“For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” – Matthew 6:8
We are brought into this world and gifted with life. We did not ask for it. We cannot refuse it. We cannot give it away or do away with it. We must live forever, whether we will or no.
We do not live from ourselves, God created us and from moment to moment gives us life, and He has given His Word to tell us things which we could not find out for ourselves and to reveal to us the purpose and the way of life. For without a knowledge of the Lord and of His providence over us life here cannot be understood.
We know that we are born in helpless ignorance, knowing neither what we need nor how to obtain it. Through our parents we are provided for. As we grow into childhood and youth, we do not know what we need. If our own desires were granted fulfillment, we should soon come to irreparable harm. And as we grow into manhood and womanhood and become independent, we still must look outside of ourselves for the light to guide us. There is only One who really knows our needs. To give us light upon the path of life He gave the Scriptures, that we may know Him and His purposes for us, for without a knowledge of our Creator and of the purpose of our creation life here cannot be understood.
All religion is based on three essential principles: first, the acknowledgment of God as the object of worship; second, the sense of obligation to Him as manifested by a life according to His precepts; and third, as an intermediate between the other two, the acceptance of Divine revelation, which makes known who and what God is and what His precepts are. These three principles are of necessity involved in every religious system. Religion cannot exist even in name if any one of them is wanting.
But each and all of these may be perverted, either by false doctrine or by an evil life. The Jewish Church and the First Christian Church were both founded on the Scriptures, yet these two churches were totally different. And the same is true of the New Church. Our basic revelation is the same. We have the same Bible, but our interpretation and understanding of it are altogether different from all former and from all other present interpretations. And though all alike believe in God, a spiritual world, a judgment, a life after death, and so on, yet our teaching concerning these things is so different from the common ideas respecting them – or perhaps it might be more correct to say want of ideas – that they can in no way be reconciled to each other, the one faith being positive, the other negative, or at best speculative.
Because belief in the Bible as the veritable Word of God had been destroyed, the means by which the Lord might reach man to enlighten, strengthen, and save him were taken away. So a new revelation was made – not that new Scriptures were given, for these had been given in their ultimate form, but that the clouds of ignorance and error were dispelled, and the true and living meaning of the Scriptures was restored. Now both the Old and the New Testaments can be read in the light of a Divinely revealed interpretation, not a syllable of the letter being altered.
Belief in one God, the recognition of our Bible as the express declaration of His will and law, and the duty of obedience to Him are, as of old, the three essentials of a church. But to the Jewish Church God was a distant, dreadful, mysterious Being, worshiped from fear, and to the Christian Church which followed, through the perversion of the Gospel teachings He came to appear as a Being perhaps a little less dreadful and mysterious but not differing essentially in nature and disposition from the God of the Jews – only Christ as an intermediary could turn aside His wrath. The New Church has an altogether different concept of God.
The idea which anyone has of God must of necessity go farther than anything else in shaping and coloring his religions thought. Yea, more! It will exert the strongest and most pervasive influence over his entire life. For religion, if it is sincere and genuine, is not a matter affecting merely the intellect of man, but it takes possession of his heart and makes itself felt in all his actions.
Many people in the world say they believe in God but admit they know nothing about Him. In such cases what they are actually depending upon for guidance is their own ideas of what in right or wrong or the moral standards of the community in which they happen to live.
He to whom the Divine Being is a reality, a living personal presence, must live in a very different spiritual atmosphere from that of the man who recognizes only an abstract first cause, the remote and inaccessible Spirit of the universe. He whose primary conception is of an angry and vindictive deity cannot regard Him with the same feelings or maintain the same relation to his neighbors as one who is impressed above all else with the greatness of the Divine love. The life spent in terror of an arbitrary despot is quite another thing from the life which is made glad by the constant recognition of the Lord’s goodness. When we know Him as our Lord Jesus Christ, He is near and real to us, we pray to Him and feel as we pray that He hears our prayers, we have a genuine sense of dependence upon Him and a genuine desire not to be led by ourselves but to do that which is good in His sight. Our relations to the Lord are the most vital of all that we sustain, and as our knowledge of Him and our thought concerning Him determine our relations to Him, it follows that no truth is so noble and precious as that which makes Him known. The first question to be asked about any religious is, “How does it teach us to think concerning God?”
The great central teaching of the New Church is that the Lord Jesus Christ comprehends in Himself all Divinity and is alone entitled to the worship of men and angels, as He Himself declares: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” This is the teaching of which the world has the greatest need. “For your Father knoweth what ye have need of.” We are created spiritual beings, and our needs are primarily spiritual. There are many physical problems to be solved, but there are many organizations beside the church attacking these problems and striving to meet the obvious needs of underprivileged groups and nations. We all have our individual responsibility here to help in these external ways as opportunity offers. But no other organization in the world except the New Church is capable of meeting the spiritual needs of our modern age. We ourselves sometimes think that we need a great many things, but what we really need is what the Lord says that we need. The things that we need are the things that form us into the Lord’s image and likeness, and we need to remember that this forming must be done in this world if it is to be done at all.
There are, of course, the good things of natural life, and there is no reason why all people should not have all of these things that they really need. They exist in the natural world in superabundance. There is no lack of them in kind, quality, or supply. Every good eternal thing is at hand to meet our needs, and the needs of all would be met if human society were in proper spiritual order.
And all spiritual things are equally accessible to us. The Lord’s providence is perfect in every respect. The supply of everything needed, spiritual as well as natural, is abundant and at hand. We are familiar with the fact that men have scarcely begun to make available to themselves the riches of the natural universe, and that they are discovered as the need of them arises. But still less are the riches of the spirit known and made use of. People are prone to plan their lives according to their own ideas of what they would like, thinking that after they have obtained what they want, they will put God in. But we should not do our planning apart from God, thinking to put God in afterwards. For apart from God everything we try to do for ourselves is unsound. And there is also the danger that we may never get around to thinking about God at all.
The appeal of the New Church is not the same as that of the first Christian dispensation, and the message is different. It is primarily to the reason, the understanding, and thence to the heart and life. The new truth does not destroy the message of the Bible, but deepens it and removes the errors and misinterpretations in which men have enshrouded it, so that it is preserved and adapted to the rational needs of a maturer age of human development. It is a profounder Christianity in both faith and life.
The mission of the New Church is to meet the needs of men as spiritual beings, for in the last analysis the life and destiny of mankind depends upon a true knowledge of God, that He may give to us of His love, wisdom, and power. Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing.”