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NEW JERUSALEM MAGAZINE.
VOL. XV.-ENLARGED SERIES.
PUBLISHED BY THE GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE NEW CHURCH,
SIGNIFIED BY THE NEW JERUSALEM IN THE REVELATION:
AND SOLD BY
C. P. ALVEY, 36, BLOOMSBURY STREET, W.C.
"THE ultimation of worship is in a life of uses." "All religion has relation to life, and the religious life consists in doing good." These are golden sentences; but they may be misunderstood. I propose to inquire to-night, whether piety in general, prayer in particular, is not conducive to "a life of uses; "--whether that "doing good," in which the religious life consists, should not include as part of itself, the works of piety; and especially whether it may not, and must not, receive signal furtherance from the practice of prayer? By prayer, however, I do not mean internal worship deprived of its external; neither, of course, do I intend external worship without internal. By prayer, I understand the genuine worship of the heart "brought into fulness by a union with the open worship of the lips." And by the open worship of the lips, I mean conscious and verbal discourse with God. And by discourse, not solely or chiefly the reading of something out of a book, or repeating of words retained in the memory. Forms of prayer, indeed, are often convenient and useful; but I regard it as a great misfortune if people are accustomed to use only these. By prayer, I mean conscious talking with the Lord, by formula, or by free prayer, and especially by the free. For then only is prayer in its perfection, when it is spontaneous, unpremeditated—the translation into outward utterance at the moment, of whatsoever the Lord puts it into the heart to render or to desire.
As fully as the limited time will permit, I purpose to invite you to-night to dwell upon the fact that prayer, thus understood, is signally conducive, and indeed, an essential part, of a life of high Christian use:
* Read at Quarterly Tea Meeting, Manchester New Church Society, Peter-street, September 29th, 1867.
that piety, when motived by charity, is doing good. For whatever deed promotes use, is use. He who pulls the rope that pulls the bell, pulls the bell. Whatever action is intended to conduce, and does conduce, to charity, is charity in action. If I show that true piety conduces thus to charity that it eminently promotes the life of Christian uses, then, (if only because clearing the decks for action, when followed by the action, is an essential part of the action,) to the extent that I succeed, I show that true piety is charity.
I have marked a large number of passages in the writings of Swedenborg on external and internal worship, and on piety and charity. Of course I cannot ask you to listen to these to-night; but I think those best acquainted with them will bear me out in the assertion, that practically their gist amounts to this:-that piety without charity is nothing; yet that charity without piety is an incomplete thing:-that the life that leads to heaven does not consist in piety, in external sanctity, and the renunciation of the world; yet, also, that it includes them. "Life truly spiritual consists in piety from charity; in external sanctity from internal sanctity; and in a renunciation of the world during a life in the world. A life of piety is valuable, and is acceptable to the Lord, so far as a life of charity is conjoined with it." (N. J. H.D. 123.) For whilst Swedenborg always sets forth charity as the sine quâ non of the Christian life, he is almost invariably careful to add something implying that piety is essential to the perfection of the Christian character. In thus teaching, he only enlarges upon the injunction of the Lord-"If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother: "first fulfil every requirement of violated charity;—and what then?-Stop there ?-Be satisfied with that ?-Think you have done enough when that is accomplished ?—Not so: "First be reconciled to thy brother; and then, come, and offer thy gift." (Matthew v. 23, 24.) To speak to-night of the uses of piety at large were not within the necessary limit. I will pass on, after merely reminding you that reading the Word, and books that assist us in understanding the Word, is itself, when done devoutly for the sake of use, an act of piety. It is that particular act of piety already spoken of as prayer that we are particularly to consider now. What then, let us ask ourselves, is the use of prayer? But first let us ask Swedenborg. "Man," says Swedenborg, (A.C. 1618.) "during his abode in the world, ought not to omit the practice of external worship; for by external worship things
internal are excited; and by external worship things external are kept in a state of sanctity, so that internal things can enter by influx: moreover, man is hereby initiated into knowledges, and prepared to receive things celestial: he is also gifted with states of sanctity, though he be ignorant thereof; which states are preserved by the Lord for his use in eternal life-for in the other life all men's states of life return." In another place (A.C. 1175.) he tells us that they who are principled in essential worship observe the duties of external worship very diligently and attentively. Again, (N.J.H.D. 127.) he represents external worship to be as necessary to internal worship as the breathing of the lungs is to the motion of the heart. And once more (T. C. R. 539.) he states that supplication and confession is a duty incumbent on man. Now we know that "no heavenly love can animate our breasts while we are slow to perform our civil, moral, and religious duties." (Liturgy, Evening Service.)
In considering the uses of prayer, let me enlarge first on the fact, that by its means man is "initiated into knowledges." Prayer has great and peculiar value as an instrument of teaching. The late Mr. William Mason, of Derby, has expatiated much on this in the introduction to his useful book, "A Help to Devotion." I could quote some most emphatic statements of his on this head, if I had time. Prayer of course, if it were done merely for the sake of teaching others, would be a hollow exercise; but that it is right to direct it to this end incidentally, our Lord Himself teaches, when He says "I know that Thou hearest me always; but for their sakes I said it which stand by, that they might believe." (Jno. xi. 41, 42.) And let me remind you of the experience of all pious mothers. A child has sinned against heaven and in its mother's sight. She takes it to her private room; she kneels down with it; earnestly but tenderly she lays the matter before the Lord in the child's hearing, and makes intercession for the transgressor. By this means she produces an impression on the child's mind which could not be so well effected in any other way. Over and over again the testimony occurs in the biographies of the good, that they owed most valuable and lasting impressions of the importance of attending to the things of eternal life to the prayers they heard ascend from the lips of their pious parents. In such cases piety has undeniably conduced to a life of charity.
Need I add, what all who really try it know, that when a mother prays thus with her child, or one friend with another, the praying exerts a peculiarly impressive instructional power on the person who is its