Part I. CONCERNING THE LORD.
There is a God, and He is One! No man with religion and sound reason will deny this.
But who, and what, is this One God?
The old Christian Church, Catholic or Protestant, teaches that "God is a Spirit, invisible and incomprehensible, without body, parts, or passions," and that He created the universe out of nothing.
Is this the true idea of God? Would not the absence of any "parts" indicate the absence of a whole? Is not the lack of "passions," i.e. of affections, the same as lifelessness and unconsciousness? What has no body has no form, and what has no form can have no permanent and substantial reality. How can we form any conception of what is invisible and incomprehensible? And how can we approach and love that of which we have no conception? Such an idea of God is an idea of nothing, out of which comes—nothing.
Here we are taught that there is a God, and that He is One; that this One God is Divine Man, in Himself eternal and infinite Love and Wisdom, and yet both visible and comprehensible, possessing actual though not material substance and form, with self-consciousness, affections, thoughts and distinguishable qualities, and that He created the universe, not out of nothing, but out of Himself, by means of His Word.
It is self-evident that God is Love itself in substance, and Wisdom itself in form, for it must be admitted by all that He is Life itself, since He is the fountain of all life. And Life is nothing but love: take away all love, all interest in life, and life is done Wisdom is nothing but the form, the manifestation, the expression of love. God, therefore, is nothing but Love and Wisdom, eternal, infinite, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent.
God is Man, the Divine Man, the only real Man, for love and wisdom, received from Him in some small finite degree, are what make men human, are what distinguish them from beasts, God is man, for He created us men, in His own image and likeness.
God is visible, for He is Truth itself, and Truth can be seen. He is visible in an actual human body, for the Truth, that is, the Word,
Men have seen Him on earth in this body, and He ascended to Heaven in a human form. We can still see Him as a Man in His Word, and hear His own voice:
He has a Body, for in the Scriptures we read of His face and His eye, His mouth and nostrils, His arms and hands and feet. If He possesses all these parts, what else can He possibly lack? And who is He?
"In Jesus Christ dwelleth the Fulness of the Godhead bodily." In Him, in His one Divine Body and Person, resides the whole of the Divine Trinity.
This is the key that opens the mystery of the Trinity in God, in regard to which the whole Christian Church has gone so utterly astray.
Protestants and Catholics alike maintain that the Trinity in God means that there are three distinct persons in the Godhead, one in essence, but differing in operations and attributes.
Examine this doctrine in the light of Scripture and of reason, and you will find that it is contrary to both. Consider it in any reasonable way you please, you still can make of it only a plurality of gods. One human person is one man; three human persons three men. One Divine Person is One God; three divine persons three gods.
Those who framed the Athanasian Creed (just before the Dark Ages) were caught in this dilemma, and could compel faith only by direful anathemas and by the declaration that although we are compelled by Christian verity to confess each person, one by one, to be God and Lord, yet we are forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say there are three Gods and three Lords."
If this be the extent of harmony between Christian verity and Christian Religion, what, then, shall we think of a Christian morality which bids us think one thing but say a totally different thing?
How have Christian artists, inspired by Christian teachers, depicted this Trinity? As one God? No, but as two distinct gods, one old and one young, with a dove soaring above, Or else as a monstrous head, with three faces flowing into one.
To whom of these three are Christian prayers addressed? To all three, as one? No! To the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath all power in Heaven and on earth? but to the invisible Father, for the sake of his Son. If these two are truly believed to be one single God, why this division in the inmost thought?
If God is a being consisting of three Divine persons, and if He created us into His own image and likeness, how is it that each one of us does not consist of three persons?
Clearly, sound reason has no part in this doctrine of a Divine tri-personality, and the inquiring mind is therefore silenced by the dictum that this is an "incomprehensible mystery of faith," and that "the understanding must be held captive under obedience to faith."
If this be true, and if by "faith" is meant the dogmas framed by human councils, then will we become the blind slaves of men, and not the free servants of God. But do not put your faith in councils, for they are but human, and it is human to err. Rather
Search the Scriptures through and through, and you will not find a single statement concerning any three persons in the Godhead, nor any personal manifestation of the Father or of the Holy Spirit, except in the Son. But one single Divine Person has ever revealed Himself, even Jesus Christ, and He alone.
Nevertheless it is most true that there is a Trinity in God, but not a tri-personal Trinity. It is a trinity of essentials, not of persons. It is the Trinity of Divine Soul, Divine Body, and Divine operation, all in the one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. By the "Father," in the correspondential and significative language of the Scriptures, is meant nothing else than the Divine Soul, which assumed a human body in the virgin Mary. By the "Son" is meant the human nature itself, which was tempted and crucified, died, and rose again, but which, by victories over all evil, was glorified and made one with the Father or the Divine within. By the "Holy Spirit," finally, is meant not a third person or god, but the Spirit of Divine Truth, flowing from the Divine Human, the Divine Power or operation, which enlightens, leads and regenerates all who receive it. This is what is represented by the "dove."
There is the image of this Trinity in all things of creation. We have it in our own soul and body and operation. We have its representation in the Sun, in which the essential fire is the "father," the heat and light proceeding as one, the "son," and the emanating life and effective power the "spirit," It exists in every human thought and action, which consists of end, cause and effect, or purpose, means and result. It is seen in every single thing of nature, which consists of substance, form, and resulting use.
With this doctrine in your mind, read the passages in the New Testament, where the Son appears to converse with the Father and to pray to Him, and you will see that these describe only how the tempted human nature of the Lord turned to the indwelling Divine Soul, asking and receiving thence Divine instruction and power to conquer its own inherited evil inclinations. Then look into your own heart, and observe the voice of conscience warning your own lower and evil nature against sin, and notice the protests and the unwillingness of that nature to be crucified and die. This may illustrate what is meant by the Divine Trinity.
But hear the testimony of the Word of God:
GOD IS ONE.
. 20: 3.)
"Hear, O, Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." (Deut. 6: 4)
"In that day shall the Lord be king over all the eartb1 in that day shall the Lord be one and His name one." (Zech. 14: 9,)
JESUS CHRIST IS THAT ONE GOD.
HE AND THE FATHER ARE ONE
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS HIS SPIRIT,
After Jesus had been glorified,
"He breathed upon the disciples and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit." (John 20:22.)
"A new heart I will give unto you, and a new spirit. I will put My spirit in the midst of you." (Ezech. 36: 26.)
When the Comforter cometh, the Spirit of Truth, He shall testify of Me." (John 15: 26, )
"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you, and ye shall see Me." (John 14: 16-19 )
"The Lord is that Spirit," (2 Cor. 3:17.)
If, then, there is but one person in the Godhead, what becomes of the doctrine of Redemption? Have we not been taught, in all churches, that Christ came to propitiate the wrath of the Father, and to procure for us the grace of God by His own sufferings and blood? If Christ and the Father are one person, who was there to propitiate, and from the wrath of whom are men redeemed?
Why did God Himself come down to this world? Why was He born, tempted and crucified?
The Doctrine of the New Jerusalem teaches, that the Lord came down to redeem and save mankind, not from the wrath of God—for there is no such thing,—nor from any well-merited punishment for crimes committed—for God is Justice,—but from the love of evil, and from the overwhelming power of Hell, which at that time threatened the entire human race with destruction and damnation.
The love of evil is like an avalanche, which increases in volume and in destructive force as it descends. From generation to generation, ever since the Fall, mankind had become worse and worse, through the accumulation of hereditary inclinations to evil. Ever greater hosts of evil spirits had been entering from this world into the other world, until the power of Hell had become so great that no human power could withstand it, and until the demons were actually taking open possession of the minds and bodies of men. The worst of all nations on earth was the Jewish, God's "own, chosen people," among whom pride and hypocrisy, hatred and avarice reigned as nowhere else.
It was to this nation that the Lord came down, taking upon Himself, from a Jewish woman, flesh and blood tainted with an hereditary inclination to all evil, even the grossest and most vile. He came down to the very bottom of the abyss of human nature, in order to reach and save all men, even the vilest; in order to be tempted to all evil, and in order to conquer in all temptations and thus to break the power of all the demons.
No one but a man could be thus tempted! and no one but God Himself could be thus victorious. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, did this for us. Himself without sin, He bore in His body the inclination to all sins. But He yielded not. To every infernal suggestion He replied, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God," and "Get thee behind Me, Satan!" Thus He broke the force of evil, compelled the infernal crew to fall back, cowed and in trembling obedience to Himself. Thus He redeemed and set us free from spiritual slavery, and cleared a way through Hell into Heaven, a way upon which all who wish are free to follow Him.
The last and most direful of these temptations, the final and most desperate assault of Hell, was the passion of the Cross. The very robber on the cross beside Him bade Him descend and free Himself from suffering and death. To the Man, in His despair, it seemed for a moment as if the God within Him had forsaken Him. Yet He yielded not, hut committed His spirit into the hand of the "Father." and expired, exclaiming: "It is finished."
What was finished? The lifelong and ever victorious struggle against Hell; the universal Divine work of Redemption; the complete expulsion of hereditary evil from the assumed human body and nature, whereby this nature itself became glorified and was made one with the Divine Soul or "Father" within.
In this glorified and Divine body He rose again out of the grave, and with this Divinely Human body He ascended into Heaven. And thus it is that men can even now see, hear and understand Him, love, worship and become conjoined with Him as God-Man, our Father in the Heavens, our Creator, Redeemer and Regenerator.
How different from these teachings are the doctrines of the old Church respecting the bloody sacrifice of Christ, the Atonement, and the Redemption! From these latter it would appear, 1st that God the Father had given poor, weak mankind a Law which He well knew they had not the power to keep; 2d, that He condemned universal mankind to eternal death because of the sin of Adam; 3d, that He had determined to destroy the race in His terrible wrath; 4th, that blood alone would appease Him; 5th, that His only begotten Son offered to sacrifice Himself for us; 6th, that the Father permitted this substitution; and, 7th, that Christ became sin and curse for us, taking our actual sins upon Himself, past, present and to come, and bearing the natural punishment though not the eternal damnation which we had merited.
Reader, think of it! Could God, who is unchangeable Divine Love, be angry and revengeful? Could the Divine Mercy seek the eternal death of any of His creatures? What satisfaction to Him would be the blood of any such specks in the universe as we? Could He, who is justice itself, permit the innocent to suffer for the guilty? Can sins—and especially sins that have not yet been committed — be transferred from one person to another, like so many pieces of clothing? And how could Christ, who is God and unchangeably pure and holy, become "sin itself" and "a curse," without losing His Divinity.
Such is the very corner-stone and jewel of the Old Theology, which was established at the Council of Nice in the year 325, and which has reigned supreme through all the dark ages, even unto this nineteenth century.
Yet, where is the religion, the Christianity in all this? Where the morality, the common sense, the justice of it all? What would we think of a judge in a court of justice who would venture to follow such an example?
Happily, it is not true that God is such a monster. Do not believe it for one moment.
Hear the Scriptures:
God is Love." (1 John 4: 8)
"For I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6.)
"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God, and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" (Ezech. 18: 23.)
"The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the sou. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him," (Ezech. 18: 20.)
"He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham." ( Heb. 2: 19.)
"We have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4: 15.)
"In that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted," (Heb. 2; 10)
"Ye are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you." (John 15: 3.)
For further instruction respecting the Lord, the Trinity and the Redemption, read the "Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning the Lord," and "The True Christian Religion," Vol. I.
In presenting a brief view of the Doctrine of the New Jerusalem concerning Providence, we can do nothing better than to quote the following from the writings of Swedenborg himself:
"The Universal Government of the Lord is called Providence, and it extends to the most minute particulars of the life of man: for there is only One Fountain of life, from whom we have our being and live and act and that Fountain is the Lord
"They who think of the Divine Providence from worldly affairs conclude that its operations are only of a general nature, and that particulars depend on human agencies. But such persons are unacquainted with the mysteries of Heaven, because they form their conclusions under the influence of the love of self and the love of the world and of their gross delights.
"Hence, when they see the wicked exalted to honors and acquire riches, more than the good, and when they see success attending the artifices of which they avail themselves, they say in their hearts, that these things would not be so if the Divine Providence were universally operative and if it extended to every particular of the life of man; not considering that the Divine Providence does not regard that which is fleeting and transitory and which terminates with the life of man in this world, but that it regards that which remains to eternity, thus which has no end,
"Of that which has no end it may be predicated, that it is; but of that which has an end it may be said, respectively, that it is not. Let him who is able consider whether a hundred thousand years be anything when compared to eternity, and he will perceive that they are as nothing; what then are a few years of life in this world?
"Whoever rightly considers the subject may know that worldly rank and riches are not real Divine blessings, although man, from the pleasure which they yield him, calls them so; for they pass away, and also seduce many, and turn them away from Heaven.
"But that eternal life, and the happiness thence resulting, are real blessings bestowed on man by the Lord. He himself plainly teaches in these words:
"The devices of the wicked are attended with success, because it is according to Divine Order that whatever man does he should do in the free exercise of his reason and from freedom of choice; unless therefore he were left to act according to his reason, consequently unless the artifices which he thence construes were followed with success, he could in no wise be disposed to receive eternal life. For eternal life is insinuated into him when he is in a state of liberty and of enlightened reason.
"No one can be compelled to do good, because nothing forced is permanent with man, since it is not his own. That alone becomes his own which he does from liberty and in accordance with his reason. What he does from liberty is done from his own will or love, and the will or love is the man himself. If a man were compelled to act contrary to his will, his thoughts would continually incline towards the dictates of his will. Besides, everyone strives after what is forbidden, for everyone strives to act from liberty. Hence it is evident, that unless man were preserved in liberty he could not be provided with good.
"To leave man to think, to will, and, so far as the law does not restrain him, to do evil, from his own liberty, is called Permission.
"When man is led, by the success of artful schemes, to the enjoyment of happiness in the world, it appears to him as the result of his own prudence; when yet at the same time the Divine Providence incessantly accompanies him, permitting and continually withdrawing him from evil. But when man is led to the enjoyment of felicity in Heaven, he knows and perceives that it is not effected by his own prudence, but by the Lord, and is the result of the Divine Providence, disposing and continually leading man to good.
"It is to be particularly observed, that beside Providence there is also Previdence or Foresight. Good is provided by the Lord; but evil is previded. The one must needs accompany the other, for what proceeds from man is nothing but evil, but what proceeds from the Lord is wholly good," (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine, Nos. 267-275.)
See also on this subject, Swedenborg's work entitled "Angelic Wisdom Concerning the Divine Providence."