Page images
PDF
EPUB

ter of Matthew, must be sensible that they directly discountenance these special petitions for temporal blessings; and the reason given is, your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.' Our Lord informs us to what our earnest attention should be directed. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;' and he assures us that the temporal good things which we need, shall be added. We know that all things are made to work together for the good of those who love God,that, if we put our trust in him, we shall not want any good thing.

“ It appears to me very certain, that the texts to which I have referred, and many others, were designed to teach us that our minds should be concerned rather about the causes of temporal blessings, than about the blessings themselves. What we call the good things of this life, are but the natural effects of a good state of mind. If the kingdom of God and his righteousness be established within our minds, these temporal blessings will be added, so far as they will promote our eternal good. We are very imperfect judges, how far they are adapted to promote our spiritual welfare; but our heavenly Father knoweth, and will not withhold any thing which he sees to be useful for us. While the tares and the wheat grow together, it cannot be expected that the wheat will enjoy the full benefit of the elements which are designed for its nourishment. Still it is true, that temporal blessings are, at all times, bestowed in exact proportion to our ability to improve them.

“Why then should we be anxious in supplicating for imaginary blessings, while we know assuredly that all real blessings will be bestowed, provided we devote our whole hearts and lives to seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness?

“The part of your letter which relates to the efficacy of prayer in procuring blessings for our friends, may be noticed in another communication from Your obedient servant,

S. W."

NEW JERUSALEM MAGAZINE.

No. II.

OCTOBER, 1827.

For the New Jerusalem Magazine.

SALVATION IN THE COMMANDMENTS.

That a life according to the commandments is in some way connected with salvation, is seen and felt by almost every one; but that the commandments are the way, the truth, and the life, few at the present day are disposed to acknowledge. One of the principal obstacles to such an acknowledgment is an ignorance that the decalogue contains a spiritual sense. Many christians indeed suppose that the prophetical parts of the Word may contain something like a spiritual sense, but are at a loss to discover an internal or spiritual sense in the historicals and precepts of the Word. Hence an ignorance that salvation and spiritual life are within the precepts, not to murder, commit adultery, steal, &c. But the man of reflection, the humble and devout observer of the operations of Divine Providence, when he reads the circumstances of the promulgation of the decalogue, the miracles attending it, the profound veneration which was ever after held for it, will not pass over, as of no account, much less ridicule, what is contained in it.

We read that Jehovah descended upon mount Sinai with fire, and that none but Moses was allowed to approach; that the commandments were then promulgated by word of mouth, and that they were afterwards written on two tables of stone, by the finger of God; that the law thus promulgated was placed within the ark, in the inmost of the tabernacle, which was the holy of holies, surrounded by golden cherubs; that Aaron was forbidden to enter within the veil, except with sacrifice and incense, lest he should die. It was by reason of the spiritual sense, by reason of the VOL. 1. NO. II.

5

dwelling of the Lord in the law, that miracles were wrought by the presence of the ark which contained the law; by its presence the waters of Jordan were divided; by its presence the walls of Jericho fell: Dagon, the god of the Philistines, fell on his face before it; and Uzzah died by reason of touching it. It afterwards occupied the holy of holies in the temple at Jerusalem; and the veil which surrounded it was rent asunder, on the event of the final glorification of the humanity of the Lord. These are some of the circumstances connected with the promulgation, and subsequent preservation of the decalogue. In its letter, it consists mostly of civil precepts which were then generally known. It was known throughout the world that murder, adultery, theft, and false witness were evils; and that society could not exist without laws to restrain them.

The decalogue may be said to be an epitome of the Word, which consists of those books in the Old and New Testaments which contain an internal sense.

It is called the covenant, by virtue of its uniting man with the Lord through divine love; and the testimony, by virtue of its conjoining man to the Lord by means of divine truth. The commandments were written on two tables, the one containing the substance of all duties relating to the Lord, the other the substance of all duties relating to man. These are the two commandments spoken of in the New Testament, on which hang all the law and the prophets,-love to the Lord and love to the neighbour. Consequently, these two tables are an epitome of the Word.*

It is remarkable that, in the second table of the decalogue, where the obligations and duties of man to his fellow man are laid down, he is not required to do good, but forbidden to do evil. An important truth is to be gathered from this circumstance; which is, that man is unable of himself to do good, that is, spiritual, saving good. It shows that man is inclined to commit the evils forbidden; if not naturally, yet spiritually. It strikes at the very root of spiritual pride; for he is not required to do good, of which he might boast, or on which he might rely for eternal happiness, as a reward for his good works. It shows him where he is, and in what relation he stands to the Lord; it shows him that he is to be saved through the divine goodness, and not by his own merits; as he will not be likely to claim to himself merit simply for refraining from murder, adultery, theft, &c. - From this condition, in which man is placed with regard to the Lord, and with regard to salvation, it will appear that the Lord is goodness itself and mercy itself, notwithstanding those literal expressions in the Word where anger, wrath, punishment, &c. are attributed to him, according to his appearance to the wicked; that there is a perpetual endeavour of the Lord to impart divine love and divine wisdom to man, and that they are received by him just in proportion as he confirms the divine truth, just in proportion as he shuns evils as sins against the Lord, just in proportion as he keeps the commandments.

* For an explanation of the spiritual sense of the decaloguè, see the Arcana Cælestia, vol. x. from n. 8860 to n. 8912, and the True Christian Religion, vol. ii. from n. 282 to n. 332.

It was said, that man is unable of himself to do good. It may be added, that he is unable of himself spiritually to shun evils, spiritually to keep the commandments. For though he should succeed in keeping the commandments from his youth up, through an imaginary ability of his own, and for selfish purposes, all his acquisitions consequent upon such obedience, will prove to be only the riches of spiritual pride; these riches will only retard his spiritual progress, and, if cherished above all things, cause him to turn away sorrowful from his Lord, from the true commandments; for he will be a stranger to that humility and poverty of spirit which is signified by selling all thou hast and giving it to the poor. To keep the commandments of ourselves, is not to keep them, but to violate them; it is striking at the very root of the first commandment, thou shalt have no other gods before me. For there is but one source of goodness, the Lord. The good which man receives, is not his, but the Lord's; it becomes appropriated to him just in proportion to his acknowledgment, that it is not of himself, but from the Lord. Now, if man undertakes to keep the commandments from his own proper ability, it is evident that he does not acknowledge the Lord, but himself, as god—thus violates the first commandment. He should keep the commandments as of himself, acknowledging, at the same time, that his ability so to do is continually derived to him from the Lord. In order to bring him to this acknowledgment, he is sometimes suffered, in the course of his regeneration, to commit those evils which his spiritual pride persuaded him that he could, of his own proper power, shun; whereby his spiritual pride may be acknowledged and overcome, and he be brought to see that his ability to keep the commandments is by and through the Lord alone.

The decalogue is a perfect rule of civil, as well as religious life; and obedience to it by man, in the natural degree, secures to him all the blessings which can be communicated to him in that degree. Obedience to the first commandment in a literal sense, shunning idolatry and acknowledging the Lord, secures to his mind natural peace, and an exemption from all those evils which idolatry and false religion would entail upon it. And, if man obeys it in a spiritual sense, he will not only have no other gods before the Lord, but he will reject all precepts which are not in accordance with the truths of the Word; he will reject all fallacious arguments which tend to the rejection of the divine humanity of the Lord, or to divide and mar the oneness of his person. The consequences, of his spiritual obedience to the command, thou shalt have no other gods before me, will be conjunction with the Lord through the spiritual sense of the Word, a full reception of spiritual affections and thoughts, neighbourly love, and an exemption from the darkness and perplexity which modern theology has spread over the face of the christian world.

An obedience in the literal sense to the command, thou shalt do no murder, is yielded, when man refrains from taking, under any circumstances, the life of his neighbour. The reward is civil peace, domestic tranquillity, and an exemption from all the consequences of returning evil for evil. But man obeys the command in a spiritual sense, when he refrains from committing spiritual murder. He will then not hate his neighbour, injure his spiritual affections, or attempt to destroy the truth which is in him, in order to gain ascendency over him. The reward of his obedience will be a spiritual love for his neighbour, inward confidence and friendship.

So, in shunning adultery in a literal sense, he receives domestic peace as a consequence of his conjugial fidelity. But, if he obeys the command spiritually, he will guard against diverting the thoughts and affections of husband and wife from each other; he will view the wives of others as the forms of their husband's affections; he will view a conjugial pair as a church of the Lord, and any violence done to it as violence done to the Lord's spiritual church. Obedience to this precept in a spiritual sense, prepares his mind for the reception of conjugial love from the Lord through his wife; and also spiritual love for the wife, which can only be received by shunning spiritual adultery.

Again, theft in a spiritual sense is committed, when man takes clandestinely the property of his neighbour, or when he withholds from him what is properly his due. But theft in a spiritual sense is committed, when man perverts and distorts the truths which are in his neighbour; when he misconstrues, and gives a wrong complexion to his meaning; when he imputes to him wrong motives; when he draws from his conversation, or his writings, wrong conclusions, in order to favour himself; or when he adopts as his own, and persuades others to think his own, sentiments and truths which he has taken from his neighbour, thereby perverting the medium through which Divine Providence intended truths should pass. It is to be noted, that the decalogue, as well as the whole Word, contains three distinct senses; the celestial, the spiritual, and the natural. The foregoing remarks, however, are to be considered only as general illustrations of a spiritual or internal sense.

Man has an aversion to the precepts of the Word, because they

« PreviousContinue »