THE assumption, by an association of religious men, of the title of "The New Jerusalem Church," requires no defence or explanation, except to those who are unacquainted with the principles which that title represents, and are ignorant of the motives which prompted its earliest members to adopt that sacred designation. Upon the profession of these principles the organization so named has been founded, and their recognition, its members believe, is essential to its continuance. Although the few earnest Christian men with whom it took its rise in England, firmly believed that the doctrines which formed their bond of external union, were unequivocally those alone which expressed the true sense of the Sacred Scriptures - essentially different as those doctrines were to all other accepted creeds or articles of faith, - yet it was not inconsistent with their convictions to believe also, that no external organization could include all of the Lord's Church on Earth - that the members of the New Jerusalem could be numbered only by its Divine King - that the laws of spiritual affinity could break over the barriers of space, and cement in one the hearts of those who never looked each other in the face, or grasped each other by the hand.
For these reasons, doubtless, the New Jerusalem Church has seldom if ever been charged with arrogance for the adoption of its name; and its most prominent doctrines have been necessarily a safeguard against the spirit of sectarianism, or bigotry, or religious pride in its consistent members. Deeply impressed with the truths contained in the Writings of EMANUEL SWEDENBORG, upon whom they found good reason to rely as a specially-prepared and divinely-appointed "servant of the Lord," they sought the most natural, the only efficient, and therefore the wisest means of aiding the declared mission of their great teacher; confidently persuaded that they were not originating a new sect, or proclaiming a new religion of human invention, but were the humble promulgators of a New Dispensation of Christianity to the world.
The importance of the following History may be partially anticipated, therefore, as it is the record of nearly a century's struggles by those who undertook to brave, in their endeavours to establish a New Church, the consequent opposition of the sects, and the difficulties more than likely to arise among themselves; and it will probably continue to possess an amount of interest which will not lie confined to the present circle or generation of New-Churchmen alone. It claims the additional value of being chiefly from the pen of one who was amongst the most active promoters of the organization, - one whose great ability and sound judgment were perhaps mainly instrumental, under Divine Providence, in giving form and solidity to the whole movement.
The New Dispensation of Christianity is considered to date from the Last Judgment (spoken of in the Revelations), which was accomplished in the Spiritual World in the year 1757; the results of which, it is maintained by those who are familiar with the philosophy of the New Church, are clearly perceptible in the rapid progress made since then in the arts and sciences; in their increased and marvellous application to human wants; in the greatly improved character of popular literature, and the still growing appreciation of it among the peoples of all Christian countries; and in the facilities opened up for the advancement of both secular and religious education. Now, more than ever, "through the whole order of creation and the whole scheme of Providence, we observe marks of a progressive advancement and a gradual discovery of truth." The temples of Paganism appear to be tottering; light is breaking in on Mahommedan and Papal darkness; and there is an antagonism at work, - an antagonism of spiritual principles, - obvious in our leading Universities, bidding fair soon to be felt in every country, in every city, in every home.
A number of Swedenborg's Works had been published prior to the Last Judgment; but they are nearly all in explanation and advocacy of those very principles of truth, charity, and freedom to which the religious and philosophical worlds are evidently drifting, and with which, to an incalculable extent, they are even now imbued.
These works attracted but little notice till the year 1783, when several gentlemen who had read and appreciated their contents, resolved to ascertain if possible how many other readers would be willing to acknowledge a like estimate of Swedenborg and his Writings. This was attempted by means of public advertisement, which was met by a response from only five persons. Though but few in number, they were deeply impressed with the power contained in the harmonious, rational, Scriptural, faultless system of Theology which had been discovered to them; and were therefore not only strong in their efforts to associate as societies for religious purposes, but capable, eventually of establishing that external Church of the New Jerusalem whose members can now be numbered in every quarter of the globe.
All the former part of this History is a record of the Writer's own personal knowledge and experience in the earlier progress of the Church, and much of the latter part is derived from sources which are becoming daily of less easy access, being extracted from the Reports of the several Institutions of the Church. With these Institutions the writer was most intimately connected, particularly with those devoted to Missionary purposes - he being himself a most zealous, successful, and favourite Missionary.
About the year 1824, the Author withdrew from the labours of an active public life, and retired into the private sphere of his own family circle. It is supposed that about this period he commenced the task, which, at the instance of some friends of the Church, he had undertaken, of writing this History. He brought it down to the year 1830; but from various circumstances was prevented from proceeding further with it; and his health failing, he entirely relinquished it in 1834, as will appear from the following memorandum annexed to the MS.:-
"As it is probable, that I cannot proceed any further with this History, I must close here, [as closed,] and, leave it to others after me to carry it on either from the year it is brought to, or from some preceding year, as may be thought most proper.
"Nov. 28, 1834=78. "ROBT. HINDMARSH."
The Author departed this life, at Gravesend, on the 2nd of January, 1835, aged 76; and was interred in the churchyard at Milton-next-Gravesend, where a gravestone briefly records his services to the Church.
At the meeting of the General Conference, the representative body of the Church, in the month of August of the same year, a communication from the Author's son was read, respecting some MSS. in his possession, relating to church affairs, left by the departed; and which he wished to see published. Amongst these was that of this History of the Church; which it was supposed would cost from L250 to L300 printing, and might, when printed, be sold for 18s. a copy. The Conference, however, not having funds applicable to such a purpose, and perhaps the suitable time and state not having arrived, declined to undertake the work, and the MS. has remained with the family till the year 1857, when it passed by purchase into the hands of the present Publisher. The length of time the Work has been passing through the press, has been rendered necessary by the many references that had to be made of a corroboratory nature, and the time required in examining into and tracing to their results, as at present existing, many of the circumstances related.
The Editor has given considerable attention to all the details; and acknowledges most thankfully, the aid that he has in this way received. He has adhered most faithfully to the original throughout. The only deviation that he has deemed it necessary to make has been the disuse of the title "Baron" when Swedenborg is spoken of, except in the reprint or quotation of Original Documents. All the original notes are retained, and those added are signed "ED."
The Portraits herein given are deemed most correct likenesses; and the Autographs are of undoubted authenticity; it is therefore hoped, that, upon the whole, this Work will be worthy of the Church whose external History it records.
RISE AND PROGRESS
THE NEW CHURCH
SIGNIFIED BY THE NEW JERUSALEM IN
As one of the earliest receivers of the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem in this kingdom, and the first who took measures for the formation of a society in London, whose object was to acquire for themselves a more full knowledge of those doctrines, and to propagate the same among mankind, by circulating the Theological Writings of the Honourable Emanuel Swedenborg as extensively as possible; I have been earnestly and repeatedly solicited to communicate to the public an account of the Rise and Progress of the New Church in Great Britain and elsewhere, more particularly in reference to its External Appearance, and the establishment of Divine Worship among its professors. This task I will now endeavour plainly and briefly to perform, so far as my own knowledge, and the information received from others, will enable me to do it with certainty. And though I shall be under the necessity of frequently naming myself as taking an active part in the transactions of those early days of the Church, I trust no one will charge me with aspiring to any higher character, than that of a servant, in common with my fellow-labourers, whom the Lord has been pleased to make use of as humble instruments in accomplishing His divine will.
During the life-time of the Author, Emanuel Swedenborg, it appears, there were but few individuals who cordially embraced his writings. Among these were the following persons of distinguished reputation abroad, viz., Count Hopken, many years Prime Minister to the King of Sweden; Dr. Beyer, Greek Professor and Assessor in the Consistory of
Gottenburg; General Tuxen, Commissioner of War at Elsineur;
* His father's name was Jesper Swedberg.- ED.
In 1750, Mr. John Lewis, a bookseller and printer, No. 1, Paternoster Row, London, printed and published, at the expense of Swedenborg himself, an English translation of the Sixteenth and five following Chapters of the Arcana Coelestia, in quarto. The advertisement, which he circulated, on this occasion, through the usual channels of information, is well worthy of being preserved; as it shews the high opinion he entertained of the noble Author's Writings, and of the generosity of his disposition in causing them to be printed and published at so cheap a rate, that readers of every class might have a ready access to the important truths contained in them. Mr. Lewis's advertisement was couched in the following terms:
"Paternoster Row, February, 5. 1750.
"ADVERTISEMENT, by JOHN LEWIS, Printer and Publisher, in Paternoster Row, near Cheapside, London. Be it known unto all the learned and curious, that this day is published the First Number of ARCANA COELESTIA, or HEAVENLY SECRETS, which are in the Sacred Scripture, or Word of the Lord, laid open; as they are found in the SIXTEENTH CHAPTER OF GENESIS: together with the Wonderful Things that have been seen in the World of Spirits, and in the Heaven of Angels.
"This Work is intended to be such an exposition of the whole Bible, as was never attempted in any language before. The Author is a learned foreigner, who wrote and printed the first volume of the same work but last year, all in Latin, which may be seen at my shop in Paternoster Row, as above-mentioned.
"And now the second volume is printing both in Latin and English; to be published in cheap Numbers, that the public may have it in an easier manner, in either tongue, than in whole volumes.
"It must be confessed, that this nation abounds with a variety of commentaries and expositions on the Holy Bible; yet when we consider what an inexhaustible fund of knowledge the Sacred Scripture contains, the importance of the subjects it treats of, and the vast concern every man has in those things they relate and recommend, we may cease to wonder that so many ingenious pens have been employed in sounding the depths of this vast ocean; and he must be a very dull writer indeed, who does not find a pretty large number of readers of any work he may publish of this kind. I would be far from depreciating the merit of any man's performance, nay, I will allow, that it is owing to the labours of learned and pious men, in their disquisitions after truth in the Bible, that we of this kingdom have been enabled to discern truth from error, and to know more of the mind and will of God in his Word, than the priests of Rome were willing we should. Yet give me leave to add, that these Sacred Writings are capable of speaking to the heart and understanding of man, by more ways than have been thought of or put in practice; and he who can discover new treasures in these Sacred Mines, and produce from them such rich jewels as were never yet seen by the eye of man, will undoubtedly challenge our strictest attention, and deserve encouragement in his pious labours.- This then may be said of our Author. He hath struck out a new path through this deep abyss, which no man ever trod before; he has left all the commentators and expositors to stand on their own footing; he neither meddles nor interferes with any of them; his thoughts are all his own; and the ingenious and sublime turn he has given to every thing in the Scripture, he has copied from no man; and therefore, even in this respect, he hath some title to the regard of the ingenious and learned world.
"It is true, when a reader comes to peruse his work, if he expects to understand him with a slight and cursory reading, he will find himself greatly mistaken; his thoughts are too sublime and lofty to be surveyed with a weak or a wanton eye; his language is quite different from the common modes of speech; and his sense is sometimes so deep and profound, as not to be readily apprehended by a common understanding. Whoever therefore takes this book in hand, and finds passages in it not easily intelligible, let him not throw it by as a thing of no value, nor content himself with a bare perusal; but let him read it over and over again; let him study the drift, and design of the Author; and I will answer for it, that the more and oftener he reads it, the more instruction and delight he will receive from it. The Author has a depth, which, if once fathomed, (and it is not unfathomable,) will yield the noblest repast to a pious mind. But if any one imagines that I say this to puff a book, in the sale of which my interest is so nearly concerned, any gentlemen is welcome to peruse it at my shop, and to purchase it or not, as his own judgment shall direct him.
"Nothing recommends a book more effectually to the public, than the eminence and credit of its Author; nothing is more notorious, than that a weak performance, if it appears under a great name, shall be better received in the world than the most sublime and ingenious productions of an obscure person: so that it is not merit, but prejudice, that generally governs the judgment of men.
"Though the Author of Arcana Coelestia is undoubtedly a very learned and great man, and his works highly esteemed by the literati, yet he is no less distinguished for his modesty than his great talents; so that he will not suffer his name to be made public. But though I am positively forbid to discover that, yet I hope he will excuse me if I venture to mention his benign and generous qualities. How he bestowed his time and labours in former years, I am not certainly informed; (though I have heard by those who have been long acquainted with him, that they were employed in the same manner as I am going to relate;) but what I have been an eye-witness to I can declare with certain truth; and therefore I do aver, that this gentleman, with indefatigable pains and labour, spent one whole year in studying and writing the first volume of ARCANA COELESTIA, was at the expense of two hundred pounds to print it, and also advanced two hundred pounds more for the printing of this second volume; and when he had done this, he gave express orders that all the money that should arise in the sale of this large work should be given towards the charge of the propagation of the gospel. He is so far from desiring to make a gain of his labours, that he will not receive one farthing back of the four hundred pounds he hath expended; and for that reason his works will come exceeding cheap to the public.
"I further declare, I have not the least reason in the world to believe him a bigot to any mode or method of religion; I know not what community he belongs to, or whether he belongs to any; if any one can guess by his Writings, he knows where to find them. But it matters not what or who the person is that writes, if his Writings are founded on truth, and agreeable to such learned men as are competent judges of them. The deepest and most learned, as well as most valuable pieces, are sometimes misunderstood and rejected many years, even by learned men themselves; to instance only three performances out of the many that might be produced, viz., Locke on Human Understanding, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Prideaux's Connection of the Old and New Testament.
"How this great work of ARCANA COELESTIA will succeed in the world, is impossible at present to determine. If all men of learning were of the same mind with the ingenious and pious Mr. Penny, of Dartmouth, we need not fear success; for in his letter to me on the publication of the first volume are these following words: 'I have long ardently wished to see the historical part of the Old Testament, which seems only to regard the Jewish dispensation, (and on that account too lightly regarded by the major part of the present Christian world,) proved to be as delightful, instructive, and as necessary for the knowledge of Christians, as the New. This, ARCANA COELESTIA gives me the fullest satisfaction of,' &c. A copy of this Letter was printed at large in the Daily Advertiser of Christmas Day, 1749. Now this delightful, instructive, and necessary knowledge cannot be expected from this part of Holy Writ, unless the historical part of the Old Testament be allegorized in some such manner as our Latin Author has here done it. And the great and learned, as well as inspired St. Paul clearly gives encouragement to this way of writing, Gal. iv. 24. And our Author neither rejects nor disturbs the literal sense by his allegorical exposition.
"Soon after the publication of Mr. Penny's letter before- mentioned, a grave, judicious, and learned gentleman was pleased to call at one of the booksellers" where this famous Latin book was appointed to be sold; and when he had cast his eye over part of the work, he inquired who the Author was; but being told that the Author would not be known,- 'Well, (said the gentleman,) I confess that at these years I am not fond of new acquaintance, but should be extremely glad to have some conversation with him; for (continued he, with great earnestness,) I never saw, nor heard, nor read of so surprising a man in all my days!'
"Any one of small judgment may guess at the cheapness of the Work, when he finds that six hundred and forty quarto pages in Latin of the first volume, are sold for no more than six shillings unbound. But this second volume, which is now publishing in Latin and English, will be unaccountably cheap, as any one may conclude, even by the postage of the Latin copy from abroad: for the bare postage of this first Number cost no less than twelve shillings, and, now it is printed, doth make fifty-two quarto pages in the English tongue; and all to be sold for no more than eight-pence, which is not half the price that such a quantity of paper and print is generally sold for. The postage of the second Number came to eighteen shillings; and that of the third amounted to one pound two shillings; and yet these two Numbers are to be sold for no more than nine-pence each: so that from hence it is easy, to imagine how cheap the whole will be, especially when printed in such a grand and pompous manner at so low a price. But it is the generous Author's absolute command that it should be so, who, it is plain, wants neither purse nor spirit to carry on his laudable undertaking.
"As the copy comes from a foreign country, and as one Number may contain near double the quantity of another, it is utterly impossible to fix a certain regular time for the publication of each. But this the public may be assured of, that when a fresh Number is published, it shall be advertised in the Newspapers. Those who are pleased to give their orders to the news-carriers, will have every Number as certainly as though they were apprised of the certain time of its coming out. And the price will be printed on the title of each English Number; (and every Latin Number will be of the same price with the English;) so that the readers may be sure that they will not be imposed upon: for sometimes the bulk of the book will plainly appear to be worth five times as much as will be required for it.
"Those who are so happy as to be well acquainted with the Latin tongue, will be highly delighted with the Author's elegant and sublime language."
From the above Advertisement it appears, that the Author, after publishing the first volume, in Latin, of the Arcana Coelestia, which contains fifteen Chapters of Genesis, changed his original plan of publication, and commenced the second volume, beginning with the Sixteenth Chapter, as the first of a series of Numbers, each containing one Chapter, to be continued throughout the succeeding parts of the Work.
Mr. Lewis states in his Advertisement, that he had received a Letter from Mr. Penny, of Dartmouth, (from which he also gives a short extract,) expressive of the high opinion he entertained of the Arcana Coelestia, and that a copy of such Letter was inserted in the Daily Advertiser of Christmas Day, 1749. After many years search for the Paper of that day, it was at length found by a friend, who forwarded a copy of Mr. Penny's Letter to the Editors of the Intellectual Repository, and they inserted it in their 10th Number, for April, 1826, p. 180, New Series. The Letter, together with a Note from Mr. Lewis to the Editor of the Daily Advertiser, requesting him to publish it, was as follows:-
"To the Editor.
"If you'll insert the following Letter in your Paper, it may induce the curious in the learned world to peruse a work very entertaining and pleasant, and oblige,
"Sir, Yours, &c.,
MR. PENNY'S LETTER.
"To Mr. John Lewis, in Paternoster Row, Cheapside, London.
"Dartmouth, Oct. 15, 1749.
"Accidentally reading the advertisement of Arcana Coelestia, excited by the oddness of the title, I presently ordered my friend in London to send me one. The extraordinary degree of pleasure the reading of it has given me, and the yet more expected from what more is to be published, induces me to request advice as often as any new publication happens, which I apprehend to be designed annually. My reason for troubling you is, because I very rarely see any of the public papers, and consequently future advertisements may escape my knowledge; which I hope will excuse me.
"I have long ardently wished to see the historical part of the Old Testament, which seems only to regard the Jewish dispensation, (and upon that account is too lightly regarded by the major part of the present Christian world,) proved to be as delightful, instructive, and as necessary for the knowledge of Christians, as the New. This, Arcana Coelestia gives me the fullest satisfaction of. But the illumined Author, whoever he is, (is it Mr. Law?) must expect a considerable army of gownmen to draw their pens against him; 'tis a blessing their power is prescribed within impassable bounds.
"The favour of a line in answer, to know what dependence I may make upon you, will very much oblige,
"Your most humble Servant,
P.S. Perhaps the Author was concerned in the publication of Mr. Butchinson's works? Has he published any other work? and at what price?"
To this the Bookseller appended the following notice:
"This large Latin book is neatly printed in 4to.; and sold by Mr. Nourse, at the Lamb, opposite Catherine Street, in the Strand; Mr. Ware, at the Bible, on Ludgate Hill; and by John Lewis, printer of the same, as above-mentioned. - Price 6s. unbound.
The translation of the Sixteenth Chapter of Genesis*, which was advertised by Mr. Lewis, was made (as I have been informed) by Mr. John Merchant, a literary gentleman of good character, at the express desire of the Author himself, who remunerated him for his trouble.** And it is probable, that the Doctrine of Life and the Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church, originally published, the former in 1763, and the latter in 1769, were translated by the same hand, or perhaps by Mr. William Cookworthy***, in or about the same years. It was this first translation of the Brief Exposition, of which Dr. Messiter speaks in the postscript of his letter to the Rev. H. Hamilton, Professor of Divinity in the University of Edinburgh, where he says, "Whatever esteem the Latin work may deserve, this I am sure will procure but little, it is so indifferently translated." A new translation of the Brief Exposition was afterwards made and published by me in the year 1789.
* This was published in parts, in both Latin and English.-ED.
** A copy of this (imperfect), and one part of the Latin, is in the possession of the Rev. E. Madeley, of Birmingham; in the inside of the cover of the first is written, in the hand-writing of John Augustus Tulk Esq., the fact here stated, that it was translated by Mr. John Merchant. W. T. bought this copy in 1783.-ED.
*** In the Memoir of W. Cookworthy, of Plymouth, by his grandson, it is stated that he became acquainted with the Writings of Swedenborg in 1760, and that he translated The Doctrine of Life.- ED.
In the year 1770, Mr. Hartley translated, and published, in quarto, the Treatise on the Intercourse between the Soul and Body, under the title of A Theosophic Lucubration on the Nature of Influx, as it respects the Communication and Operations of Soul and Body; to which he prefixed an excellent preface. But neither this nor the former publications produced much effect in England, although considerable expense was incurred in advertising them. So little at that time were professing Christians disposed to listen to the lessons of wisdom which the writings of Swedenborg are now by many thousands acknowledged to contain.
The Author died at his lodgings No.26, Great Bath Street, Cold Bath Fields, Clerkenwell, London*, on the 29th of March, 1772, in the 85th year of his age; about which time, or soon after, some of the Latin works providentially fell into the hands of the Rev. John Clowes**, Rector of St. John's, Manchester, a gentleman eminent for his piety, learning, and extraordinary labours in translating the whole of the Arcana Coelestia, the True Christian Religion, containing the Universal Theology of the New Church, the Treatise on Conjugial Love, and the Treatise on the Earths in the Universe, &c.; besides publishing many original and eminently useful works. While these and other works of our much-esteemed Author were in the course of publication, a great interest began to be excited in different parts of the kingdom, particularly in and about Manchester, where the worthy translator resided.
* The particular house has since been pulled down; but a new one has been built on the same spot, and bears the same No.-ED.
** See Memoir, by himself, 2nd edition, 1849. He died on the 29th of May, 1831. - ED.
In 1778 appeared Mr. Hartley's translation of the Treatise on Heaven and Hell*; and in 1781 Mr. Clowes's translation of the True Christian Religion, containing the Universal Theology of the New Church. In 1782 a Society was formed in Manchester, consisting of gentlemen who were both able and willing to promote the cause of truth, by printing and publishing the works of Baron Swedenborg in the English language: and to their honour be it spoken, they have never relaxed in their praise-worthy endeavours to enlighten and benefit the Christian world. Their exertions, countenanced and supported, as they have all along been, by their venerable pastor, and by others of congenial mind and sentiment, have been continued, without abatement, to the present day. But let the society speak for itself. In the Twenty-fifth Report of its Proceedings, published in 1827, the following pleasing and highly satisfactory information is communicated.
* In the Memoir of Cookworthy, before referred to, it is stated that he (Cookworthy) "translated the Treatise on Heaven and Hell, under the revision of Thomas Hartley, Rector of Winwick, in Northamptonshire." Thus it appears that Mr. Hartley revised the edition, and wrote the Preface which has been so much and deservedly admired. -ED.
"It is well known, that the works of the Honourable Emanuel Swedenborg were written and published in the Latin language, and consequently, that during the Author's life, and for some time after his death, the receivers of the new doctrine were limited to a few pious, learned, and discerning individuals. These worthy and early recipients soon became impressed with a conviction of the necessity of making translations of the Writings into the English language, in order that the knowledge of them might be more widely and extensively diffused. With a view to commence and carry on the work of printing and publishing such translations, the Manchester Printing Society was formed in the year 1782.
"That early period of the New Church may be likened to the 'day of small things,' and also to the 'grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which, indeed, is the least of all seeds:' yet the Society were not discouraged in their undertaking because their numbers were few, being fully satisfied that the Hon. Emanuel Swedenborg was a messenger from the Lord, appointed to announce to mankind the descent of the holy city, New Jerusalem, mentioned in the book of Revelations. They were, indeed, well aware, that on account of the doctrines contained in the Writings of the Hon. Author, being so contrary to the prevailing sentiments then maintained in the Christian world, a long period must elapse before the reception of them would become general.
* The principal demand for these translations was, at the time, from Russia.- ED.
Great, however, as were the exertions of our Manchester friends in making known the doctrines of the New Church, by printing and publishing them in the manner described, it does not appear, that any idea had as yet occurred to them of forming a separate congregation for the public worship of the Lord, on the principles of the New Jerusalem. The receivers of the new doctrines in Manchester, Whitefield, Radcliffe, Bolton, Eccles, and some other parts of Lancashire, were content to associate together at each other's houses, chiefly for the purpose of reading the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and conversing upon them. In London a few individuals only were known to read the Writings, and even those few had scarcely any acquaintance with each other. But a new era of the Church was about to take place; and London, being the centre of the British dominions, was destined by Divine Providence to become the centre likewise of the New Jerusalem in Europe. For the information and satisfaction of those, who wish to trace effects from their causes, or to see how a small grain of mustard seed sown in the earth has shot forth its branches, so as to give promise of its becoming in due time a great tree, capable of lodging and sheltering the fowls of the air, it may be expedient to give a general outline of the rise and progress of the first Society formed in the metropolis for the propagation of the heavenly doctrines. And as it so happened, that the writer of this account was himself an active agent in, as well as eye-witness of, the various events to be recorded, "it seemed good to him, (if he may be permitted to use the language of an Evangelist on a similar occasion,) having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first," (Luke i. 3) to note them in their order, as they occurred.
It was before observed, that the quarto edition of the Treatise on Heaven and Hell appeared in English in the year 1778. The printer was Mr. James Phillips, a Quaker, residing in George Yard, Lombard Street, London; and it was owing to this circumstance, that I first heard of the name of Swedenborg, as I was at that time an inmate in the house of another Quaker, Mr. Josiah Collier, who was also a printer, and a partner in the firm of Fry and Co., letter-founders and printers, in Worship Street, near Finsbury Square. This family was intimately acquainted with Mr. Phillips; and it frequently happened, that their conversation at table turned on the extraordinary character of Swedenborg, and his reported visits both to heaven and hell. On hearing their remarks, from which it appeared they had no great faith in the Author's declarations, I much regretted, that nothing certain was known of the state of man after death; little imagining, that the information I was so desirous of obtaining was to be found in all its fulness in Swedenborg's Writings. I was then in the nineteenth year of my age; and I allowed several years to pass over my head, before I came to the resolution of making myself acquainted with the Writings of a man, of whom from time to time I had heard the most extraordinary accounts. Meanwhile, observing the divisions which obtained in the Christian Church, I was anxious to acquire a knowledge of the truth; but was determined to unite myself with no sect or party, until I had made a full examination of the various doctrines taught, and compared them with the Sacred Scriptures: for these I believed to contain a revelation from heaven, though capable of a just or an unjust interpretation, according to the different states of illumination with different readers. I was particularly desirous of understanding the nature of the Divine Trinity; for which purpose I read many authors, and heard many preachers, of different denominations, yet without obtaining from any or all of them any thing like a satisfactory or rational solution of the subject. In my estimation, it appeared a contradiction to assert, that Three Divine Persons have existed from eternity, each of whom singly and by himself is God and Lord, and yet that there are not Three Gods and Lords, but only One! Neither was it enough to be told, that it was a great mystery, incapable of being explained or rationally understood, and that therefore it must be implicitly believed without further inquiry.
To ascertain, if possible, the real truth in the midst of this confusion, I examined the Scriptures as carefully as I could for myself, and, after close investigation, I came at length to this conclusion, That there is and can be only One God in One Divine Person, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is that God.
Such was the idea, which I had formed concerning the Divine Being from my own examination of the Sacred Writings, without the assistance of any other books or any living teacher whatever. And though I afterwards found, when I came to consult the enlightened messenger of the new
dispensation, that this view of the subject is by no means sufficiently correct and explanatory, I have reason to believe, that it prepared me for the reception of the genuine truth immediately on its being presented to my mind by the extraordinary, and, I may say, super-human Writings of the great Swedenborg. By these I soon learnt, that the true doctrine of the Divine Trinity is, that the purely Divine Essence or Essential Divinity is what is called in the Word the Father, the Divine Humanity the Son, and the Proceeding Operation of both the Holy Spirit, all appertaining to the single Person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when the Infirm Humanity from the Mother was put off, and the Divine Humanity from the Father was put on; consequently that He is the One Supreme and Only God of heaven and earth, as declared in Matt. xxviii. 18; Rev. i. 8, 11, 17; xxii. 13. I found also by the clearest evidence from the Sacred Scriptures, contained in the aforesaid Writings, that this view of the Divine Trinity, like that of the human trinity in every individual man, of soul, body, and proceeding operation, is the only one which, in conjunction with the doctrine concerning the Infirm Humanity, satisfactorily accounts for the language of inspiration, and removes every difficulty attendant upon the subject.
On the first of January, 1782, I paid a visit to my father, James Hindmarsh, who then resided at Canterbury, being a preacher in the connexion of Wesleyan Methodists. Our conversation turning on the subject of Swedenborg's Writings, he informed me, that Mr. George Keen, a Quaker gentleman of that city, was in possession of some of them, and probably would favour me with a perusal of them, if requested to do so. The next day, Jan. 2, I waited upon Mr. Keen, who kindly lent me, though a stranger to him, the Treatise on Influx, or on the Intercourse between the Soul and Body, and the Treatise on Heaven and Hell. These works I read with the utmost avidity, and instantly perceived their contents to be of heavenly origin.
From that time I began to search out other readers of the same Writings in London, in order to form a Society for the purpose of spreading the knowledge of the great truths contained in them. I expected at first, that almost every person of sound judgment, or even of common sense, would receive them with the same facility as I did myself, and would rejoice with me, that so great a treasure had at length been found in the Church. But I was mistaken: and such was the prejudice in the minds of men of apparent candour in other respects, that so far from congratulating me, and their own good fortune, in the acquisition of such spiritual information, I was absolutely laughed at, and set down by them as a mere simpleton, an infatuated youth, and little better than a madman, led away by the reveries of an old enthusiast and impostor.
I heard these vituperations with surprise, and could not help thinking, in return, that the accusers were themselves mad, or at least under the influence of a strong delusion. One in particular, a great professor of religion, whom I had hitherto regarded as a friend, and a sincere follower of Jesus Christ, declared, that it would give him pleasure to see the Writings of Swedenborg consumed by fire, and me on the top of the pile. He was a Predestinarian, or rigid Calvinist, who perhaps thought he might do his God a service by burning his adversaries, or by blotting them out of the map of existence. I smiled at his zeal, and recommended him to consider "what manner of spirit he was of," as our Lord on another occasion advised his disciples James and John, Luke x. 54, 55.
Another, a bookseller, by whom I was employed to print periodical and other publications, was much offended by the zeal which I displayed in favour of the truths of the New Church. He plied me both with promises and threatenings; by promises of wealth and riches from the abundance of employment, with which he would supply me, if I would but decline the printing of Swedenborg's Writings, and attend to his interests only; and by threatenings, that, if I persevered in the propagation of such idle notions as I had adopted, he would withdraw his support from me, and give his patronage to another.
Some few individuals listened for a time with apparent attention to the report, which I had to make of the Writings; but on hearing the Author's account of the state of man after death, as the result of his own personal observation, they soon went off as it were in a tangent, and I lost sight of them for ever. Even my own father at this time, and for two or three years after my reception of the new doctrines, cautioned me to beware how I gave way to them, lest I should be seduced by mere flights of imagination, and estranged from the common faith of professing Christians. As I knew his heart to be good, (of which I had had many proofs in the course of my education,) I gave him full credit for the sincerity of his advice, being well assured that he, as well as myself, was desirous of truth for the sake of truth, and that he was incapable of giving countenance to any system, which he did not in his conscience believe to be true. He already approved of some of the fundamental doctrines taught by Swedenborg, particularly that of the Divine Trinity. But he did not as yet see, that that doctrine, rightly understood, and permitted to branch out into all its consequences, involved every truth of the New Church, and negatived, yea nullified, every doctrine of the Old Church. He did not as yet see, that the doctrine of atonement, as generally taught, is altogether inconsistent with the Divine Unity and the Divine Mercy; that it presupposes a Trinity of distinct Persons, as so many Gods, with attributes and properties in collision with each other; that while one of these Divine Persons, the Father, is represented as vindictive against the human race for the crime of their first parents, and refuses to be appeased by any thing short of the bloody sacrifice of an innocent victim, and that victim the Son of his own bosom, - another of the Divine Persons, even the Son himself, willingly lays down his assumed natural life to allay the burning wrath of his Father. He did not as yet see, that the consummation of the age, or end of the Church, as predicted by the Lord in the Gospels, had already taken place; that the sun was darkened, that the moon did not give her light, and that the stars had fallen from heaven. Neither did he as yet perceive the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, or the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. But he was, what every upright man ought to be, open to conviction. After diligent application to the Writings of Swedenborg, particularly to the work, entitled, True Christian Religion, containing the Universal Theology of the New Church, and a renewed examination of the Scriptures, he at length became a full convert to the new doctrines, and afterwards (as will be noticed in the proper place) had the high honour of being the first person who publicly and avowedly preached the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem in England, and probably in the world.
A circumstance may here be adverted to, which in itself will possibly be regarded by some of the most trivial moment, but which, connected with the time when the New Church doctrines were as yet in embryo and only beginning to be published, has often suggested thoughts on the connection between the spiritual and the natural world. On almost all the walls in and for miles round London, the following words were chalked out in large legible characters, viz. "CHRIST IS GOD." Wherever the eye was turned, this inscription met it; and no one could tell by whom it was done, or when it was done. It continued, however, to excite the attention of the public for several years; during which time, whenever by rains or from other causes of decay it began to fade, it was immediately and constantly renewed by some unknown hand. The sentiment was forcibly impressed on every observer; and though in some respects it was agreeable to the faith commonly but blindly professed by Christians at large, yet in other respects it was altogether opposed to it. For who in the Christian world, that regards Christ as the mere Servant or Messenger of the Supreme God, as a Mediator between God and Man, as an Intercessor with the Father, or even as the Son of God, according to the usual acceptation of those terms, can in his heart believe, that he is absolutely the Supreme God himself, as the above inscription truly imports ? If he be not the Supreme God, it is evident he must be no God at all; and it is idle, and worse than vanity, to say with modern Christians that Christ is God, while another is acknowledged to be of a higher order, and superior to him in dignity and authority. But the title written upon all the blank walls of the metropolis, like that upon the cross in ancient times, when properly and rightly understood, announces no less, than, that the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the One Supreme and Only God of heaven and earth. The chalk-writer, whoever he was, had probably some such idea of the high character of the Christian Redeemer, as that here alluded to; and being impressed with its great importance, yet perhaps without knowing the full force of the words he used, or the source from which he was as it were impelled to write, committed to the walls and stones of the town that testimony, which the powers of the spiritual world were at that time earnestly engaged in making known to men in the natural world, in a more explicit and intelligible form, by the heavenly doctrines of the New Jerusalem.
IN one whole year after my reception of the Writings, I found only three or four individuals in London, with whom I could maintain a friendly intercourse on the subjects contained in them. In 1783 I invited these few to hold regular meetings for reading and conversation in my house in Clerkenwell Close; not far from the spot where Swedenborg died. These meetings were continued every Sunday morning, till it was thought expedient to endeavour to make them more public. I was possessed of all the Writings in Latin, and these were constantly on the table before us, while we read in them those illustrations of the Holy Word, and those extraordinary Relations in reference to the state of things in another life, which so peculiarly distinguish our Author's theological works from those of every other man. In this manner we went on for a time*, our first meeting consisting of only three persons, viz., Mr. Peter Provo, of the Minories** Apothecary; Mr. William Bonington, of Red Lion Street Clerkenwell, Clock-case Maker; and myself, of Clerkenwell Close, Printer. Afterwards John Augustus Tulk, Esq., of Kennington Lane, Vauxhall, a gentleman of independent property, joined our little Society, and by his zeal, ability, and judgment, added strength to our hands. It was now agreed to call a public meeting of all the friends and readers of the Writings in London, of whom we had any certain information; first, that we might become better acquainted with each other; and secondly, to unite our forces, and make known to the world what we could no longer in conscience conceal from their notice. Our first public meeting was accordingly fixed to be at the London Coffee House on Ludgate Hill***, where we met, five in number, at 5 o'clock on Thursday Evening, the 5th of December, 1783.
* At this period Mr. Hindmarsh was in the twenty-fourth year of his age.- ED.
** Mr. Provo afterwards resided at Pentonville. He is mentioned by Mr. Noble in his Appeal, (2nd edit., p. 207,) as having supplied him with an original anecdote respecting Swedenborg therein printed. Other anecdotes collected by him are printed in the Intellectual Repository for January, 1836, p. 27. Mr. Provo published a work, called Wisdom's Dictates, printed in the year 1789, and advertised to be sold at Mr. Chalklen's, 49, Grace-church Street. Swedenborg also, at one time, lived in the Minories, prior to residing in Clerkenwell.- ED.
*** This circumstance is alluded to in the Report of the Friendly Meeting held in London during the sitting of the Forty- second Conference, 1849. The President of the Meeting, the Rev. S. Noble, (then in his seventieth year,) on introducing the speakers to the audience, adverted to a fact of singular interest to the entire assembly; but which he left to be narrated by the first speaker introduced; who observed "That we were assembled in a locality which was historically connected with the commencement of the New Church in the world. For it was a fact, that in the year 1783, the very first assembly that ever met for the purpose of considering how the Heavenly Doctrines could be promoted in the world, were gathered together under that very roof. For in that year the late venerable Hindmarsh, who was one of the earliest disciples of the New Jerusalem, issued, in various newspapers, an advertisement to the effect that all persons acquainted with the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, and favourable to their promotion, were earnestly invited to meet together for consultation at the London Coffee House, Ludgate Hill, on a certain day in the year 1783. At the time appointed five individuals assembled; and this is the first meeting on record of persons receiving the doctrines of the New Church, and consulting together for the purpose of making them known in the world." The London Coffee House is still on Ludgate Hill, and consists of Nos. 24 to 26.- ED.
**** This Hotel still remains, and is Nos. 5 and 6, St. Paul's Church Yard, at the corner of Dean's Court.- ED.
*****Afterwards Dr. Spence. He was the author of Essays on Divinity and Physic, with an Address to Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York; printed by Hindmarsh in 1792. He also edited The Apocalypsis Explicata, a posthumous Latin work of E. S., in 4 vols., quarto, which sold for L4. 4s.- ED.
****** It was observed by some of our friends, that several remarkable coincidences were frequently presenting themselves to our notice, in the various occurrences that took place at this early period of the New Church. Among others, the number five was very distinguishable. Thus, the number of persons, who assembled at the first public meeting, was five; the hour of the day was five in the evening; the day of the week was the fifth (Thursday); and the name of the month was the number five doubled (December), usually regarded as the twelfth month in the year, which is another significant number. Again, the place where the meeting was actually held was first at the Queen's Arms Tavern or Inn, on the South side of St. Paul's Church; then in the Inner Temple; and afterwards in New Court, Middle Temple. These circumstances, though in themselves trivial, and perhaps not worthy of being recorded, were however noticed by some members of the Society, as significative of the rise or commencement of the New Church. Five, in the science of correspondences, denotes what is just sufficient for future use, or the lowest degree of remains, which can preserve spiritual life, and from which a New Church can be formed on the destruction of a preceding one; while the number twelve denotes an assemblage of all the goods and truths of the Church together. Not that the five persons assembled actually formed the remains here spoken of; but only that as to their number they may be said to represent the remains still subsisting in the Christian Church at large. Again, our meeting at an inn brought to recollection the passage in the Gospel, Luke ii. 7, where the Lord is said to have been born in the stable of an inn, at the period of his first advent; to which place the shepherds were directed by the angel of the Lord, ver. 12: also another passage in Luke x. 34, where the man, who had fallen among thieves, was brought by the good Samaritan to an inn, to be taken care of, and provided for. In the spiritual sense, an inn signifies where the knowledges of good and truth are to be obtained; and these knowledges, it is well known, are to be found in great abundance in the New Church.
I may add, as rather a singular case, in relation to myself and the No. 5, that my grandfather had five children; my father five children; myself five children; and my three sons each five children, and no more. My wife and I were married on the 7th of May 1782; and she died on the 2nd of March, 1833; consequently we lived together fifty years and ten months, wanting five. days. During all that time we never had a death in our own house. And we have seen five generations in the family, viz., 1. My father and mother; 2. Myself and wife; 3. Our children; 4. Our grandchildren; and 5. Our great-grandchildren. Not to mention some other circumstances distinguished by the No. 5, which are too insignificant to be particularly noticed. (This Memorandum is made on the 12th of May, 1834.)- R. H.