New Church Worthies
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley
And the New Church in Sweden
SWEDENBORG having written his works, especially his theological works, in the Latin language, so that the learned men of all civilized lands would be equally able to read them, and to translate them into the languages of their several nations for the common people, his own country Sweden had no advantage over others in this respect.
Dr. Beyer, the compiler of the first Index in Latin to Swedenborg's works, was Greek professor at Stockholm. Dr. Knös was dean of Swedenborg's father's Cathedral, and Dr. Rosen was an eminent divine; and many other learned clergymen received the doctrines of the New Church by reading Swedenborg's writings in the original; but they did nothing to place the works in the hands of the general population.
Indeed, until the New Age commenced, the idea that every man is a man, and ought to know the truth, was ignored; and the general body of the people were regarded as having little concern with anything but to believe as they were told, and do as they were bid.
In the early part of this century however a noble soul in the capital of Sweden, CARL DELÉEN, read and received the truth. His descendants still kept a book-shop in Stockholm when I was last there.
Carl Deléen saw that the teachings of the truths of the New Jerusalem would be a blessing for all; and he would endeavour that Swedes who were able to read should have the opportunity of learning them.
He was a printer as well as bookseller, and he set to work, with the Latin volume before him, setting the types with his own hands; and this he continued until he had got through his self-imposed task of printing and publishing the greater part of some THIRTY VOLUMES in Swedish. Only think of this heroic work.
He translated, bought paper, printed, advertized and brought the Writings out—thus completing the whole business by himself. He laboured on with few to cheer or encourage him, but believing he was working for the Lord he went on from year to year, making the sacrifice with his whole heart and soul.
His translations continued to be read and to be the great means of diffusing the truth in Sweden, until in 1860, the feeling rose that their style was somewhat old-fashioned and unattractive to modern literary Swedes, and a Society headed by Dr. Seeven at Christianstad was formed to revise and modernize the works, which was encouraged and assisted from England. This work was continued until the lamented death of Dr. Seeven. Several volumes had however been revised and re-published, and when I was at Skara I had the pleasure of seeing the Arcana, vol. 3, in its improved form. The English Swedenborg Society gave I think £15 for each new volume.
The Swedish National Church was Lutheran and did not until 1863 permit separate congregations for worship to be formed, but New Churchmen within its pale had influence enough to cause the public services to be modified in 1809. The Athanasian Creed was removed, and the sentence in the so-called Apostle's Creed "I believe in the resurrection of the body," was changed to "I believe in the resurrection of the dead." The catechism also and book of examination for young clergymen were revised. Ordinarily the clergy had a moderate amount of freedom, but sometimes bitter sectarian souls would spring up and harass those who received the spiritual views of the New Jerusalem.
Dean Knös, Johansen and Tybeck, three able clergymen, wrote much to set forth New Church truth, especially the latter.
Twenty-five different works were published by Tybeck. He seems to have been the Clowes of Sweden. Like Clowes he was summoned before his bishop to answer for his unorthodox sentiments. He was treated more harshly than Clowes, and silenced for a time. But the public papers were so loud in his defence that his enemies were ashamed, and he resumed his duties in peace and passed to his heavenly home in 1837 at the advanced age, like Mr. Clowes, of 86 years.
The last of his works was entitled, What thoughts does Christian Love inspire with regard to the New Jerusalem?
Dr. Kahl, Dean of Lund, formerly Professor of Arabic, though next under the Archbishop of Sweden, for Lund, there, answers to Canterbury in this country, has never, I believe, been much annoyed, though an avowed New Churchman for 60 years.
He has been and is universally respected, and is now upwards of 90 years of age.
Dr. Kahl was present with us in 1857 along with M. Leboys des Guays, M. Harlé from France, and Rev. Mr. Field from America, at the Centenary of the Great Judgment in 1757. All of us felt honored and delighted with the visit of these brethren from abroad. I was President of Conference that year, as of that of the Centenary last year, and saw much of Dr. Kahl.
I have visited Dr. Kahl three times at his home, and always was impressed with the great spirituality of his character, and his broad Christian love.
On my last visit, after giving me a hearty welcome he took up a pamphlet from his table and said with lively pleasure, "See here, I received this yesterday from a town in the centre of Sweden, Wexio, I believe. It is your sermon on the RIBBAND OF BLUE, translated into Swedish. I don't know who sent it."
Whether the clergy who now receive the doctrines are as numerous in proportion as they have been formerly I have no means of ascertaining. Dr. Kahl thought the tendency was rather to sensuality and a neglect of divine things. It was, he feared, the Old Church despising its own absurdities, and not rising to the spirit and life of what is higher and better.
Still, although, like greater part of Europe, Swedes may have to pass through the wilderness of infidelity, yet, eventually, the remnant of good implanted by the Lord, will bring them to yearn after better and holier states of life, and preparation for an everlasting kingdom.
Besides the clergy, to whom we have referred, there have been in Sweden, laymen eminent, and distinguished for excellences of every kind. Count Hopken, the prime minister of Sweden, was a great friend of Swedenborg, and a thorough receiver of his doctrines. Geijer, the national historian, was another.
The first movers for the abolition of the slave trade and slavery, were Wadstrom and Nordenskiold, who formed a small society of the affectionate receivers of the Writings of Swedenborg, at Nordkoping, in Sweden, in the year 1772. In consequence of the favourable account of the African nation, given in the works of that eminent author, the New Churchmen began to think much respecting them. The more this subject came to be considered, the more those gentlemen were convinced that the coasts of Africa could never be peopled by a body of true and faithful Christians unless the Slave Trade, so firmly rooted at that time, and the only object of commerce in those fertile regions, could be abolished.
They formed an Anti-Slave-Trade Society, founded as a result of the teachings of Swedenborg in 1779; and thus began the earliest movement in that great cause, which has continued to spread and intensify until it has overthrown not only the slave trade, but slavery itself among Protestant and many Roman Catholic nations, and made its extinction all over the world certain, at no distant period. It is gratifying to trace this glorious result, not only to the working of the Holy Spirit of our Lord in MAKING ALL THINGS NEW, but also to the instrumentality of those Writings, by which spiritual truth externally was rationally restored to the world. Granville Sharp commenced his labours in 1765, to make it to be declared unlawful to have a slave in England, and Lord Chief Justice Mansfield decided to that effect, in 1777; but no society was formed in England for the abolition of the slave trade until 1787, ten years after.
Dr. Kahl, writing in 1862 says: "We find a number of persons of all classes of the people, peasants, tradesmen, noblemen, even princes and kings, who have read and admired Swedenborg's theological works. It is known that Charles 13th as Duke of Ostergöthland was a member of the Philosophical Society whose principal purpose was to publish these precious writings. We know also that Charles 14th, the kings John and Oscar took under their protection Geijer, Landblod, and G. Knös, when some of their writings composed in the spirit of the New Church, had brought upon these distinguished men either the accusation or the suspicion on the part of some ultra orthodox bishops and clergymen of entertaining heteredox doctrines.
"A milder genius has from day to day begun to prevail in our National Church. Even the orthodox so zealous before have been more favourably affected towards the New Jerusalem and its heavenly doctrine, or as our Thorild names it, The Third Testament—that of open truth. They now regard the friends of Swedenborg rather as allies than as antagonists, and suffer them uncensured and unreproached to write and preach according to their conscience. They perceive more and more that no other means of interpretation, but Swedenborg's doctrine of Correspondences is sufficient to explain the Bible, and its spiritual and celestial sense; and to refine the speculative and hypercritical arguments of pseudo-rationalism which aims at the full denial of the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and the Divinity of Christ.
"For this alteration in theological sentiment, our thanks are due to the Divine Providence. It is no doubt a very good omen. It proves that a new Religious Age is about to begin even in Sweden, and that our clergy in general are nowadays less fearful of admitting the understanding in any theological subject, than they were in Swedenborg's time."
In 1875, the Rev. Aug. Boyesen, who for several years had been endeavouring to sustain and spread the New Church in Copenhagen with zeal and moderate success, paid a visit to Stockholm, and finding a warm reception, and considerable receptivity, he was induced to go again and again, and in 1877 to settle at Stockholm as New Church Pastor there.
There is a hall used for worship, preaching and lecturing, and sometimes from 3 to 400 it is said attend, and Mr. Boyesen lectures with much acceptance in various parts of Sweden.
The Swedes are naturally a kindly, courteous, good-natured people, and this is the good ground in which to receive the seeds of truth. Having so long been confined to one church and that a church teaching salvation by faith alone, they will not at first be very quick for the reception of spiritual truths, but the Lord has no doubt a remnant there, and "They shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid" (Zeph. iii. 13.).
The generous and hospitable character of the Swedes I experienced on my visit to their country in 1866, and on every subsequent journey I made there.
When I landed from lake Venner, at Linkoping on my way to Skara, where Swedenborg's father was bishop, I found at the hotel a company of gentlemen at a festal dinner. They no sooner learned that a stranger, an Englishman, had arrived, than they sent a message requesting my company at their dinner; and when I begged to be excused, desiring quiet after a long day's travel, after dinner a deputation came to request my company for the evening. The next day some of them came to offer all kinds of hospitality and attention. At Upsala, at the castle of Tycho Brahe, on the Malar, in Dalecarlia, I have always met the same friendly and amiable spirit, and therefore I am happy to conclude there will be a receptive spirit for the truth in Sweden.
Having been upwards of seven years in Stockholm, Pastor Boyesen is grateful for the success accomplished, and hopeful for the future, but he considers that it would be a great step in advance if they could have an ecclesiastical structure of their own. They would then be recognised by the state, and many social privileges as to confirmation and marriage would be secured.
The Swedish friends appeal for aid to England and America, from both of which annual assistance has been constantly afforded.
We hope they will proceed prudently in their selection of a site; do what USE really requires, and nothing else; making their zeal visible by generous self-help, so as to encourage friends in other parts of the world to aid those who are making some sacrifice themselves, and all will be well.
It is important that many inadvisable schemes suggested by fanciful persons in days gone by are no more heard of now. To give an extravagant price for a site of a church, on the ground where Swedenborg's house stood, which is in a neighbourhood much altered in its character from what it was in his days; or to preserve his old summer-house as a memorial, and other unwise propositions, are now happily swept away. To promote real use, which is what our friends now wish, and what Swedenborg himself would have approved, is a worthy object, and one which we hope ere long will be accomplished, placing Swedenborg's own nation visibly in the kingdom the God of heaven is now setting up, and which will last for ever (Dan. ii. 44.).