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must have involved many things, of which ours at this day, and especially in this land, is wholly destitute. Our idea of the church is a very meagre and mean one. It is that of a collection of men, episcopally or otherwise organized, meeting together on Sundays for public worship. Abstract public worship, and you reduce the church to nonentity. It is with us an institution for public worship, destitute alike of civil and political significance, possessing no shadow either of governmental or magisterial influence. It is a thing as much divorced from the ordinary interests and life of humanity, and hence from heaven, as the institution of Freemasonry, being wholly set apart to the advocacy of our interests beyond the grave. As at present constituted it is the citadel and shield of individualism, or the selfish principle, to the maintenance of which all its legislation is addressed. It wholly ignores all questions of political and social reform, or if it does recognize them at all, it is only to stigmatize their gathering urgency with the name of "infidelity." But if "infidelity" do the church's proper work; if it receive the inflowing truths of heaven, and apply them to social practice; if it prosecute the relief of human woe, and the conquest of human wickedness; if it affirm every assured conviction of the intellect, and every innocent hope of the heart; then what is there to hinder "infidelity" becoming the true church of God? Is God a respecter of persons? Does He care for names?
Swedenborg had no such superficial notion of the church. His conception of it could not but involve the idea of the highest social use. The church up to his time was inseparably bound up with the government of society, and the question of its vigor or decline was simply a question therefore of social advancement or retrocession. It was a question of the virtue of Christendom, whether it was increasing or diminishing. The church involved the whole framework of society, involved the relations of the aristocracy (kings, magistrates, and priests) to the people, and the relations of the people to each other; and accordingly to decide the problem of the church, to ascertain whether it any longer fulfilled the idea of its founder, was only in other words to ascertain and decide whether Christendom
as then politically and ecclesiastically organized, promoted or obstructed the best interests of the race; whether its attitude were favorable or hostile to the advancement of universal humanity. It was an inquiry as to the practical operation of the prevailing social ethics, whether that operation were on the whole favorable or not to the melioration of the common life of man. It was no paltry question of sectarian politics, such as your attitude represents it, but a question whether all the sects —whether entire Christendom had not proved false to its mission; whether instead of any longer upholding and vindicating the divine truth, it had not become itself the pander to all uncleanness and error. Thus it was a far deeper question than any touching the validity of baptisms and sacraments, and one of an intensely practical character.
By the end of the church," then, Swedenborg must have meant a very different thing from that which you ascribe to him. He means no such platitude, as that the public worship of his time was become corrupt, and was about to be superseded by a purer one. Public worship was then as now an apt expression of public sentiment, and the way to amend the one therefore would be through the gradual amendment of the other. But at all events Swedenborg occupied himself with none of these trivialities. He never intimated a quarrel with the formal worship of the sects, (except once, in regard to the withholding of the cup from the laity by the Romish church ;) never says that the ordinances of ritual worship had been viti- · ated by the corruption of the priesthood, but broadly denies the possibility of any such thing; and confines his view wholly to the real or interior worship of the church, which he defines as standing in charity or mutual love, and of which he declares it for the most part destitute. This was his sole care, to assert the eternal and indefeasible ethical principle. He proved charity and not selfishness to be the bond of society. He declared the inherent vice of all class or personal legislation; of every custom and law whose beginning, middle and end did not lie in charity. The monarch might have never so absolute a personal right to the allegiance of the subject; he had no true or divine right save in so far as the subject's welfare was
his paramount concern. The priest might have every accredited claim to the support of the people: he had no divine claim save in so far as his primary interest was their furtherance and growth in all truth. The husband and the wife might have every legal right to each other's person: they had no divine right but what sprang from mutual love, or their internal meetness one for the other. So of parent and child, brother and sister, master and servant, friend and neighbor-in short, of every relation, natural, personal, and civil-he sank his unsparing probe through the accumulated corruptions to the truly divine depths of each, and brought to light the shrunken and nearly extinct virtue which yet sanctified them all. The divinely generated proprium, or selfhood, in man, he declared, was charity; and he traced the law to its outermost issues, proving virtue to be the only unimpeachable title to privilege or property in any sphere, and denying permanence to every institution, however hallowed by usage and prejudice, which does not of its own nature promote innocent relations between man and man.
The church, then, according to Swedenborg, had come to its end in this respect, that the life of charity was extinct in it. Among individuals, indeed, especially of the humbler classes, a remnant of it was still to be found; but in the high places of the church, among kings and magistrates and priests, it was scarcely, if at all, visible. Up to the time of the Reformation, although the doctrines of predestination, of the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, of the imputation of sin and righteousness, and justification by faith, were recognized in the church, yet they were to a great extent neutralized in practice by the doctrine of justification by works; a doctrine logically inconsistent indeed with the others, but none the less acceptable to the unperverted conscience of the simple. The tyranny and corruptions of the hierarchy had then however reached their limit, and that famous Reformation took place which gave rise to the modern sectarism, and put out the little light that was still left in Christendom, by the public ratification, among the Christian powers, of the hideous dogma of "justification by faith without works." Hitherto charity had been long sus
pended between life and death, scarcely vigorous enough to be called alive, scarcely feeble enough to be called dead. Protestantism at length gave it the coup de grace, and dismissed it to its native skies.
From this time forth Christendom became the scene of endless and desolating wars, set on foot by the avarice and ambition of the reigning powers, and ending only in the impoverishment and debasement of their people. The church of Christ resembled a huge Pandemonium, in which every giant lust stalked abroad uncontrolled : every internal bond between it and heaven seemed snapped asunder: the lives and happiness of the people were remorselessly squandered to advance the flimsiest schemes of royal and priestly ambition; the offended vanity of a king's mistress was, in fact, a sufficient pretext for the slaughter of unoffending thousands; the highest places of dignity were bought and sold; the administration of justice even was polluted by shameless venality; and thus bad sped on bad, until the whole of Christendom became one mass of festering corruption, in the comparison of which the tranquil tents of heathenism shone forth like the innocent abodes of the blest.
I have not the space here, however, to justify, by a minute appeal to history, Swedenborg's allegation of the close of the Christian Church in the middle of the last century. Every reader may do this for himself at his leisure. He will find, in the events which preceded and in those which have followed the alleged date of that catastrophe, an ample warrant of his allegation; while he will discover in the subject matter of the allegation itself the only sufficient theory of the events.
But however this may be, I am only concerned here to protest in the most earnest manner, against your ascribing to Swedenborg any such inadequate ideas of the church, as your position implies, and to maintain that in his view the church meant, when regarded in its totality, the constituted social order of Christendom. By the Christian Church he meant, as he himself has explained it, "the tract of country where the word was possessed and read;" he meant the public order of Christendom, based upon the principle of an hereditary aristocracy, and involving the whole framework of society-involving the en
forced subjection of the peasant to the peer, of the laity to the clergy, of the slave to the master, of the ignorant to the learned. So long as charity had maintained its foothold in Christendom, this order had served to connect men with heaven. In fulfilling its established relations, both the peer and the peasant, the priest and the laic, the master and the slave, the scholar and the pupil, had felt some other bond than that of a reciprocal selfishness, prompting each to love only himself in the other. So long consequently the established order was productive of good to both parties: so long in other words the church stood connected with heaven. But now all this was changed. The multiplication of conflicting interests consequent upon the Reformation, the incessant and envenomed struggle for power to which all the nations were abandoned, had communicated a blight to every sphere of social life, and more or less corrupted every relation which man bore to his fellow. An infidelity of the most besotted kind had taken the place of the early faith and earnestness: the sacred truths of the Word of God, which had never indeed been unfolded in their rational depth, had long been buried under the glosses of a false theology; but now the very existence of spiritual things, the very existence of God even, had become, as we learn from the memoirs of the time, objects of flippant derision to the princes of the church, and the great ideas of immortality and of heaven and hell, were considered only as inventions of the wise to awe the vulgar.
It was at this juncture that Swedenborg announced the consummation of the first Christian Church, or its utter desolation as to goodness and truth. Now the credibility of this annunciation to us, depends, not so much upon the proof of Swedenborg's spiritual illumination, as upon the nature of the fact itself, and its antecedent probability. If on the one hand we accept his statement of the nature of the church, and its relation to the life of man on the earth, and on the other hand, accept the testimony of history in regard to the state of Christendom, I imagine we shall scarcely need the proof of his spiritual experience to convince us of the truth of his affirmation. He represents the church as sustaining the same relation to the race