A SERMON BY THE REV. E. S. HYATT, B. TH.
Preached in Berlin, Ont., 20th September, 1891, published in New Church Tidings, no 84, December 1891
If Jehovah build not the house, vainly labour its builders in it.—Psalm cxxvii, i.
“By a house is signified the Rational, both as to good and as to truth, or what is the same, both as to the voluntary, for this is of good, and as to the intellectual, because this is of truth. When the Rational from what is voluntary or good acts through the intellectual or truth, the rational mind is called one house. Hence also Heaven itself is called the house of God, because there, there is nothing but good and truth, and good acts through truth united or conjoined to itself. This is also represented in marriages between husband and wife, who constitute one house from the cause that Conjugial Love exists from the marriage of the Divine Good and Truth, and each has will from good, but with a difference like good has itself toward its own truth. Wherefore also, by the husband is signified good, and by the wife truth. For when there is one house then good is the all there, and truth because it is of good is also good.”—(A. C. 3538)
Hence the house signifies Heaven and the Church in general, and also Heaven and the Church in each regenerating individual. It signifies both the good and truth in the mind of such an individual, for good and truth are what make Heaven and the Church in Him. But when good and truth make Heaven and the Church in man, they are conjoined by marriage, so that each, the truth as well as the good, is good. Hence by the house is signified, in one word, Good, namely, the good which results from the marriage of good and truth. By this marriage good and truth constitute one house, one good. Such a house is Heaven in the individual. The one end of regeneration is that such a house may be built in each of us. It will, however, be in vain that we undertake any such building, unless both the good and the truth are from the LORD, except the marriage of good and truth be affected by the operation of His laws. Yea, we will labour in vain so far as we attempt to build at all, except by diligently removing from ourselves that which prevents the LORD from building in us. Indeed, even the attempt to remove the hindrances will be likewise in vain, unless we are guided therein by the LORD’S revealed Word. Without the Word we do not know what are hindrances, nor can we tell how to shun them when we do know them. All we can do, therefore, is to shun our own evils as sins against God. We cannot shun them as sins against God, except by shunning them because they are opposed to the teaching of Divine Truth, for that is what is meant by being against God. The actual building of the house, therefore, has to be left to the LORD, and also the work of shunning the hindrances to the building thereof in ourselves depends absolutely upon being directed by the Revealed Word. the LORD build not the house, vainly labour its builders in it.
“It is believed in the world, that man from the lumen of nature, can know many things which are of religion, as that God is, that He is to be worshipped, and also that He is to be loved, also that man will live after death, and many other things which depend on those ; and yet those are things which are from their own intelligence. But I have been instructed by much experience that man from himself knows altogether nothing concerning Divine things, and concerning those things which are of celestial and spiritual life, without Revelation. For man is born into the evils of the love of self and of the world, which are such that they shut off influx from the heavens, and open influx from the hells, thus which blind man, and place in the negative that the Divine is, that heaven and hell are, and that there is life after death. This is manifestly evident from the learned of the world who have elevated the lumen of their nature above the lumen of others. That these, beyond others, deny the Divine, and for the Divine acknowledge nature, is known ; and also, when they speak from the heart and not from doctrine, that they deny the life after death, also heaven and hell, consequently all things which are of faith, which they call bonds for the vulgar. Hence it is evident of what quality the lumen of nature without Revelation is. It has been shown also that many who have written Natural Theology, and from the lumen of their nature have skilfully confirmed those things which were of the doctrine of their Church, in the other life,. they, more than others, deny the same, and also the Word itself, which they endeavour altogether to destroy. For in the other life hearts speak. It is also shown that the same men can receive nothing of influx from heaven, but only from the hells. Hence it was evident of what quality the lumen of nature is without Revelation, therefore, of what quality is that which is from one’s own intelligence. But two things have occurred which placed doubt in the mind concerning this thing. First, that the Ancients, who were Gentiles, still knew that the Divine is, that this is to be worshipped, and that man as to the soul is immortal. The second, that many nations at this day, with whom there is no Revelation, know these things. But as concerns the Ancients, they knew it, not from the lumen of their nature, but from Revelation, which emanated even to them from the Church. For the Church of the LORD from most ancient times had been in the land of Canaan—hence such things as were of Divine worship emanated to the surrounding nations, and also to the neighbouring Greeks, and from these to the Italians or Romans. Hence the latter and the former had the knowledges concerning the chief Deity, and concerning the immortality of the soul, concerning which the learned of them have written. As concerns the gentiles at this day, who also know that the Divine is, and that the life after death is, they had it not from the lumen of their nature, but from the religiosity which they derived from Ancient times, which was founded upon such things as by various ways emanated from the’ Church where there was Revelation. This was from the LORD’S Divine Providence.”—(A. C. 8944)
Hence it holds, even with them, that if it were not for the fact that they all have some knowledge originally derived from Revelation, they could not be saved. If the LORD build not the house, vainly labour its builders in it.
Man is placed in this world to exercise his free determination as to the reception of heaven. This he could not do unless there were Revelation to instruct him as to what constitutes heaven. That Revelation which most fully instructs him concerning heavenly order, is therefore especially the means whereby the LORD builds a house for Himself in man. The previous forms of Revelation given in the Old and New Testaments are more especially for providing the indispensable foundation ; but it is from the Internal Sense of the Word that the house itself must be built. That the Writings are the means whereby the LORD now fully instructs us concerning the order of heaven is evident. That they are Revelation is admitted. That whether it be said that the Word is necessary for man’s salvation, or whether it be said that Divine Revelation is, it is the same thing, appears from this passage:—
“I have spoken with certain spirits concerning the Word, that it was necessary that some Revelation, from the LORD’S Divine Providence, should exist, for Revelation, or the Word, is the general recipient vessel of celestial and spiritual things, thus conjoining heaven and earth ; otherwise they would have been disjoined, and the human race would have perished, unless somewhere there were heavenly truths, by which man might be instructed ; because he is born for heavenly things, and, after the life of the body, ought to come among the heavenly ones, for the truths of faith are the laws of order in the Kingdom in which he will live into eternity.” —(A.C. 1775).
They are the laws by which every heavenly house is built. The LORD reveals truths for the express purpose that in those truths He may come to build in man a dwelling place for Himself. The truths which the LORD has revealed are therefore the LORD with us, come for that purpose, as the Word. None but the LORD Himself, the very Word, could effect any such purpose. If the LORD build not the house, vainly labour its builders in it.
Therefore in every time there has been Revelation in which the LORD has been present with man, to build for each who was willing the house in which he could live a heavenly life. A Revelation without the LORD in it, thus a Revelation which was merely from angels or any finite beings, could not effect man’s salvation. It has always been necessary that there should be a Revelation in which the LORD was—that is, the Word. Indeed we are distinctly taught that with each of the Churches which has preceded the New Church there was a Revelation of the Word specially adapted to each Church, thus: —
“As specifically concerns the Word, this had been in every time, but not the Word which we have at this day. There had been one Word in the Most Ancient Church which was before the deluge : another Word in the Ancient Church which was after the deluge : but the Word written through Moses and the Prophets in the Jewish Church ; and lastly the Word written through the Evangelists in a New Church. That in every time there was the Word, was because through the Word there is communication of heaven with earth ; and because the Word treats concerning good and truth, from which man will live happy into eternity ; and therefore in the internal sense it treats concerning the LORD alone, because from Him is every good and truth.”—(A. C. 2895).
Thus four Words are here mentioned as having been given to the four previous Churches. Is it not, then, unreasonable to think that the Church which is the crown of them all should, differently from all those preceding Churches, have no revelation specially adapted to the building of it up? Is it more than reasonable to expect that for the building of the crown of Churches there should he revealed the crown of all preceding Revelations ? Or again, knowing as we do that a special Revelation has been given for the New Church, how can it be reasoned that that Revelation is not the Word, seeing that we are positively told that each of the four preceding Revelations was the Word, that is, a special manifestation of the Word? The New Church is essentially a rational Church, and can only be built by a rational presentation of the Word, that is, by the Word manifested in rational forms, as in the Writings. If the LORD is not specially present to build this Church, the crown of all, vainly labour its builders in it.
“In the most ancient times men were informed concerning heavenly things, or concerning those things which are of eternal life, by immediate commerce with the angels of heaven” (A.C.10355). Thus was the Word present with them. The doctrines of that Word were collected and written, and formed the Word which was given for the Ancient Church. It differed from that in the most Ancient Church in being written instead of unwritten, but still it included it. This Word has been lost, and is still concealed from us somewhere in Great Tartary. But it is quoted and thus included in the Word of the Old Testament. This Word again is quoted and so included in the Word of the New Testament. All four Words are quoted and thus inseparably included in the Writings, the Evangel for the New Church, which Evangel is a Revelation of the Word, crowning and including all the previous manifestations of the Word. The crown of all Churches could be formed from nothing else, but just such a revelation of the Word. Only from the Writings can we learn the specific use of each of the preceding forms of the Word, and in what respect each is necessary for the building of the foundation of the Church in man. Thus the three forms of the Word which we have are for respectively providing the necessary receptacles for the three planes of the mind, the two lower of which are as the foundation for the Rational. Each form is absolutely necessary for its distinct purpose. As we have seen from the first quotation here made, a house specifically signifies ” the Rational both as to good and as to truth.” The Writings have been given to build the Church on the rational plane of man’s mind, and at the same time to teach him how the previous forms of the Word form the foundations on the lower planes of the mind, that so man may now be able to rationally cooperate with the LORD in the building of the whole. If men attempt with their natural rational to enter into spiritual things they fall into doubt and denial. It is now permitted to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith because there is now given a Revelation from which a Rational can be formed that can enable us to do so. It is only by means of a Rational formed in us from the Writings that we can enter upon any rational consideration of spiritual things without utterly perverting them. The Writings, therefore, provide us with the means whereby we may co-operate with the LORD in building His House upon the rational plane of our minds. He has there come so to build it, and for that purpose to teach us also how to co-operate with Him in the building of it from the foundation upwards, more fully than was ever possible before. The Writings present the internal of the Word, and it is only from the internal that we can rightly understand anything, thus it is only from the Writings that we can understand the Word as a whole, and as to the relation and respective uses of its various forms of manifestation ; and only from the Writings can we see that the LORD is the same in each, only variously accommodated for various purposes. Thus they enable us to come, if we will, into a rational comprehension of the Doctrine of the Word, as given to each Church, and to see how each form of it is for a special use in the New Church. It is because the LORD, the Word, is thus present with the New Church in a fulness and completeness such as never before, that that Church is the crown of all Churches. For the heavenly quality of a Church is from the Word alone, and the most excellent of all Churches can only he from the most excellent of all Revelations of the Word which have ever been made.
The LORD is now present as he has never been before. He has now fully effected His Advent. He has come to build up the Church of the New Jerusalem, to build the houses thereof in each individual who is willing to renounce all other builders. The invisible Church is of necessity beyond the range of our co-operation : it is our privilege to cooperate in the building of the visible Church if we look to Divine Revelation for all guidance. This is our part— to cease to depend upon any other builders. No truths but the truths that are from the LORD, and are believed to be from the LORD, can build the house in us. No truths that we believe to be Swedenborg’s can effect that work. Moreover Truth is one. We cannot take particular truths out of the order of connection in which the LORD has revealed them, without falsifying them. For the order in which the LORD has revealed them is the order of heaven, for they are a manifestation of Himself. Hence the house they build in us, can only be a heavenly one in proportion as the truths received are in their own order and arrangement. In every respect we must depend upon the LORD alone to build the house—so far as we do not, vainly labour its builders in it. The LORD alone knows what truths are needed for the building of the New Church. The LORD alone knows in what form truths need to be presented for that purpose. He has, in the Writings, given neither more nor less than just the truths needed. He has there given the necessary truths in just that form of presentation which alone can build the actual New Church in us. The Priests of His Church are faithful, only so far as they lead men to those truths as a whole, to those truths in the form in which the LORD has been pleased to reveal them, thus only so far as they point to the LORD as alone, and in every respect, the Builder of the New Church. Of all who attempt to build on their own account, all who attempt to improve upon the LORD’S work, either by selecting some truths only and keeping others back, or by attempting to improve upon the LORD’S own presentation of the truths that are specially for the New Church, of all such, whether they be Priests of the larger forms of the Church, or whether they be Priests of the least forms thereof within themselves, of all such it must be said vainly labour its builders in it.
All things of self-intelligence, all things of worldly wisdom or prudence, all things that are not from the LORD as He has revealed Himself in His New Advent, are of the builders who vainly labour in it. The LORD, just as it has pleased Him to come for the purpose in the Evangel of His New Advent, alone can establish the genuine New Church. If the LORD build not the house, vainly labour its builders in it.