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heart be like flint the Lord can bring water out of it, and will supply the thirsty ; and to every one of us He saith, " Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”
T. F. W.
DO JUSTLY AND LOVE MERCY.
We are told by the prophet Micah, " What doth God require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
Sometimes our Lord's precepts amaze us by their simplicity. Is this all, is this the whole requirement of God? There are what purport to be many others; does this embrace and include them all? Is it the end for which all the others are given, and is it of itself sufficient? In other words, is it indeed just what it is said to be -- all that God requires of us?
At all events, this seems to be said emphatically. If we search among religions both past and present, I think we shall find that there never has been a religion which did not declare, with whatever variety of phrase, that it was man's duty to be just and merciful, and look up to God with humility and reverence. At least it is certain that no religion has ever ceased to require these things, until it had fallen by its corruption into such falsity and degradation, that it could no longer be called a religion.
If this be so, the question almost necessarily occurs, Why, then, is one system of religious belief better than another? Why not be a Mahommedan or a Buddhist? Why has Providence permitted such an immense variety of religions in different regions of the earth ; or why the long succession of them in successive ages ?
Or to ask the same question in a more specific form, why did Christianity come to build a New Church on the foundations of Judaism, if in the Jewish Scriptures the one essential of all truth is announced with perfect clearness; and
why has a new revelation now been made to develop and complete Christianity?
The answer to these questions may be this: The text under consideration does state in the fewest words, and with the clearness of crystal, the essential of all religion and the end for which it exists upon earth. religion, one church differs from another in the instruction which it gives concerning this central truth, the assistance it offers towards our understanding its meaning, its ground and its effect, and the motives it offers for obeying and revering this law.
If we examine carefully the religions of the past, and those of the present, to see what they tell us (we will except the New Church just now from our consideration), would they say more than this : that we should be just and merciful because God commands it, and any intelligent reflection assures us that we should, individually, be better and happier if we were so; and that all mankind would be in a happier condition if this law prevailed in human actions. Hence we should infer that the divine command suits human character and human life, and is adapted to them in such wise that we are more truly human and better and higher beings the more we obey it.
As to the last clause, "walk humbly with thy God," what are we told? Humility is the most unobtrusive of all virtues, but it is the sweetest flower of all, and whether much practised in the present age or not, excites, when it is seen, a genuine love and admiration, and is emphatically enjoined upon the disciples of all religions whatsoever. But let us condense the teachings of these various religions into a paragraph ; and is it not the substance of them all, that both duty and reason call on us to look up to the Almighty Being, who made and governs the world, with unfailing reverence; with that reverence which is due to the infinite superiority of His nature and His power, and to the love and wisdom we discern in His works, and the relation between Him and us as the children of His creation and care? These ideas may be amplified and illustrated to any extent, and in such various ways as the various minds of men may prompt. But nothing more can be said unless we speak from the instruction of the New Church.
And what can we say of this law if we attempt to say what the New Church has taught? Much more asks to be said than we could put in this paper, or in many papers, but let us confine ourselves to general statements.
And again, we must ask the reader not to be weary of the oft-reiterated method which must be adopted in our search after truth. We mean that of first recurring to central doctrines, before endeavoring to explain this law or any of the laws of life. It may be asked, Must we forever repeat the same journey? Not quite that; but we must not forget the foundation on which rests the whole system of faith which we have accepted, and always comparing any new truth which comes to us with these fundamental truths, reject what does not harmonize with the latter.
A central truth in the New Church tells us that our life is in its origin divine; that our Father gives it to us at every instant, and makes it our own; and this because He desires to give us just as much of His happiness as we can possibly receive. He has made us such that we may receive of His wisdom flowing into our understanding, there to become our thought, knowledge, and truth; and of His love into our will, there to become all the love or affection that is in us.
We must advert to this, for if we would say why we should strive to be just, we must say that it is because God is perfectly just.
Justice is truth in act, and a just action is one in accordance with all the truths which belong to the facts concerned in it; one which perfectly obeys all which that truth dictates; one that perfectly conforms to all which that truth declares to be right. But that which is truth to us is but a ray from the Infinite Wisdom that is in Him; a drop from the Infinite ocean of His truth. Our Father is perfect justice. And, therefore, if our happiness is measured by our reception of His divine life,
when He commands us to " do justly ” He is only pointing out the way in which we may receive as much of the perfect happiness springing from His own perfect justice as it is possible for a finite and created being to receive. Then we are also commanded to love mercy. And now we have only to speak of love instead of wisdom, of affection instead of thought, of will instead of understanding, and just what has been said of truth and law and justice, must now be said of affection and love and mercy.
But then this is to be added. In Him, Love is infinite and perfect, and Wisdom is infinite and perfect, and because both are perfect, both are one. For it is impossible that perfect Love should include any love which perfect Wisdom did not sanction, for a love which offended wisdom would be most imperfect. And it is impossible for perfect Wisdom to regard anything as wise which stood in opposition to pure love. And as love and wisdom are one in the Lord, so would He have them one in ourselves. We can see this but very dimly in this life. We can see however that justice which knew not mercy would be hard, severe and implacable ; and that mercy which quite refused to listen to justice, would be mistaken and blind, and most mischievous. We can see then that justice is most nearly perfect and most beneficial when it remembers mercy, and that mercy is most useful and safe when it is most just. Many good and sensible people would say that we are trying to reconcile opposites, or indeed antagonists; that it is the very work of justice to think only of truth and law, and not be misled by the claims of mercy; while mercy ceases to be mercy
in the exact degree in which it is restrained and guided by justice.
This fearful fallacy is at once the effect and the proof of our wide departure from that true order of love, and thought, and life, which we were created to make the order of our own life, and to be happy only in the measure in which we did this. When shall we see that justice and mercy, children of wisdom and love, are in our Father perfectly united,
and see too why He has wished and commanded that they should be in us and one in us?
And now we have reached the last clause of the text: "Walk humbly with thy God.” But a consideration of this must be deferred to another paper, and then we shall hope to show that the other requirements of the text begin from this and end in this, and are included within it.
THOUGHTS ON THE LORD'S PRAYER.
The Lord's Prayer, so brief, and in outward structure so simple, that even infants can lisp it forth, contains within it depths of Heavenly Wisdom and profound significance never to be exhausted throughout the ages of Eternity. A hundred years ago, the Lord raised up a Human instrument, Emanuel Swedenborg, to proclaim the things which He promised to show plainly to His Church when it was able to bear them. Then came a solution of the Psalmist's declaration, "Forever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in Heaven ;' for it was then made known, amongst other beautiful and Heavenly Truths, that the Sacred Scriptures are the fountain of Wisdom, alike to angels and to men, the ladder of Jacob descending from Heaven to Earth, and preserving the connection between the two, written in such a way as to address themselves to the heart and the comprehension of the lowest as well as the highest of the Lord's creatures, pervaded throughout by an internal sense, which is Spirit and Life, and bears the same relation to the external sense that the soul does to the body. The disclosure of this internal sense is represented in the Apocalypse by the opening of the Book sealed with seven seals, which none but the Lord alone could open. Vainly might human reason, genius, philosophy, learning, or research, have striven to discover the hidden, interior treasures of the Word. But when the world had arrived at a stage which made the unsealing of the Scriptures necessary, the Lord Himself