“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” – John 15:16
These words the Lord spoke to His disciples in the upper room at Jerusalem at the close of the Last Supper. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Perhaps they thought that they had chosen Him. They had given up their former occupations and all hope of worldly success and even of security. They had forsaken houses, and brethren, and sisters, and father and mother, and wife and children, and lands for His name’s sake. In one sense they had chosen Him. And in this sense we must choose Him, too. We must willingly respond to His invitation, “Follow me.” He does not compel us.
Why then does He say, “Ye have not chosen me?” Toward the end of the last week of the Lord’s earthly life people had turned against Him. The atmosphere of the city was tense and hostile to Him and to His followers. Perhaps they had begun to waver, and to wonder if they had not made a mistake. In reality, however, they had not chosen Him. The initiative had been His. If He had not called them, they never would have chosen Him. He chose them first. And in a deeper sense, their own selfhood had not chosen Him. The part of them that had chosen Him was the part which they had received from Him in childhood. Only the Lord’s goodness within a man can respond to His pleading from without. Man simply cannot choose the Lord; the Lord chooses man.
So it is with us today. We are among those who recognize the fact that the Lord has made His Second Advent by opening the inner meaning of the Word. Yet we could not understand a single truth of this new revelation unless the Lord in His Divine providence had enabled us to see it.
Some – even ministers – have gone back, regretting that they had thrown in their lot with the New Church, thinking that they could reach more people, or obtain a larger following or greater remuneration in some other church.
But did we choose the Lord? Was not His providence over all the details of our entry into the New Church? Did He not choose us as literally and actually as He chose His disciples of old? So it has always been.
Mankind can know nothing spiritual without revelation. Revelation is given by the Lord through inspired individuals. Such were the prophets and evangelists, and such in different way was Emanuel Swedenborg. But the setting down of a revelation is not enough. It needs to be cared for, preserved, and reproduced, interpreted, and distributed far and wide so that mankind can be brought into a knowledge of it.
The Jews formed such a body of people from about 1500 B.C. to the time of Christ. As their special duty they cherished and preserved the revelation given through Moses and the prophets, and we have their Scriptures today in almost the same state as that in which they were given. But they kept these Scriptures to themselves instead of disseminating them, so that in the end the vineyard had to be taken from them and given to others who were willing to render the fruits thereof.
The Christian Church was small in its beginning – consisting of twelve men, twelve who believed in the new teaching, twelve who were chosen by the Lord to be the disciples of His First Advent. He called them together, trained them, and sent them forth into the world to train and influence others. ”Ye have not chosen me,” He said, “but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”
The Christian Church spread and was organized on a vast scale, but it too, in time, became unworthy of its trust. The Gospel was perverted so that connection between heaven and earth was once more about to perish. Therefore at the consummation of the age a new revelation was given and a new church established among those who were prepared to accept it and to publish it abroad. The New Church is still very small. It must be, as it is in its beginnings. But if its members fulfill their responsibility to the best of their abilities, it will be adequate to accomplish the Lord’s purpose. The fact is that we have been chosen by the Lord. We alone accept the new revelation. No other body of people believe that the new revelation constitutes the Second Coming of the Lord. It is our duty under Providence to give this new teaching to mankind.
Why have we been chosen for this task? Because we are better than others? No. Because we are worse? No, not that either. It is not a question of goodness or badness, but because the Lord has seen in each one of us qualifications which, if we are faithful, will enable us to serve Him in this task.
One of the weaknesses of our church today is our lack of belief that we have been chosen by the Lord for a task which no one else can or will perform, and which we should perform for His sake with a sense of His authority and sanction – particularly at this time, when conditions seem adverse. There is all the difference in the world between doing a thing because we choose and doing it because the Lord has chosen. The Lord never leaves His agents without adequate resources if they will make proper use of them. This applies to all – laymen as well as ministers. We all have the same responsibility each in his different capacity of serving in the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom. For this we have been called and are chosen. We should not water down or be apologetic about the teachings of the church. They are given for a light, which should not be hidden under a bushel.
There was no hesitation in the first apostles when once they had grasped the significance of their calling. They did not go about saying that one religion was as good as another, that they had chosen Jesus, but others were doubtless just as wise. It was not a question of their choice. Human choice is fallible. The point was that the Lord had chosen them.
It is not our task to go about criticizing others, but to present the Lord’s teachings wherever we can in a spirit of affectionate helpfulness. And we should do this with the enthusiasm and earnestness which come from the absolute conviction that the truth is the Lord’s and that we are among those whom He has appointed.
But before we can proclaim the new teachings to others we must first proclaim them to ourselves. Revealed truth exists for one purpose only, the purpose of regeneration. Truth must be lived, that it may show forth in our lives. We should be happier people, wiser people because of it. Because of our acceptance of this new truth we have the greater responsibility that goes with it. More is expected of us by the Lord than of those who do not have it.
We should not look upon ourselves as better than others either within or outside of the church. It is quite useless to compare one person with another. But we do need more care, more self-criticism, more faithfulness simply because we are New-Church people. The Apostles were humble. They retained their humility and power by a continual sense of their dependence upon the Lord and of His presence and authority. So can we. Our knowledge of Him in His Divine Humanity enables us to see Him with a clarity and a certainness to which no one outside the New Church can possibly attain.
We should be ever sensitive to the responsibilities which our discipleship brings with it. “Ye have not chosen me,” the Lord says, “but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” If we so go forth in His strength, our fruit will remain.
The essential thing for our church organization is not size nor numerical strength, but that it shall truly acknowledge and worship the Lord and understand and treasure His Word and the revelation which opens it to us. The New Church may be small and insignificant in the eyes of the world, but so long as it is true to its mission, the world’s estimation of it is of no account, for it is the link between heaven and earth even when, as now, it is in its infancy.
As the writings tell us, “Man knows nothing whatever from himself about Divine things, and about the things which belong to heavenly life.” They must be revealed, learned, and understood. We need to be taught, to have the truth brought to our knowledge that we may exercise our rational faculty freely upon it.
The truths of the Second Advent have been revealed to make clear the true nature of God, which has been so sadly falsified and distorted, to make clear the true nature of His Holy Word, revealing its inner spirit and life, to dispel all man-made ideas that trouble and perplex, to show us and all men the purpose of our being and the Divine laws that govern all life. It is all in the opened Word. Everything that the individual and the world needs to know for their eternal happiness and peace is there. That is where we come in. It is not by chance that we have come upon these truths. The Lord says to each one of us individually: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.”