind of protoplasm. The best that man can do is to keep alive life which the Lord has already created, but man has never been successful in creating life, an so the miracle of new life coming into this world is a miracle of receiving vessels and by receiving vessels I mean something which is so built by the Lord that it can receive and hold life--for example, a storage battery.
Electricity is a marvelous force. We have never seen it. We can sometimes feel it in the form of a shock. We can see it run a motor and we can see it do all sorts of things, but we cannot see it. A storage battery, however, is a vessel which is so built that it can hold this invisible power, this form of enemy that we call electricity--it is a vessel. The steam boiler is a vessel which can hold steam at huge pressures and thus make steam work. And the mind of man is a vessel that can receive both wisdom and love from God.
Now Swedenborg says regarding man, the male, that the inmost of his form is the love of growing wise. That is the inmost essence of a man, therefore he is a go-getter" or an aggressive person. He goes out and is seen in the world. In general, man goes out and earns a living, goes after things; he goes after wisdom, and he goes after knowledge. No man, on the other hand, is the home-maker. To take, just for instance, the situation of a home: the husband is earning the living, the husband brings the money home--he is interested in going out and seeking it, he is interested in the competition of life, the struggle with other men, for all that is typically masculine; but the wife is typically the homemaker, and she takes something that is only money and changes it into a home.