« PreviousContinue »
and thunders and lightnings testified that He was there. When again He came, how was his presence proved? The powers of nature waited on his word, and death and hell acknowledged their subjection. But if I understand you, these events, whose unimaginable greatness language and thought alike fail to equal, were but preparatory to another event, which is now happening. Let this be possible; but before you ask me to believe it is true, satisfy my reason by evidence in some measure adequate to its purpose.
GORGIAS. Nay, is it not absurd and impious, to charge our heavenly Father with communicating to men truths of infinite value, and at the same time withholding such evidence of these truths as would alone justify rational creatures in acknowledging the truths themselves ?
PHÆDON. He has not withheld such evidence. He has given it without stint or measure; with overflowing, redundant mercy. We may, perhaps, ere long, look at it together. In the mean time, let me ask you to consider some of the circumstances which attended the christian dispensation. When the Messiah came, he proved his presence and his office, by miracles, as you allege ;but these proofs were not seen and acknowledged to be sufficient evidence, by a thousandth part of the nation in the midst of whom they were done. Why was this?
NICENUS. Certainly, this circumstance cannot weaken your belief of these miracles. The reason why they were insufficient to prove to the Jews that Christ was the expected Messiah, is acknowledged, by christians of all sects, to be their expectation that the Messiah would bear a totally different character from that which Christ sustained. They literally understood the prophecies, that the Messiah should be a redeemer, a conqueror, the founder of an universal and everlasting kingdom ; of course they could not suppose these prophecies fulfilled in the lowly, unresisting Jesus; and therefore his miracles had no power to prove to them that he was the Messiah.
PHÆDON Now, be good enough to apply all this, which is perfectly just, to existing circumstances.
Nicenus. I do not understand you ; how can I apply these facts to those which are now passing ? We do not expect a temporal Messiah.
PHÆDON. Let me explain myself. A Messiah was promised to the Jews, and was expected by them; Jesus Christ was that Messiah ; and when He, the Messiah, came, he spake as never man spake, and did what never man did ; and the miracles he performed, shewing his superiority over nature, death, and hell, proved him to be the Messiah. But now comes a remarkable fact. These miracles were done in the midst of the Jews, then earnestly expecting this, their redeemer. Yet these decisive proofs, supplying abundant and decisive evidence of the fact they expected, were totally powerless with nearly all the multitudes who witnessed the proofs, and were scorned and rejected by them ; insomuch that they crucified Him who wrought them, and drove his disciples abroad. Now how is this singular circumstance to be explained? Obviously, and with the consent of all christians, by the fact that the Jews, believing the prophecies which foretold the Messiah, misunderstood them, and were not satisfied with their true fulfilment, because it was not the fulfilment they anticipated. Exactly so, a new dispensation is now given to christians, and by them is liable to be so misunderstood and rejected. Most christians believe in the second coming of Christ. This is distinctly foretold; and therefore, by all who believe the scriptures, expected to take place at some time or other. It is now taking place; but by those who misunderstand the nature, purpose and operation of this second coming, inasmuch as they expect a literal fulfilment of the prophecies which foretel and describe it, the event itself cannot be acknowledged, nor the evidence which proves it, seen and appreciated. There is but a repetition, and a very exact repetition, though in a new form, of the occurrences which accompanied the former dispensation.
NICENUS. I suppose you understand the second coming of Christ to be purely spiritual.
PHÆDON. I do. Christ, the Son of God, the Word,' or divine Truth, came in the flesh to fulfil the law; and when on earth, gave the first glimpses of the truth which lay within that law. In the fulness of time, when the truths he thus communicated had done their work, his second coming occurs. This is wholly spiritual ; and now, the internal, real, spiritual sense of the scriptures, is communicated; that sense, the understanding of which can alone make every word of them profitable for instruction ; that sense in which they are the scriptures of spirits. This is the accomplishment of the mystery of God—the unsealing of the Book of God. And now, when the wisdom of God is translucent through the literal sense of his word, He has indeed come in the clouds of heaven, with great glory. It is obvious, at once, that there need be and can be no other evidence of the origin, authority and reality of these truths, than the truths themselves. Whoever is willing to rejoice in this light, and profit by it, sees and knows that it is the wisdom of God, implanted, of his mercy, in the intellect of man.—If we have another opportunity of conversing upon these subjects, I may present some views of them, which may interest you.
For the New Jerusalem Magazine.
ON RECEIVING THE TRUTH.
We are often ready to suppose that we are willing to hear the truth; and that all our opposition to any new doctrines arises because they are false and erroneous.
But in this we frequently deceive ourselves. Every one calls that which he loves, good; and that which he thinks, true ;-and whether a man loves and thinks what is really in its degree good and true, or what is evil and false, they are still, to him, the good and the true. They are all that can appear so to him in his present state, and consequently all that he can now regard as such. Just so far, therefore, as we are not what we should be, and what it is the effort of the Divine that we should become, so far we are not willing to hear the truth. So far, indeed, as to the whole man, will and understanding, we are opposed to the truth; being born of blood, of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man, but not of God. It is a necessary consequence, therefore, that this state of mind, or the natural man, should be in enmity against God, and his truth. It is the opposition of a rebellious subject, who does not and cannot yield free obedience to the requirements of his rightful sovereign. The language of the Lord to such is, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not, might see ; and that they which see, might be made blind. Our spiritual man, which has been blind from our birth, must be made to see, by obedience to Him who is the light of the world ; while the natural man, in each one of us, which thinks he sees, and which does indeed see the false and monstrous shapings of his own imagination, but nothing more, must be brought into subjection, and made to obey the spiritual man, and to walk by another's light, and not by his own, and thus made blind. So long, therefore, as we say we see, our sin remaineth. We must acknowledge our blindness, and come to the Lord for deliverance; for since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. And the light which we are now made to see is not the light to which our natural man, or his evil deeds, have been leading us, but a light which judges him, and devotes him to perpetual bondage ; and therefore it is, that his opposition is called forth. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
That man is not always so ready to hear the truth, is apparent from the express words of revelation. The Lord said to the Jews, because I tell
believe me not, and even to his disciples, who believed on him, he had many things to say,
the truth, ye
which they could not bear at that time. I am come in my Father's
receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. The Lord was therefore rejected by the Jews, because he was true, and no unrighteousness was in him. And this, notwithstanding he came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved, and spake and acted continually in obedience to the promptings of perfect, even of divine love for the salvation of all men. I can of mine own self do nothing ; as I hear, I judge ; and my judgment is just'; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father who sent me.
But while we lament the unbelief, and hardness of the Jewish heart, we must be careful not to esteem ourselves better than they, but rather to smite on our breasts, saying God be merciful to us sinners. We have all of us the feeling of the proud pharisee in our own breasts; and whether we go down to our house justified, must depend upon the question whether this feeling is allowed to exalt itself, or is brought into a state of humility.
Indeed, the whole tenor of scripture, as well as all experience, shows that a state of preparation is requisite in order to the reception of the truth to any useful purpose. Even when we come to the Lord and say, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher sent from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him,--his reply is, verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit, is spirit. In fine, instead of being ready to hear the truth, our whole duty consists in making the preparation ; and if we do not finally receive it, it will be because we would not hear it. There is a continual influx of spiritual heat and light from the Lord into our souls, to cause the seed that is sown to spring up and grow and bring forth fruit; but it is our business to till the ground and prepare a good soil, and unless this also be done, the sun of heaven must shine for us in vain. It is by reason of the obedience and co-operation of the angels that the will of the Lord is done in heaven; it is only by reason of the obedience and cooperation of man, that it can be done on earth.
The preparation on the part of man for the reception of truth, or that co-operation with the strivings of the spirit within us, which is required, may be said to consist, in the general, in obedience to the truths already known, and a cheerful performance of the duties already set before us. This only is following the Lord whithersoever he goeth ; although we may not now know what he doeth. These are the few things over which we must prove ourselves faithful, before we can be made rulers over many things, and enter into the joy of our Lord. But this, too, is one of the points about which we are in great danger of over estimating our
VOL. I.NO. IV.
willingness and obedience. We are apt to imagine that we have kept all these things from our youth up, and to insist upon knowing what we lack yet. In this state, we feel able to keep the law of ourselves, and thus to merit salvation, and therefore suppose that we lack nothing but the reward of our welldoing. This seems to us to be lacking, because we have kept all these things of ourselves, and therefore seem to ourselves to be rich in good works and the qualifications for heavenly happiness; and at the same time we do not feel happy, because we have not obeyed from love, and therefore could not receive the great reward which is found in keeping the commandments. Before we can advance any farther, it is therefore necessary that our false views and expectations should be corrected, and we must be made to know that the kingdom of heaven consists in freely giving as we freely receive, and that all that we possess must be held in subordination to the laws and commandments of God. The Lord therefore says, If thou wilt be perfect, go sell that thou hast, and give to the poor,
and thou shalt have treasure in heaven : and come fol
We now go away sorrowful, not because we have not heard the truth, and a higher and purer truth than we have ever as yet reduced to life, but because our object was not to be perfect. We did not feel the necesssity of any preparation to receive it. We did not, in our hearts, ask to receive it. We did not wish to know what we lacked yet, but we supposed our work was done, and the question, what lack I yet? was but an indirect claim of the reward for having done it well. We do not intend to say that every man is equally bold in advancing claims of this nature, nor equally disappointed in the result, with the rich man of whom we have been speaking. But we all have that within us which corresponds to him, and is fitly represented by him. We all of us anticipate and judge of the future from the present, and are therefore disappointed. We all of us, at times, feel as if our work was done, and have therefore to learn, once more, that the end of one state is the commencement of another. The intermediate state, like that from evening till morning, serves, in a secret and mysterious way, for the refreshing of the soul. In itself considered, it is nothing, as our freedom and consciousness are in a measure suspended; but its character is intermediate, and its use secondary. While, therefore, we regard it merely as an end of our toil and a resting from our labours, it will be painful to us to have our slumbers disturbed. We have reached our goal, and would not be interrupted in the enjoyment of our reward. And not until we learn to regard it in its true character, and to settle into it with some prospective feeling, as into that state in which our own prudence and forecast are so wonderfully darkened, that the Lord is enabled, at once, to compose the past, and arrange the future within