The Belief of the Church Hitherto

Now if we go back a hundred years and inquire into the then prevalent beliefs of Christendom, we shall find that every just conception of the character of God was well-nigh blotted out. We shall find that the generally accepted theology of that day made the supreme Being partial, unjust, selfish and vindictive. And we shall find, too, that this false conception of the Divine character was faithfully reflected in the creeds and in the general character of professed believers. We shall find that the Christian nations and churches of that day were animated by the same partial, unjust, selfish and vindictive spirit which the generally accepted theology imputed to the Divine Being.

All Christendom was immersed in darkness. There was a general and deep eclipse of faith, and the charity for which the primitive Christians were distinguished, had departed from the church. And along with the extinction of true charity and a living faith and a just conception of the Divine character, the knowledge of man’s higher life and the way to its attainment, as well as of the nature and reality of heaven and hell and all things spiritual, had well-nigh perished. And thus was fulfilled, in its spiritual sense, this Divine prediction: “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.”

This was “the consummation of the age” foretold in the Gospels,—the end of the first Christian Dispensation or Church. This was the day which the Lord foresaw and foretold, when “the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” would be seen “standing in the holy place;” the day when “false Christs and false prophets” (fundamental and congenital false religious doctrines) should arise, deceiving, “were it possible, even the elect.” Is it strange that at such a juncture a wise and loving Father should have vouchsafed to men a further revelation of Himself and the things of his kingdom? It would have been far more strange if He had not. Especially as the same inspired prophecy which proclaims the great darkness that was to fall upon the church, foretells also a glorious illumination that was to follow it; another coming of the Lord himself “with power and great glory.” And this second coming of the Son of Man, we observe, was to be “in the clouds of heaven” which, in the symbolic language of Scripture, means a coming or revealing of Himself in the heavenly sense of the Word through the cloud of the letter.

The Heavenly Doctrine of the Lord: from The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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