Imágenes de página

the bishop, except ordination. Deacons are assistants to Presbyters, much in the same way as in the Church of England. Deaconesses are retained, for the purpose of privately admon-ishing their own sex, and visiting them in their sickness ; but they are not permitted to teach in public, and far less to administer the sacraments. They have also Seniores Civiles, or lay-elders, in contradistinction to spiritual elders or bishops, who are appointed to watch over the constitution and discipline of the unity of the brethren, &c. The Synods are generally held once in seven years, and besides all the bishops, and the deputies sent by each congregation, those women who have appointments as above described, if on the spot, are also admitted as hearers, and may be called upon to give their advice in what relates to the ministerial labour among their own sex ; but they have no decisive vote in the Synod. The votes of all the other members are equal. In questions of importance, or of which the consequence cannot be foreseen, neither the majority of votes, nor the unanimous consent of all present, can decide : but recourse is had to the lot, which, however, is never made use of except after mature deliberation and prayer ; nor is any thing submitted to its decision which does not, after being thoroughly weighed, appear to the assembly eligible in itself.

The Synod takes into consideration the inward and outward state of the unity, and the concerns of the congregations and missions, and takes cognizance of errors in doctrine, or deviations in practice, &c. Towards the conclusion of every Synod, a kind of executive board is chosen, which is called the Elders' Conference of the Unity. At present it consists of thirteen elders, and is divided into four committees, or departments. 1. The Missions' department. 2. Helpers' department. 3. The Servants' department. 4. The Overseers' department.

Besides this general Conference of Elders, which superintends the affairs of the whole unity, there is a conference of elders belonging to each congregation ; which directs its affairs, and to which all the members of the congregation are subject. This body, which is called the “ Elders Conference of the Congregation, consists, 1. of the Minister ; 2. of the Warden ; 3. of a Murried Pair, who care particularly for the spiritual welfare of the married people ; 4. of a Single Clergyınan, to whose care the single men and boys are more particularly cominitted ; and 5. of those Women who assist in caring for the spiritual and temporal welfare of their own sex, and who, in this conference, have equal votes with the men. The Elders' Conference of each Congregation is answerable for its proceedings to the Elders' Conference of the Unity ; and visitations from the latter to the former, are held from time to time, that the affairs of each congregation, and the conduct of its immediate governors, may be intimately known to the supreme executive government of the whole church. In every country they have superintendants of their congregations in it, whom they call Provincials. These

are generally bishops, but a priest is likewise eligible to that office.

In marriage they may form a connection with those only who are of their own communion. The brother who marries a person not of their congregation, is considered as having quitted their church-fellowship. There is, however, no objection to a sister's marrying a person of approved piety in another communion ; and some, by express license, are permitted still to join in their church ordinances, as before. A brother may make his own choice of a partner in society, and both parties may reject: the proposals made to them ; but as all intercourse between the different sexes is less frequent among them than elsewhere, and few opportunities of forming particular attachments are found ; they usually rather refer the choice to their friends and intimates, than decide for themselves. As the lot must be cast to sanction their union, each receives his partner as a divine appointment ; and, however strange this method may appear, there are perbaps no where fewer unhappy marriages to be found than among the brethren. In their settlements, at all hours, whether day or night, some persons of both sexes are appointed by rotation to pray for the society.

What chiefly characterizes the Moravians, and holds them up to the attention and admiration, and for the example of all others, is their missionary zeal. In this they are superior to every other body of Christians whatever. Their missionaries are all of them volunteers ; for it is an inviolable maxim with them to persuade no man to engage in missions. They are all of one mind as to the doctrines they teach, and seldom make an attempt where there are not several of them in the mission. Their zeal is calm, steady, and persevering. They would reform the world, but are careful how they quarrel with it. They carry their point by address, and the insinuations of modesty and mildness, which commend them to all men, and give offence to none.


This sect owes its origin to one of the most extraordinary men that has existed in modern times : the late Honourable Baron Swedenborg, the son of a pious bishop of West Gothnia, in Sweden, born at Stockholm in 1689, and who died in London in the year 1772, after a life spent in the acquirement of almost every species of human learning, and the propagation of religious doctrines unlike every thing the Christian world had before been accustomed to.

The following extract of a letter, written by the baron himself, will serve to convey an idea of the nature of his supposed mission, and of his own personal character.

“In the year 1710, I began my travels, first into England, and afterwards into Holland, France, and Germany, and returned home in 1714. In the year 1716, and afterwards, I frequently conversed with Charles XII. King of Sweden, who was pleased to bestow on me a large share of his favour, and in that year appointed me to the office of assessor in the metallic college, in which office I continued from that time till the year 1747, when I quitted the office, but still retain the salary annexed to it, as an appointment for life. The reason of my withdrawing from the business of that employment was, that I might be more at liberty to apply myself to that new function to which the Lord had called me. About this time a place of higher dig. nity in the state was offered me, which I declined to accept, lest it should prove a snare to me. In 1719 I was ennobled by Queen Ulrica Eleonora, and named Swedenborg ; from which time I have taken my seat with the nobles of the equestrian order, in the triennial assemblies of the states.

" Whatever of worldly honour and advantage may appear to be in the things before-mentioned, I hold them as matters of low estimation when compared to the honour of that sacred office to which the Lord himself hath called me, who was graciously pleased to manifest himself to me his unworthy servant, in a personal appearance in the year 1743 ; to open in me a sight of the spiritual world, and to enable me to converse with spirits and angels ; and this privilege has been continued to me to this day. From that time I began to print and publish various unknown Arcana, that have been either seen by me, or revealed to me, concerning HEAVEN and HELL ; the state of men after death; the true worship of God; the spiritual sense of the Scriptures ; and many other important truths tending to salvation and true wisdom.”

The first, and leading doctrine of this church, as inculcated in the writings of the Baron, relates to the person of Jesus Christ; and to the redemption wrought, not purchased, by him. On this subject, it is insisted, that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, manifested in the flesh, and that he came into the world to glorify his human nature, by making it one with the divine. It is, therefore, insisted further, that the humanity of Jesus Christ is itself divine, by virtue of its indissoluble union with the indwelling Father, and that thus, as to his humanity, He is the Mediator between God and man, since there is now no other medium of God's access to man, or of man's access to God, but this Divine Humanity, which was assured for this purpose. Thus it is taught, that in the person of Jesus Christ dwells the whole Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; the Father constituting the soul of the above humanity, whilst the humanity itself is the Son, and the divine virtue, or operation proceeding from it, is the Holy Spirit, forming altogether one God, just as the soul, the body, and operation of man, form one man.

On the subject of the redemption wrought by this Incarnate God, it is taught, that it consisted not in the vicarious sacrifice

of one God, as some conceive, to satisfy the justice, or, as others express it, to appease the wrath of another God, but in the real subjugation of the powers of darkness and their removal from man, by continual combats and victories over them, during his abode in the world ; and in the consequent descent to man of divine power and life, which was brought near to him in the thus glorified humanity of this combatting God.

2. The sense of the letter of the holy word, says he, is the basis, the continent, and the firmament, of its spiritual and celestial senses, being written according to the doctrine of corres- . pondencies between things spiritual and things natural ; and thus designed by the Most High as the vehicle of communication of the eternal spiritual truths of his kingdom to the minds of men.

3. A third distinguishing doctrine, which marks the character of the writings of Baron Swedenborg, is the doctrine relative to life, or to that rule of conduct on the part of man which is truly acceptable to the Deity, and at the same time conducive to man's eternal happiness and salvation, by conjoining him with his God. This rule is taught to be simply this, “ to shun all known evils as sins against God, and at the same time to love, to cherish, and to practice whatsoever is wise, virtuous, and holy, as being most agreeable to the will of God, and to the spirit of his precepts."

4. A fourth distinguishing doctrine, inculcated in the same writings, is the doctrine of Co-operation, on the the part of man, with the Divine Grace or agency of Jesus Christ. On this subject it is insisted that man ought not indolently to hang down his hands, under the idle expectation that God will do every thing for him in the way of Purification and Regeneration, without any exertion of his own ; but that he is bound by the above law of co-operation, to exert himself, as if the whole progress of his purification and regeneration depended entirely on his own exertion ; yet, in exerting himself, he is continually to recollect; and humbly to acknowledge, that all his power to do so is from above. It is insisted, on this interesting subject, that the doctrine of co-operation supplies no ground for the establishment of man's merit and independence on the divine aid, since it is continually taught in the writings in question, that all man's freedom, as well as his power of co-operation, is the perpetual gift of the most merciful and gracious God.

5. A fifth, and last distinguishing doctrine taught in the theological writings of our author, relates to man's connexion with the other world, and its various inhabitants. On this subject it is insisted, not only from the authority of the sacred Scriptures, but also from the experience of the author himself, that every man is in continual association with angels and spirits, and that without such association he could not possibly think, or exert any living faculty. It is insisted further, that man, according to his life in the world, takes up his eternal abode, either with angels of light, or with the spirits of darkness ; with the former,

if he is wise to live according to the precepts of God's holy word, or with the latter, if, through folly and transgression, he rejects the counsel and guidance of the Most High.

ARIANS, a denomination which arose about the year 315, and owed its origin to Arius, presbyter of Alexandria, a man of subtle turn, and remarkable eloquence. He maintained that the Son was totally and essentially distinct from the Father ; that he was the first and noblest of all those beings whom God the Father had created out of nothing, the instrument by whose subordinate operations the Almighty Father formed the universe, and therefore inferior to the Father both in dignity and nature. He added that the Holy Spirit was of a nature different from that of the Father and of the Son.

The modern Arians, to prove the subordination and inferiority of Christ to God the Father, argue thus : 1. That in the scripture the Father is styled the one, or only God : Matth. xix. 17; Matth. xxiii. 9 ; Mark, v. 7; Eph. iv. 6; Matth. xxvii. 46 ; John, xx. 17-; John xiv. 28 ; Jokin xvii. 3-5, 11, 21, 24, 25 ; 1 Cor. vii. 6 ; Ephes. iv. 6. 2. That there are numerous texts of scripture, in which it is declared that religious worship is referred to the Father only. Matth. iv. 10; John, iv. 23; Acts, iv. 24; 1 Cor. i. 4.

SOCINIANS, a denomination which appeared in the 16th century, followers of Lelius Socinus and Faustus Socinus, his nephew. Their principal tenets are : 1. That the holy scriptures are to be understood or explained in such a manner as to render them conformable to the dictates of right reason and sound philosophy. 2. That Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, was the true Messiah, and the chief of the prophets-that before he commenced his ministry, be was taken up into heaven, and instructed fully in the object of his mission : after which he returned to earth, to promulgate a new rule of life-to propagate divine truth by his ministry, and to confirm it by his death : in reward for which he is raised to dominion and glory. 3. That those who believe and obey the voice of this divine teacher, (wbich is in the power of every one) shall, at the last day, he raised from the dead and made eternally. happy ; while on the other hand the wicked and disobedient shall be tormented and destroyed.

This denomination differ from the Arians in the following particulars :- The Socinians assert that Christ was simply a man, and consequently had no existence before his appearance in the world. The Arians maintain that Christ was a super-angelic being, united to a human body ; that, though himself created, 'he was the creator of all other things under God, and the instrument of all the divine communications to the patriarchs.

The Socinians say that the Holy Ghost is the power and wisdom of God, which is God. The Arians suppose tha! the Holy Spirit is the creature of the Son, and subservient to him in the work of redemption.

« AnteriorContinuar »