BY REV. G. FIELD
TORONTO, CANADA: R CARSWELL and CO.
NEW YORK: E. H. SWINNEY, 20 COOPER UNION,
LONDON, ENGLAND: JAMES SPEIRS, 36 BLOOMSBURY STREET, W. C.
TO THE READER
In all probability there will be two classes of persons who will read this book, - whom we are accustomed to designate as "Old Church," and "New Church:" - by the former we mean all those who are members of, - been trained and educated in the faith of, - or under the influence of, some of the various religious denominations into which the collective Christian world is divided; whether called Catholics or Protestants; Evangelical, Apostolical, Orthodox, or Heterodox: - these being but sects, or parts of what was originally the one Christian, or Catholic Church; having in general a common platform of Doctrine, and separating, or disintegrating mainly on some one particular dogma of faith; or on some mode of Church government. These are embraced by us in the one comprehensive term "OLD CHURCH;" as contra-distinguished from those who are designated by the term "NEW CHURCH." These latter not being a sect or split, or division of that former, or original Church; but a New Church itself, as distinct from the first Christian Church, as that was originally from the Jewish Church. Thus not separating on account of a difference of belief on some one or more points of faith; but a complete and total difference, with almost nothing in common. For though we have precisely the same Bible, our understanding of it is toto clo different from the universally prevailing one; being so much more full and comprehensive. And though we alike believe in a God, -a Spiritual world, - a Heaven and a Hell, a Resurrection and Judgment, and c., and c.; yet our understanding of these things is so widely different from the common ideas respecting them; - or perhaps it might be more correct to say, want of ideas, - that they could in no wise mingle: the one faith being positive, - the other little more than negative, opinionative, or speculative. Nothing being known or believed in, - in the Christian world at this day, than the simple fact that there is a God, but whether personal or impersonal; visible or invisible; real or ideal, - nothing whatever is known; or even professed to be known: - the legendary creeds present contrary and impossible mystifications of Him as a tri-personal being, and yet impersonal: - without form, "body parts, or passions:" as coming and going, ascending and descending from one place to another; and yet omnipresent. Whilst in regard to the Spiritual world, the most incongruous and inconsistent speculations; and impossible and contradictory imaginings are all that the Church has to offer to satisfy the requirements of her children; so that those of intelligent and reflecting minds, repudiating such sophistical traditions as unsubstantial food, but too often become secret, or avowed sceptics and infidels.
This is why those of the New Church have nothing in common with what they believe to be a Church that is Christian in name only; and in consequence of which is now consummated; and hence they see and acknowledge the need of a rational and consistent faith; one in which there will be no conflict with reason, science, or universal laws.
And it is because of this vastated and disrupted state of the Primitive Christian Church, that the bond, or ligature by which influences from God and Heaven might more effectively reach man; to enlighten, strengthen and save him, that new revelations have been made; not new Scriptures written; but the clouds of error and ignorance removed by which the Scriptures had been obscured; and their true and living meaning restored; - a true idea of God made known, and His laws of providence and life; as also of the Resurrection, - the Last Judgement, - Heaven and Hell, and the life after death.
These, like all previous revelations, it is believed, were made by and through, a human instrument, as they could be made in no other way: and we believe that instrument was Emanuel Swedenborg, whose writings bear the fullest and clearest evidence of the truth of his mission; - and it is because they do so, that we receive them. And the advent of this Church was foretold and epitomized more especially in the 21st chapter of the Revelation, by the symbolic imagery of the New Jerusalem as descending from God out of Heaven. And we believe that this Church will be the crown of all the preceding Churches, and will endure for ever.
And the Doctrines of this Church are those which are advocated in this Book. But it must not be thought from this, that every one professing to receive them, does really receive them. They contain so much, and require, not only that the false and perverted habits of thinking, believing, and acting, which have grown with our growth, and become strengthened and confirmed by habit and association, should be given up; but that more unselfish, elevated, rational, and spiritual ideas should take their place; and the whole mental fabric as it were, recast, so that the Divine Prediction may be fulfilled, "Behold, I make all things new." And that those truths should be made practical in a life of Love, Charity, and Use.
But who is there that cannot see how impossible it would be for this to be done at once; and how unreasonable it would be to suppose that those who become interested in these heavenly doctrines, - who perceive and acknowledge their rationality and their harmony and consistency with all known truths, should at once have them fully embodied in their lives: it were as reasonable as to suppose that as soon as a child is born, he becomes a full-grown man! He first receives them intellectually; - and this even but in part, and by degrees; Yet gradually they re-cast and re-form the whole life: but during this process the old is for a long time more or less commingled with the new: - and the new is often seen very obscurely; and the old man often prevails over the new man; and for a while it must needs be so during this transition state: and this will perhaps explain why many things are done by professing New Churchmen that are by no means illustrations of the Doctrines they profess; and may often seem even to throw discredit upon them. Whilst it is very different with those in whom these Doctrines have taken deeper root, and with whom the old is no longer mingled with the new. Much injury is often done to the cause of the New Church by self-confident men, who, with but very slight and imperfect acquaintance with its teachings, speak and act as if they really knew and understood them; and it may be that many things recorded in these reminiscences, that might seem to be questionable, or even unjust, may be accounted for in this manner. Perhaps, however, this might be urged in excuse of unjustifiable actions in any religious community; but the genuine test is knowing what are the standards of faith and life which such religious bodies really teach: and I am not aware of a single Church in Christendom that has incorporated into its Creed, either the Doctrine of Charity; the Law of Love; or a Life of use. It is all FAITH, - FAITH ALONE; and even that, unhappily, a faith in what is not true; or in what could not be made practical in our daily life. And the practices of a Church ought not to be expected to be better than its principles.
Whilst the Creed of the New Church teaches and declares that, "If I would be saved, I must shun all evils as sins against God; and live a life according to the Ten Commandments." And "That Charity, Faith, and Good works are unitedly necessary to man's salvation; since Charity without Faith, is not spiritual, but natural; and Faith without Charity is not living, but dead: and both Charity and Faith without Good works are merely mental and perishable things, because without use or fixedness. And that nothing of Faith, of Charity, or of Good works, is of man; but that all is of the Lord, and all the merit is His alone." Which is thus comprehensively enunciated: "all religion has relation to life; and the life of religion is to do good."
Some apology is due to the reader for the want of a better chronological order; and perhaps more methodical arrangements of these memoirs; all that I can offer, is, that they were written at irregular times, and often with long intervals between; and the scenes kept changing. Many places that were but small villages when these records commenced, have since become flourishing cities. A large portion too, of those whose names are here given, have long since passed to their homes in the eternal world.
I have presented the best and most perfect statement of these early memories of New Church History in this region of the Western World, I have been able to do. I knew that if I did not, no one else could; as no other person had either the documents or the information. I leave it as a legacy for the New Church to read and reflect upon; and may I also hope, to profit by.