Explanations of Scripture
THE HOLY CITY.
The first verse that we will consider is the tenth verse of the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Revelation, where we read: " And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the Holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." (Rev. 21:10.)
What is meant by this Holy City, which is called the Wife of the Lamb? Certainly not a material city. If we consider what Jerusalem was, the thing which it stands for becomes evident. Jerusalem was the capital of the Land of Canaan; but it was even more important as the only place where the Israelitish people were permitted to perform their holy acts of worship. Here was the temple; here the high priest officiated. In Jerusalem the Scribes and Pharisees gathered together and studied the Scriptures, and formulated their doctrines. Thus it is perfectly natural that Jerusalem stood for the worship and doctrines of the Jewish people. Jerusalem was the only place where doctrine was formulated, and came to be a symbol or representative of the Doctrine of the Church. When, therefore, the Lord wished to predict the revelation of the " Heavenly Doctrines " which He promised during His life on earth, He would naturally refer to these doctrines under the type of the Holy City, New Jerusalem. Once we grasp this idea, the meaning involved in the description of the City scarcely needs explaining. It follows that by the walls of the City are signified the defence of that doctrine by which its truths are kept pure; that by its gates are signified the teachings which first make an appeal to the one in search of truths, and which thus introduce a man, and enable him to enter into the glory of its heavenly secrets; and by the streets are signified the way of life of those who go therein.
That a city stands for a principle or doctrine of life, is proved beyond a doubt by the verse in Revelation which reads: " And their bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." (Rev. ii : 8.)
John knew, from the literal point of view, that the Lord was not crucified in Sodom or Egypt. This is not a slip of the pen, but is so written for a Divine reason. That the Lord was not literally crucified in one of these places is also implied by the words, " Which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt."
BABYLON THE GREAT.
Let us now turn to one of the cities mentioned in the Old Testament, and examine the dark saying in reference to the great city Babylon, found in Psalm 137, verses 8-9, where we read: " O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed: Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against a stone."
What are we to make of such a passage as this? A more cruel command could scarcely be given. Are these the words of a God of infinite Love? Do these words contain a message from heaven? Yea, Reader, they contain a most needed message, if they are but understood aright. It is a universal rule that men hear God according to their own desires. If God speaks to a cruel people, they twist His words into words of cruelty. If He speaks to a proud people, they turn His words into words of pride. The Jews were a cruel people, and loved cruelty; wherefore, when Jehovah the Lord spoke to them, they interpreted His words as cruel words. Still, in order that a Word or Revelation might be written, which should contain within its bosom the Divine Love and Wisdom, God provided that what was inscribed should contain within it the wisdom of the angels.
In the verse that we are considering let us first see if we can discover the meaning of the city which is spiritually called Babylon.
Babylon ruled over the first world-empire. She ruled autocratically, according to the will of her potentates, and not according to any system of law. The will of the city of Babylon took the place of law and justice in the lands over which she ruled. Babylon, therefore, came to symbolize the love of such autocratic rule,—the love of rule according to the whim of one's own desire, and not according to Divine law. This love of rule is not confined to kings and princes. A man may tyrannize over his family; a woman may strive for the power to enforce her will upon her friends; a man of business may command his employees without regard to justice. In any case wherein one tries to carry out his will, and impose it on others, without regard to right and justice, it is the same ancient love that was symbolized or represented by that great city, Babylon.
If this love of rule, this love of tyrannization, once takes hold of a man, it holds him in its grip, so that he who has found delight in it can scarcely escape. It is most important, therefore, that it be rooted out in childhood. A boy should not be permitted to tyrannize over his fellow schoolmates; as soon as this dangerous love is born in the heart of man, it must be rooted out. The head of such a love must be crushed against a stone,—against the foundation of truth, which a stone symbolizes.
It now becomes obvious that the spiritual meaning of the command, " Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against a stone," is that those are blessed who are humble, and who, as soon as they see the love of domineering arising in themselves, destroy it by means of the principles of truth and justice, before it has a chance to grow.
WHEN PETER WAS OLD.
Let us now turn to one of the chapters of the Gospel, and see the meaning which lies hidden beneath the surface like a seam of precious metal under the earth. We read that the Lord spoke in parables, and " without a parable spake He not unto them." (Matt. 13: 34.) Some of these parables the Lord in part explained, but the greater part He left undiscovered until the time that He should come and " show them plainly of the Father."
The passage we have chosen to explain is in the last chapter of the Gospels,—the twenty-first chapter of John, and we will dwell particularly on the verses which read: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee (Peter), When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said unto him, Follow thou Me. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following . . . Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me" (21: 18-22.)
The twelve apostles of the Lord, as well as the twelve sons of Israel, symbolized or represented all the general principles which go to make up the Church. Peter and John, being the leading disciples, stood for the two leading principles in the Church, namely, faith and love or good works.
That Peter stands for faith, is obvious from the Gospels themselves. When the Lord asked his disciples for a declaration of faith, it was Peter who gave it: " Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt. 16: 16.) Peter is the Greek for a rock, which name was given to him by the Lord for an especial reason. The Lord said: " Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church." (Matt. 16: 18.) Faith is like a rock upon which the Church is founded, just as a rock is the foundation upon which the temple is built.
That John represented love or good works, is also evident. The whole of the writings of John bear witness to the love he bore to the Lord, and the love which a true Christian feels towards his neighbor. And because he stood for such love, he is called in the Gospels " the beloved disciple."
That the words from the twenty-first chapter of John have a deeper significance than appears on the surface, must be felt by all who love the Word of God. While the death of Peter was a tragedy, the Lord, in foretelling his death, implied a greater tragedy than the death of any single man. He implied the death of the faith of the Christian Church. The command of the Lord, thrice repeated to Peter, " Lovest thou Me ?
Feed My sheep! " (John 21: 15-17) has a foreboding of ill. It implies that the love of those for whom Peter stood might grow cold, and that they might cease to feed the sheep of the Lord's fold.
Anyone who can raise his mind into the light of heaven can see that the instruction to Peter, "Feed My sheep," was essentially given to all who should teach the faith of the Christian Church. And the words imply that there was danger that this faith might not be taught in spirit and in truth. By " when Peter was young," in the broader sense, is signified the Christian Church in its beginnings; when faith went "whither it wouldest," guided by the light of truth. But when Peter was " old," signifies when the Christian Church had lost the spirit of its youth, and when worldly ambitions and interests ruled in it. Then we read that "another should gird Peter, and take Him whither he would not,—"that is, the Church would formulate man-made creeds, by which the Church would bind men's conscience and compel them to believe what it taught, although not led by the light of truth. Nevertheless it is implied that some, signified by John, would remain until the Lord Jesus Christ should come again establish His Church anew. John stood for all who loved genuine love of the Lord, and who follow the Lord by obeying His words, even though as to important matters of faith—such as the nature of the Divine Trinity, the manner of salvation, and the nature of the resurrection—they might be in ignorance.
THE UNFAITHFUL CHURCH.
Many take for granted that the Christian Church has remained in the pure light of the Gospel, and tha the faith and life of the Christian Church has remain pure. But this is not the teaching of the Word o God. The Lord said: " Nevertheless when the So of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?' (Luke 18:8.)
Paul said: " This know also, that in the last day perilous times shall come. For men shall be lover of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." (II. Tim., 3: 1-5.)
Who can deny that this is a picture of modern times? But of this subject we will speak further when we come to the consideration of the passages treating of the Coming of the Lord and the Last Judgment.
We will now turn to one of the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, and give a short explanation of some of the things involved, before proceeding to the great doctrines upon which the New Church is founded.
THE SLAYING OF ABEL.
In the fourth chapter of Genesis we read as follows: " And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground . . . Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord; and Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of the flock, and of the lot thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering: but unto Cain and his offering He had not respect. . . And it came to pass that when they were in the field together that Cain rose up and slew Abel his brother . . . And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him." (Gen. 4:2-5, 8, 15)
Me fore explaining this passage, we must say something about the first eleven chapters of Genesis. It is obvious from the Scripture account that there was actually such a man as Abraham and his children. We feel that he was a personality; we see Jewish characteristics stand out in the story of his life. The history of his life and the lives of his descendants was used to portray, in the spiritual sense, a Divine drama; but, as to the story in the letter, it is obviously the account of an ancient patriarch.
But when we turn to the chapters of Genesis which lead up to the account of Abraham, we find them written in an entirely different style. The men are evidently merely symbolic; they are not human personalities, but symbolic types. The things said about them could not have literally occurred; as for example, that "Canaan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel; and Canaan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters." (Gen. 5: 12, 13). It is also obvious that the account of Noah and the flood was not a literal account] of something that took place.
The first eleven chapters of Genesis, which treat of these symbolic people, were copied from an ancient book. They recount a history which in fragments was scattered all over the world. But what of then people who first wrote this account? They were evidently an intelligent people,—God-fearing men. It therefore follows that they wrote as they did with no intention of deceiving; and yet they knew that what they wrote was not an actual account of things which had taken place literally. At present we frequently speak of a nation as an individual; we picture France at war as a woman with a sword drawn in her hand In most ancient times it was customary to speak of: churches as individuals, and to represent their advance and decline by the actions and deeds of these significative figures.
That Adam, Cain and Abel were not the three original men, is evident from the account itself, in that Cain took a wife, that he built a city, and that God set a mark upon him, lest any finding him should slay him.
Adam represented the first great Church on earth; and all that is said of him represents the advance and decline of that most ancient Church. We have already said that Peter and John represented the two great fundamentals of the Christian Church,faith and love. Here Cain and Abel stand for those same two principles in the first Church on earth.
From the Gospels (John 10) it can be clearly seen that the Good Shepherd stands for the leadership of love and charity, the sheep follow the Shepherd because He is good to them and they know His voice. The sheep of the Lord's pasture are those who are in good, and from this obey the voice of the Shepherd. But the Lord is also spoken of as a Sower, and the seeds are said to be the Word of God, and those who are in faith have these seeds sown in their heart. Thus the Sower therefore stands for the leadership of faith and the insemination of truth. It can therefore be seen that the love and charity of the first Church, signified by Adam, was represented by Abel, the shepherd, while its faith was represented by Cain, the sower. As long as these two dwelt together as brothers in unity, all was well. But when Cain, representing faith, rose up against Abel his brother, the Church became accursed. How often has this been the history of churches! They are at first founded on love to God and brotherly affection, but afterwards become cold and formal, until they begin persecuting those who do not consent to their particular formula of creed and doctrine; thus they take the part of the devil, in the name of faith in God. By Jehovah "setting a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should slay him," is signified that after charity has been killed in a Church, and men come to trust in faith alone, God provides that faith may still be preserved. For while faith alone is of little value, it is better than having neither faith nor charity.
A large book could easily be written on the spiritual interpretation of Scripture; but as this has already been done in the revelation to the New Church, and the object of this book is to present a summary of the teaching of our Church to the inquiring reader, we will now treat of its fundamental beliefs in regard to God and the life after death.
THE DIVINE TRINITY.
The great unsolved mystery in the Christian Church has always been the nature of the Divine Trinity. Many leaders in the Church have warned against trying to understand or solve this great mystery; yet there is no authority in the Word of God for taking this point of view. The whole teaching of the Gospels is to search for light and understanding in regard to the things of God. That a full explanation of the Divine Trinity was not given by the Lord Himself is evident; and is implied in His own words when He said, " The time shall come when I shall show you plainly of the Father." That time has now come, and he that hath eyes to see can see the Divine Trinity in light—see it in a way that will appeal to those who thirst for a knowledge of God, and desire to know the mysteries of heaven.
When we speak of the Divine Trinity, most people take on a weary expression, as if we were bringing forth to view a worn-out garment in which no one had any real interest. They seem to conjure up a vision of dry as dust, hair-splitting arguments. But, as a matter of fact, it is undoubtedly the most living problem a man has to face. Reader, if you did not know whether your father was one person or three, would you not give up everything to be able to search and find out the truth in regard to the matter? But surely the knowledge as to whether the true God is one or three persons is of far greater importance. The relation of father and son is but a temporal relationship, whereas the relation of a man to his God is eternal. If men retained in their bosom the least spark of love to God, how eagerly they would search for the explanation of this mystery.
It is as the Lord said, " Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." (Matt. 24: 12.) This is the reason why the New Church,—the only Church which can give a satisfying answer to this most vital of all problems,—grows so slowly. The Christian Church has become indifferent to God. The love of God is a flame that has died down. It has become like a man who does not care whether he has three fathers or one.
THE DEITY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Not long ago, nearly everyone declared that they believed in Christ as one of the Divine Trinity,—that he was God and Man. This belief is rapidly dying out. In so-called Protestant countries, more and more
are coming to look upon Him merely as a great and wonderful man. Even within the Protestant Churches, the Deity of Christ is being brought into question by the so-called " Modernists." Alas! Do they know what they are doing?
If there is one thing that Christ taught plainly, it was that He was God. He said: " Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8: 58.) " All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28: 18.)
In John, chapter one, we read of Christ that, " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God; all things were made by Him. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld , His glory, as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1,3, 14.)
If the Modernists are right in denying the Deity of Christ, then were the Jews right in taking up stones to stone Him when He said, " I and My Father are one. The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God." (John 10:30-33.) Surely, if Christ were not God, then, indeed, was He the most blasphemous and arrogant of men. But some will say: " We doubt that the account of His birth and resurrection and the quotation of many of His sayings are accurate." If that is the case, we know very little about Him. Certainly there can be no doubt that the Jews who heard Him speak understood that He made Himself God.
If Christ is not God, then no man knows God, no one loves Him. Who can love an invisible force? As the Bible says, we are either in the image of God, and He has come and dwelt among us, or the very word "God" is a meaningless vanity,—a fanciful idea invented by philosophers.
If, Reader, you can see that Christ was God and Man, let us now turn to the Divine Trinity, and see if we can understand it.
Some things about the Divine Trinity are a little difficult to understand, but he who perseveres will revive a hundredfold. Once the explanation of this firm problem is solved, you will be able to love God with all your heart, soul and understanding.
THE HOLY SPIRIT.
We will first consider the Holy Ghost, or the Holy Spirit, as it is easier to see what is meant by it than by the Father and Son. The orthodox idea of the Holy Spirit is, that it is a Divine Person who has existed from eternity; and many people take for granted that this the teaching of the Bible. That this is not the case. is clearly evident from the words of the Lord in John "For the Holy Spirit was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." (7:39.) In the King James' Version of the Bible, the word "given" is added, but this word is not found in the original Greek. Nowhere in the Old Testament is the Holy Spirit mentioned; and the whole teaching of the Word is, that the Holy Spirit should proceed from the Lord Jesus
Christ after His glorification. In connection with the birth of the Lord, it does indeed speak of the Holy Spirit. As soon as the Lord was conceived, the Holy Spirit had a beginning, but it was not fully the Holy Spirit until the Lord was glorified.
But what is the Holy Spirit? Orthodox theology calls it a Divine Person, but nowhere in the Word of God is there any authority for calling the Holy Spirit a Person. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read of God as a Trinity of Persons. Many picture the Holy Spirit as a Divine messenger who communicates the will of the Father and Son to men. But is not this the idea of a child? Does God, who is everywhere present, need to send a messenger to see that His will is carried out? If we read the Gospels carefully, it becomes clear that the Holy Spirit was not a Person, but was something which came from the Lord. When the Lord appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, we read that " He breathed on His disciples, and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit." (John 20:22.) It must be evident to all who consider this passage with an unprejudiced mind that the Lord, when He breathed on them, was communicating His own Spirit to His disciples, and was not sending another person. When the tongues of fire descended upon the twelve Apostles (Acts 2:4), it is obvious that this signified that the Spirit of their Lord and Master had come upon them, and not that there was another person present. When the Holy Spirit was seen descending " in bodily form as a dove "(Luke 3:22), it must surely be regarded as a symbol of the Spirit of God, and not as a separate Individual. The Comforter is referred to as the Spirit of truth, which is surely the same as the Spirit of the Lord. In the Gospel of John, where the Lord said, And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever" (John 14: 16), there is the appearance as if the Comforter might be another Person; but as if to avoid any danger of His disciples misunderstanding His words, He adds in the following verse, " I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you." (John 14: 18.) other words, the Lord says that He was the Comforter. And His Spirit was also the "Spirit of truth, which should lead them into all truth." (John 16:13.) We all know that a great general can fill his army with his spirit. Is it not obvious that the Lord can fill the Church with His Spirit, and that this Spirit is the Holy Spirit?
By the Holy Spirit is signified all the Divine influence, which proceeds from the Lord. This moving Spirit is called in the Writings of the New Church the Divine Operation or the Divine Working, and is one of the three great attributes which make up the Trinity which is in God.
THE FATHER AND THE SON.
Let us now turn to the consideration of the Father and the Son. In the Gospels, there is a strong appearance at times that these were two different Persons. We read of the Son praying to the Father, and of a voice from heaven answering the Son. If, then, we consider the Father and Son to be two distinct Persons, each of which is God, how can we really think of God as one? If we hold this idea in mind, we really think of two Gods, no matter how much we say one. In spirit we pray to two Gods, although with the mouth we speak of one; as is implied in the Athanasian Creed itself, where we read: " We are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge each Person by Himself to be God and Lord; so we are forbidden by the Catholic Religion to make mention of three Gods or three Lords." In other words, we must think of three separate Gods, but must not make mention of them. Reader, if you are an orthodox Christian, think of the prayers which end: " We pray thee for the sake of Thy Son," and consider whether you have any other idea than of two Gods with different intentions, one of whom is willing to change His mind for the sake of the other. Is there no way of avoiding this dilemma of thinking of two or three Gods while we say one, and still believing implicitly in the Gospels ?
The orthodox teaching of the Church, as it was established in the fourth century, declares that " the Divine Trinity of three infinite, equal and almighty Persons existed from eternity, and that Christ was born from eternity." On the other hand, the Apostles' Creed, a more ancient statement of doctrine, makes no mention of a Divine Trinity from the beginning, but speaks of Christ as being born of the Virgin Mary in the process of time. Here is a great difference,—a difference which changes the whole of theology. With which of the two ideas do the Gospels agree? But before considering the statements concerning the nature of the birth of the Lord, it is important to note that a Son born from eternity is a meaningless expression. Being born implies a certain act, which, if it took place, could not have been from eternity; besides, birth without a mother is a meaningless expression. Nowhere in the Bible do we find the least suggestion of a Son born from eternity; the whole idea was a pure invention of certain leaders of the Church during the early part of the fourth century.
CONSTANTINE AND THE CREEDS.
Let us here digress for a short space to examine how the orthodox idea of the Trinity arose. We have stated that in the Apostles' Creed there is no mention of a Son born from eternity. In the whole of the Word there is not a word about God being three Persons. The Apostles had a simple faith, and what they did not understand they let rest until light should be given them from on high. The same may be said of the Apostolic Fathers. The whole effort of the early Christians was directly to the development of love to God and brotherly relations with fellow Christians. They were a wonderfully brave body of men and women. In order to be a Christian in those days of bitter persecution, one had to be brave and wholehearted in his devotion.
In the early part of the fourth century, a great change came about. Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome, became a Christian. Nothing more fatal could have befallen the Christian Church. Thousands of the corrupt aristocracy of Rome joined the Church for political reasons. The whole spirit of the Church changed. The Christian Church had indeed won the whole world, and lost its own soul. From now on, the spirit of domineering over the world, which had characterized Rome as a city, was transferred to the Church. Intolerance showed its head. The Athanasian Creed, the first of the official Creeds to speak of God as three persons, closes with the words: " This is the Catholic faith, which, except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved." All freedom of thought was banished. Men had to believe as believed the autocrats who wrote the creeds, or be threatened with eternal damnation. There is therefore good reason for questioning the Creeds, and of returning to the Bible with the intention of making a search for its genuine doctrine,—with the idea of seeing whether the New Revelation gives the light which has so long been awaited.
Let us consider the passages in connection with the birth of the Lord, and see whether they indicate a Son born from eternity or not. We read in Luke: " The angel said to Mary, Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And Mary said to the angel, How shall this thing be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High hall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (1:31-35.)
Here we read of Mary's conceiving from the Holy Spirit, and from the Overshadowing of the Most High. No mention is made of a Son of God having existed previously. The Son of God spoken of is in the future tense only; the Holy Thing born of her was to be called the Son of God. If orthodox Christianity were correct, the passage would have read: " The Son of God descended, and was conceived by her."
The testimony of Matthew is to the same purpose: The angel said to Joseph in a dream, " Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And Joseph knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son; and he called His name Jesus." (20, 25.)
Nowhere, when the Lord speaks of the Father, does He mention that He was born from eternity. The natural inference, in every case in which He mentions His Father, is that He was conceived from the " Power of the Most High."
THE LORD FROM ETERNITY.
It is indeed taught that the Lord did exist from eternity. For He said: " Before Abraham was, I am." But there is no mention of His being born from eternity, and no mention of Him as existing as a Person, or being separate from God, before being born on earth. In fact, in the only place that this subject is treated of, we are told that He was God before He descended.
The opening words of the Gospel of John read: " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." By a man's word we mean his truthfulness; by God's Word we mean His Divine Truth. God is Divine Truth, or what is the same, Divine Wisdom, and He is also Divine Good, or what is the same, Divine Love. By the " Word from the beginning " is meant the Divine Truth in God; this was " with God and was God," and it was this same Divine Truth that descended and became the Son of Man. It was this Divine Truth by which "all things were made that were made." And within the Divine Truth was the Divine Good, which the Lord called His " Father."
THE SUPREME DOCTRINE.
The greatest and most important teaching of the New Church is, that it was God Himself, called Jehovah in the Old Testament, who descended and came into the world, and that the Lord and the Father are one, as He Himself said, " I and My Father are one." (John 10: 30.) " He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9.) They were not two, but one Person; nowhere in the Bible does it say that they were two Persons. And again and again in the Old Testament it says that Jehovah God Himself would come into the world, besides whom there is no God. Reader, if you think of the Father and Son as two persons, distinct in their actions, how can you really think of God as one? Many illustrations are given (mm time to time in the attempt to demonstrate this proposition, but it nevertheless remains a fact that in so far as a man thinks of God as being more than one Person, he is thinking of God, not as one, but as three. He is failing to obey in spirit the first and great commandment: " Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."
THE UNITY OF GOD.
How strong are the statements emphasizing the oneness of God! The following quotations are from the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah:
" I am the Lord (Jehovah), and there is none else; there is no God beside me. I girded thee, though thou lust not known me." (The Hebrew for the word "Jehovah" has, as a rule, been translated "Lord," which is printed in small capital letters in the common editions of the Bible.) "That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord (Jehovah), and there is none else." (Verses 5, 6.)
" Who hath told it from ancient time? Have not I the Lord (Jehovah) ? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside Me. Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else." (Verses 21, 22.)
We might multiply quotations from elsewhere, but this chapter is sufficient to emphasize the fact that there is but one Lord God, whose name was called Jehovah, and besides whom there is no Lord and no God.
JEHOVAH OUR SAVIOUR AND REDEEMER.
That it was Jehovah Himself, the only Lord and God, who came on earth to save and redeem men, is also made perfectly clear in the teaching of the Prophets:
" I am Jehovah, and beside me there is no Savior." (Is. 43:11.)
" That all flesh shall know that I Jehovah am thy Saviour and Redeemer." (Is. 49:26.)
" Thus saith Jehovah, thy Redeemer, I am Jehovah that maketh all things, even alone by Myself." (Is. 44:24.)
That it was God Himself, or Jehovah, who was coming into the world, is most evident from the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, which reads: " The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God." (v. 3.) And again: " He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is Jehovah; we have waited for Him; let us exult and be glad in His salvation." (Is. 25:8, 9.) Again: "Behold, the Lord God will come in strength, and His arm shall rule for Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the little lambs in His arms; He shall carry them in His bosom." (Is. 40: 10, 11.)
There is also a prophecy, in the book of Zechariah, of the New Church and its belief in God as one Person: " In that day Jehovah shall be king over all the earth; in that day Jehovah shall be one, and His name one." (14:9-)
Note this striking verse in the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah: " And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation." (v. 5.)
We read nothing of Jehovah's sending His Son into the world. On the contrary we read that " there was none to help, and none to uphold "; therefore His " own arm brought salvation." By " His arm " is evidently meant the Human Nature which the Only God took on, in order that He might come among men to save them from their sins, and from the power of hell.
CHRIST NOT KNOWN BY CHRISTIANS.
How long God has been with the Christian Church, and yet the Church has not known Him! They have not known that Christ and the Father are one Person. The Church is indeed like the Apostles when the Lord said to them: " No man cometh unto the Father but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also; and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him." But the Church still asks, as did Philip, " Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." And the Lord, who has now come again as He promised, tells us plainly of the Father, and answers us, as He answered Philip: " Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip ? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me." (John 14:6-11.)
The Lord was grieved because Philip did not understand, grieved because he did not realize that He and the Father were one Person. Consider how long a time the Lord has been with the Christian Church, and yet it, also, has not fully known the Lord. Like Philip, it does not realize that He and the Father are one, and that the man who sees the Lord sees the Father, who dwelleth in Him as our soul dwells in our body. How few have realized the meaning of the words of Paul to the Colossians :" For in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9.) Yet if this were not the case,—if the Lord were not one with the Father, in Person and in Essence,—how could He say: " All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth"? (Matt. 28: 18.)
Jude realized that it was God Himself who had descended and become the Saviour, for he closed his Epistle with the words:
" To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
THE DIVINE TRINITY IN ONE PERSON.
If the Father and the Son are one in Person, and the Holy Spirit is the Divine power which proceeds from the Lord and operates in the Church, what then is meant by the Divine Trinity which is frequently spoken of in the Gospels? The key to this perplexing problem is found in the first chapter of Genesis, where it is said that " God made man in His own image, after His likeness." (Gen. i: 26, 27.) If God created man in His " image" and " likeness," and there is a trinity in God, there must be a similar trinity in man. The great trinity in man is that of soul, body and operation, and there is a similar trinity in the Lord Jesus Christ. With Him, the soul was called the Father, the Human Nature that He took on was called the Son of Man, and His operation and influence on the Church was called the Holy Spirit.
While God had not a human body until He came on earth, He was always essentially in the human form, in the same way as in an acorn there is contained in potency the form of the oak, and in the atmosphere is contained potentially the geometric form of the snowflake.
While this explanation does away with many of the difficulties which have existed in the past in regard to the Divine Trinity, other difficulties will immediately present themselves to the mind of the reader, such as the following: Why did the Lord pray to the Father, and on one occasion say that the Father was greater than He ? Why is it said of the Son that He sat on the right hand of the Father ? And how was it possible for God to be dwelling on earth as a little child, and at the same time rule over heaven and earth ? To understand such hidden things we must first know something of the nature of the soul and its relation to the body.
The soul of a man is the first or highest receptacle of the life that comes from God. A man is born with this soul; it gives life to both the body and the mind; yet it is superior to man's consciousness. The soul of a man is from his father, and his body from his mother, while the mind partakes of both. As a man's soul is a receptacle of life,that is, it is a wonderful form which receives the life going forth from God,—therefore a man is a different person from his father. When the soul of a new human being is separated from the soul of its father, the two have an independent life and individuality. Father and son are entirely distinct and separate individuals, each receiving his life from God.
With the Lord the case was different. The soul of the Lord, which was from His Father, was not, as with man, a receptacle of the life that goes forth from God, but His soul was Life Itself, and was therefore God. A soul which receives life can be separated, and may become two or more receptacles of life; but life itself cannot be divided; the Infinite cannot be separated. The Lord as to His soul was, therefore, one with His Father,—one in Life and one in Person. His inmost life was from the Infinite, and indeed was the Infinite, as we read in John: " The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:2, 10, 14.)
When a man is born, he has a soul and a body, but as yet he has no mind, except in potency. As soon as an infant begins to receive sensations from the world by means of his body, the soul begins to work on the sensations that it receives; and from this interplay of the soul and sensation, the mind commences to grow. The same took place with the Lord. He learned as other children learn, but far more quickly and perfectly. The mind or human which grew within Him partook partly of His Divine Nature, which He had from the Father who dwelt in Him, and was His soul, and partly from Mary, who had given form to His body. During His life-time He gradually put off the infirmities that came from Mary, and as He did so He perfected His Human and made it Divine. In the Gospels, this process of perfecting or making His Human Divine is called glorifying:
" Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him." (John 13: 31, 32.)
" These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him." (John, 12: 16.)
" The Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7: 39.)
From these passages it can be seen that the Lord was gradually glorified, and that He was not fully glorified until the time of His resurrection. Before He was glorified, He spoke at times as if His Father were greater than He, and prayed to the Father as if to another. But after He had risen from the dead, when He appeared to His disciples in the glory of His Divine Human, He said: " All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth." (Matt. 28: 18.) The human which the Lord had taken on during His life on earth had become purely Divine, and one with the Father; so that, as Paul said, " In Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9.)
Before the Lord was glorified, He had, as it were, two minds, one which partook more fully of the nature of His soul, and the other which partook more closely of the nature of the body. In this respect He was like us. We have a higher mind, which wills to obey the dictates of our soul, and a lower mind, which would obey the desires of the body. Man sometimes obeys one, and sometimes the other. The Lord always submitted to and obeyed the higher. He was " without sin." The fact that the Lord prayed to the Father does not make Him another Person. David spoke to his soul, saying, " Why art thou cast down, O my soul? " (Ps. 42: 5.) " Praise the Lord, O my soul." (Ps. 146: 1.) Yet David and his soul were not separate persons. We may pray that our higher mind may rule within us, and we may submit ourselves to the rule of our spirit in contrast to the rule of the flesh; yet we are but one person. Reader, we must think of God as being one Person, or we cannot really think of Him as being One God.
The Lord's soul, which was God, could rule over heaven and earth, while the mind which He was forming in His body on earth was still being perfected.
What is meant by the Lord's sitting on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19), can easily be understood when we know the meaning of " hand." Our hand is the medium by which we accomplish our desires; it is the means by which we have strength or power. In the Word, " hand " stands for power or ability to accomplish our ends. The passage which speaks of the Son's sitting on the right hand of the Father means the same as the verse in Isaiah, which reads: " I (Jehovah) looked, and there was none to help, and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation." (63: 5.)
That the Father Himself could not be seen as a Person, with His Son sitting on His right hand, is evident from the words of John: " No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath brought Him forth to view." (1:18.)