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needs be that offences come” against this idea of a God Incarnate,-this "great MYSTERY OF GODLINESS," as the Apostle calls it --“God mani. fest in the flesh.” But however incredible such an idea may be to our unenlightened natural mind;-however great a stumbling-block, and however offensive it may be to all its perceptions, it is nevertheless the precious corner stone,” and the crowning Truth of the Christian church. For Christianity deprived of this Truth ceases, as stated above, to be the "
power of God unto salvation”-its light is a mere winter's ray which has no power to warm the earth and to cover it with verdure, beauty, and fruitfulness, but every thing is torpid and clothed with the snowy mantle of death. Let us, therefore, ye brethren of the New Church, “bring forth this head-stone with shoutings, crying Grace, Grace unto it!” (Zechariah iv. 7.)
Nor do we think that this great “mystery of Godliness," since it is so plainly revealed, is incomprehensible; but as it is given to those who desire to know the Truth, to understand the “ mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” (Matt. xiii. 11.) so this great truth may, to some extent, be brought within the sphere of our comprehension. For a mystery is not a thing that cannot be understood, as is evident from the Lord's declaration; but a mystery is a thing which must be revealed before it can be known, but when revealed, it comes within the sphere of our, knowledge, and may be understood; and it is our duty as well as our privilege and blessing, to endeavour to understand these mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. “ Be thou instructed, 0. Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee, lest I make thee - desolate, a land not inhabited." (Jer. vi. 8.) The Lord's soul, that is, His Divine Wisdom, can only abide with us in the degree that we are so instructed as to understand and love the revealed Truths or the Mysteries of His kingdom.
Now the scandals, or offences which occur to our uninstructed minds in relation to this great Truth “of God manifest in the flesh," are chiefly these ;-How, it is alleged, could the Infinite God really become a Man upon earth similar, at least in external appearance, to other men ? How could He, in such case, govern the universe and provide for all its necessities? Is it not irrational to suppose that God could thus “shut Himself up" in a material body, at least for a period, and yet give life to all worlds and all beings, and direct their destinies? Is it possible to believe that God, thus incarnate, could suffer, as Jesus suffered, the agonies of despair, crucifixion, and death? It must needs be that such offences or scandals occur to the mental states of the natural man, when, thinking on this subject, to whom, says the Apostle, “the things of the
spirit of God are foolishness.” (1 Cor. ii. 14.) But the Lord says, “ Blessed is he who is not offended in me;"—that is, blessed is he who rises above these scandals into the light and love of spiritual Truth on this subject !
Taught by the doctrines of the New Church, we know that man has an inmost or first receptacle of life from God called the human internal. (A. C. 1999.) This in man or angel, is never the seat of consciousness, but is above all the degrees, the celestial, spiritual, and natural in which a man or an angel has his consciousness of life, of affection, and of thought. In man this inmost receptacle of life froin God, or this human internal, is the inmost anima; below this is the mens, in which his conscious mental or rational life exists, and below this is the animus or merely natural mind, immediately connected with the material body, and with the things of time and of sense. Now all man's mental life, both his anima, his mens, and his animus, are exempt from the laws and conditions of time and of matter. It is only his material body which is properly subjected to these laws and conditions ; and especially is this the case with his human internal, which is not only far exalted above all the laws of space and time, bnt, if we may ascribe to it a locality, it is above the heavens where the highest angels dwell, and forms what Swedenborg calls “the heaven of human internals.” Now in the Lord, when upon earth, this Internal was Jehovah the Father, Infinite, and not as in man, finite and only a receptacle of life, but LIFE itself; and this was also the case, as to their essence, with all the lower degrees of His life, answering to man's celestial, spiritual, natural, and corporeal degrees. The soul or anima of every degree was Jehovah, and by glorification the Humanity became also Jehovah, or, as the Apostle says, the “bodily dwelling place of all the fulness of the Godhead.” Now, as in man, this human internal is, even whilst he is walking upon the earth, above the heavens, where angels dwell, so the Lord's internal, even whilst He was upon the earth, clothed with an infirm Humanity from the mother, was in the centre of the Sun of the spiritual world, and as this was the seat of His infinite consciousness, He could thus, whilst “tabernacling in the flesh," or in last principles, govern as heretofore from first or inmost principles, the universe, and direct its destinies. As to the scandals or offences which come from His suffering the agonies of despair and crucifixion, these are easily put away by the instructed mind, when the difference between the Divine Human from the Father, and the infirm Human from the mother, is understood, as it may easily be by the study of the doctrines of the New Church.
We will conclude by quoting an extract on this subject from the Spiritual Diary" of Swedenborg, which has not hitherto been translated :
very first and fundamental principle of all Revelation is the great Truth, and the belief that God was born a Man into the world, and that unless this is believed, nothing [spiritual] can be revealed to man. God was born a Man into the world not like another man, because He was not conceived of a human father, but of Jehovah Himself, who was His Father, and born of a virgin, and that he was consequently not conceived and born as another man. And also, when He went out of the world, He arose with His entire Humanity, and left nothing behind; thus, unlike every other man, who leaves behind him the entire body which he carried about in the world, and which he never resumes. That no one resumes it, all those may know who are in the spiritual world and in heaven, who had all been men in the world. Hence those to whom I spoke these words could perceive, that the Lord had been quite a different Man (alius Homo) from other men, both as to His first principle as well as to His last principle. It was, moreover, said that men sprung from their fathers are similar to them as to their affections, and that they derive this from the soul (anima) of the father, and also that the entire body is nothing but an organ of the life of its soul, so as to act as one with it, which is evident from this, that whatever the soul thinks and wills, the body carries instantly into act. Wherefore the entire man is of such a quality as his soul is. That the thought and the love shine forth from the countenance is evident, so that the body is the image of the soul. Hence it is evident that the Humanity of the Lord could not become otherwise than divine, the image of His Father. When those with whom I conversed, heard these things, they said, that they knew no otherwise than that He had been like another man, born of a human father, and that He thus died [as another man) and was afterwards accepted by men as a God; but now they know that the Lord, when in the world, had not been such a Man as other men are. It was also said, that Christians err in this, that they make the Humanity of the Lord similar to the humanity of another man, and this they call His Human nature, and do not at the same time think of his conception from the Divinity itself, nor of His resurrection, as was said above. Whereas they have the Word which teaches them about all these things, and all Christians, that is, all in Europe may know from the Word that He was conceived of Jehovah, and that He arose with His whole body which He had in the world. The soul (anima) of man is formed from substances, and is not life, but a recipient of life; whereas the Lord's soul (anima) was life itself
, which gives life to all, so that the difference is such as is between the merely finite and the Infinite, thus as between what is merely human and Divine.” S. D. 5244,
[Enl. Series.--No. 13, vol. ii.]
NECESSITY OF CULTIVATING SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.
(A Discourse by the late Rev. S. Noble.*)
“ Judas saith unto him, (not Iscariot,) Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us and not unto the world ? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”—John xiv. 22, 23.
THERE are two worlds, the one very different from the other :—though there is no such thing as predestination, yet there always exist, in the present world, two very different sorts of men and there are two very different kinds of knowledge or intellectual attainments. Man, being constituted both of a soul and a body, is a subject of both these worlds, and is capable of both these kinds of knowledge or intellectual attainments. The one of these worlds is spiritual, the other, natural. Some men become spiritual, others remain only natural ; and the knowledge which has reference to the spiritual world is spiritual in its essence, whereas that which relates to the natural world is natural only. Spiritual men acquire spiritual knowledge; natural men are contented with natural ; and if some of them acquire some degree of spiritual knowledge, they make it natural by their mode of regarding it. And many deny spiritual things altogether. What men love, that they study. Love is man's life; consequently, he who only loves and studies natural things is a natural man ;-he who loves and studies spiritual things is a spiritual man. Yet men who confine their studies altogether to matters of natural science and wisdom, regard themselves as more wise than others. Why so ? Because they imagine the knowledge of this world and the things belonging to it the only certain, and therefore the most valuable knowledge. Why do they so esteem it? Because they know such things best, and love them most. Why do they thus know and love them? Because they are nearest to their bodily senses. And what, when exclusively pursued and cultivated, is the issue of such love and science ? Generally, a fixed opposition to spiritual knowledge, a denial of spiritual things, a persuasion that the Bible is the offspring of enthusiasm or of imposture ;—that there is nothing beyond or above nature, and consequently that there is no God, unless as the unconscious principle of life in the universe,--and no life or world hereafter. It is not meant to say that all who cultivate natural science are of this character. Natural knowledge, when kept subordinate to spiritual, doubtless tends to enlarge the mind, to promote the more adequate conception of spiritual subjects, and becomes a most efficient handmaid to true religion. But when exclusively pursued, it tends to confirm man in his self-derived intelligence, and to foster a contempt for every thing spiritual and heavenly. What, then, shall we say of such exclusive cultivators of natural science ? Can we say that they are either truly wise, happy, or good? Yet such persons regard themselves as the best, the wisest, and the most happy of mankind. They look down with contempt upon men of spiritual minds, and of spiritual int ual attainments, and deem them and madmen for pretending to know any thing about things spiritual, divine, and eternal, and for believing that such things have any real existence.
* Some of our correspondents have expressed a wish that we should insert more frequently some practical Discourse which may be read in families who, not having the privilege of living near New Church Society, cannot attend the public worship of the Lord. We have much pleasure in stating that, owing to the kindness of the trustees of the Cross-street Society in London, who are the proprietors of the manuscripts of the late Rev. S. Noble, we have been supplied with a number of his select sermons for that purpose.—EDITOR.
But what is the reason that men of natural science and intelligence, often possessing strong intellectual powers and capacities, so frequently remain without any knowledge of spiritual subjects, while others, sometimes much their inferiors in these respects, become well acquainted with them? Because such persons follow the leadings of their own sensual and corrupt minds, abide in the love of self and of the world, and thus have no desire to know any thing but what agrees with their natural lusts and inclinations. The others, more prudent, believe that there is a God, that they are dependent upon Him, and that they are to live for ever; wherefore they conclude, that the way to be happy is to obey that God upon whom they are dependent; and in consequence of doing so they become wise in spiritual things. If men never turn their minds to the Lord and His Word, it is not likely that they should know Him. If they neither study nor love subjects of a spiritual nature, it is not probable that they should possess any knowledge about them. no wonder if, at last, they deny their existence.
In all ages of the world there have been such unbelievers ; but in the present age their numbers are great indeed, and their audacity most astonishing; as the occurrences of every day evince. Even the religious of the present day, for the most part, have, so to speak, materialized their religion,-stripped it of every thing truly spiritual, aud made it merely natural and external. So that, between the professedly religious and the openly irreligious, the black clouds of ignorance, naturalism, and infidelity, have darkened the whole world. Yet dark as is the